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Monteverdi: L'Orfeo

Monteverdi: L'Orfeo

by Emmanuelle Haïm
Following her superb recording of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas with Susan Graham and Ian Bostridge, conductor Emmanuelle Haïm turns to history's first opera, Monteverdi's Orfeo, leading an equally starry cast. Bostridge


Following her superb recording of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas with Susan Graham and Ian Bostridge, conductor Emmanuelle Haïm turns to history's first opera, Monteverdi's Orfeo, leading an equally starry cast. Bostridge takes on the title role here, and his combination of lyrical intensity and erudite nobility are right on the mark, though there's also an unexpected element of sensuality in his singing that seems entirely appropriate to such richly expressive music. Many of the other singers, like Veronique Gens (Properina) and Paul Agnew (Eco), also have extensive early-music experience. Others, like Natalie Dessay (La Musica) -- an inspired, luxurious piece of casting -- and Christopher Maltman (Apollo), are associated with 19th- and 20th-century repertory. Still, this cast really gels, not just in terms of tonal blend and precision of ensemble but also in the way the drama moves with such naturalness and inevitability. Credit for this goes, of course, to the conductor. Purists may cluck their tongues at some of her fanciful orchestral touches, like the snappy percussion parts added to the Act One chorus "Lasciate i monti," for example. But how vividly this story is told. One gets the sense that these are living, breathing characters, not stiff, cardboard figures striking poses. There are other fine recordings of this opera available, including critically acclaimed versions by John Eliot Gardiner and Réné Jacobs, but Haïm's new account goes straight to the head of the list.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Allen Schrott
After almost 400 years, you might think Monteverdi's "L'Orfeo" would have lost its luster. But in the right hands it can still be deeply exciting, allowing you to relive the birth of an electric and emotionally charged new art form. Emmanuelle Haïm's new "L'Orfeo," starring Ian Bostridge, is that kind of experience. It combines truly electric instrumental playing with committed, daring performances to great effect, making for one of the most enjoyable opera recordings to come along in a while. Haïm, who has the Midas touch for Baroque opera, leads this performance with infectious energy, perfect tempo, and dramatic timing. Le Concert d'Astrée, along with Les Sacqueboutiers, turns in a spirited but still clean reading of the score. Bostridge is an ardent Orfeo, revealing a more dramatic aspect to his singing that is very welcome; he has also makes an admirable stab at the idiosyncratic vocal ornamention of the period. Natalie Dessay throws aside notions of the white-voiced early music singer, and tears into La Musica's prologue with real flair. Véronique Gens shines in her brief moments as Proserpina, and Patrizia Ciofi manages to be genuinely entrancing as Euridice, even though she only appears a few times in the score. The supporting cast is uneven; Christopher Maltman is outstanding as Apollo and one of the "Pastori," but many of the other voices are weak and unfocused. However, when they all join together for ensembles, they hit the nail on the head. In general, sticklers for historically "accurate" vocalism (a sticky matter anyway, since we have no recordings to confirm the conclusions of scholars) will likely be dissatisfied with this recording. But those who care more about dramatic effect will find a lot to enjoy. There are a couple of good "L'Orfeos" already on the market, notably John Eliot Gardiner's from the 1980s. It may actually be cleaner in a few spots than this recording. But no one has ever captured the urgent combination of drama and music that was the motivating force behind "L'Orfeo" any better than you'll hear on this disc.
New York Times - James R. Oestreich
Ian Bostridge proves ideal for the role of Orfeo.
Gramophone - David Vickers
Purists will be divided over the liberties Haim takes, but her performance contains a wealth of musical interest, and I recommend it as a stimulating alternative to the fine pedigree of recordings that has preceded it.
Classic FM Magazine - Andrew Stewart
It’s the upfront nature of the music making, together with beguiling singing from Bostridge and Ciofi, that place [Haim's] account of Monteverdi’s first opera in company with the best on disc.

Product Details

Release Date:
Emi Classics

Related Subjects


  1. La favola d'Orfeo, opera, SV 318  - Claudio Monteverdi  - Emmanuelle Haïm  -  European Voices  - Les Sacqueboutiers  -  Concert d'Astrée  - Paul Agnew  - Malcolm Bennett  - Pascal Bertin  - Ian Bostridge  - Richard Burkhard  - Patrizia Ciofi  - Alice Coote  - Natalie Dessay  - Véronique Gens  - Mario Luperi  - Robert MacDonald  - Christopher Maltman  - Norbert Meyn  - Sonia Prina  - Lorenzo Regazzo  - Carolyn Sampson  - Paul Thompson  - Alessandro Striggio  - Alexandre Seon  - Nigel Swift  - Alain Lanceron

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