MARAZZOLI Occhi Belli, Occhi Neri
The renowned Parmesan harpist and tenor Marco Marazzoli (c1605-1662) benefited from the patronage of Cardinal Antonio Barberini, whose family secured Marazzoli a position in the Cappella Sistina; he wrote many operas and also travelled to Paris. Other notable patrons included Pope Alexander VII, whose elevation to the pontificate was celebrated in Salutate il nuovo Aprile (1655); a full consort of viols provides gentle support for Soledad de la Rosa’s endearingly sung optimism that the new spring will sweep the old year aside (an allegory hoping that the new pontiff would be an improvement on his predecessor Pope Innocent X, who had been on acrimonious terms with the Barberini).
Ensemble Mare Nostrum’s appealing performances of seven more cantatas merely skim the surface of a huge amount of Marazzoli’s music languishing in the Vatican library waiting to be given the attention it deserves. A few short instrumental pieces function as bridges between the cantatas, such as a brief sinfonia that forms a clever narrative connection between a blithe dialogue for the lovers Rosinda and Olindo (sung blissfully by de la Rosa and Nora Tabbush) and an exquisite portrait of melancholy in Speranze, e che farete. De la Rosa’s delicate singing is flawless in the lovely (and long) Sopra la rosa, in which the vanitas poetry warns that even the queen of all flowers must be humbled when it eventually withers – one wonders if this entertained musical noblewomen such as the exiled Queen Christina of Sweden.