This production is superior to that of Harnoncourt. The cast is first rate - every member is superb. The small orchestra - simpler than Harnoncourt's - is much more "authentic" (strings, 2 cornetti [beautifully played, BTW!] and basso continuo) and gives the work just enough colour.
I love the dark and moody lighting. The whole production has a very dream-like quality to it, yet the raw emotions of the protagonists are brought out very strongly. Michael Chance, in particular, is very good. I saw him in a production a few years ago and was slightly less than impressed. His voice seems to be getting better as he gets older.
Most of the cast will be familiar to lovers of Baroque music - Dominique Visse, Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, Sandrine Piau, Claron McFadden, Harry van der Kamp are here, and they are the minor characters!
The work has a great sense of pace and the musical interpretations from Christophe Rousset and his band, Les Talens Lyriques, are excellent. In the interview with Harry van der Kamp in the "Extras", he tells us that the instrumentalists do follow the singers - this is particularly true of the continuo group. As I said before, the cornetto playing was a real highlight for me. The two players play very beautifully and stylishly.
There are other DVD recordings of L'incoronazione di Poppea available, but in my opinion, this is the best.
I highly recommend this beautiful, atmospheric, impressive and fantasy-filled production to all music lovers.
Few if any operas have ever combined such sublime music with such a profoundly philosophical libretto. For that reason, few operas cry out so urgently for meaningful staging and effective acting, as well as for superb musical values. This production by Les Talens Lyriques, directed by Christophe Rousset, achieves 100% musically and a quite sufficient 85% dramatically.
Poppea is a study in moral ambiguity, and every character in every scene contributes something to the unsettling of our moral expectations. Nerone is either an effective tyrant or a lewd fool. Ottavia is either a spurned faithful wife or a vengeful fury. Ottone is either a weakling love-sick puppy or a shrewd opportunist. Seneca is either the ideal Renaissance stoic or a fatuous sycophant. And Poppea? As totally she she seems to triumph in her incoronation, the audience of Monteverdi's time would have known their Roman history well enough to realize that in a few short years Nerone would repudiate her and stomp her to death with his lead-soled sandals. They'd also recall that Ottone survived Nerone to become one of the four ephemeral emperors in the Year of Four Emperors; he was no moral paragon, even by Roman standards. Nerone and Poppea are despicable humans for two and a half acts of the opera, and then sing the most sublime, heart-wrenching, convincing love duet in all of music!
The cast for this performance includes a fair share of the best baroque singers alive, even in the smaller roles, Sandrine Piau for instance singing Damigella and Dominique Visse the comic-relief role of the Nurse. There are no weak spots in this cast vocally. My only reservation is dramatic; the casting of Brigitte Balleys as Nerone seems to restrict the conviction with which the character can be portrayed.Read more ›
MONTEVERDI AT SEVENTY FOUR YEARS OF AGE BRINGS FORTH AN OPERA FULL OF YOUTH AND VITALITY! Almost four decades before creating his Poppea, Monteverdi wrote in the preface of his fifth book of madrigals:'The modern composer must create his works solely on the basis of truth', a credo to which the music of his final opera is utterly faithful. Poppea is a potent work from opera's first true creator and pioneering genius. Monteverdi's timeless masterpiece, which creates a deep involvment in performers and audiences alike is brilliantly performed by this excellent cast of singers and instrumentalists.
Even after three centuries, the music of Monteverdi glows with the passionate genius of a musical prophet. He was far ahead of his day in his conception of music as a dramatic, expressive art and in the realization of that conception.
He spurned the dry recitatives common to the opera of the day and instead gave the singers lovely melodies to sing. Short song-like passages were also included in the orchestral score. This opera demonstrates well these traits of Monteverdi. EXAMPLE: The enchanting melody that recurs in Drusilla's song that I call her 'happy' tune because she sings it first after Ottone tells her that he desires her instead of Poppea; unfortunately not true, but for the moment she believes him. There are several tuneful melodies that become associated with specific characters throughout the opera.Read more ›
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This item: Monteverdi - L'incoronazione di Poppea / Haymon · Balleys · Liang · Chance · van der Kamp · Grant Murphy · Fouchécourt · Visse · McFadden · Vink · Piau · Berg · Les Talens Lyriques · Rousset · Audi (Amsterdam Opera 1994)