Cesti: L’Orontea

Paul Murrihy Orontea, Sebastian Geyer Creonte, Juanita Lascarro Tiburio/Amore, Guy de Mey Aristea, Xavier Sabata Alidoro, Simon Bailey Gelone, Matthias Rexroth Corindo, Louise Alder Silandra, Kateryna Kasper Giacinta, Katharina Magiera Filosofia, Frankfurter Opern- und Museumsorchester, Monteverdi-Continuo-Ensemble, Ivor Bolton
175:53 (3 CDs in a box with separate sleeve or booklet)
Oehms Classics OC965

Fascinating to have a complete performance on CD of an opera by this composer so much more written about than performed. As one of the early advocates of opera, Cesti owes a lot to Monteverdi, but his music turns out both to be much less individual than his august predecessor, but at the same time more part of what would become the mainstream of Baroque Italian opera tradition. This is a live recording of the first performance made in Frankfurt Opera house, a house in which I spent many fruitful hours in my youth and where even then lavish and radical productions went hand-in-hand with cutting-edge authenticity in productions of Baroque operas. From the photos in the notes it is clear that the former tradition is in good health while the confident Baroque sound is also thoroughly convincing. There is furthermore very little background noise from onstage movement or audience to make one aware this is live, although the slightly stuffy sound of the orchestra makes it clear they are playing from a pit. Having said that, this a vocally sparkling and instrumentally convincing rendition of Cesti’s music full of drama and theatrical interaction. Like most opera companies in Germany, Frankfurt Opera are on a very firm financial footing – I was hugely impressed when they appeared recently at the Edinburgh Festival fielding an entire Baroque orchestra for Dido and Aeneas  to replace it at the interval with a large modern instrument orchestra for Bluebeard’s Castle  – and all these forces on tour! This recording is of interest particularly to aficionados of early Italian opera, but I think it stands on its own as a fine performance of an operatic masterpiece.

D. James Ross

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