Tom‡s de Torrej—n Y Velasco

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Tomás de Torrejón Y Velasco
LABELS: Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: La púrpura da la rosa
PERFORMER: Ellen Hargis, Judith Malafronte, María del Mar Fernández Doval, Josep Cabré, Gloria Banditelli; The Harp Consort/Andrew Lawrence-King
CATALOGUE NO: 05472 77355 2
Tomás de Torrejón y Velasco, born in Spain in 1644, worked in Peru from 1667 until his death in 1728. The New Grove lists among his many significant achievements the composition of the memorial vespers for Charles II in 1701, and, later the same year, the performance of this opera in celebration of Philip V’s eighteenth birthday. La Purpura de la Rosa is, in fact, the New World’s first opera, a setting of a colourfully allusive, opulent verse play by Pedro Calderon. The flavour of the piece is more akin to that of the formal Intermedii of late sixteenth century Florence than to fully-fledged opera. That’s due not least to the fact that there’s no recitative to carry the narrative along, although the story – of Venus (Judith Malafronte) and Adonis (Ellen Hargis – does have a beginning, middle and end. Instead Torrejon y Velasco infuses his florid drama with a variety of forms, using learned and unlearned,folk forms to represent in turn gods and peasants. An infectious spirit of improvisation is apparent throughout Andrew Lawrence-King’s beautifully coloured realisation of an edition made by him and Louise K. Stein for the recording. Indeed, from the opening sounds of the chinfonia – a dance in the form of a chaconne, with violin and gently plucked strings alternating and combining in successive variations – this release counts as one of the most beguiling revelations I have ever heard on disc. Stephen Pettitt