Notes & Reviews:
Il ritorno d'Ulisse' is unquestionably one of the three pillars that place Monteverdi among the greatest of opera composers; this recording marks the premiere of a new performing version by Martin Pearlman. Portuguese tenor and baroque specialist Fernando Guimaraes stars in the title role, alongside the internationally renowned mezzo-soprano Jennifer Rivera as his loving wife Penelope. 'Il ritorno d'Ulisse' was a relatively recent discovery, but following its authentication in the 1950s and revivals in Vienna and Glyndebourne, the opera has enjoyed new found popularity. Martin Pearlman's new performing version benefits from the same attention to detail that has ensured his reputation as a leading champion of period performance. His highly considered approach to all aspects of the score and performance ensure this version is true to Monteverdi's original vision. With a libretto drawing from Homer's Odyssey, 'Il ritorno d'Ulisse' is a riveting human drama with an enviable cast including: Abigail Nims (Melanto), Daniel Auchincloss (Eumaeus), Sonja DuToit Tengblad (Juno), Ulysses Thomas (Antinous), and Marc Molomot (Irus). Founded in 1973 by Martin Pearlman, Boston Baroque is already familiar to an international audience with its critically acclaimed catalogue of recordings. The three-time Grammy-nominated ensemble is widely regarded as 'one of the world's premier period-instruments bands' (Fanfare). Boston Baroque's recordings - of which Fanfare magazine wrote 'each one is an incomparable gem' - are heard by millions on classical radio stations in North America and Europe. Boston Baroque's many career milestones include the American premiere of Rameau's' Zoroastre'; a Mozart opera series, and the American period-instrument premieres of Mozart's 'Don Giovanni' and 'The Magic Flute'; and a revelatory exploration of the Beethoven symphonies on period instruments.
Sunday Times, 19th April 2015
The strength of this issue is in its strong, youthful cast. The Penelope of Jennifer Rivera almost shakes my allegiance to Jacobs's Bernarda Fink, with a limpid low mezzo of comparable beauty and expressive power, while Fernando Guimaraes's Ulysses is heartbreaking in the moving recognition scene with Aaron Sheehan's boyish Telemachus and Daniel Auchincloss's devoted Eumaeus.
Gramophone Magazine, June 2015
Guimarpes as a multi dimensional Ulisse exploits his rich middle register. Jennifer Rivera deftly conveys the predicaments of the long-suffering Penelope...Pearlman's vision does not offer perfect answers but no individual performance has ever got everything right.
BBC Music Magazine, August 2015
The most impressive performance comes from Aaron Sheehan (as Ulisse's son Telemaco) whose light lyrical voice delivers the music with utter naturalness.
American Record Guide, September/October 2015
American Record Guide, September/October 2015
What Pearlman has done, very carefully, is to take score cues and scholarly knowledge to flesh out the instrumentation that could have been used in Venetian performances. He deftly introduces recorders and cornets into the band of 13 string players and 7 continuo stalwarts. All this is accomplished with great responsibility and sensitivity, and Pearlman's booklet notes clearly explain what he has done. So this is a kind of "middle road" approach to revitalizing the score, between minimalist austerity and wholesale interpolations.
Fortunately, too, he has brought this off in a performance of vocal distinction, on a level that can challenge the superlative cast of the Jacobs recording. Most of these singers are not familiar to me, save one: Aaron Sheehan, the ever-appealing veteran tenor of the BMF. He is an aptly young-sounding son of the hero Ulysses, who is given a more edgy. Rivera is appropriately warm and sympathetic as the ever-patient Penelope. Nims and Shirley are really ardent lovers, who scheme at Penelope's court. Fernandes is a darkly gritty Nettuno, and Molomot really chews up the scenery as the comic parasite, Iro. All the others are more than adequate in bringing their characters to life. The instrumental work, too, is consistently refined and pointed. The upshot is in some ways about the most musically satisfying and listenable of the audio recordings made to date.
Recording information: Mechanics Hall, Worcester, MA (04/27/2014-04/30/2014).
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Works DetailsMonteverdi, Claudio : Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria
- Performers: Sonja Tengblad (Voice); Joao Fernandes (Voice); Christopher Lowrey (Countertenor); Sara Heaton (Voice)
- Conductor: Martin Pearlman
- Ensemble: Boston Baroque
- Running Time: 128 min. 1 sec.
- Period Time: Baroque
- Form: Opera/Operetta
- Written: 1640