There are already several well-informed and highly appreciative reviews here on Amazon, including those from J. R. Gunsell, George Peabody 'Ariel', Giordano Bruno and A Customer, so I will confine myself to just a few more comments and state my absolute agreement with all these other 5-star verdicts.
Caldara's oratorio depicts the inner struggle, between heavenly and earthly love, for the soul and conscience of Mary Magdalene, in her 'repentant sinner' persona as frequently depicted since biblical times. It's a highly effective formula for drama, emotion and for music both heavenly and seductive, and Caldara makes the most of these opportunities. To list just a few highlights among many passages of great beauty, there's Amor Terreno (Earthly love)'s poignant first aria 'Dormi, o cara' (CD1/2); the powerful, characterful melody of Amor Celeste (Heavenly love)'s aria 'La ragione' (6); Maddalena's tormented recitative 'Oimè, troppo importuno' (9), followed by her beautiful, tortured aria 'In un bivio' (10) with wonderfully expressive instrumental support. Then there's the superb melody of 'Fin che danzan' from Amor Terreno who, of course, gets many of the best tunes (14); the wonderful Handelian melodies of 'Il sentier' (20) and Maddalena's 'Diletti non più vanto' (22), her graceful 'Voglio piangere' (26), and the ferocity of the musical contest between Terreno and Celeste in 'La mia virtude' (28).
In the second part (CD2), there are further delights in Maddalena's lovely aria over a walking bass 'In lagrime stemprato' (7), the dramatic fury of Amor Terreno's 'Orribili, terribili' (13), the powerfully engaging melody of Cristo's 'Del senso soggiogar' (21), Amor Celeste's superb celebratory 'Sù, lieti festeggiate' beautifully carried off by Andreas Scholl (27), Amor Terreno's furious 'Voi del Tartaro' (29), and Maddalena's delicate, tender closing 'Chi serva la beltà' (31).
Performance at every level is outstanding, with superb contributions from Maria Christina Kiehr as Maddalena, Bernarda Fink as Amor Terreno, Andreas Scholl as Amor Celeste and Gerd Türk as Cristo. The instrumental work is every bit as good, with the period instruments of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis bringing energy, finesse and superb baroque style to all their contributions. But the greatest assets of all are, firstly, the imaginative vision, panache, sensitivity and insight which director René Jacobs brings to the work; and, above all, the sheer quality and beauty of the music of Antonio Caldara's extraordinary baroque masterpiece. This set really does deserve a place in the collection of every baroque enthusiast and, in fact, of every lover of fine vocal music.