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Cavalli: Gli Amori d'Apollo e di Dafne

Cardoso/ Pizzolato/ Martins/ Zeffiri
Orquesta Joven de la Sinfonica de
Galicia /Zedda

Naxos 8.660187-8 (145 mins)

The plot of Gli amori d'Apollo e di Dafne is based on classical mythology which would have would have been familiar territory to contemporary audiences. It is more difficult for today's, especially as there are so many minor characters playing only a small part in the drama. The synopsis printed in the booklet does provide a pretty faithful account of proceedings, but it is certainly worth following the full Italian text from Naxos website. Especially so, since Busenello wrote an exceptionally good libretto, elegant verse with many onomatopoeic touches


The piece is important today because of its place in the history of opera.


Opera first emerged as a lavish spectacle reserved for special occasions in the palaces of grand nobility. The Venetians, noted for their commercial shrewdness, spotted the potential of opera as public entertainment and opened their first opera house in 1937. Cavalli was one of a handful of composers engaged to write them, and Apollo e Dafne is his second opera, premiered in 1640.


In those seminal years composers were free to experiment, and were not confined by the later rules and conventions prescribing how the music was to be structured and divided between performers. So, rather than a succession of set pieces (recitative and da capo aria), each of the many characters is provided with music that suits their individual personality.


Apollo, of course, has music as beautiful and noble as the thoughts he expresses; Dafne is soft spoken, often mimicking the harp; her father Peneo is gentle and almost magisterial. Cupid is young, nimble and impulsive whereas Pan is inquisitive, resourceful, perhaps even devious. A couple of the smaller characters are also vividly drawn: Filena is gossipy and scolding and the elderly Cirilla keeps repeating her gradita poverta (poverty is to be welcomed) like a mantra, as though trying to convince herself of its truth. There is a surprise treat in the finale, a duet for two tenors; not something one encounters every day!


The singers are universally good, all with excellent diction, but worthy of special mention are Mario Zeffiri (Apollo), Maianna Pizzolato (Dafne) and Carlo Lepore (Peneo). The orchestra pull it all together, with only the most minor of stage noise, something to be expected from a live performance.


A most enjoyable CD.


Serena Fenwick


See also article Listening on computer to Cavalli's Loves of Apollo and Dafne [Editor]