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Monteverdi: Complete Operas / Sergio Vartolo

Monteverdi / Vartolo
Release Date: 02/09/2010 
Label:  Brilliant Classics   Catalog #: 93905   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Claudio MonteverdiUnspecified
Performer:  Jean-Pierre CanihacNicola RenieroRossella PozzerJulien Lucchi,   ... 
Conductor:  Sergio Vartolo
Number of Discs: 10 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 4 Hours 19 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MONTEVERDI L’Orfeo. Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria. L’Incoronazione di Poppea Sergio Vartolo, cond BRILLIANT 93905 (9 discs + CD-ROM: 627:51)

Sergio Vartolo’s three productions of the Monteverdi operas at Pigna, Corsica, were recorded for Brilliant. Poppea was made in 2004 and never reviewed here, although I eventually received a copy. Ulisse was made in 2005 ( Read more style="font-style:italic">Fanfare 30:6) and L’Orfeo in 2006 (31:1). Each production was a carefully studied solution to the problems inherent in the surviving sources, especially of the two late operas. The 72-page booklet that came with Poppea , the discs sleeved in a simple box, furnished a 13-page essay tightly packed with Vartolo’s solutions to the problem. Ulisse , similarly packaged, had a 120-page booklet with a 41-page essay. L’Orfeo came in a digipack with a 64-page booklet containing a 31-page essay. All three booklets legibly printed the text and translation. Now we have a box containing the same nine discs and a CD-ROM containing all the print materials. A 16-page booklet furnishes the most basic information, performers and detailed contents by act and scene. The original issues were remarkably inexpensive, but the new box lists at a couple of dollars above the three sets, which remain available.

All three operas have been recorded repeatedly from one of two approaches. One expands the available sources to fill out a production in a modern theater, adding instrumental passages, expanding the number of instruments, and in general making the opera work as an audience might expect (or so they say). The other approach, one that includes Vartolo (though not in his earlier Naxos recording of L’Orfeo ), adds nothing to the original sources and employs a minmum number of singers and players.

Poppea deserved attention for its most unusual feature, the role of Nerone. Vartolo is firmly set against “false” voices, hence his abhorrence of using falsettists or countertenors in roles written for castrati, even though he sang such roles himself “for a long time.” In act II Nerone’s duet with Lucano requires a tenor singing in thirds, not a high voice singing in 10ths. But in act III Nerone’s duets with Poppea require a high voice. Vartolo thus explains with great conviction his casting of a soprano Nerone in acts I and III and a tenor Nerone in act II. He admits that “a staged performance would almost certainly require a different approach.” Some may judge, a priori, that this solution vitiates the performance, but, reading Vartolo’s essay and listening to his performance, this is clearly a recording to reckon with.

Vartolo’s ensemble casts, engaged for three seasons of residence on Corsica, are uniformly satisfactory. Eight singers are featured in at least two works and three of them are in all three. William Matteuzzi is Ottone and Orfeo; Loris Bertolo is Ulisse and Plutone; Gianpaolo Fagotto is the act II Nerone, Giove, and Apollo; Raffaele Costantini is Seneca and Nettuno. The notes emphasize the national origin of the mostly Italian singers, asserting that this is a real advantage for these performances. Vartolo has thought through his approach to the three operas and has molded the performances to fit. He is not the only conductor to have tackled this thorny problem. René Jacobs has recorded all three operas with an approach as far removed from Vartolo’s as could be imagined. You take your choice.

The CD-ROM is simple to use. There are six access points, one for each libretto and each essay. While the original booklets are about as legible as the average CD insert, the screen image can be enlarged to any desirable size. Not that I like reading a monitor, this is a real advantage in legibility. No one is going to produce definitive versions of the Monteverdi operas, but Vartolo has given it a good try. Buy the box or buy the single operas, depending on your view of the CD-ROM as a replacement for the printed booklets, but hear what Vartolo has achieved.

FANFARE: J. F. Weber
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Works on This Recording

L'Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi
Performer:  Jean-Pierre Canihac (Cornet), Nicola Reniero (Harpsichord), Nicola Reniero (Organ),
Rossella Pozzer (Recorder), Rossella Pozzer (Fife), Julien Lucchi (Trombone),
Eric Lechartier (Trombone), Marcello Scandelli (Cello), Davide Monti (Violin),
Riccardo Coelati (Violone), Luigi Lupo (Recorder), Luigi Lupo (Fife),
Sergio Vartolo (Spinet), Jean Imbert (Clarino), Aurélie Serre (Trombone),
Jean Imbert (Cornet), Valentin Perez (Trombone), Jean Michel Giannelli (Percussion),
Riccardo Manuel Vartolo (Violin), Frédéric Lucchi (Trombone), Gianni Maraldi (Viol),
Sylva Pozzer (Voice), Pietro Prosser (Chitarrone), Pietro Prosser (Archlute),
Loredana Gintoli (Harp), Barbara Ostini (Viol)
Conductor:  Sergio Vartolo
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1607; Mantua, Italy 
Date of Recording: 10/2006 
Venue:  Pigna Auditorium, Corsica, France 
Length: 9 Minutes 7 Secs. 
Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria by Claudio Monteverdi
Performer:  Davide Monti (Violin), Riccardo Coelati (Violone), Sergio Vartolo (Spinet),
Lluís Coll i Trulls (Cornet), Luigi Lupo (Fife), Sergio Vartolo (Harpsichord),
Luca Moretti (Viol), Riccardo Manuel Vartolo (Violin), Pietro Prosser (Archlute),
Pietro Prosser (Cetra), Pietro Prosser (Guitar), Pietro Prosser (Chitarrone),
Barbara Ostini (Viol), Luigi Lupo (Recorder), Walter Testolin (Voice),
Angela Bucci (Voice), Nicola Reniero (Harpsichord), Giordano Antonelli (Cello),
Lia Serafini (Voice), Rossella Pozzer (Fife), Rossella Pozzer (Recorder)
Conductor:  Sergio Vartolo
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1640; Venice, Italy 
Date of Recording: 11/2005 
Venue:  Pigna Auditorium, Corsica, France 
Length: 205 Minutes 58 Secs. 
L'incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308 by Claudio Monteverdi
Performer:  Lia Serafini (Voice), Rossella Pozzer (Flute), Marie Garnier Marzullo (Cornet),
Marcello Scandelli (Cello), Davide Monti (Violin), Luigi Lupo (Flute),
Angela Bucci (Voice), Jean-Pierre Canihac (Cornet), Barbara Ostini (Viola),
Luca Giardini (Violin), Pietro Prosser (Theorbo), Pietro Prosser (Cetra),
Pietro Prosser (Chitarrone), Ilaria Zanetti (Voice), Sergio Vartolo (Spinet),
Sergio Vartolo (Harpsichord)
Conductor:  Sergio Vartolo
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1642; Italy 
Date of Recording: 12/2004 
Venue:  Auditorium of Pigna, Corsica 
Length: 10 Minutes 28 Secs. 

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