With Philippe Jaroussky’s new album, Storia di Orfeo, the French countertenor realises a long-held dream: to portray the mythic Orpheus – divine musician who ventures into the underworld to retrieve his beloved wife Eurydice from the clutches of death – in his many guises, an inspiration for the very first opera and beyond.
“This project, which was inspired by three key 17th-century operas, was conceived as a kind of opera in miniature or as a cantata for two solo voices and chorus, and features just two characters: Orpheus and Eurydice,” explains Jaroussky. “The three operas focus on different aspects of the story: Sartorio and Rossi depict the happiness of the young lovers and the scene in which Eurydice is bitten by the snake; Monteverdi, on the other hand, concentrates more on Orpheus’ search for Eurydice in the underworld, and the highpoint of his work is an aria that has remained without parallel in the history of opera: the magical ‘Possente spirto’, which I have the temerity to perform here as a countertenor, for the first time on record.”
He is joined by sublime soprano Emőke Baráth and period-instrument ensemble par excellence I Barocchisti with Diego Fasolis at the helm. A journey to the beginnings of opera, to the Italian Baroque, to the underworld and back. (Warner Classics)
Orpheus, with or without his lute, is one of the most resonant figures in musical history, the inspiration for dramas from Monteverdi to Birtwistle. This cleverly assembled disc limits itself to the 17th century, and ranges from the Mantuan Orfeo of 1607 through to Antonio Sartorio’s little-known successor of 1672. The presiding genius is countertenor Philippe Jaroussky who sings gloriously (though he is arguably not best suited to Monteverdi’s high tenor hero in his lavish Possente spirto). Jaroussky is well matched by Emöke Baráth’s crystal-clear soprano. Sartorio’s post-Cavalli idiom is sweetly melodic; I was much more taken by the strong, eloquent extracts from Luigi Rossi’s Orfeo of 1647. (The Guardian)