Notes and Editorial Reviews
On this welcome re-release conductor René Jacobs presents us with a cut-for-performance version of this, Monteverdi's least overtly accessible opera. The recording followed on the heels of stage performances, and the result is a superbly theatrical evening: I doubt that even purists will mind the excision of close to an hour of music (which is still less than Harnoncourt cut in his first recording) or the addition of brief bits by Rossi and Caccini. Also, Jacobs has made his own performing edition, separating the opera into five acts rather than the three noted in one of the incomplete scores available, and it makes sense. He has added cornets, recorders, and trombones to a complement of strings and a continuo section of harp,
theorbo, lute, keyboards, and cello. And while Monteverdi may never have heard his opera thus performed, there's an equally good chance he might have.
Our loving couple couldn't be more superbly cast. Mezzo Bernarda Fink's Penelope is epic in her steadfastness — so epic, in fact, that she reaches near-tragic proportions and her desolation is tangible enough to be upsetting. Her voice is richly colored as well, and she's about as good in the role as we'd ever expect to hear. As Ulysses, tenor Christoph Prégardien deals with the role's lowish tessitura well (it's often sung by a baritone), and his dignity and heroism set him apart as the true wonder he is. His handling of the score's florid moments is as effective as his exclamatory passages. Both he and Fink (with Jacobs' apparent blessing), use rubato expressively and often: this is not a dry, scholarly reading.
I will argue with the use of a woman in the role of Telemacus, Ulysses' son. Despite the boy's adolescence, I don't find Christina Högman's voice (that is, range) proper, and the part is nicely, clearly written for tenor. Guy de Mey turns the gluttonous Iro from buffoon to tragic, miserable character by the opera's end, and as usual, countertenor Dominique Visse adds flavor and panache to everything he sings, here both Human Frailty (perfect, indeed) and one of Penelope's annoying suitors. Lorraine Hunt, Michael Schopper, and a gaggle of other early music specialists round out the cast in colorful, pointed characterizations. The pacing and playing of the Concerto Vocale are ideal, and the decade-old sound is still both bright and rich. This is the Ulisse to own if you want to be moved by this great work. Jacobs and Monteverdi — a great team!
— Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria by Claudio Monteverdi
Elisabeth Scholl (Soprano),
Francesca Congiu (Soprano),
Martina Bovet (Soprano),
Claron McFadden (Soprano),
Olivier Lallouette (Bass),
Michael Schopper (Bass),
Christoph Prégardien (Tenor),
Faridah Subrata (Mezzo Soprano),
Jörg Dürmüller (Tenor),
Guy de Mey (Tenor),
Dominique Visse (Countertenor),
Martyn Hill (Tenor),
Mark Tucker (Tenor),
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (Soprano),
David Thomas (Bass),
Christina Högman (Soprano),
Jocelyne Taillon (Mezzo Soprano),
Bernarda Fink (Mezzo Soprano)
Written: 1640; Venice, Italy
Date of Recording: 06/1992
Venue: Deutschlandfunk Studio, Cologne, Germany
Length: 177 Minutes 55 Secs.
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