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By Act 2 Octavia has become a raging fury and in colloquy with a reluctant Otho (the countertenor Michael Chance) nerves him gradually to attempt the murder of Poppaea while asleep in her garden [listen -- 'Tu che dagli avi miei' (Act 2), DVD2 chapter 7, 0:00-1:32]. He is to creep up on Poppaea disguised as far as possible in the outer raiment of Drusilla, a court lady in love with him. Otho assumes the part of murderer with dithering incompetence, and the plot is foiled in a coup de théâtre by the timely appearance of a Cupid armed with divine authority and no morals [listen -- 'Eccomi trasformato' (Act 2), DVD2 chapter 12, 3:35-4:50]. With a clemency known only to opera, Nero merely banishes Octavia and Drusilla, while allowing Otho to survive and become one of the four emperors in AD 69.

Poppaea's coronation scene at the end of Act 3. DVD screenshot © 1994 NPS, 2005 Opus Arte
Poppaea's coronation scene at the end of Act 3. DVD screenshot © 1994 NPS, 2005 Opus Arte

The nicest touch in this Amsterdam production by Pierre Audi is the flight of steps that leads diagonally from the stage into the orchestra pit. Characters come and go, therefore, among the players, and it adds to the unity of the musical conception that occasionally the neck of a lute will protrude into the bottom of the stage picture. Christophe Rousset conducts Les Talens Lyriques and his highly gifted soloists in an idiomatic performance that both delights and horrifies in its flagrant glorification of vice, crime and terrorism. It is almost a relief that the wondrous duetting to a ground of Nero and Poppaea at the end may in fact not be by Monteverdi [listen -- 'Ascendi, o mia diletta' (Act 3), DVD2 chapter 20, 9:10-10:46].

Copyright © 16 November 2005 Robert Anderson, London UK


Claudio Monteverdi: L'incoronazione di Poppea

OA 0924 D 2xDVD9 PAL 16/9 anamorphic, all regions LPCM stereo/Digital DTS Surround NEW RELEASE 219' 1994 NPS, 2005 Opus Arte

Cynthia Haymon, Poppea; Brigitte Balleys, Nerone; Ning Liang, Ottavia; Michael Chance, Ottone; Harry van der Kamp, Seneca; Heidi Grant Murphy, Drusilla; Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, Arnalta; Dominique Visse, Nutrice, Famigliare I; Claron McFadden, Valletto; Elena Fink, Fortuna; Sandrine Piau, Amore, Damigella; Wilke Te Brummelstroete, Virtù, Pallade; Nathan Berg, Mercurio, Console; Mark Tucker, Soldato I, Lucano, Tribune I, Famigliare II; Lynton Atkinson, Soldato II, Liberto, Tribune II; Romain Bischoff, Littore, Famigliare III, Console II; Les Talens Lyriques; Christophe Rousset, musical director; Pierre Audi, stage director; Michael Simon, set design; Emi Wada, costume design; Jean Kalman, lighting design

Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643): L'incoronazione di Poppea (1642, Dramma in musica in a prologue and three acts, with libretto by Giovanni Francesco Busenello)


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