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Cavalli's Giasone debuted in 1649 in Vienna, and quickly became the most frequently performed of all 17th Century Italian operas. In addition to being highly acclaimed in its day, it was revived no fewer than twenty times over the following forty years throughout Italy. Almost Wagnerian in its length and scope, the work recreates the tale of Jason and the capture of the Golden Fleece. This reissue in harmonia mundi's mid-priced Heritage series features Rene Jacobs leading Concerto Vocale.
- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- Language: : English
- Product Dimensions : 5 x 5.71 x 0.39 inches; 3.74 Ounces
- Manufacturer : Harmonia Mundi Fr.
- Original Release Date : 2014
- Date First Available : July 24, 2014
- Label : Harmonia Mundi Fr.
- ASIN : B00LI2L6RU
- Number of discs : 3
- Best Sellers Rank: #208,306 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
- Customer Reviews:
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It was a classic in its own day, too. One musicologist calls it "the single most popular opera of the 17th century". premiered at the Teatro San Cassiano, Venice on 5 January 1649, it is your typical middle-early baroque style piece, loosely comparable to Cavalli's teacher, Monteverdi's, late operas Il ritorno d'Ulisse and Poppea. In other words it is in the standard the three-act format, with the first act being the longest; dances conclude the first two acts; the Faustini lieto fine (happy ending) with concluding love duet; and an emotional climax with a lament. Several aria and scene types had also been conventionalized by this point, and Giasone provides a model for several of them.
When you hear the arias, and especially the duets, you'll understand why musicologists are still haggling over how much of Poppea Monteverdi wrote himself and how much - beyond the secco recitatives - was composed by Cavalli. Personally I find only the concluding duet of Poppea could conceivably be by Cavalli. But we're talking "Pur ti miro" here, one of the greatest love duets in all of opera history (Listen to Jaroussky and Rial sing it on YouTube).
Two trumpet arias with military connotations - based on Monteverdi's stile concitato - are found in Act II, No. 11: Alinda's "Quanti Soldati" and Besso and Alinda's "Non piu guerra".The same scene has a love duet: Alinda and Besso's "Non piu guerra" (a mixed genre, it is also a trumpet aria).
Two sleep scenes are also included. Sleep scenes can serve important dramatic functions. For example, in Act 3, Nos. 2-4 Medea and Giasone sing "Dormi, dormi" and then fall asleep in each other's arms. Isifile arrives and wakes Giasone and begin a conversation. Here, sleep allows characters to reveal or gain information. For example, Besso reveals his innermost thoughts in secret nearby the couple and by feigning continued sleep, Medea is able to secretly listen to the discussion to gain information. In the second sleep scene (Act 3, Nos. 16-17), Giasone has fainted and becomes vulnerable to attack. If you listen to the Momus' aria in Handel's oratorio Semele, written nearly 100 years later, you'll notice how this convention lasted far beyond Cavalli's days.
Medea's "Dell'antro Magico" (Act I, No. 14) is an example of an invocation or ombra scene in which magic is used. Such scenes use a special kind of poetic meter called "sdrucciolo" which places an awkward accent on the antepenultimate syllable. Such scenes also feature a chorus as the Chorus of Spirits that follows Medea's chant. This became an almost ubiquitous feature of French opera from Lully to Rameau, again 100 years into the future.
Act II No. 14 is mad scene ("Indietro rio canaglia") in which Isifile has lost her sanity. Mad scenes can be traced to the character Licori in Giulio Strozzi's libretto La finta pazza Licori. Such scenes are characterized by a character's drastic emotional changes. Mad characters are "freed from the decorum of normal behavior."This particular scene is perhaps not the typical mad scene, for here Giasone portrays Isifile as insane to Medea in order to cover for his own actions. When Isifile appears, only Medea believes that she is mad. By the time the scene is over, Isifile does indeed become angry at Giasone and Medea. Handel would use the same aria type in his Orlando.
Finally, there are three laments in the opera. Isifile also has two laments: "Lassa, che far degg'io?" (aria/recitative, Act I, No.13) and "Infelice ch'ascolto" (recitative, Act III, No. 21). Isifile's lament (Act III, No. 21) is of the type based on the Monteverdi's Arianna (1608) model, in which several sections express various emotions. Towards the end, the lamenter typically curses the lover who has abandoned her (or him), only to repent and beg forgiveness.
In addition to Isifile's laments, Egeo also laments that Medea has left him in Act I, No. 4 with the recitative "Si parte, mi deride?" Musicologist Susan McClary suggests that because the expression of emotion was more acceptable for seventeenth-century women than men, that lamentation was more acceptable for women than men. Moreover, a male character that laments has somehow been musically emasculated.
Giasone's mythological characters and plots are typical of early Venetian opera. Such subject matter could be used for political purpose by the creators of libretti, many of whom were members of Academia degli Incogniti ("Academy of the Unknown"), a group of libertine, skeptical, and often pessimistic thinkers in Venice at the time when Giasone was produced. Often, these plots were modifies to reinforce inequitable gender roles or question authorities, most notably the Catholic Church and especially the Incogniti's ultimate rivals, the Jesuits.
