This programme consists of extracts from two of Antonio Caldara's Italian operas, both based on Cervantes' 'Don Quixote'. The works offered are a mixture of arias by Caldara and additional instrumental interludes composed by Nicola Matteis, all taken from 'Don Chisciotte in Corte della Duchessa' or 'Sancio Panza Governatore dell'isola Barattaria'. In addition, the disc begins with a lively and extremely characterful instrumental Introduzione. The extracts are well chosen and form an attractively varied sequence of sometimes quirky and unconventional pieces.
La Ritirata, directed by Josetxu Obregón, are a first-class Iberian period instrument ensemble, and the three solo singers - soprano María Espada, tenor Emiliano González Toro and bass João Fernandes - are all excellent too. The music is variable in interest, I would say, and does not quite represent Caldara at his very best; but it's never less than acceptable, and often very enjoyable. Among the finest things are the above-mentioned Introduzione; the aria 'A dispetto del vento' (track 26), initiated by a very effective and lifelike wind machine and continuing with appropriate meteorological motifs from instruments and bass singer; and Matteis' closing Ciacona (30).
The disc is enhanced by the excellent notes, extremely useful and detailed synopses to set each aria or scene in context, and all texts and translations. The booklet also offers nice photos of the performers, and recorded sound is just right. Overall the music is perhaps some way short of brilliant, but it's still very interesting.
Antonio Caldara: The Cervantes Operas - Arias & instrumental pieces