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CD Review

Alessandro Scarlatti

Humanità e Lucifero

  • Rossana Bertini, soprano
  • Massimo Crispi, tenor

La Maddalena

  • Silvia Piccollo, soprano
  • Gloria Banditelli, mezzo
Europa Galante/Fabio Biondi
Naïve 20013 2CDs
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Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725) wrote some 40 oratorios, mostly for Rome, where opera was still frowned upon. The subjects were uplifting and edifying: Humanità e Lucifero is about the victory of Humanity over Satan, La Maddalena tells of Mary Magdalene's choice between sensual pleasures and a life of piety. The music is conventional and stylized, but it's sprightly and imaginative, largely indistinguishable from Scarlatti's secular operas. The second entr'acte in Humanità is a particular lovely adagio.

These two productions are excellent in every respect. The singers have good voices, singing clearly and accurately, using little vibrato in what has become the accepted style for Baroque vocal music. Rossana Bertini ends Humanità with a delicious extended trill. But the real star here is Fabio Biondi and his Europa Galante. They are among the best of the period instrument groups, and their performances are lively, sweet, and brilliant.

The notes are skimpy and there are no librettos; you are referred to a web site where they may be secured, but they weren't there when I tried to retrieve them. I suppose your response to this music will depend on your fondness for the Baroque. I found it enchanting, especially when it is as well performed as this.

Copyright © 2003, Alexander Morin