Diogenio Bigaglia’s dramatic cantata Plutone e Proserpina for soprano, contralto, strings and continuo, composed around 1710 by this Venetian Benedictine monk highly esteemed as a composer by his contemporaries, represents his vocal chamber music at its most ambitious and attractive. Its twelve short movements comprise five solo arias, one aria for both voices singing in turn, one duet and five recitatives. The subject of the cantata, Proserpine’s gradual reconciliation to her kidnap by Pluto, who wants her as his bride, is treated in masterly fashion by the author of the text, Antonio Ottoboni, who was a leading poet in Venice at the time. There is no better work through which to make acquaintance with the fascinating, but still little known, figure of Bigaglia.
“In this cantata Bigaglia exhibits an ability to convey the emotions of the characters in musical terms. The story is one of courtship: based on a text by Antonio Ottoboni, it focuses entirely on the two characters, Plutone and Proserpina. Wishing to take Proserpina to the underworld and make her his wife, Plutone has abducted her. She is, understandably, a reluctant bride but finally accepts her fate. Moods range from the enticing wooing of Plutone to Proserpina’s agitated rejection of him; from the anguished chromaticism of the conversational recitatives to a gentle minuet, a duet in which they pledge fidelity to one another. Also notable is Bigaglia’s use of the strings, which interact with the voices rather than simply doubling them. [...]
This is an interesting work, cleverly constructed, well presented and with a strong story-line that features plenty of dramatic contrast. Talbot has uncovered a composer who had the skill to convey that contrast in musical terms. It is to be highly recommended for a chamber group of competent singers and players who want to explore something new.”
Read the review in The Consort