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Jeffrey Kauffman, November 2012

Monteverdi: Coronation of Poppea was a really interesting release…which offered some striking visuals dressing up a somewhat problematic conceit that made this mythic piece supposedly more contemporary and, one supposes, more accessible to modern day audiences. This 2009 Liceu Opera Barcelona production…casts the ancient piece once again in a seemingly more contemporary milieu, but this time, director David Alden seems to capture more of the timeless element that was perhaps slightly lacking in the previously released Norwegian Blu-ray.

The production is fairly minimal but is anchored by commanding performances by Miah Persson as Poppea and Sarah Connolly as Nero. Harry Bicket conducts with appealing reserve, but with just the right amount of passion to highlight this opera which is all about the ferocity of obsessive love.

L’Incoronazione Di Poppea features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mix as well as an LPCM 2.0 stereo fold down. Both of these tracks sound magnificent, ably supporting Persson’s lovely lyricism and Connolly’s more brusquely athletic approach. The continuo here is especially well reproduced, with a beautiful crispness but also with a charming fluidity. Fidelity is top notch and dynamic range is considerable…

Minimally staged, but dramatically sung and suffused with some nicely done comedic bits, this manages to evoke both its ancient subject, its proper historical context, as well as a bracing modern edge. Recommended. © 2012 Read complete review

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

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

Matthew Richard Martinez, August 2012

The stage direction, particularly for Arnalta, is extensively choreographed.

…the first-rate musical performance comes across unscathed. This is pretty remarkable considering the complicated stage direction and imposing costumes. For many, the draw will be Miah Persson’s Poppea. Her seductive voice has an admirable balance of glistening shimmer and piercing steel, making her a highly potent Poppea. Add on top of that her stunning good looks, her subtle but masterful acting, and her superb musicianship, and she is the whole package. She is one of the most appealing aspects of this release. Her Nero, Sarah Connolly, is dramatically and vocally imposing. She is at her best when bringing out the impetuosity of the young emperor and has the vocal heft and range to convincingly convey his deadly ire. Veteran bass Franz-Josef Selig is a stoic and sympathetic Seneca with a luxuriously warm sound…Visse does an admirable job of juggling the dramatic and vocal challenges of the characters in this production. Harry Bicket’s period orchestra is superb. The conductor brings a flowing and buoyant lilt to the score to keep the action moving and does a fine job of navigating the transitions for arias to ensembles with sharp contrasts in tempi. It is fascinating to hear his account which illuminates how Monteverdi paved the way for future baroque opera more rigidly divided between recitative, aria and ensemble.

The video and audio quality are outstanding as expected. This production makes use of strong downstage lighting which comes across very well on Blu-ray to give every detail of face and costume. The soundstage is bright and clear with a nice bi-level quality to the surround sound which places a clear distinction between pit and stage.

…the musical quality alone makes this a desirable release. © 2012 Read complete review

Lawrence Devoe, May 2012

Casting of the major roles is quite strong and visually appealing. Soprano Miah Persson is a luminous Poppea, and mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly portrays the lascivious Emperor Nerone. Countertenors Dominique Visse (in the drag roles of Arnalta and Ottavia’s nurse) and Jordi Domenech (Ottone), mezzosoprano Maite Beaumont (Ottavia), and soprano Ruth Rosique (Drusilla) turn in solid performances. It was a real vocal and dramatic treat to see bass-baritone Franz Josef-Selig as Seneca.

The videography is just plain stunning and while there are frequent close-ups, the makeup artists have done a masterful job in making all of the characters appear as natural as intended…Colors are brilliant…The costumes, a bit of this and a bit of that, are not distracting, and Ms Persson’s outfits are both sexy and well-tailored. I was literally astounded by the transformation of Ms. Connolly into a rather attractive young man, fitting the role perfectly.

This is a recording that makes one want to cheer for both the clarity of the players and the ambience of this great opera house. The orchestra is probably as close to what Monteverdi could have requested and maestro Harry Bicket gets every last note out of the pit to the audience.

In many respects, particularly from vocal and visual presentation, this is one of the most satisfying realizations of Monteverdi’s masterpiece that I have yet seen. For lovers of baroque opera as well as those less familiar with this genre, I cannot think of a much better way to satisfy both audiences than with this Blu-ray of L’Incoronazione di Poppea. © 2012 Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2012

The first known opera to use a factual historical event, L’Incoronazione di Poppea, was completed by Claudio Monteverdi and premiered in 1643, the year of his death. It was a complex plot of various intrigues and loves, and while it was intended to reflect the reality of life in Rome, it was surrounded by the mythology characters who demonstrate that their influences shape our lives. Into this very serious story of a love triangle between Emperor Nero, Poppea and Otho, Monteverdi did introduce lighter moments and a degree of immorality, and it is on these latter aspects that the producer, David Alden, builds his new 2009 production for the Liceu Theatre in Barcelona…the Liceu has…produced an exceptionally fine period orchestra under the expert eye of conductor, Harry Bicket, whose knowledge of authentic Monteverdi style ensures we have something approaching the sounds the composer envisaged. The style of singing in Monteverdi’s day can only be guessed at, but here again the Liceu have assembled a fine cast, many specialising in this operatic era. Sarah Connolly, whose make-up visually changes her into a male character, sings superbly as Nero, while the rather voluptuous appearance and silvery soprano of Miah Persson makes her an ideal Poppea. Jordi Domenech’s countertenor as Ottone will be a matter of personal taste, but I am much taken by Ruth Rosique’s passionate Drusilla who cannot wait to get her clothes off for him. Franz-Josef Selig has that doomed appearance of Seneca, while other members of a long cast join in acting silly with uncommon enjoyment…the applause at the end of this performance in February, 2009, shows an audience who had greatly enjoyed the long evening. Visually and in surround sound this Blu-ray video is very fine, and there is a standard DVD also available on OA1073D © 2012 David’s Review Corner

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