OP0633. IL SANT'ALESSIO (Stefano Landi), recorded 1995, w.William Christie Cond. Les Arts Florissants; Maryseult Wieczorek, Nicolas Rivenq, Christopher Josey, Patricia Petibon, Clive Bayley, etc. (Germany) 2-Erato 0630-14340 (WE878), Slipcase Edition w.Elaborate 119pp Libretto-Brochure. Ever-so-slightly used copy appears as new. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy appears as New, albeit slightest scuffs on slipcase only. - 706301434024
“This seldom produced stage work is not only a musical revelation, but also an exciting discovery of how things were done during the Counter-Reformation, particularly on the Catholic side. Composed for the carnival season of 1631, this ‘Dramma Sacra Musicale’ relates the story of one of the Church's earlier saints who was famous for his piety and humble poverty.
St. Alessio was the son of a Roman Senator who left his wife and family to retire to a life of solitary contemplation. After returning from Syria, he lived for 17 years beneath the staircase of his father's house disguised as a beggar, but endowed with heroic holiness.
The libretto by Giulio Rospigliosi (the future Clement XI) projects the character of Alessio with dramatic intensity and although the storyline is slightly embellished, the narrative element contains much that is interesting and makes for a sound text. Landi's music is very beautiful and in some places, he also mirrors contemporaries such as Schütz and Gabrieli in his grand treatment of scared passages.
William Christie has done a fantastic job in resurrecting this sacred drama which deserves its revival on many counts. Sound and soloist performances are naturally of the highest order and I cannot but recommend the set to all those who love sacred music with a penchant for the rare and obscure.”
- Gerald Fenech, ClassicalNet
“An ensemble of singers and instrumentalists specialized in the performance of Baroque music on period instruments, Les Arts Florissants are renowned the world over. Founded in 1979 by the Franco-American harpsichordist and conductor William Christie, the Ensemble, named for a short opera by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, has played a pioneering role in the revival of a Baroque repertoire that had long been neglected (including the rediscovery of countless treasures in the collections of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France). Today that repertoire is widely performed and admired: not only French music from the reign of Louis XIV, but also more generally European music of the 17th and 18th centuries.”
- Les Arts Florissants
“Long a leading figure in the early music performance movement, William Christie has been especially influential in restoring opera and French music to their rightful places in the Baroque repertory. He is the harpsichordist and leader of the ensemble Les Arts Florissants. Christie was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1944, and studied piano and organ as a young man. He attended Harvard, graduating with an art history degree and switching to music only for graduate study at the Yale School of Music. His teacher there was the pioneering harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick, best known for his rediscovery and thorough exploration of the sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti. Christie moved to France in 1971; eventually he not only became a French citizen, but also was named a member of the Legion of Honor. Many early music performers have done stints in the contemporary-music world (and vice versa); between 1971 and 1975, as a member of the Five Centuries Ensemble, Christie participated in premieres of work by such notables as Luciano Berio and Morton Feldman. Between 1976 and 1980 he played keyboards for the early music group Concerto Vocale, led by René Jacobs. In 1979, Christie founded Les Arts Florissants, an ensemble devoted to French, English, and Italian music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The group has done much to revive the difficult genre of French Baroque opera, with its arcane declamatory style; working with leading stage designers and choreographers, Christie has had special success with the operas of Marc-Antoine Charpentier and Jean-Philippe Rameau, rightful mainstays of the operatic repertory in their own times but almost forgotten since then. Since 1994, Christie and Les Arts Florissants have recorded for the major French label Erato, and the contract was renewed in 1999. That year saw the release of the Les Arts Florissants recording of Monteverdi's magnificent VESPRO DELLA BEATA VERGINE (the Vespers of 1610), and recordings of Mozart, Caldara, Lully and other composers were in the works.”
- Keith Johnson, allmusic.com