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Cavalli La Didone

Anna Bonitatibus/ Kresimir Spicer/ Xavier Sabata, et al.

Les Arts Florissants/William Christie

Director: Clement Hervieu-Leger

Theatre De Caen 2011



Opus Arte: OABD7106D) [Blu-ray]

A previously well received filming* of this major Venetian opera [Europa Galante/Fabio Bondi/McFadden] is a rarity; available on DVD from Amazon for £100...

This new version from Caen has a serviceable permanent set of ruins at the Fall of Troy, representing all war past and future. Cavalli's first act carries the greatest tragic weight of the aftermath of a lost war, equalled later by the anguish of Enea torn between love and duty [top L] as imposed by the Gods.

See Anna Bonitatibus on YouTube, magnificent as Didone [R], robbed of a new life and love after losing her husband, leading to a finale which will inevitably bring to mind Purcell's and Berlioz's.

Built extensively upon heightened expressive recitative, which flowers into brief arias, the prolific opera composer Cavalli's way allows for fuller development of the text than in later versions of the familiar story of Gods and fated Humans. Cavalli avoids multistrophe arias and e.g. for Enea's farewell he sets Busenello's text in expressive recitative for the first four and final strophes with an aria/lullaby before he finally tears himself away from her sleeping form [.

I found this opera enthralling and, dare I say heretically, more gripping than the far more familiar treatments of Purcell and Berlioz. But do avoid reading the synopsis before Dido's Lament.

With William Christie at the helm, style and authenticity are assured.

Enthusiastically recommended and not to be missed; Cavalli's forty-one operas, twenty-seven of which are preserved in the St Mark's Library in Venice, span three decades of development and they need fuller exploration before he be relegated as Monteverdi's inferior.

Peter Grahame Woolf

*Venice Does Cavalli Proud On this Dynamics DVD the forces of La Fenice do a marvellous job of presenting a Cavalli opera straight, without the horseplay and impertinence found, for example, on the DVD of LA CALISTO. Baroque music is easy to wreck. Thankfully the Venetians clearly admire Cavalli as a major figure in the development of opera, and show how well his works stay afloat when cast well and directed respectfully. Bravo, Veneti! [Joseph L. Ponessa]