Little is known about the life of Francisco António de Almeida, but he occupied a central position in Portuguese life in the first half of the 18th century and was able to learn the Italian style in Rome thanks to the ambitions of King João V. The rarely recorded La Spinalba ovvero Il vecchio matto (Spinalba, or the Mad Old Man) is a comic opera which follows the buffa tradition of intrigue and romantic complexities, and is filled with superb cantabile arias as well as a rich variety of original and dramatic orchestral effects. The cast is led by Ana Quintans, a much-in-demand soloist on the early music scene, and the highly regarded Portuguese ensemble Os Músicos do Tejo is directed by its co-founder Marcos Magalhães.
The priest Giuseppe Cavallo was Maestro di Canto of the Conservatorio de Santa Maria de Loreto from 1672 until his death in 1684. Otherwise, virtually nothing is known about the composer, and it is only due to the musical archive of the Oratorio di Napoli, a treasure trove of rare scores, that a handful of Cavallo's works survive, including Il Giudizio Universale. This sacred oratorio presents Christ and Saint Michael, a pair of angels, two mortals, and four souls–two damned, two blessed–and begins with Christ commanding the angels to bring on the Last Judgment. What follows is a finely crafted musical drama, except for the confusion caused when the otherwise immaculately presented album fails to reveal which of the seven singers (two sopranos, three tenors, and one bass) is singing which parts. All you can be sure of is that Christ is the excellent bass, Giuseppe Naviglio… –Gary S. Dalkin