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L' Incoronazione di Poppea [2 DVDs]
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Almost four decades before creating his Poppea, Monteverdi wrote in the preface to his fifth book of madrigals, “The modern composer must create his works solely on the basis of the 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. The fact that, at the close of this highly charged ‘dramma in musica’, he allows evil to triumph over good (albeit temporarily), has frequently led to his being decried as amoral. Monteverdi's timeless masterpiece, which creates a modern, deep involvement in performers and audiences alike, is brilliantly captured in this High Definition live recording of Pierre Audi's moving and beautifully styled production from Het Muziektheater Amsterdam.
"Dutch treat - Amsterdam has a model opera company: fresh, controversial and accessible...this Poppea is a quality product of self-evidently world class distinction." (The Sunday Times)
"Memorable Monteverdi - Brigitte Balleys's Nerone was so flawlessly sung that one never missed the more usual tenor casting of the role." (Opera)
"This latest version is virtually complete and, in musical terms, it has the most consistent cast yet - mezzo-soprano Brigitte Balleys as Nero is credibly masculine...Ning Liang is darkly dignified as Ottavia, countertenor Michael Chance (Ottone) and bass Harry van der Kamp (Seneca) are rock steady in their roles. " (BBC Music Magazine)
Cynthia Haymon (Poppea)
Brigitte Balleys (Nerone)
Michael Chance (Ottone)
Claron McFadden (Valletto)
Heidi Grant Murphy (Drusilla)
Ning Liang (Ottavia)
Les Talens Lyriques; Christophe Rousset
Stage Director: Pierre Audi
Catalogue Number: OA0925D
Running Time: 219 minutes
Sound: DTS Surround; LPCM Stereo
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Anamorphic
Subtitles: EN, FR, DE, ES, IT, NL
Label: Opus Arte
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Nero wird von einer Sängerin, Brigitte Balleys, verkörpert, was insofern Sinn macht, da die Rolle ursprünglich für einen Sopran-Kastraten geschrieben war. Sie zeigt uns Nero als verwöhnten jungen Kaiser, der sich seiner Macht wohl bewusst ist, jedoch noch keineswegs souverän seine Entscheidungen trifft. Er wankt auch noch hin und her in seiner erotischen Orientierung ... Denn dieser Nero liebt nicht nur Poppea, sondern auch seinen Freund, den Dichter Lucano (Mark Tucker). Wenn er mit ihm im 2. Akt über die Liebe spricht, dann ist hier keineswegs Poppea gemeint (wie in vielen Inszenierungen), sondern die Beziehung der beiden jungen Männer zueinander.
Als Poppea singt Cynthia Haymon, die das ganze Register von fast noch kindlicher Verliebtheit bis hin zu höchst weiblicher Berechnung beherrscht.
Hervorragend sind auch Michael Chance als Ottone und Heidi Grant Murphy als Drusilla.
Ein Kunststück der besonderen Art vollbringt Jean-Paul Fochecourt als Poppeas Amme Arnalta in einem bizarren Kostüm. Die Sorge um das Kind und um die eigene Würde wird hier wunderbar auf die Szene gebracht - diese Leistung ist wahrlich der Bewunderung wert.
Stimmlich gut, aber eigentlich von der Erscheinung noch zu jung ist der weise Seneca von Harry van der Kamp.
Exzellent die Ottavia von Ning Liang, deren ergreifendes "Addio Roma" zu den Höhepunkten der Aufführung gehört.
Was mir persönlich weniger gefällt ist, dass die so zentrale Rolle des Amore von einer Sängerin gegeben wird, von der zugegeben hervorragenden Sandrine Piau. Bei Harnoncourt/Ponnelle wird ein Tölzer Sängerknabe eingesetzt, der die sehr schwere Rolle großartig meistert und dabei auch noch die "physique du role" glänzend zum Besten gibt.
