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This is a splendid recording of an arcane but historically important and moving work. Stefano Landi (1587-1639) was among the composers who first experimented with drama and music, but what he came up with is more like a sung play than opera.

As play or opera, the story line of “Il Sant’Alessio” (Saint Alexis) is a corker. Alexis leaves his wife and family for the love of God, then returns unrecognized to his father’s palace, where he lives for 17 years under a stairway as a religious beggar. Meanwhile, his parents and wife desperately search for him. It’s not until after his death and beatification that his identity is revealed.

The only way to pull this off is with conviction, and Christie’s cast delivers. The singers (14 soloists, plus a chorus) invest the composer’s lines with rich expression and insight, as well as bel canto technique. Christie conducts with contagious zeal. Margaret Murata provides informative notes. Still, for the historically minded only.

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Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four (excellent).


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