Sebastián Durón's Salir el amor del mundo (Love Leaves the World) is an early zarzuela, dating from 1696. The topic of the plot, sort of wistfully comic, is the encroachment of Cupid on the territory of chaste Diana, who is anything but glad to see him. Several of the gods are forced to take sides in the ensuing conflict; they're supposed to back Diana, but they're ruefully forced to concede that Cupid has gotten to them in the past. Performances of zarzuelas (Spanish comic operas) from this period are rare, which would be reason enough to welcome this U.S. release, but it has the additional advantages of being well sung, well presented, and generally a lot of fun. There are several unusual features to this recording, with an orchestra and large plucked-string continuo group under the direction of San Francisco Bay Area Baroque guitarist Richard Savino. One is that he uses all female singers, following the theory of scholar Louise Stein that such presentations were intended partly to put female flesh on display for male audiences. Whatever the merits of this idea, the performers, especially Jennifer Ellis Kampani as Cupid, act as well as sing, and generally animate the work's lively texts. Another unusual aspect is that Savino opts not to present the entire work, which includes a good deal of spoken dialogue and formal material unrelated to the main plot. Instead he rounds out the disc with short works and excerpts on similar themes by other composers. The determination of whether this is ultimately a good idea awaits future recordings that attempt to place the music in its full cultural context, but what's on the disc makes sense. Savino's notes (in English only, with the text of the zarzuela given in Spanish and English) deepen the listener's appreciation, showing how Durón mixed elements imported from Italian opera with native Spanish refrain forms. This album marks something of a milestone for the U.S. early music recording industry: it offers a fresh recording of an unknown work, with high levels of overall musicianship, an attempt to reach beyond an audience of specialists, and fine sound, recorded at no less a facility than Skywalker Studios. Highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Salir el Amor del Mundo|