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Monteverdi: L'Orfeo

Dietrich Henschel
Maria Grazia Schiavo (Euridice, La Musica & Proserpina),
Sonia Prina (Messenger),
Luigi De Donato (Caronte),
Antonio Abete (Plutone),
Hanna Bayodi (Ninfa),
Xavier Sabata, Jonathan Sells & Juan Sancho (Shepherds & Spirits), Ludovic Provost (Eco)
Agustín Prunell-Friend (Apollo)
Les Arts Florissants/William Christie
Les Saqueboutiers (Toulouse)
Director, Scenes and Costumes Pier Luigi Pizzi

Teatro Real, Madrid, May 2008

Dynamic DVD 33598

This is the first recording in the complete Monteverdi cycle upon which William Christie and Les Arts Florissants are embarked in a three-year collaboration between Dynamic and Teatro Real.

There will be a great deal for specialists to debate but, in short, this DVD can be welcomed onto a market that is already rich for choice (q.v. Musical Pointers reviews of DVDs from Barcelona and Amsterdam).

The staged production has been well reviewed (see Music Web's from May 2008 by José M. Irurzun, illustrated with two gorgeous colour images) and in many ways it gains from the selectivity and close ups on the small screen. It is very much a theatrical experience with the orchestra brought up from the pit and divided to make room for the protagonists to come really close to the players and their instruments. The version used is a new one by Jonathan Cable, with quite a large band, and I await its evaluation by HIP experts such as those of Early Music Review.

Luigi Pizzi’s attractive and original staging, suggesting Mantua's Palazzo Ducale where L'Orfeo was given originally, is enhanced by the rich 17th century costumes. The musicians - and Christie himself - also perform in costume, the latter in a flowing red cloak and a white ruff (c.f. Jordi Savall dressed "as Monteverdi" in Barcelona).

The DVD has brief but useful interviews with Christie, Pizzi and the Opera’s two protagonists. Christie explains how to conduct L'Orfeo would be as silly as to have a lieder recital conducted. Henschel links his task with singing contemporary opera, and stresses the importance of mean-tone tuning, as adopted by Christie, for realising Striggio's text in a way that would be spoilt with modern instruments and well-tempered tuning. Schiavo discusses her three roles in this production fluently; one wished the discussions had not been curtailed by TV requireents...

Peter Grahame Woolf