Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Orfeo, Part I

Once again, here's one to blame on the radio. Somebody deemed the classical station should broadcast Monteverdi's L'Orfeo a couple of weeks back, and I happened to be on the receiving end at the time. To wax very common about something uncommon, had I been wearing socks, it would have knocked them off. For the first time in my life, I fell madly in love with an opera.

Of course, there is the caveat for those who have heard the opera and might be wondering what bee has taken up residence in my bonnet: I vastly prefer Baroque music to most of that of the Classical period, and (without being too well studied on the subject) prefer Rennaisance music even to Baroque. So when Monteverdi comes along, gracefully toeing the line between the Rennaisance and Baroque periods, the chances are pretty good that I will find some of his music tolerable--or better.

Anyway, L'Orfeo, from a [my] musical standpoint, is a delight, with its archaic vocal styles and period instruments seemingly set adrift in an ocean of music. The opera doesn't have the islands, if you will, of arias that stand apart by their contrast to the rise and fall of the recitatives, just waves that are raised a bit higher against the sun than those around them. Rather than a reflection against the arias, this is a remark on the appeal of the recitatives; L'Orfeo, as appropriate to its subject, mesmerises by an unbroken current of music.

NPR has a page dedicated to this opera where one can read a synopsis and listen to two of the arias. They are both quite beautiful (and quite sad), but "Possente Spirto" is, on top of that, rather astounding with its early Baroque ornamentation and interplay between voice and orchestra.

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