WORKS: Luci mie traditrici
PERFORMER: Annette Stricker, Otto Katzameier, Kai Wessel, Simon Jaunin; Vienna Klangforum/Beat Furrer
CATALOGUE NO: 0012222 KAI
Sciarrino planned an opera about the life of the madrigalist Carlos Gesualdo, who murdered his wife and her lover, but discovered that Schnittke had already tackled the same subject. He treated the theme at one remove instead, basing his libretto for Luci mie traditrici (O my betraying eyes) on a 17th-century play by Giacinto Cicognini, which was inspired by the Gesualdo story. The result is an extraordinarily tight piece of music drama, unfolded in terse, breathless exchanges, in which the music mediates between the Renaissance and the present day. There is a chanson-like prologue and interludes that hark back to the style of Gesualdo; the drama itself inhabits Sciarrino’s own rarefied sound-world.
The vocal writing begins ecstatically, but as the tragedy intensifies resorts increasingly to speech, while the ensemble moves from bright, edgy sounds to a darker, more threatening world. It is all absolutely compelling, and this performance under Beat Furrer seems definitive: the cast, with the soprano Annette Stricker and the bass-baritone Otto Katzameier as the Duke and Duchess, the countertenor Kai Wessel as the guest she falls for and the baritone Simon Jaunin as the servant who betrays the lovers, are all superb. Fervently recommended. Andrew Clements