Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda by Monteverdi is something you hear about more than you hear. It's from Book VIII of Monteverdi's Madrigali, but it is hardly what you would call a madrigal. It is a small play set in the stile rappresentativo of the camarata's invention. Tancredi dressed in armor meets his beloved Clorinda, dressed in Saracen armor, and proceeds to kill her. The words are from Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberata, the great epic poem from Monteverdi's youth.
Is there anything to this new Baroque style? Can a singer really be expected to bring the same emotion into a narrative that would be achieved by a great actor?
If that singer is Rolando Villazon, the answer is yes. If we are searching for a role model for expression, we need look no further than Rolando. His performance of this piece verges on the miraculous.
I admit, I have often been puzzled by the attraction of Monteverdi. No more. The wonderful ornaments need an enthusiastic interpreter to come alive. Highly recommended.
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