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GRAMOPHONE (07/2016)
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Reviewer: Alexandra Coghlan


At his death, Monteverdi left us a small, precious handful of operas. Even allowing for those lost, his output in this genre was a small one but occupies a disproportionately large place in the recording catalogue generally, and La Venexiana’s in particular. Cavalli, by contrast, was the prolific composer of some 40 operas, of which around 30 still survive. The ensemble’s latest disc pays homage to this large and varied repertoire with duets and arias exploring love in all its many shapes and colours.


Claudio Cavina and his ensemble are joined by two exceptional young soloists, soprano Giulia Semenzato and countertenor Raffaele Pe, who lead their listeners through the emotional highs and lows of some of the composer’s lesser-known operas. Ormindo aside, this collection prefers to stick to the operatic B roads of Statira, Veremonda and Pompeo Magno, setting it apart from the 2005 recording (good in parts) by Sergio Vartolo and Mediterraneo Concento (Naxos, 6/05) and last year’s outstanding ‘Heroines of the Venetian Baroque’ by Capella Mediterranea (Ricercar, 11/15), both dominated by music from Calisto, Didone, Giasone and Eliogabolo.


‘Sospiri d’amore’ – a recital of carefully chosen excerpts, many of which send you off in search of the complete opera – has a beautiful ebb and flow to it, moving from the playful (‘Qui cade al tuo pie’) to the desperate (‘Io misero fui Rege’) in thoughtful juxtapositions and musical arcs. It helps that Semenzato and Pe take an expansive, Italianate approach to this highly rhetorical music, aided by delicate interventions from Cavina’s small, infinitely refined band.


This is public opera rendered with private immediacy and intensity, and although some might miss the brass flurries and fanfares of other recordings, there’s such dramatic flexibility in these arias, ariosos and duets that it’s easier to accept a narrower textural canvas.


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