From the beginning of opera in 17th century Italy, composers established conventions that would persist for more than a century, not least of which was the Prologue, an introductory scene featuring an allegorical personification commenting on the action to come, hearkening back to the chorus of ancient Greek drama. Italian soprano Francesca Aspromonte has selected opening scenes from Claudio Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, Giulio Caccini's L'Euridice, Francesco Cavalli's La Didone, and nine other operas from the early Baroque era, and her first album on Pentatone is a treasure trove of great prologues, sumptuously accompanied by Il Pomo d'Oro under the direction of Enrico Onofri. The clarity, passion, and brilliance of Aspromonte's interpretations enliven these preambles, and she treats the Prologue figure as a living and breathing character, an entity who not only sets the scene, but also provides an emotional connection to the drama. As written, these openings may seem little more than stylized recitatives, though Aspromonte's intensity and expressive freedom convey the narratives with the presence and power of a leading role. Aspromonte sings with a full, rich tone and a powerful expressive range that transcends the usual pure vocals and constrained emotions of many early music performances, and Onofri's consort provides a luminous and shimmering backdrop. Presented on a hybrid SACD with a booklet of the texts, this exceptional package will appeal to connoisseurs of opera and newcomers alike. Highly recommended.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Il palazzo incantato overo La guerriera amante|
|Il Pomo d'oro|
|Gli equivoci in amore, o vero La Rosaura|