Cavalli: L’Ormindo

Sandrine Piau L’Armonia Martin Oro Ormindo Howard Crook Amida, Dominique Visse Nerillo, Magali Léger Sicle, Jean-François Lombard Erice, Stéphanie Révidat Erisbe, Karine Deshayes Mirinda, Jacques Bona Hariadeno, Benoit Arnould Osmano
131:10 (2 CDs)
Pan Classics PC 10330 (© 2006)

There is a dearth of recordings of L’Ormindo, only this version recorded in 2006 and the old Raymond Leppard Glyndebourne arrangement dating from 1967. Perhaps the success of the staging of the Royal Opera’s English language version under Christian Curnyn at the Globe has encouraged the publishers?

This is quite a stylish performance, recorded in Paris in 2006, and I believe released originally on Pan; downloads from this are still available and feature Sandrine Piau prominently on the sales pitch, who however only sings the much-ornamented Prologo as Harmonia. The continuo group including an organ, two harpsichords, just one chittarone, harp and guitar provide a varied texture in the narrative exchanges; and two violins, two violas da gamba and a violone form the five part ritornelli. The clefs for the middle parts in the score are alto and tenor, and Monteverdi normally calls for viole da brazzo: are gambas right here? Sometimes the score provides worked-out ritornelli in the arias, but occasionally I hear the strings ‘improvising’ with the singers – a euphemism for being written in to the score Leppard-style where there are some blank staves from time to time. This and a number of cuts make it hard to follow in the on-line facsimile available from the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice. The timing of the BBCs Globe broadcast runs to 180:15, while these two CDs last for 131:10. No details of the performing edition – how it was created, who edited it, what editorial principles were used, how decisions were made – are recorded in the liner notes, which are slender in the extreme and largely taken up with introducing the listener to the complex plot. There is nothing about the performers, or the circumstances of the recording in Paris in June 2006. As the only recording with any gesture towards HIP, this is disappointing.

Among the singers, Dominique Visse has the cameo part that suits his voice and the kind of camp stage presence he has created for himself. In Nerillo, Amida’s page, he exploits this to the full. The action however is dominated by the female roles of Erisbe and Sicle, both sung beautifully by Stéphanie Révidat and Magali Léger. These two soprano characters run the plot, and it is right that they should come across more strongly that their two male lovers, Ormindo and Amida. Ormindo really needs to be sung by an haute-contre, not an alto as here. But all the voices have a lyrical quality, and they have certainly got their minds and tongues round the occasionally fast-moving Italian, so I guess this is the fruit of a well-prepared staged version.

As the plot develops, we get some fine exchanges, and the laments and lovers’ partings as they drink what they believe to be poison are sung passionately yet clearly. The drama in this production – aided by some pruning – moves the music along at a good pace; only occasionally was I aware of some awkward changes of key, and some of the blank staves are filled – for example in Erisbe’s “Ah questo è l’imeneo” – with a questionable violin part.

But lovers of Cavalli and students of the beginnings of the Venetian opera house and its early productions will be glad of this performance, despite my reservations.
David Stancliffe