Utopianisti is Finnish composer/multi-instrumentalist/producer Markus Pajakkala's brainchild, started in 2010. It's a studio project where the line-up changes for every song. Pajakkala plays the drums, woodwinds and some keyboards himself and composes and engineers all the material. Guest musicians are plenty, from different genres - classically trained, jazz, folk and rock musicians. The style is mostly instrumental, energetic jazz-rock / eclectic prog with occasional leaps towards Balkan gypsy music, tango, avant-garde, latin or even operatic metal. Pajakkala is also a key member in the band Poutatorvi.
A surprising fact from the musicological realm is that Haydn wrote about the same number of operas as Mozart–though it's true that some of them were written for the marionette theater at Esterhaza, rather than the opera house. In other words, old "Gius[eppe] Haydn"–as the title page of this opera refers to him–was a master. Better known to some by its alternate title, L'anima del filosofo, Haydn's Orfeo ed Euridice was written in 1791 for the King's Theater, Haymarket, during the composer's first English sojourn, but went unperformed there or anywhere else until 1950. The libretto, by Carlo Francesco Badini, is based on Ovid's Metamorphoses, with its decidedly unhappy ending to the story (Euridice dies a second time, Orpheus is poisoned, and the Bacchantes perish in a storm). While the score as a whole does not possess the kind of momentum or dramatic sweep one finds in Mozart, it nonetheless is vintage Haydn: highly imaginative in its use of a large orchestra, with numerous fine choruses and beautiful arias. A strong cast has been assembled for this recording, with Cecilia Bartoli a special delight in two roles–Euridice, a lyric role requiring remarkable agility, and the Genio (or Sybill), originally written for a castrato, whose one aria ("Al tuo seno fortunato") is a coloratura tour de force. The score is played with marvelous fluency by the Academy of Ancient Music under the direction of Christopher Hogwood, contributing to a realization that is, in every respect, elegantly informed. (Ted Libbey)