Discovering a new opera that’s really good is one of life’s small pleasures and my latest is Benet Casablancas’ L’enigma di Lea. It’s a collaboration between the composer and the writer and theorist Rafael Argullol and it premiered at the Liceu in Barcelona in 201`9.
I Dilettanti is an album from Catalan countertenor Xavier Sabata accompanied by members of the Greek baroque group Latinitas Rostra with Markellos Chryssicos at the harpsichord. The works on the disk are all from the late 17th and early 18th century and are by, as the title might suggest, people who aren’t primarilyknown as composers such as the singer Vincenzo Benedetti and the nobleman/adventurer Emanuele d’Astorga. The format of the pieces too is relatively unfamiliar. All but two tracks are chamber cantatas, probably intended for domestic entertainment rather than theatre or concert hall. The exceptions are two arias from Ruggieri’s Armida Abbandonata though as they are presented here, like all the other works, just basso continuo accompaniment they don’t sound obviously different.
Oddly enough, given the post previous to this, Reiner Moritz’s essay in the booklet accompanying this recording of Cavalli’s La Didone brings up the Harnoncourt/Ponelle Monteverdi recordings as a precursor to what he sees as Bill Christie’s similar championing of Cavalli. I guess the big difference is that only three of Monteverdi’s operas survive while we have 27 of Cavalli’s. I think he may have a point though. It seems to me that 17th century Italian opera works on an aesthetic which is very in tune with today. The relative spareness and clarity of the music seems closer to Britten than to Verdi and the cynicism and explicit sexuality of the libretti closer to Anna Nicole than La Bohème.