The RCOC is an independent operatic ensemble performing on period instruments, created by the conductor and musicologist Juan Bautista Otero and the stage producer Isidro Olmo. It focuses its activity on the rediscovery of the musical heritage related to Spain and the old Bolurbon kingdoms in Italy during the 18th century, specially concerning the music for the stage of the Neapolitan operatic masters as David Pérez, Domingo Terradellas, Domenico Scarlatti, Mariana Martínez or Martín y Soler as commissioned by the great castrato Farinelli. This is clearly a project close to Juan Bautista Otero's heart, and one that he has been associated with since 1998. No amount of hyperbole, from me or anyone else, will prepare you for just such a fine example of neglected repertoire.The singing is superb and the quality digipack presentation reflects the attention to detail that artist own-labels have brought to the classical market. (Gramophone Magazine)
This recording of La Sonnambula is notable on a number of fronts. It's the first recording of the opera based on a 2004 critical edition of the score that confirms the leading role was indeed written for a mezzo-soprano, although it has been performed by sopranos for much of its history. (Among the first Aminas were the celebrated mezzos Giuditta Pasta and Maria Malibran.) It's also the first recording using period instruments, in this case Orchestra La Scintilla, based at the Basel Opera and conducted by Alessandro de Marchi in an idiomatic and lively reading. And, as the promotional materials trumpet, it's the first recorded collaboration between superstars Cecilia Bartoli and Juan Diego Flórez. Although less hoopla is made of him, the recording also features a superbly lyrical performance by baritone Ildebrando D'Arcangelo.
Essential: A masterpiece of progressive rock music.
Admittedly, many prog rock fans with otherwise excellent taste in music find Gentle Giant rather hard to get into. Their music certainly is challenging, and very varied in flavour. At times it evokes Medieval music, at other times there are a cappella vocals delivered in a quasi-“round” format, in company with passages that veer from moments of delicate beauty to “rocking out.” All of these musical paths, and more, are often explored within the space of a single song. (Of course, that could be part of a generic description of progressive rock.) Gentle Giant have an inimitable style that is difficult to categorize; they must be heard to be understood. Perhaps only those with the most open musical minds will find them at all accessible. Certainly, though major players of the 70s prog scene, “Giant” never fully rose above their cult status to approach the popularity and critical acclaim of contemporaries like Genesis, Yes, ELP, Pink Floyd or Jethro Tull. (Though Gentle Giant don’t really sound like any of those heavyweights, their music bears a somewhat closer resemblance to that of ‘Tull, than any of the others mentioned.)