MONTEVERDI Clorinda e Tancredi
Step into the Danieli Palace hotel in Venice and, with a bit of creative imagination, it is possible to commune with the spirit of the first performance of Monteverdi’s Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda. It was there, during the Carnival of 1624, that this experimental theatrical piece was given for the first time. Set at the time of the Crusades and based on an episode from the Gerusalemme liberata by Torquato Tasso, it involves just three singers and a four-part string and continuo accompaniment; the score presents these forces as two distinct groupings, with many of the sounds of the contest between the Christian knight and his Saracen lover dramatically represented through triadic trumpet calls and a whole series of innovative special effects.
Much of the challenge of a successful performance resides in the dominant role of the narrator. For any contemporary Venetian, the obvious background model must have been the storytellers who appeared every day in the squares of the city. Luca Dordolo captures their spirit superbly. His firm clear diction and sensitive rhetorical control, which at times almost moves into a kind of speech-song, extracts every last ounce of carefully calculated drama from Monteverdi’s narrow vocal range, carefully constructed to emphasise the narrative character of the writing. The set-piece arioso passage ‘Notte che nel profondo oscuro seno’ produces a memorable, strongly projected performance, enhanced by sensitively executed virtuoso ornamentation, while Clorinda’s affective and almost pathetic final interjection as she dies in Tancredi’s arms is heart-rendingly captured by Lombardi Mazzulli. Following the spirit of Monteverdi’s instructions, the Combattimento is prefaced by a sequence of solo songs and duets, while a further group of late pieces and a fine though rarely heard song by Felice Sances complete the record. No serious Monteverdian will want to be without it.