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L'Anima del filosofo, Orpheus and Eurydice
Elena Xanthoudakis, Andrew Goodwin, Pinchgut Opera, Orchestra of the Antipodes, Antony Walker
Pinchgut Live PG001
Haydn’s much-feted sojourn in London in 1791 was the occasion for the writing of his final opera, based on Ovid’s treatment of the Orpheus myth. Alas, operatic politics at the Haymarket meant that the first staging had to wait until 1951 with no less a leading lady than Maria Callas. Since then, revivals have been patchy so we must thank Sydney-based Pinchgut Opera for this live recording.
Antony Walker and the excellent Orchestra of the Antipodes give the best reading of the score since Doráti. Dramatic pacing is spot on with sprightly tempi and fine instrumental contributions to Haydn’s ambitious orchestration, while Cantillation offer characterful singing.
Elena Xanthoudakis has a light, pretty voice, able to cope with the flashy coloratura in both her roles – the Sybil’s showcase aria rightly brings the house down. It’s a pity that in her lower register she falls short of her recorded rival, Bartoli. Derek Welton offers fine support as her father, Creonte; his vengeance aria is particularly effective.
Only the fluttery tenor of Andrew Goodwin lets the side down, struggling with coloratura and lacking power low in the voice. The CD also misses a certain depth, perhaps a consequence of the live recording. Nevertheless, there is much to applaud here especially if you don’t know this charming work.