Mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter is an artist who continues to amaze with the undiminished luster and beauty of her voice, the depth and daring of her interpretation, and her commitment to exploring unfamiliar repertoire. Sogno Barocco is a recital of Italian songs, scenas, and operatic solos and duets drawn from the early to middle Baroque era. It's a mix of familiar pieces like Monteverdi's solo madrigal Si dolce è'l tormento, and "Pur ti miro" from L'incoronazione di Poppea and some real rarities (not to say oddities) such as Luigi Rossi's eccentric, starkly dramatic Lamento della regina di suezia, and Francesco Provenzale's even stranger, highly entertaining parody of it, Squarciato appena havea. Von Otter brings a lifetime of experience and probing intelligence to this intensely expressive repertoire, yet her voice is youthfully fresh and radiant, making for performances of unusual depth and vocal loveliness. Her dramatic sensibility in these pieces, many of which are laments, is focused and subtle (except in the over-the-top comedy of the Provenzale, in which she cuts loose with abandon). Soprano Sandrine Piau joins her in three duets and their voices blend beautifully, especially in sensuality of "Pur ti miro" and the intimate urgency of "Signor, hoggi rinasco," also from Poppea.
Leonardo García Alarcón demonstrates exceptional insight into the music of the early and middle Baroque and further cements his reputation as one of the brightest stars in this repertoire to emerge in the second decade of the 21st century. He and Cappella Mediterranea opt for a spare, lean approach to the realization of the accompaniment, and while it is not the only possible interpretation, it works wonderfully well. It is understated but always inventive, and the ensemble is varied and colorful. Naïve's sound is characteristically immaculate, detailed, and realistic, with plenty of warmth. Highly recommended for fans of vocal music of the Baroque. (Stephen Eddins)