When this recording was made in 2006, recordings and even performances of the operas of Francesco Cavalli were rare. Many are difficult to stage, but those who persist, find works that have a good deal of power and were critical to the development of opera as it is known today. For one thing, Cavalli moved opera away from the declamation of Monteverdi's works and toward a more contemporary concept of melody. Sample almost anywhere to hear Cavalli's not-quite-arias, not-quite-recitatives, perhaps the long speech of Linceo in Act One, Scene Nine. For another, although this opera was written for Florentine princely patrons, Cavalli was a man of the theater who realized the need to grab an audience's attention. G.A. Moniglia's libretto, later imitated by Pietro Metastasio, is a gory tale of a battle royal that follows the murder of 49 sons of an Egyptian king by their wives, and the refusal of the 50th wife, Ipermestra, to go through with the murder because she loves her husband, Linceo. There's plenty of action, and it comes through here in the performance by lutenist-director Mike Fentross and his ensemble La Sfera Armoniosa. This is something of a scholarly recording. The notes tell of the rediscovery of the opera's manuscript in a Venetian library, and the text is given only in the original Italian. However, non-Italophones will get the gist (although not the detail), and Fentross keeps things moving with his large continuo section: the performance was also pioneering in its recognition of the crucial role of the continuo. Further productions of the work, one by William Christie in England and one in Eastern Europe, have followed, but this one was the milestone. The lead roles of Ipermestra and Linceo, both sung by women, are competently and persuasively done, and the sound, within the limitations of live recording in 2006, is quite clear. This deserves a place in good opera collections.