Monteverdi: L'Orfeo

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L’Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643) is often described as the first opera. The composer himself used another term for his work, however: ‘favola in musica’,...

L’Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643) is often described as the first opera. The composer himself used another term for his work, however: ‘favola in musica’, a musical tale. Taking this as their point of departure, the performers on the present recording place the emphasis on the libretto’s direct narrative, and how the music alone is used to express emotions, a music which underpins the plot and the text word for word. To quote the liner notes: ‘To modern ears the musical heritage of L’Orfeo is more to be found in the Lieder tradition than in the grand opera of the nineteenth century.’ The tale told by Monteverdi and the members of the three ensembles which bring his score to life, is that of Orpheus, the poet and musician who travels to the Underworld in order to persuade Hades to let his beloved Eurydice return to the living. Under the direction of Fredrik Malmberg, and with Johan Linderoth as their Orfeo, the 38 singers and musicians that make up Ensemble Lundabarock, Höör Barock and Ensemble Altapunta perform a score which in 1607 was state-of-the-art contemporary. Four full centuries after the first performance in Mantua it remains almost shockingly modern, as in the sound of cornetts and trombones that summon up the spirits of the Underworld or the portrayal of undiluted, raw grief in Orfeo’s celebrated aria Possente Spirto.


Recordings of early Baroque opera from Scandinavia are not common; this one, from a collection of Swedish and Finnish groups led by keyboardist Fredrik Malmberg, may be the first recording from the region of Monteverdi's pioneering opera L'Orfeo. It's quite fresh and is unusually compelling for general audiences, for whom this five-act opera may sometimes be a slog. The famous "Possente spirto" from Act III, is no formulaic prayer but a strikingly powerful moment that matches the text to Monteverdi's musico-dramatic innovations. The all-Scandinavian cast, led by Johan Linderoth as Orfeo, responds nimbly to Malmberg's intentions, and there is not really a moment when the dramatic momentum flags. This can be recommended not only to collectors of early Baroque recordings but to general listeners, for whom it would make a splendid introduction to the opera.

– (James Manheim)

Product Description:

  • Release Date: May 07, 2021

  • UPC: 7318599925196

  • Catalog Number: BIS-2519

  • Label: BIS

  • Number of Discs: 2

  • Period: ""

  • Composer: Claudio Monteverdi

  • Conductor: Fredrik Malmberg

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Ensemble Altapunta, Ensemble Lundabarock, Höör Barock

  • Performer: Adam Riis, Anna Zander, Ann-Magreth Nyberg, Christine Nonbo Andersen, Daniel Åberg, Johan Linderoth, Karl Peter Eriksson, Kristina Hellgren, Maria Forsström, Rasmus Gravers Nielsen, Staffan Alveteg, Steffen Bruun