Exposé Online banner

Opus Avantra — Strata
(Cramps Records Artis ARCD 011, 1989, CD)

Opus Avantra — Donella del Monaco (AKA Introspezione)
(Cramps Records Artis ARCD 002, 1974/1989, CD)

Opus Avantra — Lord Cromwell Plays Suite for Seven Vices
(Cramps Records Artis ARCD003, 1975/2011, CD)

by Peter Thelen, Published 1995-07-01

Strata Cover artDonella del Monaco (AKA Introspezione) Cover artLord Cromwell Plays Suite for Seven Vices Cover art

Led by composer/keyboardist Alfredo Tisocco, and fronted by vocalist Donella del Monaco, Opus Avantra – much like their name might imply, offers a music based in avant-garde classicism mixed with operatic and theatrical elements. The lineup on the first album, Introspezione from 1974 (sometimes listed with the title Donella del Monaco), consists of Donella's voice, piano and other keyboards, flute, two violins, cello, drums and percussion – although some uncredited guesting on bass is evident. Del Monaco's voice is beautiful and operatic, and perfect in the theatrical context, often reminding of Sonja Kristina (of Curved Air fame) with more emotional control; she does in fact have a respected solo career as a singer completely apart from Opus Avantra. The music here is all over the map, but in general adheres to a classically based theatrical style, with regular flights into avant territory. Comparisons? That's a hard one, yet much of the music should be at least stylistically familiar to most listeners. It's the way it's all presented that is most unique. File along with the first U Totem album – excellent, but perhaps too adventurous for some.

Their second album, Lord Cromwell Plays Suite for Seven Vices, released a year later was an opera based on the seven deadly sins. Stylistically similar to the first, this seems a bit less scattered and evolves more smoothly. Guitar has been added to the lineup, and there is more extensive use of choral arrangements rather than the soloist-does-all approach of the first record – and because of this I'm pretty sure Donella del Monaco's involvement on this record is minimal (although she did co-write and is prominently featured on the CD bonus track). The lyrics are in English this time (although, to be fair, this is primarily an instrumental album with some choral work and recitation). Because of the instrumentation changes and a more progressive-rock oriented perspective, this one would probably be a much better album to start with.

A long period went by with no recording activity under the Opus Avantra name – presumably Tisocco and Del Monaco both busy with their respective solo projects. A third Opus Avantra record did not appear until the late 80s. Strata is more of an introspective and subtle album, less typically rock, thus bearing more in common with the first than Lord Cromwell. The modern production techniques are put to good use. Del Monaco is featured prominently on several tracks, sometimes in multiple overdubs with an uncredited male vocalist. Although the lineup is essentially unchanged (only a viola and contrabass have been added, though only four names from the original lineup remain), synthesizers offer a number of new sounds to the mix. A fine album, and quite possibly their most mature and advanced work to date, yet this is probably not the best one for new listeners to start with.

As we go to press, Opus Avantra's fourth album, Lyrics, is being released, comprised of two long pieces "Viaggio Arcano Metafisico" and "Suite Veniziana." More on this in a future issue of Exposé.


Filed under: Reissues, Issue 7, 1989 releases, 1974 recordings, 2011 releases, 1975 recordings

Related artist(s): Opus Avantra, Alfredo Tisocco, Paolo Siani

Latest news

2020-01-21
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more

2020-01-15
Carlos Alvarado RIP – Carlos Alvarado, pioneering composer, multi-instrumentalist and pioneer of progressive rock and electronic experimental music in Mexico, passed away January 14th, 2020 at age 68 after a two year battle with cancer.  » Read more

2020-01-12
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more

2020-01-12
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more

2020-01-10
Neil Peart RIP – One of rock music's defining drummers has died at the age of 67. Neil Peart's work with Rush provided one of the templates for percussion in rock, and he certainly ranks in the top ten most influential drummers of the 20th Century. Peart retired from playing in 2015 due to health issues, and succumbed to brain cancer on January 7, 2020. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Crimson Jazz Trio - King Crimson Songbook Volume 2 – The late Ian Wallace championed the completion of his trio’s second recording but never had the chance to hear the final fruits of his labor. Together with pianist Jody Nardine and bassist Tim...  (2010) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues