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Alessandro Scarlatti Davidis pugna et victoria

Fredrik Akselberg (tenor)
Martin Oro (countertenor)
Robin Johannsen (soprano)
Roberta Invernizzi (soprano)
Antonio Abete (bass)

Academia Montis Regalis/Alessandro De Marchi

Hyperion - CDA67714

Opera performances were banned during Lent in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Rome. David's fight and victory, on a then requisite biblical subject, is an opera in all but name, and a very exciting one too.

No inhibitions restricted the Lenten composers or librettists, judging from the extraordinarily inventive oratorios of the period. Scarlatti senr. (1660-1725) concentrates on the dramatic David and Goliath story, expanded with the key characters fully developed and explored.

Saul is morose and pessimistic, Jonathan caring and supportive and David fearless. Whilst the biblical account traverses the story in the Bible in a few sentences, the anonymous librettist expands upon them to create a thrilling war picture, with Roberta Invernizzi's flexible soprano pitted against Antonio Abete's florid bass. The extended string of arias as the antagonists shape up against each other has growing intensity. Final victory is celebrated by David in an aria about the uncertainty of fate, instead of finishing with a conventional final chorus (a practice discouraged by a theorist of the time). Its ending is abrupt, "signifying the uncertainty and unexpectedness of life" (Carrie Churnside).

There are innumerable subtleties from the strings-based Academia Montis Regalis and this compact disc (at 65 minutes) has put on the map for me Domenico's father, who had until now been sidelined in my awareness.

An opera and performance to relish.

Peter Grahame Woolf