- El Congo, tonada
The program for this release by French soprano Patricia Petibon is insanely ambitious, but she pulls it off brilliantly. The "nouveau monde" of the title refers not only to the Americas but to other overseas (from Europe) lands and even, Petibon says in the interview-style booklet, to the new world '"revealed to me by [early music pioneers] William Christie, Jordi Savall, and Nikolaus Harnoncourt when they revolutionized the approach to style and sound." But, Petibon goes on, this new world "is one that always has to be expanded with new explorations and new conquests." Thus we get pieces from a previously untouched Peruvian manuscript of the late 18th century along with a Spanish-language aria by Handel, popular songs from the Old and New Worlds, excerpts from Charpentier's "Medée" (with its crossing of the river Styx, yet another "new world" opera), Rameau's "Les Indes galantes" (a work desperately in need of a full-scale revival), Purcell's "When I Am Laid in Earth" from "Dido and Aeneas" (an "Egyptian" work), and more. Petibon weaves the various themes -- pastoral, nostalgic, self-destructive -- together in such a way that this extremely disparate material seems to flow together, and indeed she makes the point convincingly that audiences of the Baroque and Classical eras might have known a good deal of this music and considered it fit for inclusion on the same bill. Her voice may be a bit on the dry side for some, but the same is true of many Christie products, and she has given the Baroque repertory a very strong shake-up here. The La Cetra ensemble of Basel is an adept co-conspirator in Petibon's plans, and even Deutsche Grammophon's graphics, not a field in which the label typically excels, are delightful.