Stravaganza d’Amore: The Birth of Opera at the Medici Court

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Allegri; Brunelli; G Caccini; Buonamente; Cavalieri; Fantini; Gagliano; Malvezzi; Marenzio; Orologio; Peri; Striggio
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Stravaganza d’Amore: The Birth of Opera at the Medici Court
WORKS: Music by Allegri, Brunelli, G Caccini, Buonamente, Cavalieri, Fantini, Gagliano, Malvezzi, Marenzio, Orologio, Peri and Striggio
PERFORMER: Pygmalion / Raphaël Pichon
CATALOGUE NO: 902286-87


This lavish new release celebrates the gestation and birth of opera in Florence around the year 1600. Director Raphaël Pichon has cherry-picked some of the highpoints from the musico-dramatic extravaganzas associated with sundry Medici weddings and celebrations. There are extracts from the first operas by Jacopo Peri, Giulio Caccini and Marco da Gagliano, along with highlights from the 1589 intermedi (multi-media ‘interludes’ performed between the acts of a play during one of the many knees-ups for the nuptials of Ferdinando I de’Medici and Christine of Lorraine). This smorgasbord of madrigals and monodies, sinfonias and dances has been arranged into four imaginary intermedi which evoke the spirit, if not the letter, of these splendid courtly revelries. Running through each is a unifying narrative thread taken from the Greek myths of Daphne, Apollo and Orpheus –
the love-struck protagonists of the first operas.

Harmonia Mundi’s production has all the sumptuousness of the original Medici spectacles, complete with large-scale chorus and colourful instrumental ensemble. The performances are highly polished, chorus and ensemble producing a glossy and liberally embellished sound while the dozen soloists give fine and well-balanced contributions. Pichon’s approach is certainly creative and, though ultimately it’s something of a hodge-podge of genres and periods, it’s all very stylishly done. The two CDs are handsomely packaged within a hard-back book, filled with detailed liner notes and beautifully illustrated with reproductions of the original costumes and sets from a range of primary sources.

Kate Bolton-Porciatti


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