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HAYDN: L'anima del filosofo ossia Orfeo ed Euridice

by Joel Kasow

es, you see correctly: this is how Oiseau-Lyre has designed their jacket for a new recording of Haydn's last opera. And yes, this is a significant version, for it is the first to offer spirited playing and singing, however one may react to the individual singers.

Haydn's many gifts did not extend to the world of opera as we have already amply seen in the series of Dorati recordings, much as we can revel in the music itself. Like Schubert, his dramatic pacing is sometimes off balance because the musical aspects take precedence over the dramatic. This happens as well in Haydn's Orphic retelling, where one misses some of the elements that make the Gluck version so remarkable. One might also reproach Haydn for his weak act endings and the odd structure which gives greater prominence to Creon than either Euridice or Genio The sterling moments, however, are sufficient to merit an occasional hearing for the Haydn, for example, the first death of Euridice and Orfeo's subsequent lament which are both striking pieces of music.

Clearly conceived as a vehicle for Cecilia Bartoli who takes the roles of both Euridice and Genio, we are in awe of her technical prowess in Genio's aria, but her affectations are slowly taking over her performances, the breathy pianissimo becoming a much-abused mannerism. Uwe Heilman's neatly sung Orfeo lacks the eloquence of Nicolai Gedda and he too often has recourse to a nasal production which detracts from his portrayal. Only Ildebrando D'Arcangelo's Creon escapes criticism for the ease with which he dispatches his three arias. The Academy of Ancient Music Orchestra and Chorus are in excellent form under their ebullient leader, Christopher Hogwood.

Cecilia Bartoli, mezzo-soprano (Euridice/Genio)
Uwe Heilmann, tenor (Orfeo)
Ildebrando D'Arcangelo, bass (Creon)
Andrea Silvestrelli, bass (Pluto)
Angela Kazimierczuk, Roberto Scalatriti, Jose Fardilha, Colin Campbell, James Oxley
The Academy of Ancient Music Chorus and Orchestra
Christopher Hogwood, conductor
L' OISEAU-LYRE 452 668-2. (2 CD)

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