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Mike Ashman
Gramophone, September 2012

MONTEVERDI, C.: Incoronazione di Poppea (L') (Liceu, 2009) (NTSC) OA1073D
MONTEVERDI, C.: Incoronazione di Poppea (L') (Liceu, 2009) (Blu-ray, HD) OABD7105D

…the David Alden/Paul Steinberg/Buki Schiff Poppea is seen here in a punchy 2009 performance of distinctively dark musical colouring from Barcelona. The staging remains a masterclass in simplicity and style, comprehensively embracing the diverse moods (or humours) that make up the work. While there is no lack of spatial grandeur when needed, Steinberg’s sets…are all direct agents of the drama. And Schiff’s costumes use 20th-century movie star and fashion references (see especially Ruth Rosique’s Drusilla) to illuminate character rather than provide irrelevant modern parallels.

Nothing is overly camped up—even Dominique Visse in loud, bra-flashing drag as Ottavia’s Nurse—and the Valletto/ Damigella duet ends wittily…

The whole is acutely paced and supported by Harry Bicket’s orchestra, their performance a reminder of how much progress has been made in the realisation of early Venetian opera in the last half-century. The hand-picked European cast is in fine fettle, Connolly’s Nero outstanding; picture and sound appear to serve the production. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Mark Mandel
Opera News, September 2012

MONTEVERDI, C.: Incoronazione di Poppea (L') (Liceu, 2009) (NTSC) OA1073D
MONTEVERDI, C.: Incoronazione di Poppea (L') (Liceu, 2009) (Blu-ray, HD) OABD7105D

Miah Persson’s Poppea sounds and looks smashing in everything from a simple spring dress to glitzy Hollywood attire to snaky Medusa locks. Vocally and emotionally, Maite Beaumont’s Ottavia resonates deeply, and her farewell is the single best thing here. Franz-Josef Selig is the strongest Seneca on video since the primes of Matti Salminen and Robert Lloyd. 

Enjoy the bounty! © 2012 Opera News Read complete review

Robert Levine, August 2012

I could not take my eyes or ears off this production and I suspect you will not be able to either. David Alden directs on sets by Paul Steinberg with costumes by Buki Shiff, and all are of one mind: there is comedy underneath cruelty and vice-versa…

Sarah Connolly is the go-to mezzo for Nerone these days (I prefer a countertenor). She’s a tall woman with big features and a grand voice filled with colors. As played here, Nerone is capable of wild, unexpected violent flare-ups; otherwise he is mostly petulant and Poppea has to work hard to seduce him (she actually climbs the wall at one point). There is no undercurrent (or other current) of Nerone’s homosexuality in this production. Miah Persson is a perfect Poppea—gorgeous, tonally alluring, in touch with Baroque decoration (as is the entire cast), and she and Connolly blend beautifully.

Franz-Josef Selig’s Seneca is not seen as a figure of ridicule; he is the picture of dignity, even if his students look like silly school boys. Selig’s voice has the gravitas and beauty for the role.

Harry Bicket leads the Liceu’s “Baroque Orchestra”…with impeccable style, changing moods on a dime (as does the opera)…there’s never a discordant or dull note here. The picture and sound are superb… © 2012 Read complete review

Charles T. Downey
Ionarts, July 2012

One can count on David Alden to create striking, sometimes indelible images in his opera productions. Alden’s notorious production of Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea…was recorded in the 2009 revival at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona.

Alden gives us one of those indelible images right at the first scene of the prologue…

The cast certainly ranks among the uniformly best of any recording, beginning at the top with the two women in the leads. Miah Persson…is a gorgeous, seductive Poppea…The voice is extremely clear and beautiful…Sarah Connolly is just excellent as a sort of vampiric Nerone, her interpolated high-flying embellishments all the justification one needs for casting the part as a trouser role…

The rest of the cast is equally fine, either musically or dramatically or both, down to the bit parts. Maite Beaumont is a matronly, even shrewish Ottavia, with a lovely, plaintive, sometimes caustic wail in her voice and plenty of Italian hand-shaking.

Harry Bicket leads a suave and varied performance in the pit…with the Liceu Theater’s Baroque orchestra. He uses some recorders as well as strings in his orchestra, plus great variety in the continuo group… © 2012 Ionarts Read complete review

Henson Keys
Parterre Box, June 2012

Monteverdi’s melodious and varied music…culminates in its final act with Ottavia’s magnificently poignant Farewell to Rome and the final Nero-Poppea duet “Pur ti miro”, one of the most beautiful love duets ever written.

David Alden’s strikingly modernist and visually stunning production from the Gran Teatre del Liceu of Barcelona is “regietheatre” at its best—there is strong and consistent point of view in the design and stage direction which illuminates the moral and psychological complexity of the characters and serves the music at the same time. I was particularly struck by Pat Collins’ lighting, bathing the stage in primary colors reflective of the emotional tone of each scene. There is also a wonderful use of light and shadow, almost a film noir quality.

But what makes this production truly shine is the glorious singing in most of the major roles. Mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly triumphs as Nerone, sumptuous of tone…Connolly is capable both of ravishing, sensual vocal moments as well as the requisite bite for Nerone’s willful fury.

Beautiful Miah Persson is ideal as Poppea, singing with beauty, sensuality, and elegance. These two voices blend to perfection; every duet, especially the final love duet, is a lesson in glorious pairing. One can barely tell where one beautiful voice ends and the other begins.

The philosopher Seneca is sung with dark beauty by bass Franz-Josef Selig…He serves here as the voice of reason, and even accepts death with equanimity.

Maite Beaumont is a real discovery for me as Ottavia. She has a plummy, rich sound and a charismatic presence in the role of the rejected Empress. There is an evenness of tone in everything she sings, and she is capable of much emotional nuance. Her Farewell to Rome is a model of expressive, stylish singing.

Special mention must be made for counter tenor Dominique Visse, who throws himself fully into the drag roles of Arnalta and Ottavia’s nurse. The man has exquisite comic timing, faultless phrasing, and buys into Alden’s ideas completely. His every appearance is a delight, yet he is not afraid to bring a razor’s edge to some of the dark and biting comedy here. I also much enjoyed Ruth Rosique’s plaintive Drusilla…

Well-known baroque conductor Harry Bicket manages to bring real dignity as well as many mood changes smoothly and with verve and grace as he leads this rich score. The Baroque Orchestra of the Gran Teater del Liceu plays charmingly, with much attention to detail and navigating the emotional changes in the music very well indeed.

Alden’s visions successfully highlight the emotional, moral, and intellectual questions asked by this great opera and manage to entertain in the process. The production is almost perfectly cast, splendidly sung, and unflaggingly fascinating. © 2012 Parterre Box Read complete review

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