Auch hier - wie schon bei Audis ORFEO - ist die Inszenierung nicht am prallen Barocktheater orientiert, sondern von antiker, archaischer Größe; - was das Anschauen sicher nicht so spannend macht, wie etwa bei Ponnelle mit seinen 1000 Einfällen, aber dafür mehr zum Hören der so wunderbaren Musik von Monteverdi anregt ...
Die Inszenierung ist allerdings ein so langweiliges Steh- und Schreittheater, so dass man wünschte, der Mitschnitt wäre nur als CD erschienen. Die Szene lässt keinerlei Konzept erkennen und verliert sich in blassem Ästhetizismus. Die Lebensprallheit des Werks geht völlig unter. Schade.
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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. I would rather have watched a countertenor - Philippe Jaroussky or Gerard Lesne, for instance - toss off Nerone's arrogant tantrums. On the other hand, Harry van der Kamp as Seneca is brilliant casting. Seneca's death scene is, along with the concluding duet, the musical and dramatic core of the opera, and van der Kamp dies splendidly.
The instrumental ensemble is, if anything, even closer to absolute perfection than the vocal cast. Two cornettos, two recorders, three violins and two violas entwine their florid wreaths of melody around the recitativos of Giovanni Busenello's poetic libretto. Since most of the opera is in fact recitativo rather than da capo aria, the color and character of the basso continuo is supremely important, and Les Talens Lyriques doesn't scant a note. The continuo includes organ, harpsichord, lute, theorbo, harp, cello, violone, and viola da gamba, an amazing panoply of timbres.
I saw and heard the Los Angeles Opera performance of this same production, and the disappointments of that occasion make it even clearer to me how excellent the original in Amsterdam was. The opera was cut in LA; particularly the part of Seneca was stupidly truncated. The cornetto obbligatos were re-assigned to teh violins, and the continuo was not nearly as varied. All significant mistakes! This opera is too tightly constructed to be cut in any fashion. And to do it without cornettos is being criminally stingy!
Les Talens Lyriques has also produced a breathtaking performance on DVD of Monteverdi's Orfeo, which I've reviewed previously. Now there is a box set of Christophe Rousset's stagings of Monteverdi's three operas, plus the operatic madrigal Tancredi e Clorinda. Truly we live in glorious musical times!
My view of this opera is somewhat jaded by a wonderful production with Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducting at the Zurich Opera House. If this dvd of the Amsterdam Opera production had been my first experience with The Coronation of Poppea, I would have been thrilled. The parts are well sung and in some cases exceed performances in the Harnoncourt version. This is especially true of the Ottone part. Michael Chance managed to communicate the heart ache of Ottone and also the great beauty of the music he is given to sing.
The part of Seneca is sung powerfully by bass Harry van der Kamp. The role would have been even better played, in my eyes, if the singer had been made to look older. He seemed a bit young for being an old sage.
On the Amsterdam Opera production a woman sings the part of Love. Sandrine Piau sings the messenger role for Love very nicely, but I missed hearing a boy sing. Cynthia Haymon played and sang the part of Poppea beautifully. She plays it as a strong woman and seems more powerful than Nerone. Brigitte Balleys sang the Nerone part well, but I greatly missed having a countertenor sing that role. The mezzo-soprano may be closer to the castrato voice that the part was written for, but I found the two women's voices too much alike. It was hard to tell their voices apart when the camera was not zoomed in on their faces. Nerone ends up seeming to be a weak character. This is not the case when he was sung by Eric Tappy. Tappy managed to portray Nerone as the mad man that he was and yet contribute mightily to some of the loveliest love duets ever written.
In spite of not having a boy singer for Love and not having a male singer for Nerone, this version of Poppea is quite enjoyable. It is a pleasure to see the various possibilities for the staging of this great opera. Christope Rousset and Amsterdam Opera worked hard to make this an authentic production and it does achieve that. The staging is simple and voices are kept close to original parts.
This dvd sounds good and plays well on a widescreen television.
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.