Vartolo: Monteverdi - L'incoronazione di Poppea (4 CD, FLAC)
Vartolo: Monteverdi - L'incoronazione di Poppea (4 CD, FLAC)

Performer: Alessandra Vavasori, Angela Bucci, Gabriella Martellacci, Gian Paolo Fagotto, Ilaria Zanetti, et al.
Conductor: Sergio Vartolo
Composer: Claudio Monteverdi
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 4 CD box set
Format: FLAC (tracks)
Label: Brilliant Classics
Size: 1.26 GB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

Disc: 1
01. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Prologue
02. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 1. Scene 01
03. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 1. Scene 02
04. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 1. Scene 03
05. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 1. Scene 04
06. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 1. Scene 05

Disc: 2
01. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 1. Scene 06
02. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 1. Scene 07
03. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 1. Scene 08
04. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 1. Scene 09
05. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 1. Scene 10
06. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 1. Scene 11
07. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 1. Scene 12
08. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 1. Scene 13

Disc: 3
01. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 2. Prologue
02. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 2. Scene 01
03. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 2. Scene 02
04. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 2. Scene 03
05. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 2. Scene 04
06. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 2. Scene 05
07. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 2. Scene 07
08. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 2. Scene 08
09. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 2. Scene 09
10. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 2. Scene 10

Also available:  Sacred Music from the Middle Ages to the 20th Century (30 CD box set, FLAC)

Disc: 4
01. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 2. Scene 11
02. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 2. Scene 12
03. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 2. Scene 13
04. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 3. Scene 01
05. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 3. Scene 02
06. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 3. Scene 03
07. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 3. Scene 04
08. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 3. Scene 05
09. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 3. Scene 06
10. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 3. Scene 07
11. L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera in 3 acts, SV 308: Act 3. Scene 08

This exquisitely beautiful version of Claudio Monteverdi’s “The Coronation of Poppea” (1643) is for purists. A fair bit longer than other versions of the opera I have, it emphasizes the beauty of the declamatory monody which makes up most of “Poppea”, with the sung and instrumental portions appearing as breaks within the action, rather than the opposite. I generally found the reviews here on Amazon don’t do justice to just how excellent and ravishing this recording is. It comes from an obscure source, a 2004 performance in Corsica, so we can thank a perceptive A&R person at Brilliant for hearing its quality and reissuing it. The recording seems to have been done on a tight budget, with many of the singers serving in multiple roles; despite these constraints, the sound engineering is audiophile quality. It’s certainly one of the best sounding opera releases in my collection.

The cast is on the whole very good. Patrizia Biccire does well as the conniving Poppea. I very enjoyed Raffaele Costantini’s work as Seneca, one of the most rewarding of the parts, and Gabriella Martellaci gives us a successful Arnalta. The weakest solo singing I thought came from Liliani Rugiero, who does the “pants” role of Nero in Acts I and III (surprisingly, a different singer does Nero in Act II). Apparently, castrati singers handled the part of Nero in the 17th century, so the common adaptation for modern stagings is to give this part to sopranos. But Rugiero isn’t bad, so it’s a pretty high floor for a cast recording.

But the real stand-out for me was countertenor William Mateuzzi in the role of Ottone, a surprise for me as I’m not usually taken with this vocal type. He truly shines in several luxuriant numbers towards the end of Act II, including the solo raging number in Scene 7 and the foiled assassination attempt on Poppea presented in Scene 13, foiled because the god of love appears to defend the immoral but amorous target. The 2nd Act is for me the heart and the best part of “Poppea”. Besides the latter sequence, concluding with the assassination attempt, the suicide of Seneca, symbolizing the death of Roman republican virtues and the growing decadence of the empire, is very attractive music. The performance here is excellent and Costantini is both expressive and sonically rich, with a wonderful bass voice. The austere tragedy of the suicide gives way to a contrasting supporting scene, in which a page and lady-in-waiting from the Roman court engage in a duet celebrating their very physical love. It’s a measure of the quality of this performance that even such a scene, with two supporting singers, is highly attractive and executed with such panache.

For general listeners, I would generally recommend the “Poppea” released by Virgin with Arleen Auger in the title role. It is a more colorful and condensed rendition. But this version, led by Sergio Vartolo from the harpsichord, will greatly please early music or baroque opera fans. The release contains the text in both Italian and English along with informative notes. It sounds great, the singing ranges from the good to the exceptional, and the art of Monteverdi is presented in a pure, unapologetic way. Strongly recommended.

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