Heroines of the Venitian Baroque CAVALLI - An introductory note by Jérôme Lejeune

Published on 17/09/2015

The genesis of a new creation

 At the outset, this disc was meant to be a recital by Mariana Flores on the works of Benedetto Ferrari. Then one evening, mere weeks before we were to begin recording, I got an email from Leonardo García Alarcón that was full of embarrassment; he was clearly ill at ease. An entire disc of small arie  just didn’t do anything for him. In truth, he had recently gained access to all 27 preserved operatic manuscripts by Francesco Cavalli (yes, there’s free access on the web!), and while thumbing through the first pages of Nozze di Teti e di Peleo , was struck with admiration for the sublime monologue in the prologue sung by Venus. He quickly embarked upon a reading of everything - which took days, nights - until the project evolved into an anthology of 27 operas. As he read, I received email after email identifying selected pieces, which were accompanied by a commentary on the text. I could visualize Leo, his laptop perched on the piano, reading, singing, accompanying. His accomplices were Olivier Lexa and Jean-François Lattarico, who, painstakingly, extracted original texts from the manuscripts and composed an initial French translation. Working at their sides, long-time Cappella Mediterranea musician, the keyboardist Ariel Rychter who, basing his work on the same digital manuscripts, created modern scores of everything.

Evidently, there were a few concerns. With 27 operas, for some of which not one but two extracts, the maximum length of the CD could not possibly be respected. And the recording session scheduled for May would be too soon. For this programme, shouldn’t there be other instruments besides the ‘continuo’? Loyal friends of the Clematis Ensemble were called up at the last minute. An extra session would be necessary. And, miracle, everyone was free for early June!

The recording turned out to be a fabulous adventure. Every piece was a discovery, and each discovery was more beautiful than the next. When it was finished, I quickly copied all the pieces in order and another miracle happened: it all coordinated perfectly (was less to be expected considering Leo’s incredible flair for imagining exactly how it would sound just by reading it, often without his piano?).

The realization of this phenomenal project, which prolonged the production of Elena  at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence in 2013 and paved the way for other operatic productions of Cavalli that Leonardo Garcia Alarcon would direct over the course of the following years, was also the fruit of a collaboration with several individuals, specifically Olivier Lexa, author of an intriguing volume on Cavalli and director of the Venetian Centre for Baroque Music in Venice. His enthusiasm made it possible for the texts and their translations to be prepared and graciously offered by the Venetian institution. We have a presentation by Ellen Rosand, the foremost expert on Cavalli, one by Jean-François Lattarico, expert in opera booklets and author of a remarkable work on Bussenello, one of the greatest Venetian librettists of the 17th  century. It would be impossible to count the hours spent on this project, which has but one aim: to make the modest contribution of researchers, musicians, and an editor come alive for those who hear and read. That Francesco Cavalli would be recognized for the immense dramatist that he was, founder of the very spirit of Italian opera.