Updating Baroque opera can often be controversial and there is no question that some silly costumes is going to challenge some traditionalists. It is a highly stylized and timeless production of Monteverdi's ultimate opera. Gods and humans, comic and intensely serious characters are brought together in a sort of Baroque version of Rome. The sets consist of a rotating centre stage of white and black marble, all pillars and columns, with mirrors at each side of the stage, reflecting the sets. It is a beautiful production, neither traditional naturalistic nor avant-garde provocation. The major weakness is some silly and absurd costumes among the otherwise beautiful, timeless costumes. Lucano and Nerone's duet in praise of Poppea's charms is staged as a homosexual relationship. It is not in the libretto, but certainly fits Nerone, the most unpleasant character in an opera full of dislikeable people.
Danielle de Niese is an obvious choice to play Poppea, but her singing is not completely outstanding. She reveals a pleasing lightish soprano with a distinctive quick vibrato that can grow edgy under pressure. In style an unwelcome element creeps in, with a croony plaintiveness. Philippe Jaroussky as Nerone is convincing, sweet toned and controlled, pressed only at the very top. Anna Bonitatibus is a splendid Ottavia, very moving. Max Emanuel Cencic is on fine form as Poppea's former lover, Ottone. His poetic lament singing is superb, and his knack for portraying explosive vengefulness does not preclude intelligent musicality. The noble Seneca of Antonio Abete clearly comes across as the moral hero of the opera. Ana Quintans is a dream Drusilla. William Christie conducts Les Arts Florissants in playing that is at once historically informed and always alive.
The image quality is clear, fine for Standard Definition. A disappointment is the absence of any informative printed material.