"Shirley Verrett makes a deeply impressive Orfeo, firm and pure in sound, classically restrained in expression; and her "Che farO", at a moderate, beautifully judged speed, is very finely sung, poised and quietly moving. The set is conducted by Renato Fasano, whose pacing of the score shows a very sure touch. The dance music has a grace and lightness, and a stylistic command, that one might not have expected from an orchestra which in those days seemed to be fed chiefly on a diet of Vivaldi."(Gramophone)
Once you listen to this account, it's easily understandable just why Orfeo ed Euridice has become the most famous opera by Christoph Willibald Gluck. Based on the well-known story from antiquity, Gluck composed a varied, engrossing music full of melodious arias, stirring dances, and dramatic duets and choruses. Conductor René Jacobs has decided here to eschew countertenor casting, with the result that we can enjoy mezzo-soprano Bernarda Fink as Orfeo. She interprets the part of the lovesick hero with vocal precision, stylistic assurance and admirably clear articulation. Her voice radiates warmth and resonates beautifully but at the same time with strength–especially in the highly dramatic Act III, which she, together with Veronica Cangemi (Euridice), shapes with an almost stormy emotional fervour. Maria Christina Kiehr sings with angelic beauty as Amore, while Jacobs leads the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra and the Rias Chamber Choir with verve and sweep in a recording that conveys limber beauty under the aegis of the historically-informed practice movement.
A surprising fact from the musicological realm is that Haydn wrote about the same number of operas as Mozart–though it's true that some of them were written for the marionette theater at Esterhaza, rather than the opera house. In other words, old "Gius[eppe] Haydn"–as the title page of this opera refers to him–was a master. Better known to some by its alternate title, L'anima del filosofo, Haydn's Orfeo ed Euridice was written in 1791 for the King's Theater, Haymarket, during the composer's first English sojourn, but went unperformed there or anywhere else until 1950. The libretto, by Carlo Francesco Badini, is based on Ovid's Metamorphoses, with its decidedly unhappy ending to the story (Euridice dies a second time, Orpheus is poisoned, and the Bacchantes perish in a storm). While the score as a whole does not possess the kind of momentum or dramatic sweep one finds in Mozart, it nonetheless is vintage Haydn: highly imaginative in its use of a large orchestra, with numerous fine choruses and beautiful arias. A strong cast has been assembled for this recording, with Cecilia Bartoli a special delight in two roles–Euridice, a lyric role requiring remarkable agility, and the Genio (or Sybill), originally written for a castrato, whose one aria ("Al tuo seno fortunato") is a coloratura tour de force. The score is played with marvelous fluency by the Academy of Ancient Music under the direction of Christopher Hogwood, contributing to a realization that is, in every respect, elegantly informed. (Ted Libbey)
"Once the head conductor of the Netherlands Philharmonic and the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, and as the principal guest conductor with the Deutschen Staatsoper (German State Opera) in Berlin since 1995, Hartmut Haenchen (originally spelled Hänchen) is noted for the clear, precise phrasing and sumptuously sonorous tones he evokes from his musicians. (…) Since 1980, Haenchen has acted as the artistic director of the Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach Chamber Orchestra, which was founded in Berlin and has presented revivals of C.P.E. Bach's music from re-discovered manuscripts. The ensemble has appeared in many television productions, has received awards for several recordings, and regularly tours…"
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…”
Luigi Rossi (ca. 1597 – 20 February 1653) was an Italian Baroque composer. Rossi was born in Torremaggiore, a small town near Foggia, in the ancient kingdom of Naples and at an early age he went to Naples. There he studied music with the Franco-Flemish composer Jean de Macque who was organist of the Santa Casa dell’Annunziata and maestro di cappella to the Spanish viceroy. Rossi later entered the service of the Caetani, dukes of Traetta. Luigi Rossi composed just two operas: Il palazzo incantato, which was given at Rome in 1642; and Orfeo, written after he was invited by Cardinal Mazarin in 1646 to go to Paris for that purpose, and given its premiere there in 1647. Rossi returned to France in 1648 hoping to write another opera, but no production was possible because the court had sought refuge outside Paris. Rossi returned to Rome by 1650 and never attempted anything more for the stage.