The penniless artist Alidoro, who is raised to wealth and power by Queen Orontea’s passion, albeit with a few hiccups along the way, is thought to be a humourous self-parody of Cesti, whose friar’s vows of poverty, chastity and obedience didn’t seem to hold him back from much in life. La Nuova Musica threw themselves into Cesti’s fearsome kinetic challenges with enthusiasm and panache, handling all his ever-changing tempi with rich tone in an evening of joyous music-making.
The concert performance had structure and narrative force, thanks to strongly characterised performances from the singers, directed by David Bates, as well as some remarkably lewd rhyming surtitles by Timothy Knapman, definitely more Boccaccio than Boethius, dipping into modern patois (“he is, like, well buff”) as well as brassy puns (“phallic cymbals”). In all, a night spent with Fr Cesti is no staid evening of polite entertainment. Quite the reverse.