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Recordings

Era la notte
15 Jan 2007

Era La Notte

“Era la notte” presents four highly emotional, seventeenth-century Italian works, sung with commanding theatricality by Anna Caterina Antonacci.

Era La Notte.

Anna Caterina Antonacci, soprano; Modo Antiquo, Federico Maria Sardelli, director.

Naïve V5050 [CD]

$16.99  Click to buy

In the famous “Lamento d’Arianna” by Monteverdi, the emotions are strikingly dynamic and mutable, as Arianna,, abandoned by her lover, Teseo, moves variously through rage, regret, uncertainty, anguish and love in one of early opera’s most memorable scenes. Barbara Strozzi’s “Lagrime mie” offers a pining for death in the face of a love that cannot be returned. Pietro Giramo’s “Lamento della pazza” is a remarkable mad-song, whose text embodies the wayward meanderings and quick turns of one driven mad by unrequited love. The last of the four, Monteverdi’s opuscolo in genere rappresentativo “Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda,” sets a scene from Tasso’s Renaissance epic, Gerusalemme liberata in which the combat of lovers in knightly disguise ends with poignant death, transformed into happiness.

Given the moving dramatic nature of these highly affective works, it is not surprising that they have also been staged by Juliette Deschamps. She writes: “I imagine scenes from the life of a woman who, we realize, is lost forever—lost through love, no doubt about it. She relates to us, with elegant crudeness and in language at once precious and raucous, the episodes of her existence, made up of dreams of love and the pain of loving.” Although the recording cannot convey the staged elements—one quickly wishes for a DVD release—the dramatic quality of Antonacci’s vocal renditions leave little doubt of the theatrical potential, both of the singer and the program.

Antonacci’s great strengths here are her responsiveness to the dynamics of the texts and her well-cultivated beauty of tone. Her sound is bigger than one sometimes finds in early music circles—much of her career is devoted to later operatic repertories—but she maintains a sharp focus to the sound that suits early opera well.

The instrumental forces of Modo Antiquo are well attuned to Antonacci’s emotional flexibility, and with imaginative use of dynamics, instrumentation, and even choice of technique, their contribution to the evolving dramatic sense is strong. In the “Combattimento,” Monteverdi famously gives the instruments passages in the stile concitato: vigorously articulated tremolos to arouse the passions of war. The ensemble presents these moments of combat with great flair. In the end however, it is the poignance of Clorinda’s death that proves most convincing. Sung with consummate control against a halo of string sound, Clorinda’s last words, “Heaven opens, I go in peace,” become a hauntingly beautiful conclusion, not only to Clorinda’s life, but to the program’s journey, as well. Moreover, as the control is Antonacci’s, they also become one of the most memorable instances of her high artistry.

Steven Plank

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