When the new monodic style of Giulio Caccini and Jacopo Peri coalesced around 1600 and laid the foundation for the new art of opera, audiences were reportedly overwhelmed by it. That's hard to imagine now; a group of Caccini songs end to end can sound like nothing so much as an hour of operatic recitative. Soprano Johannette Zomer, a veteran of Holland's historical-performance vocal scene, breaks up Caccini's songs with theorbo pieces by Alessandro Piccinini on this disc (she sings to the accompaniment of a theorbo). Caccini's monodic songs were intellectual experiments, an attempt to re-create the lost art of ancient Greek drama. Like most experiments, this music is best taken in small doses, but here we get the full platter. It's well done as far as it goes; Zomer applies the athletic ornamentation of the period with confidence, and theorbo player Fred Jacobs is compelling in music that is graceful but lacks real virtuosity. But being expert and authentic isn't enough with this repertory; what's needed is a way of making the hearer realize just how shocking it was when it first appeared. Students of the early Baroque may need this disc -- recordings devoted to Caccini are rare -- but the general listener is directed toward Monteverdi and the sacred madrigals of Lodovico Viadana instead.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim