CAVALLI: Gli amori d’Apollo e di Dafne
Listening on computer to Cavalli's Loves of Apollo and Dafne
A normal CD review of this opera release by our Italian-speaking specialist reviewer will be available early next year. Meanwhile some thoughts for discussion about Naxos's presentation with suggestions how it might be improved.
Francesco Cavalli (1602-76) presented regular opera seasons in Venice, their popularity growing following the pioneering scores from his mentor, Monteverdi. Gli amori d’Apollo e di Dafne (taking the same story that Richard Strauss later used for his Daphne) was premiered in Venice, 1640. I was particularly attracted to explore it because the librettist was Busenello, the same as for Monteverdi's Poppea, which boasts one of the finest opera libretti I know.
The music is mainly in recitative and arioso, with "noble declamation central in Gli amori", heightened in episodes such as the lament by Procris, "one of the most intense and moving in the history of music" (Federico Agostinelli).
How can listeners to the Zedda recording approach this? If they are not native Italian speakers, then with difficulty and grave limitations, those just a little decreased by Naxos for people who listen to music on their computers.
The introductions by Agostinelli and Alberto Zedda are voluminous, albeit in very small print which tests eyesight beyond the limit for many of us. And there is a synopsis of the scenes by Keith Anderson; all those translated into German. Furthermore, the Italian libretto (with track numberings, can be accessed and, if you wish, printed from http://www.naxos.com/sungtext/pdf/8.660187-88_Cavalli_texts.pdf (28 pages).
The importance of the text in opera of that time cannot be overestimated. Zedda, discussing his elaboration of the rudimentary score, says that everything has to work around the voice to allow any textual nuances to shine through; the singers must draw out of the text the light and shade that makes it live and breathe - - master the prosody of the language and bring strength and dramatic weight to the words, expressing their full evocative value and symbolism.
I tried following parts of the 1st Act with the Italian text on the computer monitor screen and the synopses next to it. Occasionally one can spot correspondences between summary and sung text, but that is hard and unrewarding work, and after not long, I gave up. I doubt if anyone will sustain that exercise for two and three-quarter hours?
The Naxos teams must have discussed how to present their recordings, and their provision of online texts (especially for song discs) is a substantial step towards listener friendliness. But a radical re-think is called for, and not only by that company.
This Gli amori booklet has 28 pages, including the glossy cover page (illustrated); sometimes a few more are squeezed in. The six sheets folded inside are also glossy are not quite so thick. They are limited by Naxos's continuing aspousal of the original "jewel cases", which more enterprising other companies have abandoned (I do not know the relative costs of the alternative formats?). Some other companies have adopted strong thin non-glossy paper, which allows for more print space.
Many CD producers (and concert promoters) allow counter-productively over-long artist CVs (over six pages for the numerous singers here (who reads them?) plus most of a page (better warranted) for the interesting Youth Orchestra and its conductor. Clear scope for economy there!
The online Italian text is compressed to the left hand side of each of the 28 pages. There is plenty of room for a parallel translation in one foreign language (English would seem the most appropriate in view of likely international sales?) but, failing costs justification for that - far the best solution - it would take Naxos's web staff no more than a few minutes to add Anderson's English synopsis in parallel positions alongside the online libretto.
Peter Grahame Woolf
Response: - - the translation issue that you discuss is an important one. We had similar difficulties with Naxos's Oedipe and Moses und Aron and I will always have reservations about recommending a recording of a relatively unfamiliar work without a translation being available (Serena Fenwick)
I have prepared the final scene below as an Appendix, by way of example:-
(Unfortunately the alignment varies on different computers, but would presumably be easy for Naxos to do...!)