Monteverdi: Orfeo

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Monteverdi
WORKS: Orfeo
PERFORMER: Alessandro Carmignani, Marinella Pennicchi, Rosita Frisani, Patrizia Vaccari, Carlo Lepore Cappella Musicale di San Petronio di Bologna/Sergio Vartolo
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554094/95
Sergio Vartolo and the cappella of San Petronio in Bologna will be new names to many, but this recording of Orfeo has several points in its favour: it is the only version currently available at budget price, and with a predominantly Italian cast. The title role is sung by Alessandro Carmignani who, at best, is meltingly lyrical and agile, though there are occasions when he sounds strained in his upper register. Also strong is Rosita Frisani, singing the roles of La Messaggiera and Proserpina. Vartolo has imaginatively included a re-creation of a scene in the final act in which Orfeo is devoured by a chorus of bloodthirsty Bacchantes – Alessandro Striggio’s text for this has survived, but Monteverdi’s music is lost. Vartolo has the Bacchic women go overboard in their erotic panting and gasping, and while the scene certainly throws a more sinister light on the work than usual, stylistically it sits uneasily with the remainder of the opera. The main drawback to the performance as a whole, however, is the choral singing, which is marred by slack ensemble and intonation, and a self-conscious delivery that recalls English madrigal singers of the Fifties. Kate Bolton