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Monteverdi: L'incoronazione di Poppea

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Emmanuelle Haim conducts this production of Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea, which was recorded in 2012 at the exquisite opera house in Lille. First performed in 1643, Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea tells the story of Poppaea, the mistress of the Roman emperor Nerone, who, in an unlikely turn of events, is eventually crowned empress.

The French director Jean-François Sivadier takes a relatively minimalist approach to this production, with the characters in an eclectic mixture of modern and Ancient Roman dress. Nerone, here an almost punk-like figure with peroxide blond spiky hair, is portrayed by star countertenor Max Emanuel Cencic. Poppea is sung here by the glamorous Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva, who won Plácido Domingo s Operalia competition in 2010 and is a former member of William Christie s academy for young singers, Le Jardin des Voix.

Emmanuelle Haim is renowned as a conductor of vocal works in historically informed performances. She began her career studying piano with Yvonne Lefébure and then organ with André Isoir. She came to focus on the harpsichord, which she studied with Kenneth Gilbert and Christophe Rousset, and was awarded five first prizes at the Paris Conservatoire. As a continuo-player and musical assistant, Haim spent time at a number of opera houses, acquiring an exceptional knowledge of the Baroque and Classical repertoire through her work with, among others William Christie, Sir Simon Rattle and Daniel Harding. Emmanuelle Haïm regularly works as a guest conductor, appearing with, among others, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and the Glyndebourne Festival Opera.

Product Details

  • Actors: Sonya Yoncheva, Max Emanuel Cencic, Ann Hallenberg, Tim Mead, Emmanuelle Haïm
  • Directors: Jean-François Sivadier, Philippe Béziat
  • Writers: Claudio Monteverdi
  • Producers: Le Concert d'Astrée, Opéra de Lille
  • Format: Multiple Formats, CD+DVD, NTSC
  • Language: Italian (DD 5.1 Surround), Italian (PCM2 .0)
  • Subtitles: English, Italian, French, German, Spanish
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Erato Disques
  • DVD Release Date: July 30, 2013
  • Run Time: 178 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00BUYC2NI
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,947 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

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By A. F. S. Mui on July 9, 2014
French producer Jean-François Sivadier leagued up with Emmanuelle Haïm and the Concert d'Astrée in Lille in Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea. Among the numerous (yes, numerous) modern production of Monteverdi's popular opera, this 2012 one stands towering over other even more eminent ones (even beating Haïm's in Glyndebourne earlier in 2009).
To begin with, the production is imaginative and very beautiful, with costumes in a mixture of contemporary and historical attire. Thunder boards and jungle drums between the acts herald a rather gruesome, instead of romantic, tale.
Musically, Haïm opted for a full orchestral texture with some twenty players in the raised pit. Vocally, the cast was highly effective, even with some rather unusual stylistic quibbles obviously opted for by the conductor herself. This was most notable in two of the set numbers. The nurse Arnalta's lullaby and Ottavia's farewell to Rome both got unconventional and questionable treatments, but they worked dramatically. The overall vocal cast is about the best ever assembled for this popular opera: dominated by the most voluptuous ever Poppea of Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva, whose effortless soprano glowed in a most promising manner, opposite the dramatically hysterical Nerone of Croatian countertenor Max-Emanuel Cencic, who conquers the role's wide vocal range without transposition. Cencic's vocal acting achieves a highly dramatic effect in employing rough outbursts in the high register that are always exciting and in character, while the middle of his voice is utterly mellifluous, as in the various scenes with Poppea from Act 1 to the extremely beautiful final duet. The countertenor singing of Tim Mead as the vacillating Ottone works well, too, despite a rather late warming up.
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Live performance under Emmanuelle Haïm and her Concert d'Astrée ensemble in March 2012 inLille, Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea is a new production by Jean-François Sivadier.
A studio-theatre-style improvisation, with artists casually gathering together on a bare open stage as the audience entered, the performance kicks off rather slowly, with Mdm. Haïm's rather angular musical approach that sounds some what jagged both orchestrally and vocally. The costumes in this production are a mix of contemporary and period styles. The production's historic focus got hold slowly, with the muses and goddesses dressed up as casual modern beings.
The opera gained more intensity as the evening progressed with sharp characterisations. The appearance of an actor to relate the gruesome story of Seneca's death prior to the sublime final duet of Nerone and Poppea was unusual. Although we now know this music is probably not by Monteverdi, the actor's spoken words separated the opera's conclusion from the body of the work and raised question of whether we should be basking in the sensual pleasures of this murderous power-driven couple.
Vocally, the cast was encouraged to shout, with individual words colored at the expense of a true legato. This was most notable in nurse Arnalta's lullaby, and even if tenor Emiliano Gonzalez Toro had the ideal voice, the aria was an uncomfortable collection of would-be expressive vocal lunges. In similar vein is Ottavia's farewell to Rome in which the wonderful mezzo Ann Hellenberg opened the aria with stuttered yelps.
Stylistic quibbles aside, this is a well-sung performance, dominated by the sexy Poppea of Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva, who sung the role in effortless ease and aplomb.
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For the most part, the production is silly. The opera, while probably valuable to music scholars and Monteverdi enthusiasts (it is perhaps one of the first ten operas ever written, and one of the first few "masterpieces") feels dated to me.

For a preferred baroque opera, see Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, especially the Maria Ewing version.
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