Calandra Turns Up the Heat in “Erotica Antiqua”


EROTICA ANTIQUA / DELL’ARPA: Villanella che all-acqua vai. Vorria crudel tornare. ANONYMOUS: Boccuccia d’uno persic’ aperturo. Madonna tu mi fai lo scorrucciato. Tu sai che la cornacchia. Che sia malditta l’acqua. La morte di marito. Oi ricculina. Vurria ca fosse ciaola. DA NOLA: Fontana che dai acqua. Fuggit’ Amore. AZZAIOLO: Girometta senza to non viverò. DI LASSO: Matona mia cara. Sto core mio. Madonna mia, pietà. O occhi manza mia. DONATO: Chi la gagliarda. FALCONIERI: O belissimi capelli. Vezzosette e care pupillette ardenti. Occhietti amati / Letizia Calandra, sop; Ensemble Arte Musica; Francesco Cera, hpd/dir / Brilliant Classics 95448

This is a rarity for me, a CD I chose to review based on someone else’s review. Going through the Brilliant Classics website I chanced upon this disc and was intrigued by the review posted there, so I took a chance on it. I’m glad I did.

Soprano Letizia Calandra is an utterly remarkable singer whose voice combines sensuality with a folk-singer-like sound. In the latter respect she reminded me of Jantina Noorman, the great Dutch folk singer whose voice was so good that she crossed over and did several classical recordings. My regular readers will know, as I stated in my long review of Gabriel Garrido’s Monteverdi operas, that early “classical singers” were most often not trained voices, that many of them were popular or folk singers of their time who crossed over to perform this music. Calandra certainly fits into this category.

In fact, I will give you fair warning. If you’re a man, you are going to be seduced by Calandra’s voice, so much so that you may want to marry her! It’s that sensuous, and no lie. As for the music, it mostly dates from the early to mid-16th century, which is pre-Baroque, so “Antiqua” is indeed an appropriate title for this music. Since the CD booklet has no song texts, I’ve included them here, courtesy of Brilliant Classics, albeit in Italian only. Once you know what some of the lyrics are, you come to appreciate her interpretations all the better. Unfortunately, Google Translate has a hard time with early Italian, but I think your eyes may pop out of your head when you see lyrics like this pop up:

Beloved eyes
You’re fucking me
Why ruthless
Henceforth your
Gorgeous serenity
Of full joy
Your splendor
Flames of the Choirs
Vermilion mouth

The best description I can give of Calendra’s voice is that it is simultaneously bright in timbre and sensuous in its well-shaded delivery. She almost sounds like a female counterpart to Italian tenor/folk singer Pino di Vittorio, whose recordings of early music on the Glossa album Canto della Sirena (Glossa 922603) I raved about in Fanfare magazine several years ago. THIS is how you sing this material, with life and feeling and earthiness, not like it’s a vocal exercise to be produced by well-placed but boring tones. I also need to lavish praise on her accompanists, Ensemble Arte Musica, who play the music as enthusiastically as Calendra sings it. There is absolutely no comparison one can make of this record to the majority of “early music” dead-heads out there; they remind me of the once-famous early music group Kalenda Maya, whose recordings of the 1980s garnered short-lived but enthusiastic critical acclaim.

You may not believe your ears when listening to the songs by Orlando di Lasso, as these are miles removed from his normal stuffy religious music. Apparently, these were the kinds of songs he wrote when he wasn’t in church!

This is, quite simply, a fun recording!

—© 2017 Lynn René Bayley

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