Monteverdi's L'Orfeo (SV 318)

Monteverdi – L’Orfeo (La Capella Reial de Catalunya, Jordi Savall)

Conducted by Jordi Savall, the La Capella Reial de Catalunya (accompanied with the period instrument ensemble Le Concert des Nations, also conducted by Savall) performs Claudio Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo (SV 318), sometimes called La favola d’Orfeo, a late Renaissance/early Baroque favola in musica, or opera, with a libretto by Alessandro Striggio. Written in 1607 for a court performance during the annual Carnival at Mantua (a city and comune in Lombardy, Italy, and capital of the province of the same name), the work is based on the Greek legend of Orpheus, and tells the story of his descent to Hades and his fruitless attempt to bring his dead bride Eurydice back to the living world.

L’Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi
Performers: Gerd Türk (Tenor), Antonio Abete (Bass), Francesc Garrigosa (Tenor),
Carlos Mena (Countertenor), Daniele Carnovich (Bass), Fulvio Bettini (Baritone),
Montserrat Figueras (Soprano), Sara Mingardo (Alto), Gloria Banditelli (Mezzo Soprano),
Furio Zanasi (Baritone)
Conductor: Jordi Savall
Orchestra/Ensemble: La Capella Reial de Catalunya, Le Concert des Nations
Period: Baroque
Written: 1607; Mantua, Italy

During the early 17th century, the traditional intermedio—a musical sequence between the acts of a straight play—was evolving into the form of a complete musical drama or “opera”. Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo moved this process out of its experimental era and provided the first fully developed example of the new genre. After its initial performance the work was staged again in Mantua, and possibly in other Italian centres in the next few years. Its score was published by Monteverdi in 1609 and again in 1615. After the composer’s death in 1643 the opera went unperformed for many years, and was largely forgotten until a revival of interest in the late 19th century led to a spate of modern editions and performances. At first these tended to be unstaged versions within institutes and music societies, but following the first modern dramatised performance in Paris, in 1911, the work began to be seen increasingly often in theatres. After the Second World War most new editions sought authenticity through the use of period instruments. Many recordings were issued, and the opera was increasingly staged in opera houses. In 2007 the quatercentenary of the premiere was celebrated by performances throughout the world.

This live recording made on January 31, 2002 at the Liceu Theater in Barcelona is already a cornerstone of any Monteverdi discography. Beautifully executed by La Capella Reial de Catalunya, Le Concert des Nations, and a cast of soloists that includes Furio Zanasi, Sara Mingardo, and the late Montserrat Figueras, this is a release to treasure.

Savall is probably today’s grand guru of the “historically aware” musical production scene, and conducts here a recent, indeed sumptuous production of this masterwork from Barcelona’s Liceo opera house. The theatre was ravaged by a fire some years ago and has been reconstructed magnificently. Savall makes use of his Catalonian forces one frequently encounters in his recordings and they rise magnificently to the occasion, producing a scholarly and thoroughly convincing, from the philological perspective, rendering.

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