Although Haydn's "Orfeo ed Euridice" has been recorded a few times before, it is still a relatively obscure opera. It is easy to hear the music's roots in Gluck (and the possible influences of contemporaries such as Mozart and Cimarosa) but Haydn's music has a distinct voice, and is quite lovely - at times delightful, and at times tragic. This is an opera well worth discovering by anyone interested in music from the baroque and classical periods.
Both Cecilia Bartoli and Uwe Heilmann are fantastic. Bartoli's versatility as an artist is well displayed in this recording; she sings both treble lead roles. Euridice was writen for a lyric soprano, and the role of the Genio, with its showstopper coloratura aria, was written for a male castrato. Bartoli skillfully uses two different vocal colors - warm and rich for Euridice, bright and shimmery for the Genio - and she gives much pleasure in her performance of both roles, and utilizes a remarkable range. Heilmann's reedy voice is perfectly suited to the music, and he captures the idealism, pathos, and tragedy of the character. He sings with lovely tone, and tasteful and intelligent musicianship, and is often genuinely touching. The young bass Ildebrando d'Arcangelo sings beautifully as well, skillfully using his warm and rich yet flexible voice in his two scenes.
Christopher Hogwood is at home in this music and leads The Academy of Ancient Music in a sparkling playing of the score. This recording outclasses the previous recordings despite their strengths. An excellent addition to any library, this recording is essential for fans of Haydn, Bartoli, or Heilmann,