OP2304. L’ORFEO (Monteverdi), recorded 2003, w.Haïm Cond. Ian Bostridge, Patrizia Ciofi, Natalie Dessay, Alice Coote, Véronique Gens, Paul Agnew, Christopher Maltman, etc. (E.U.) 2-Virgin Veritas 7243 5 45642, Slipcase Edition w.Elaborate 93pp. Libretto-brochure. - 724354564222
"After almost 400 years, you might think Monteverdi's L'ORFEO would have lost its luster. But in the right hands it can still be deeply exciting, allowing you to relive the birth of an electric and emotionally charged new art form. Emmanuelle Haïm's new L'ORFEO, starring Ian Bostridge, is that kind of experience. It combines truly electric instrumental playing with committed, daring performances to great effect, making for one of the most enjoyable opera recordings to come along in a while.
Haïm, who has the Midas touch for Baroque opera, leads this performance with infectious energy, perfect tempo, and dramatic timing. Le Concert d'Astrée, along with Les Sacqueboutiers, turns in a spirited but still clean reading of the score. Bostridge is an ardent Orfeo, revealing a more dramatic aspect to his singing that is very welcome; he has also makes an admirable stab at the idiosyncratic vocal ornamention of the period. Natalie Dessay throws aside notions of the white-voiced early music singer, and tears into La Musica's prologue with real flair. Véronique Gens shines in her brief moments as Proserpina, and Patrizia Ciofi manages to be genuinely entrancing as Euridice, even though she only appears a few times in the score.
There are a couple of good L'ORFEOs already on the market, notably John Eliot Gardiner's from the 1980s. It may actually be cleaner in a few spots than this recording. But no one has ever captured the urgent combination of drama and music that was the motivating force behind L'ORFEO any better than you'll hear on this set.”
- Allen Schrot, AllMusic.com
“Patrizia Ciofi has become a leading soprano exponent of the major operas of Bellini, Rossini, Donizetti, Verdi, Puccini, and the Italian operas of Mozart. Not that her choice of repertory is limited to that clutch of composers: she has sung a vast array of roles in works by Monteverdi (Euridice from ORFEO), Handel (Polissena from RADAMISTO), Vivaldi (Idaspe from BAJAZET), and much else further afield, including Bizet, Offenbach, Massenet, Wagner, Richard Strauss, Debussy, Mussorgsky, and countless others. She has also sung contemporary opera: her major debut came in Gino Negri's GIOVANNI SEBASTIANO. It can be argued she has sung as many different roles on major operatic stages as any soprano of her time. Her attractive voice is bright in timbre and versatile, affording her the ability to tackle so many roles with such pleasing character and spirit. Ciofi has made over 50 recordings, the bulk of them available on EMI, Virgin Classics, Harmonia Mundi, Dynamic, and Decca.
By 1996, when she first sang Lucia in Donizetti's LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, in Savona, she had become a rising international star. She drew rave reviews for her Violetta (Verdi's LA TRAVIATA) in 1997 at La Scala. Ciofi's recordings were drawing attention, too: her 1998 Lucia (in the French version) on Dynamic was a huge success. A string of notable debuts followed: Opera Bastille (1999), where she sang Nanetta in FALSTAFF; Covent Garden (2002), portraying Gilda (RIGOLETTO); Chicago (2003) as Violetta, and others. Ciofi's long-awaited debut at the Vienna State Opera did not come until 2008, when she sang Amina in Bellini's LA SONNAMBULA.”
- Robert Cummings, allmusic.com