Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Monteverdi - Il ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria - Jacobs, Concerto Vocale







Essential recording. Monteverdi's late operas The Return of Ulysses and The Coronation of Poppea are surprisingly unlike the more familiar L'Orfeo. The last, written for the Mantuan court, is really more lavish pageant (with appropriately lavish orchestra) than serious drama; Ulysses and Poppea, written for commercial Venetian opera houses, have librettos of real literary and dramatic merit--and (according to surviving manuscripts) no instruments other than bassoClaudio Monteverdi in 1640 by Bernardo Strozzi continuo. (The typical Venetian "pit orchestra" of the 1640s had only bass viol and a few harpsichords and lutes, with perhaps two violins playing semi-improvised parts.) Most modern conductors reviving Ulysses and Poppea have felt the need to add instrumental parts--to make the operas, in effect, more like L'Orfeo. René Jacobs is no exception: not only has he imported instrumental interludes from other Monteverdi works, he has composed extensive parts for cornetts, violins, and recorders to accompany the singers and assigned one tenor role (Telemachus) to a soprano. Jacobs's booklet notes are admirably frank about his having done all this basically because he likes it that way. This sort of thing would not be tolerated with, say, Otello or Parsifal, but never mind--the results may not be pure(-ist) Monteverdi, but they're effective, even exciting, on their own terms. In the title role, tenor Christoph Prégardien is believably heroic, yet totally comfortable with Monteverdian style; his Penelope, contralto Bernarda Fink, has (as do several other members of the cast) a legato vocal technique and a vibrato that would sound more at home in Mozart--yet she never overwhelms the music and acts her part with real commitment. Other standouts in the cast include Guy de Mey as the gluttonous Irus and, as the goddess Minerva, "La Divina" Lorraine Hunt. This recording grew directly out of a staged production--and it shows: whatever its conceptual flaws, this is the most dramatically compelling recording of a Monteverdi opera I've ever encountered. --Matthew Westphal


flac, scans

1 comment:

  1. One of my favorite Monteverdi operas. I have this one in my collection. Great pick Otto. :-)


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