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Sub olea pacis et palma virtutis is an educational drama typical for the baroque era. These dramas were often used as an instructional aid for teaching at monastic schools. For us, they are not as moving as they might have been in their time, but Oliver is a warm and poetic interpreter who, singing the part of Religio, was able to keep the interest. The figure of Religio comes to life with the on-stage personality of the countertenor, who is also a trained actor and gives his character depth beyond the somewhat dry Latin text. Oliver has a wonderfully sweet voice that is full-bodied and rich in harmonics. Characteristic is his perfect intonation and breath management as well as excellent phrasing and imaginative use of ornaments when he confronts difficult trills head-on. Oliver's Spanish-Italian linguistic background results in a clear Latin pronunciation and it gives him a distinct advantage in providing the authentic touch.

Susanne Ryden. Photo © Europamusicale
Susanne Ryden. Photo © Europamusicale

Swedish-born Susanne Ryden, while sitting to wait for her turn, looked almost bored. But the moment she got up to sing, her entire demeanour changed: she turned into a beauty who dominated the stage with her command of voice and music. Ryden has recorded more than forty CDs and one of them, featuring music by Barbara Strozzi, has been BBC Music News CD of the month.

With such a high calibre of soloists, the occasional drawbacks could be overlooked: a sometimes struggling tenor, for instance, and a very young conductor who enthusiastically leads the ensemble he founded with a prominently raised, schoolmasterly index finger.

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Copyright © 9 June 2004 Tess Crebbin and Sissy von Kotzebue, Germany


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