Florentine composers Jacopo Peri and Giulio Caccini were fierce rivals. History may never confirm with certainty which composer was the first to complete a setting of Ottavio Rinuccini's libretto for Euridice, but we do know that Peri's Euridice was the first performed in October 1600 at the wedding celebration of Henry IV of France and Marie de' Medici, and Caccini's Euridice was the first published, in December of the same year. Peri's opera has been occasionally performed and recorded, perhaps because of his historical significance as the composer of the first opera, Dafne, which appeared in 1598, but this is the first, long overdue recording of Caccini's. This remarkable performance by Scherzi Musicali, led by Nicholas Achten, reveals Caccini's opera as a work with the substance and depth to become standard for ensembles specializing in early Baroque repertoire. His vocal writing is fluid, with expressive recitatives and lovely, shapely ensembles. Like Monteverdi, Caccini shows a profound psychological understanding of the characters, expressed in writing that captures the subtly shifting emotions of the text. The vocal and instrumental performances are beyond reproach. Director Achten also plays theorbo and sings the role of Orfeo. All of the soloists have voices of exceptional purity and freshness. Based on photos in the booklet, most of them look like they are barely out of their teens, but there's nothing juvenile about their performances; they sing with flawless technique, a solid grasp of appropriate performance practice, and probing insight. With the equally accomplished instrumental ensemble, they interact with the sensitivity and intimacy of a string quartet, with the result sounding like chamber music. Ricercar's sound is clean and lively. Caccini's Euridice is a revelation, and this superb recording should be of interest to any fans of early opera and of the early Baroque in general.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins