Fabio Biondi’s immense curiosity for characterful music – especially of forgotten scores from the Baroque – yields another fabulous surprise with Francesco Feo’s oratorio San Francesco di Sales. Feo’s reputation is at last starting to wax after having waned dramatically in the nineteenth century and thenceforward: in his own age he was compared very highly with Bach and Handel, and Charles Burney was moved to describe his vocal music as being “full of fire and invention and force in the melody and expression of the words”; Feo was also a boon companion of Pergolesi.
These songs for one and two voices come from the first four of D’India’s five books of Musiche, a series containing masterpieces of astonishing originality in the style of monody (solo melody with accompaniment), which had eclipsed the polyphonic madrigal in popularity at the dawn of the 17th century. With a career based largely in Turin and Rome, Sigismondo D’India nevertheless demonstrates stylistic links to both Monteverdi and Gesualdo, and it is the latter’s influence which supports new scholarship claiming D’India grew up in Naples (not Sicily) in the shadow of the great madrigalist’s free thinking on harmony. That very harmonic freedom – to accentuate key emotions in the text with piquant chord changes – is the hallmark of D’India’s own, self-styled ‘true manner’ of composing monody, adopted from Gesualdo’s intense, chromatic polyphony to the solo song or duet, and it suggests a Neapolitan, rather than Roman–Florentine, musical background.
Se io avessi previsto tutto questo is a collection of Francesco Guccini composed of songs chosen by the singer-songwriter himself, released in 2015, the year of his 75th birthday.
This hilarious contemporary version of Francesco Cavalli's baroque opera Hercules in Love was commissioned on occasion of the marriage of Louis XIV, the Sun King, to Maria Theresa of Spain. The original production took two years to complete and was at the time the greatest show ever performed in Europe. Directed by David Alden, this surreal production is a triumph of commedia buffa resplendent with decorative and symbolic elements, and complemented by Constance Hoffman's exceptional costumes. Led by Ivor Bolton, a master of baroque music, the chorus of De Nederlandse Opera and Concerto Köln give a sublime performance. With Luca Pisaroni's (Ercole) singing being heroic and melodious in turn, and Veronica Cangemi as a splendid Iole, this is an outstanding production by the DNO.