Raymond Leppard’s second and more renowned contribution to the modern revival of Cavalli: a classic among Baroque opera recordings which won the coveted Rosette award from the Penguin Record Guide.
In 1651, seven years after ‘Ormindo’ (also reissued by Eloquence in Leppard’s recording, 482 9382), Cavalli and his librettist Faustini scored another hit with the hungry but demanding Venetian opera public with a tale from Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses‘. The change that all of Ovid’s central characters undergo, is in this case, suffered by the nymph Calisto who is rejected by the goddess Diana, turned into a bear by the Furies and back into a human by Jupiter who finally sets her among the stars in reward for her patience and her love.
Writing as editor of the Musical Times in the summer of 1970, Stanley Sadie observed that Raymond Leppard’s revival of ‘Calisto’ – probably its first performances since 1651 – had, like ‘Ormindo’ three years earlier, been ‘rapturously received’. Subsequent decades have furnished us with the more complete and unedited original opera for which Sadie hankered but they have not dimmed the passionate sweep of Leppard’s conducting. Nor has the singing of Janet Baker, James Bowman and Ileana Cotrubas in the central roles been eclipsed by their successors.
Decca’s top engineering team led by Kenneth Wilkinson was in charge of the Argo recording. As with ‘Ormindo’, they elected to record not in Glyndebourne’s main house but in the smaller and acoustically favourable organ room which was the site of the house’s first operatic performances. Much of the cast also reprised their appearances from the previous Cavalli album, notably the French tenor Hugues Cuenod whom Edward Greenfield observed to be a master of comic timing as well as vocal stamina during the four concentrated days of recording.