Jørgen Leth can squeeze poetry from a stone and wit from dust, and he can find love where the milk of human kindness runs dry. In a series of tableaux of Life in Denmark, he carries absurdism to a happy extreme. To act out his minuscule non-dramas, he uses a motley crew of professional actors like Ghita Nørby and Claus Nissen, writer Dan Turéll plus a snake charmer, a bicycle racer and a circus queen.
Leo was born in San Vito degli Schiavoni (current San Vito dei Normanni, province of Brindisi), then part of the Kingdom of Naples.
He became a student at the Conservatorio della Pietà dei Turchini at Naples in 1703, and was a pupil first of Francesco Provenzale and later of Nicola Fago. It has been supposed that he was a pupil of Pitoni and Alessandro Scarlatti, but he could not possibly have studied with either of these composers, although he was undoubtedly influenced by their compositions. His earliest known work was a sacred drama, L'infedelta abbattuta, performed by his fellow-students in 1712…
This recording was made as a result of the first modern production, which was presented in the same Florentine theater in which the opera had received its premiere. With an unusually convoluted plot, and lasting over three-and-a-half hours, its unlikely that Atenaide will ever make its way into the repertoire, but especially for the Vivaldi enthusiast and the lover of virtuosic Baroque vocal display, the opera should be very attractive. In the title role, Sandrine Piau sings with remarkable tonal purity, flexibility, and expressivity. The other women in the cast are worthy colleagues for Piau. Soprano Vivica Genaux, mezzo-sopranos Guillemette Laurens and Romina Basso, and, especially, contralto Nathalie Stutzman pour themselves fully into their roles, creating rounded, clearly differentiated characters, and they maintain the highest standards of vocal beauty and virtuosity. The men, tenors Paul Agnew and Stefano Ferrari, are out of their league in such stellar company; they don't lack the technical facility to manage the music, but their voices are small and tend to sound thin and underpowered. Federico Maria Sardelli leads Modo Antiquo in a delicate but spirited performance that is nicely nuanced, and gives the singers plenty of opportunity to be rhythmically free and expressive in the recitatives. Naïve's sound is immaculate, with a lively balance between the singers and instrumentalists.