Ask a lover of Spanish cinema what Spain's equivalent of Hollywood is, and the obvious response will be Madrid; most of Spain's top actors and directors are based in Spain's largest city. Barcelona, meanwhile, is the city that dominates the Spanish porn industry; if Madrid is Spain's Hollywood, Barcelona is Spain's San Fernando Valley. But some excellent non-porn movies have been filmed (or partly filmed) in Barcelona, ranging from Pedro Almodóvar's Todo Sobre Mi Madre (All About My Mother) to American director Whit Stillman's clever Barcelona. Stillman isn't the only American director who has filmed in Barcelona; the capitol of Cataluña (or Catalunya in Catalan) is where Woody Allen filmed his romantic comedy/drama Vicky Cristina Barcelona (starring Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, and Scarlett Johansson). In the liner notes, Allen explains that this soundtrack called for Spanish music but candidly admits that Spanish music isn't something he is terribly knowledgeable about. However, Allen obviously did his research, and the recordings that he chose are excellent. Although this 42-minute disc contains two sensuous vocal offerings by the Barcelona-based group Giulia y los Tellarini ("Barcelona" and "La Ley del Retiro"), most of the soundtrack focuses on instrumental flamenco guitar – specifically, flamenco of the nuevo flamenco variety.
Monteverdi's larger choral pieces are so masterly that they tend to overshadow his chamber scale sacred music the solo works in particular. Occasionally one or two of these exquisite motets will appear on a collection such as Paul McCreesh's Venetian Vespers, but rarely do they become the focus of an entire recording as they are here. The much-admired early-music diva Maria Cristina Kiehr has a slightly constricted quality to her voice that won't appeal to everyone, but her very narrow vibrato colors her sound without affecting her accuracy of pitch, spotless coloratura, or blend with period instruments (played beautifully here by Concerto Soave).