BARTOLI, CECILIA Agostino Steffani: Mission. I Barocchisti / Diego Fasolis. Decca Deluxe

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CECILIA BARTOLI Agostino Steffani: Mission

I Barocchisti / Diego Fasolis

The discovery of a forgotten master – Cecilia Bartoli’s new album showcases music by Agostino Steffani

One of Italy’s greatest composers between Monteverdi and Vivaldi, Agostino Steffani (1654–1728), is the unsung master of early Baroque opera. As an Italian who spent most of his life in Germany, he has been largely ignored by musicologists from both countries, so his music has fallen between the cracks of history. Yet his contribution to the development of opera can be compared to that of Lully in France or Purcell in England, and his fluent synthesis of the then-rival Italian, German and French styles paved the way for the cosmopolitan new musical language of Handel, Bach and Telemann.

But besides being a busy composer and court musician, Steffani was many other things as well: a high-ranking cleric, jet-setting diplomat, art collector, linguist, dynastic matchmaker, international peacemaker and probably spy. Personally involved in many of the major political upheavals and scandals of his day – often pointedly reflecting them in the plots of his operas.

Autumn 2012 marks the release of Mission, a sensational new album from the world’s best-selling classical artist, Cecilia Bartoli, and a project with international politics, religious conflict, diplomatic secrecy, spying and sensational music at its heart.

The album showcases the music of a little-known Italian composer and will include solo arias of various moods and styles, several duets, solo numbers with chorus - all sung in Italian - and instrumental interludes that create an organic transition from one piece to the next and an arc that reaches from the beginning to the end of the album.

Such was the appeal of the project that longtime Bartoli admirer and global best-selling author Donna Leon decided to write a mystery novel - Jewels of Paradise - to accompany Cecilia’s album, which uses the mystery surrounding the composer’s story as the centre of its plot. Jewels of Paradise will be released simultaneously with Cecilia Bartoli’s album in English (UK and USA), German, French, Dutch, Spanish and Catalan.

Among the distinguished names appearing on Mission is star French counter-tenor Philippe Jaroussky who features in a first-time collaboration with Cecilia on a selection of duets, alongside the Coro della Radiotelevisione Svizzera, the period orchestra I Barocchisti from Lugano, Switzerland, and conductor Diego Fasolis.

A cinematographic vision of the album directed by Olivier Simonnet and filmed in the historic Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors) and in the gardens of the Chateau de Versailles will be available on DVD later in the year.

Decca 4784732

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