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 p... more »ower, 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 her coronation. 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« less
"I've been a fan of this opera for more than 40 years and even put together a performance of the Prologue while a graduate student. I've seen a number of live performances, and own many CDs and DVDs of performances dating back to the 1960s.
This version is stunning in terms of the singing and the production. First, they got all the voice parts as Monteverdi had intended: Nero is a mezzo, Ottone is a countertenor, and the two nurses are travesty roles (here, sung and acted by men). Emmanuelle Haïm is a gem as music director. I've been a fan of hers since her recording of the Handel "Delirio" Cantata with Natalie Dessay.
The performance of the singers and the orchestra is of the highest quality, the scholarship is first-rate, and both the staging and music direction are imaginative and fun! Here's an opera where evil triumphs over good, and the audience leaves smiling. Highly recommended."
Monteverdi's final opera in a cinematic presentation
Mike Birman | Brooklyn, New York USA | 07/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Claudio Monteverdi was in the final year of his life when this brilliant amoral operatic masterpiece was first presented in the city of intrigue, Venice. With what may have been intended as ironic commentary on the state of Europe's ruling aristocracy in 1643, Monteverdi concentrates his genius on the opera's two most loathsome creations - Poppea and Nerone - as the severely flawed central characters. Although we are initially presented with a contest between the mythological characters Virtue, Fortune and Love, this is merely the opera's 'MacGuffin': Hitchcock's phrase for a malleable plot device that facilitates the telling of a story. L'incoronazione di Poppea, despite its surface obeisance to the world of myth, is an opera with a human heartbeat. The corrupt humans who infest this Baroque equivalent of a Hollywood action film are essentially evil, selfish and disturbingly goal-oriented. But what rings most modern in this production is that we identify completely with its odious central characters. We applaud their most depraved actions and revel in their final success. It is like the WWF with recitatives.
Glyndebourne's modern dress production stars the beautiful and seductive Danielle de Niese as the beautiful and seductive Poppea. Following her stunning debut in Glyndebourne's production of Handel's Julius Caesar, those of us who predicted stardom for the young singer were hardly crawling out on a limb. It has come to pass, of course, and the very qualities that have raised her high in the operatic firmament are all present on this two DVD set. Her melliform voice is lyrical and resonant, with a marvelous ability to convey emotion without attracting attention to her underlaying technique. Her engrossing stage presence acts as an adjunct to her singing, conveying a three dimensional characterization in her role that heightens the opera's ironic drama. As her actions become increasingly cynical and as her life is threatened by those who plot against her, we as a modern audience used to indeterminate morality identify with her plight and applaud her ultimate success. Whether a Baroque audience responded in the same way is an open question.
Alice Coote singing Nerone is suitably unpleasant. We don't identify with her but we admire her ability to remain so untroubled by evil. Athough the interaction between Nerone and Poppea didn't strike me as particularly erotically charged, they make excellent plotters and the drama is well served. Coote's singing is good though she occasionally struck me as a little bland. The rest of the cast is good. Especially strong is Dominique Visse as Nutrice. Emmanuelle Haim is a superb Baroque conductor and she does an especially good job conducting the splendid Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, still my favorite name for a band.
The modern production and set design is rather spare. The first act is confined to crimson colored bedchambers and the rest of the opera occurs mostly on a bare stage with few props. It is Monteverdi's brilliant music that carries the day and here it is well sung and acted. The moral ambiguity of this opera makes it relevant, the composer's artistry makes it enjoyable. With Danielle de Niese's undeniable star power as an added incentive this production of Monteverdi's somewhat problematic opera (much of the last scene was probably completed by Francisco Cavilli) is worth adding to your Baroque opera collection. The sound both in stereo PCM and DTS 5.1 is superb as is the high definition video. The opera is spread across two DVDs and it should have fit on one but this practice is now fairly common as recording companies attempt to recoup (or maximize) their investment (or profits).
I must be missing something.
wolfgang731 | 12/14/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I don't enjoy being the first voice of dissention with regards to this product; however, I have to state that as much as I loved the conducting and singing, as well as all the technical aspects of the DVD, I really disliked the production. For me, it simply did not work. The modernization of a work that is so entrenched in so specific a time period just came across as positively jarring. I couldn't reconcile the text with the visual. Costumes would suggest 1940's anywhere, a far cry from 1st century Rome. Nerone might as well have been a captain of industry or politician rather than an emperor. Poppea, a screen siren clad in a slinky negligee forever seducing him. Seneca, wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase, comes across like Nerone's attorney or all around lackey. The color red plays a very prominent role in Act One and though I understand the symbolism behind it, it grew rather tiresome after a while as did Amore's constant skulking about. I don't question anyone's commitment because it's evident throughout and as far as singing and acting are concerned, I can't find fault with this production and the same is true of Emmanuelle Haim's conducting. Danielle de Niese's Poppea is a sight to behold. You can definitely understand why Nerone would utter "I care nothing for the Senate and the People" for the opportunity to have her as his queen. Make no mistake, de Niese's is more than mere window dressing. Her Poppea is a beautifully nuanced characterization; lusty, ambitious, conniving but ultimately doomed. We know from the moment we first see her that she will stop at nothing to get what she wants, even if it means putting herself in grave danger. Alice Coote's Nerone is also marvelously sung even if he does come across, at times, like a petulant brat determined to have his way, regardless of what it may mean to anyone else. The rest of the cast is on par with the stars, especially Paolo Battaglia's Seneca and Tamara Mumford's Ottavia. For a textbook example of how to "modernize" a work without disfiguring it, I highly recommend William Christie's "Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria" from the Aix-en-Provence Festival. Flawless in every respect. To summarize: Production: 1 star - Musicianship - 5 stars - Audio/Video quality - 5 stars."
A "Modern" Masterpiece
Dr. John W. Rippon | Florida | 11/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was fully prepared not to like this recording of Poppea. For years I have enjoyed this masterwork in the radiant production of Nikolaus Harnoncourt done with Jean-Pierre Ponelle. I feared that this "modern" production would be an empty and horrendous mess as the director-driven "eurotrash" productions of most Handel operas and all Rameau works so far done as "modern". What a great surprise is this Glyndebourne gem directed by Robert Carsen and conducted by Emmanuelle Haim! First the voicing is as written by Monteverdi with a Mezzo for the Nero to compliment the Soprano of Poppea. The brilliance of the final "pur ti Miro" duet attests to that validity. I admit understanding Alice Coote's Nero took several listenings before I appreciated her artistry here. Rather than a gruff, supermacho tyrant, this portrayal is of a petulant wily weasel, a totally corrupt being that picts his teeth with his fingers after having snacked on Ottavia's chicken and in one of the most scarrilous scenes ever seen on stage, has Lucano drowned after a homoerotic encounter while the two of them sing of Poppea's love. This is the last will and testament of a consummate composer and artist that had for decades provided lofty masterpieces as the 1610 Vespers and numerous choral and operatic works all attesting to man's highest values and morals. Yet this work is arguably even greater as it reflects the human race as it is rather than what it might be. Perhaps Poppea realizes this as she, in the end, wraps herself in the royal robes(or shroud) and fear is on her face."
Katherine E. Webb | New York/ Montreal | 09/30/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Everything about this DVD is perfect! The sound quality, the picture and most importantly the sound. This is a heartbreaking opera but one that is an absolute must for people who appreciate all fine things in life."