The Sicilian nobleman Sigismondo d'India was roughly contemporary with Monteverdi (both began their careers around 1600); the musical ferment of that period led, in d'India's case, to a very heady brew. His madrigals–duets, solos and five-voice works–are like inebriated Monteverdi: d'India set the Italian poetic texts (usually dealing with a lover's pain) with even less regard for academic counterpoint and even more surprising twists of harmony than did his more-famous colleague, yet the music never veers into the disorienting, seemingly willful weirdness of Gesualdo.
"Last year we gave a performance here in the Teatro Real of Monteverdi’s Orfeo, this year we have Ulisse and next year Poppea. We’re no longer in Mantova and we’re no longer in the Court of the Prince. We’re in Venezia and essentially [at] the beginning of the public opera house. We’re also at the beginning of what will become opera seria, that’s to say beyond the instrumental colors, the great dances and the great pageants, [are] the beautiful effects of the singing, it’s bel-canto and so the orchestral accompaniment becomes simpler…"- from William Christie’s interview 2008 included on in the DVD
Familiar to UK audiences as a recitalist, Dietrich Henschel has been inexplicably neglected by this country's opera companies. You get a strong sense of what a theatrical animal he is, however, from his performance of the title role in this flawed but compelling production of L'Orfeo, filmed in Madrid last year. The subtlety of Henschel's acting matches the complexity of his vocal characterisation so that, by the end, you not only feel you've been taken on a vast journey from joy to grief and back again, but also believe that Orfeo's own music really has the power to affect both gods and nature…Tim Ashley
There are more than one dozen recordings of Monteverdi's great masterpiece, the Vespers of 1610, a distinction reserved for very few works and composers from the late 16th and early 17th centuries. With this kind of attention, you'd think that this substantial work for choir, soloists, and instruments would be more easily accessible–but it is in fact a structurally complex and musically intricate compilation of hymns, antiphons, and psalms, concluding with a magnificent setting of the Magnificat. Most recordings can't seem to overcome the strategic and technical problems of presenting such a three-dimensional work on a recording. But this one is different: the music literally comes alive and grabs our attention. If you're in the market for Monteverdi's Vespers, look no further. This is the most dynamic, dramatic version on disc.