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GRAMOPHONE (12/2022)
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Naxos  211033

Code barres / Barcode : 0747313573356  (DVD)
Code barres / Barcode : 0747313573356 (Blue Ray)


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Reviewer :
Alexandra Coghlan


If there’s nothing really wrong with this Orfeo, directed by Pauline Bayle and conducted by Jordi Savall at Paris’s Opéra-Comique last summer, there’s nothing especially compelling here either. We already have a DVD of Monteverdi’s first opera with Savall in charge of his Concert des Nations and Capella Reial de Catalunya. That 2002 performance from Barcelona (Opus Arte, 2/03) feels like the original musical thought, this the echo – slightly less present, less distinct.

It starts with the casting. While Sara Mingardo is still a compelling Messenger – showing up all around her with her sung drama – and it’s a bit of an insider nod to bring Furio Zanasi (2002’s Orfeo) back here as Apollo, it does create obvious comparisons. If Savall is still wedded to his initial account and interpreters, where’s the urgency for audiences to revisit?

The musical energy, too, feels lacking. It’s not that speeds are inherently slower,

they just feel that way. The Act 1 wedding music for the chorus is less dance than proclamation, and the Act 3 Sinfonia feels oddly lacking in momentum. There are touches of Savall’s signature textural drama in the glorious grind of strings after the Messenger’s departure – weight dragging us down through the floor – but elsewhere it comes in and out of focus. With his shallow, cornett-like tone, French baritenor Marc Mauillon’s Orfeo is more boy-next-door than mythic hero. ‘Possente spirto’ lacks tonal variety, but there’s a rougher intensity as the performance progresses. Luciana Mancini is an unusually dark-voiced Euridice/ Musica but another strong actress who benefits from François Roussillon’s close camerawork here. Salvo Vitale’s Caronte is a striking vocal presence, and there’s an excellent quartet of shepherds.

Pauline Bayle’s production adds little. A stage full of flowers in the early acts gives way to a black box for the later. The chorus are a bright abstraction of jewel tones and New Agey warmth, a foil to the bald heads and all-black of the Underworld. It’s all pretty enough, and there’s some dancing, but has nothing to say. The characters, like the concept, remain wilfully abstract: ideas rather than people.



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