In recent years, a few recordings have begun to appear of the music of this hitherto little-known Neapolitan composer of the mid-baroque. With one exception, the hard-to-find Provenzale/La Colomba Ferita, these have generally concentrated on Francesco Provenzale's sacred music. This present work, then, is a revelation, at least to me. Post-Cavalli in style, the music is highly attractive, graceful and colourful, with never a dull moment.
The plot of this 1674 opera is full of the usual baroque absurdities. As befits a work titled "The Revenge of Stellidaura", it's a story of passion, amorous intrigue, rivalry, treachery, vindictive and wrongful punishment, mislaid letters, mistaken identities, miraculous recovery from presumed death, long-lost relatives and, of course, a last-minute fit of problem-solving (sorry for giving it away!). But this kaleidoscope of baroque activities is a vehicle for genuine and heartfelt emotions, beautifully expressed in music that is subtle, varied and full of great tunes. The five singers - mezzo, two tenors, countertenor and bass - respond superbly to these opportunities, with voices well contrasted and full of character. There's a touch of comedy, too, in the character of the servant Giampetro (bass Enzo Capuana), but finest of all is the splendid performance by the lovely-voiced Stellidaura of mezzo Jennifer Rivera, with every one of her contributions a delight to the ear.
The playing of the period-instrument ensemble Academia Montis Regalis is excellent too, with some colourful and adventurous instrumentation, plenty of plucking, strumming and piping of recorders in the mixture - though with just a bit too much percussion in places for my taste. The playing and singing are stylish and committed throughout, under the admirably spirited direction of Alessandro De Marchi. The two-disc set comes with an excellent booklet, with full notes on music and background, plot synopsis, text and translation. The sound is excellent - it's a live recording, but you wouldn't know it except for a few laughs in the humorous passages and applause at the very end.
Altogether this is a delightful discovery and a highly attractive prospect for baroque fans.