Jordi Savall directs Le Concert des Nations, La Capella Reial de Catalunya and the leading soloists of early opera in a beautiful period production of Monteverdi's favola in musica staged at Barcelona's Gran Teatre del Liceu in 2002. Gilbert Deflo's stage direction reflects the sublime art and imagery found in Mantua's Palazzo Ducale, with its famous Hall of Mirrors, where the opera was first performed in 1607.
This recording of Monteverdi's great tale of Orpheus in the underworld, the very first operatic masterpiece, was made live during the run of a production of Orfeo in the French city of Tourcoing in 2004. Orfeo is usually heard in studio recordings. A live performance using all of Monteverdi's unusual instruments of 1607 is difficult to put together; the work is large and expensive to produce, and it's hard to recoup those costs from audiences still generally unfamiliar with the music A studio performance will deliver the details of instrumentation that emerge from Monteverdi's giant orchestra in a way that a live recording cannot; the work followed directly in the tradition of the Florentine wedding spectaculars mounted by the Medici family, and Monteverdi had the resources to create all kinds of fabulous instrumental effects…
This is a great set. The main competition to this production comes from Gardiner, with Anthony Rolfe Johnson as Orfeo. His is a superbly attractive voice, and he remains the best Orfeo I've heard. But Victor Torres is excellent too and his performance is very distinctive and rich in character. What's more, he is better recorded, as is the whole of Garrido's interpretation…”
Familiar to UK audiences as a recitalist, Dietrich Henschel has been inexplicably neglected by this country's opera companies. You get a strong sense of what a theatrical animal he is, however, from his performance of the title role in this flawed but compelling production of L'Orfeo, filmed in Madrid last year. The subtlety of Henschel's acting matches the complexity of his vocal characterisation so that, by the end, you not only feel you've been taken on a vast journey from joy to grief and back again, but also believe that Orfeo's own music really has the power to affect both gods and nature…Tim Ashley
This is a reissue, sans libretto and with the liner notes chopped down from 30 pages to 10, of the recording initially reviewed in Fanfare 31:1 by J. M. Weber. But when I got around to playing the recording, I was so completely blown away by it that I felt compelled to review it; and as the performance progressed it suddenly dawned on me that I was listening to the greatest performance of L’Orfeo yet committed to disc.