WORKS: Apotheosis sive consecratio SS Ignatii et Francisci Xaverii; San Ignacio de Loyola
PERFORMER: Ensemble Abendmusik/James David Christie
CATALOGUE NO: DOR 93243
Kapsberger’s Apotheosis (1622), is a historically important revelation of opera’s role between Monteverdi’s Orfeo in Mantua and the first public Venetian opera 25 years later. It celebrated, in Rome, the canonisation of five saints, including the founders of the Jesuit Order. The staging is largely in tableaux, representatives of countries from around the world arriving to pay their homage: there is little dramatic action, more exhortation than dialogue. Among a striking solo team, four contrasting countertenors range from a richly vibrant tone, through a high sopranist, to the purest unadorned sound. Such clarity puts a particular premium on intonation, which is not always spot-on. Colourful continuo includes lute, theorbo and guitar, as well as organ and harpsichord, with a minimal orchestra of three-part strings. In a sound recording, shorn of staging, dancing and spectacle, the brief recitatives and undeveloped syllabic song are heavy-going, though each act ends with a more expansively structured series of duets and choruses.
St Ignatius, a collaborative work from over 130 years later, is a delightfully tuneful ‘mission opera’ from South America. Its musical development is limited – arias scuttle back to their home keys with relief after minimal excursions – but melodic fragments linger in the memory, and a triple aria driven by rattling guitar chords is particularly inventive. George Pratt