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The suitors, hearing rumours in Act 2 that not only Telemachus was in Ithaca again but maybe Ulysses too, realise how urgently they must now press Penelope. A trio of them, Jaco Huijpen (previously Time), Christopher Gillett and Brian Asawa (no longer Human Frailty), confer on the turn of events and debate policy [listen -- 'Compagni udite' (Act 2) -- DVD2 chapter 6, 1:39-2:28]. Under duress, Penelope proposes a trial of strength involving Ulysses's bow, knowing full well only her husband could ever bend it. The producer makes the task seem a very odd one, but Ulysses, arriving on Minerva's advice in guise of a beggar, indeed works the bow to the total destruction of the suitors.

Alexander Oliver as Iro in Act 2. DVD screenshot © 1998 NPS, 2005 Opus Arte
Alexander Oliver as Iro in Act 2. DVD screenshot © 1998 NPS, 2005 Opus Arte

With the elimination of those who went a-wooing, only the shapeless lump of a parasite, Alexander Oliver as Irus, is dismally stricken. He cannot imagine how in future he will be wined or dined at all. The more he contemplates his wretched plight, the more he realises suicide is the only solution [listen -- 'O dolor, o martir' (Act 2) -- DVD2 chapter 15, 0:02-1:15]. If Irus has provided some moments of black comedy, it is now for Penelope to grasp at last that, after ten years at Troy and a further ten as Fate's helpless plaything, her husband is home. Can this stalwart beggar be he? Librettist and composer pay proper tribute to Penelope's doubts and hesitations, but the opera can finally end in a tender duet between the sorely afflicted pair [listen -- 'Ullustratevi o Cieli' (Act 2) -- DVD2 chapter 21, 1:26-2:49]. Glen Wilson's musical resources are modest but apposite and he presides over a performance of moving drama and notable accomplishment.

Copyright © 26 October 2005 Robert Anderson, London UK


Claudio Monteverdi: Il ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria

OA 0926 D 2xDVD9 PAL 16/9 Anamorphic, all regions LPCM Stereo/Digital dts surround NEW RELEASE 176' 1998 NPS, 2005 Opus Arte

Brian Asawa, L'Humana fragilità and Anfinomo; Jaco Huijpen, Tempo and Antinoo; Monica Bacelli, Fortuna and Melanto; Machteld Baumans, Amore; Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Ulisse; Graciela Araya, Penelope; Toby Spence, Telemaco; Christopher Gillett, Pisandro; Mark Tucker, Eurimaco; Alexander Oliver, Iro; Adrian Thompson, Eumete; Diana Montague, Minerva; Baroque ensemble: Glen Wilson, harpsichord; Dieter Kirsch, lute; Mike Fentross, theorbo; Lucia Swarts, cello; Johannes Leertouwer, violin; Mariëtte Holtrop, violin; George Willms, viola; David Willms, viola; Thom de Ligt, bass; Marijke Miessen, recorder; Pia Elsdörfer, recorder; Glen Wilson, musical director; Pierre Audi, stage director; Michael Simon, set design; Jorge Jara, costume design; Jean Kalman, lighting design

Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643): Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (Dramma in musica, two acts, 1641, libretto by Giacomo Badoaro (1602-1654) after Homer's Odyssey). Live recording from Het Muziektheater, Amsterdam, 1998


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