Thomas Wikman Reviews
Music of Baroque Exults In Rare Opera
Chicago Tribune Wednesday, April 17, 1996
by John von Rhein, Tribune Music Critic
It seems no less than proper that the distinction of presenting the Chicago professional premier of Claudio Monteverdi's "n Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria" ("The Return of Ulysses to His Homeland") this week should fall to Music of the Baroque, which has long held a virtual monopoly on local performances of the Italian Baroque master's major works.
These concert performances mark the end of another odyssey; music director Thomas Wikman's completion of the trilogy of known Monteverdi operas, a project he began with MOB three years ago. Once again he has made intelligent choices in his musical realization, casting the opera from strength and conducting with dedication. Purists could question certain of his decisions on stylistic grounds, but how many of them have ever heard Monteverdi's glorious music so well sung?
The plot spins off Queen Penelope's virtue and constancy as she patiently awaits her husband's return from the Trojan Wars. Monteverdi's recitative style moves freely between declamation and arioso, keeping lyrical expansion in check until the end. But there is much subtlety of instrumental color, not least in the courtly brass interludes.