The character Giasone was originally cast for a castrato. Susan McClary notes that, in this particular opera, this choice raises some gender issues. She argues that the singer type (e.g. bass, tenor, castrato, alto and soprano) each had certain associations. For example, a bass voice was generally used for an authoritarian or powerfully masculine figure. For example, a character such as Ercole who has as sense of responsibility and obligation to duty would be cast as a bass role. By contrast, Giasone is a youthful, attractive character more concerned with the sensual pleasures of love than any sort of duty, whether it be questing for the Golden Fleece or duties as husband and father. Such a character who shirks responsibility would be considered "effeminate" by seventeenth-century Venetian standards. Because castrati have a youthful appearance due to lack of secondary sexual characteristics, they could easily slip into such a role. Thus, they could play characters with erotic appeal and it would have been acceptable to the seventeenth-century Venetian audience for such characters to have irresponsible sexual relations during the course of the drama. McClary notes that Giasone sings the aria "Delizie contenti" upon entering in Act II, No. 2, thus declaring he is a character of this "effeminate" type: youthful, attractive, androgynous, pleasure-seeking, and lacking a sense of duty. She stresses that such a character would not have been considered a good role model for masculine behavior at the time and place of the opera's first performance.
The singing is first-rate with Rene Jacobs conducting an excellent cast of singers, including Michael Chance as Giasone (one of his best recordings) Dominique Visse, Agnes Mellon, Harry van der Kamp, Guy de Mey, Gloria Banditelli et al., making this one of the greatest star casts ever assembled. The orchestral accompaniment which has become more or less standard in modern early baroque music revivals (Operas after ca. 1640 became so popular, that composers usually only sketched out the basso continuo and two violins because, like jazz ensembles today, the musicians back then knew how to double instruments and improvise when needed; only a very few operas actually had their full scores printed) is dynamic and exciting throughout. This style of orchestral accompaniment is something we're used to today, but when this recording was released, it was a revelation.
The sound quality is wonderful too, so there's absolutely no reason why you shouldn't buy this recording.
Giasone (Jason) is an opera in three acts and a Prologue with music by Francisco Cavalli and a libretto by Giacinto Cicognini. It was premiered at the Teatro San Cassiano during the Venetian Carnival season of 1649. "Giasone" was the single most popular opera in the 17th century.
Pier Francisco Cavalli (1602-1676) was a student of Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) and as such worked closely with him in his operas, particularly in Monteverdi's 'Coronation of Poppea". In fact many historians say that much of the material for "Poppea" was contributed by Cavalli, and thus the similarity between "Giasone" and "Poppea" becomes quite obvious to the skilled listener. Cavalli ranks as the most significant exponent of early Venetian opera. He also wrote important Ecclesiastical compositions, including the Requiem Mass for his own funeral.
The plot of "Giasone" is loosely based on the story of "Jason and the Golden Fleece"; but the opera contains many comical elements too, as well as an abundance of satire. The plot revolves around Jason's theft of the Golden Fleece, an undertaking in which he is assisted by his lover , the Queen of Corinth (a sorceress) called Medea. Jason & Medea are totally ruthless and incredibly immoral having conceived twins under the cover of darkness without ever having seen each other! Mocked by Hercules (an Argonaut) for his (Jason's ) effeminacy, Jason is also derided by Besso, his own captain of his own guard. Besso comes across Jason & Medea sleeping nude in the open, and sarcastically declares that Jason ' has th ram on his shoulders and the cow in his arms'. (The opera is delightfully filled with little comments like this from various characters, usually at Jason's expense). Isifile, Jason's deserted wife, is the one tragic character in this opera. However, at the end Jason returns to her, having been deserted by Medea, who returns to her husband (Egeo).
"Giasone" is an excellent example of mid 17th century Venetian opera- a powerful brew of the spectacular, the wickedly and the sometimes deliciously humorous and touchingly pathetic. Rene Jacobs has done a marvelous job of pulling this lengthy (3 hour, 53 minute) opera together, but Cavalli's expquisite, dramatic and very amazing score, along with a simply FABULOUS CAST that keeps it going and smooth and at an uninterrupted pace: no dull moments in this opera!!!! To name just a few of the notable cast (there are 15 in all): Michael Chance, Giasone, countertenor- Gloria Banditelli, Medea, mezzo sop- Catherine du Bosc, Isifile, soprano- Harry van der Kamp, Ercole,bass- Michael Schopper,Besso, bass- Bernerd Delatre, Oreste, tenor- Dominque Visse, Delfa, Countertenor- Guy de May, Egeo, tenor. EXPERIENCED ALL OF THEM, vocally and dramatically.
My joy knows no end that this opera, first recorded in 1985, has finally been re-released and returned to us in all of its glory! And at a VERY REASONABLE PRICE. For 25 years I have been mesmorized by this wonderfully presented opera. You really must not fail to purchase this if you are an Early Music listener and even if you're not "try it, you'll like it!)