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Monteverdi: L'incoronazione Di Poppea / Haim, De Niese, Coote

Release Date: 07/14/2009 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 001305009  
Composer:  Claudio Monteverdi
Performer:  Marie ArnetGalya YonchevaAlice CooteWolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke,   ... 
Conductor:  Emmanuelle Haďm
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Number of Discs: 2 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

“Wonderfully lucid and unflinching staging...the wonder of conductor Emmanuelle Haïm’s work here with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment is the way she illuminates the play of Monteverdi’s expressive vocal lines with the harmony beneath”
—The Independent, London

The major debut on Decca DVD of Danielle de Niese. Returning to the opera house where she sang her sensational Cleopatra in Handel’s Giulio Cesare, Danielle performs the title role in Monteverdi’s great opera of lust and power, in Robert Carsen’s new, modern-dress staging.

De Niese is perfectly cast as the beautiful and seductive Poppea who ruthlessly grabs power as Nero’s lover but, in this production, is doomed from the moment of
Read more her coronation at the end of the opera. De Niese’s performance is vocally and dramatically powerful, perfectly complemented by Alice Coote as Nero. The two are supported by an outstanding cast, together with period-performance stars Emmanuelle Haïm conducting the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

Carsen creates an intelligent and visually-strong production, focusing on the personal side of the story. At times the action is violent and shocking, but this is juxtaposed with episodes of lightness and humour.
Filmed in High Definition Widescreen

Extras: Interviews with Danielle de Niese, Emmanuelle Haïm, Robert Carsen

Number of discs: 2
Disc Format: NTSC
Video Aspect Ratio: High Definition widescreen
Region Coding: 0 (Worldwide)
Audio Selection: LPCM Stereo & DTS 5.1 Surround
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese
Picture Format: 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen

Cast List:
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
ROBERT CARSEN Stage Director


MONTEVERDI L’incoronazione di Poppea Emmanuelle Haïm, cond; Danielle de Niese ( Poppea ); Alice Coote ( Nerone ); Iestyn Davies ( Ottone ); Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke ( Arnalta ); Tamara Mumford ( Ottavia ); Dominique Visse ( Nutrice ); Paolo Battaglia ( Seneca ); Marie Arnet ( Drusilla ); Amy Freston ( Amore ); Sonya Yoncheva ( Fortuna ); Simona Mihai ( Virtù ); Glyndebourne Ch; O of the Age of the Enlightenment DECCA 001305009 (2 DVDs: 193:00) Live: Glyndebourne 6/2008

In theory, I have no objections to changing any opera’s locality and period. But it’s only fair that the stage designers make it clear through their work that there’s something gained from doing so, and less lost in turn. I feel that McVicar’s 2005 Glyndebourne staging of Giulio Cesare (Opus Arte 950) achieved that, with the Roman invasion of Egypt moved to the British invasion of Egypt in the 19th century. Time and again he found appropriate metaphors in his stage action for Handel’s libretto and musical cues. But when an opera director attempts a directorially imposed basic shift of locale and time, he should embrace the challenge of problems they incur through dissonance with the text and music, and find solutions that make sense. From this perspective, Robert Carsen’s L’incoronazione di Poppea , set in generic modern times, tries hard and sometimes succeeds; but more often than not, he doesn’t bring it off. The idea of Fortune dressed as a high society dame claiming loudly in spoken dialogue a seat in Glyndebourne’s front row occupied by a nun, who is Virtue—then launching the prologue—is both typical of Carsen’s twee efforts, and lacking that appropriate solution. Would a nun really sing of herself, “I am the North Wind that alone reveals to the human intellect the art of sailing towards Olympus,” for instance? You can edit the line completely out of the subtitles as occurs here, but it’s still being sung, just the same. Similar examples abound.

To Carsen’s credit, there’s a lot of clear personal direction for the actors in each scene, much of it good. Sometimes the good even goes on for too long; I think the G-rated sexual byplay in Nero and Poppea’s first scene together is well chosen but slows things down too much, with Haïm obligingly following his lead. Some of the other choices for character actions are less successful. Would Nero leave Poppea by herself at the conclusion of the final duet—as rapturous a declaration of mutual love as exists across the range of operatic history—wrapped in red bed sheets like a coronation mantle and looking incredibly sad and alone? This is Carsen putting his own stamp on L’incoronazione , after the opera’s over. It’s not in character, nor does it make sense in context, but it does create a smart image.

The cast is effective, though not a uniform success. The three principles of the prologue, Virtue, Fortune, and Love, act convincingly, but have only moderate success projecting their florid lines. Davies is a strong Ottone, demonstrating yet again that a good countertenor certainly is capable of giving voice to the emotions of the opera’s music and text. (In this, he was preceded by Paul Esswood, in a superlative L’incoronazione directed by Ponnelle: Deutsche Grammophon 000824309.) Tamara Mumford displays the greatest vocal energy and focus of the evening, with a brightly ringing tone and seemingly effortless production. Coote creates a thoroughly believable monster of selfishness for an emperor, with dramatic insight matched by a disciplined tone. De Niese is occasionally difficult to hear, and relies too obviously on her ability to bow the phrase louder or softer, but otherwise sings and acts credibly. Paolo Battaglia’s Seneca is more of a basso profundo than a basso , to judge by his ease with the lowest notes of his role, with good command of cantabile—and acts competently, too. Both Visse and Ablinger-Sperrhacke perform their travesti roles as the nurses superbly, but the latter strains for his higher notes, and displays a habit of slowly slurring up for comic effect. It works the first couple of times, but quickly becomes an annoyance. Haïm and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment show once again their flexible phrasing, and strong rhythmic sense.

The camerawork is good, with plenty of onstage angles and a willingness to tailor the distance of each shot to the needs of the action. Sound options include LPCM stereo, and DTS 5.0 surround. The picture format is 16.9 anamorphic widescreen. To its credit, Decca fills out the discs with a series of interviews featuring the cast and Glyndebourne administrators on a range of relevant subjects, such as the various Glyndebourne L’incoronazione revivals over time. Some of this is of less value, as you might expect, but the general level is higher than the average one finds in such semi-documentary “the making of an opera” footage.

I’m still not convinced that Carsen’s vision of L’incoronazione works, though I admit, it’s cleverly done. But it’s a solid production, with good values all around, and worth the purchase as a distinctive alternative.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

L'Incoronazione di Poppea by Claudio Monteverdi
Performer:  Marie Arnet (Soprano), Galya Yoncheva (Soprano), Alice Coote (Mezzo Soprano),
Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke (Tenor), Danielle De Niese (Soprano), Tamara Mumford (Mezzo Soprano),
Paolo Battaglia (Bass), Iestyn Davies (Countertenor), Dominique Visse (Countertenor),
Julieta L. Mihai (Violin), Amy Freston (Soprano)
Conductor:  Emmanuelle Haďm
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1642; Venice, Italy 

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