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This disc juxtaposes laments by Queen Dido and The Virgin Mary, two iconic figures in baroque culture, to illustrate the era’s musical blurring of sacred and profane love. Monteverdi’s ‘Il pianto della Madonna’ makes the point itself, given its origin as a lament from his lost opera Arianna; the disc’s other Marian work, Barbara Strozzi’s rapturous ‘O, Maria’, is sung to rather than by the Virgin, although its ardent tone is shared by many of her secular cantatas. The rest of the CD is given over to the lamenting Dido, with arias from Cavalli’s La Didone, Scarlati’s La Didone delirante, Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and a brief, previously unrecorded cantata by Michelangelo Faggioli. French mezzo Stéphanie d’Oustrac sings with assurance and dramatic flair, her intensity leavened by instrumental pieces that highlight the recorders of Amarillis co-director Héloïse Gaillard. The performances offer much to admire, yet I rarely felt moved.

Graham Lock Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2011 - ©Rhinegold Publishing