La Storia di Orfeo – Arias performed by Philippe Jaroussky and Emöke Baráth

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Monteverdi,Rossi & Sartorio
LABELS: Erato
ALBUM TITLE: La Storia di Orfeo
WORKS: Arias by Monteverdi, Rossi & Sartorio
PERFORMER: Philippe Jaroussky (countertenor), Emo˝ke Baráth (soprano); Coro della Radiotelevisione svizzera; I Barocchisti/Diego Fasolis
CATALOGUE NO: 9029585190

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Philippe Jaroussky has put together a brilliant programme to flaunt his Orphic powers. Singing opposite soprano Emo˝ke Baráth, he probes three aspects of the Orfeo myth – the lovers’ happiness, Orfeo’s sorrow at Eurydice’s death, and Orfeo’s visit to the underworld – in scenes from operas by Rossi, Sartorio and Monteverdi. Most of the Sartorio and many of the Rossi tracks are first recordings: all of them are gems.

Jaroussky’s expressiveness is irresistible. He squeezes maximum nuance from each word, sighing, languishing, and lamenting with utter conviction. As he does so, he also generously shares the spotlight, melting away to let his fellow musicians undergird his persuasiveness with their own. Jaroussky’s tone is, however, less bell-like than in recordings past, and in heated passages a shrillness keeps
him from blending with others. Baráth is the true star here, both vocally and expressively. The lustre of her timbre and the grace of her execution are extraordinary.

The Italian Swiss Radio Choir (Coro della Radiotelevisione svizzera) is a poor fit with this project. Its singers dispatch their lines clinically, and are too numerous. Their impact is especially negative in lively passages, where they cause the energy to sag. Did Jarrousky take Monteverdi’s ‘Vi ricorda, o boschi ombrosi’ at a crazy speed to compensate for this? The originality and beauty of this recording do not exclude some baffling decisions.

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Berta Joncus