Mstation Classical Reviews

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Mon, 29 Aug 2005

Monteverdi, Poppea

Claudio Monteverdi, L'incoronazione di Poppea
Deneder Ladse Opera
Les Talons Lyriques
recorded for TV, Amsterdam, 1994
2 DVD's, Opus Arte

In what way is Monteverdi like Wagner? Not many actually, but this prologue and three acts covers most of 2 DVD's so occasional huge length is a similiarity. In this opera Monteverdi explores the sheer nastiness of Poppea from the days of the Emperor Nero with some grit. There are no happy endings and the good do not triumph. You can, of course, completely miss all that by just taking the music as it comes. Some idea of the background to Monteverdi's thoughts can be judged from reading Jacob Burckhardt's famous book called The Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy. In it you will learn that the warring city-states that made up Italy were mostly ruled by tyranical despots who killed off each other and their subjects with glee and regularity -- nice arts, an uncertain foundation for the concept of individualism, and thoroughly nasty everything else.

I was talking to my colleague, Peter Wells, about this, and it turns out theat he may have seen a performance from this series in Amsterdam. He commented on the effective, though modern, staging and the quality of the performance. All this is evident on these DVD's. The staging is striking and the performances are excellent although, as usual, I quibble with what happens with compression and the high registers of voice. Not that's it's horrible -- it just subtracts a little. (Count K)

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