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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Singing at its Best. Great Presentation., 16 July 2013
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This review is from: Monteverdi: Operas [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
This box set of Monteverdi's three operas is a real gem of a buy. I've enjoyed every minute of watching all of them. Since Monteverdi was around 66 when he died in 1643, it means that these works belong to the first half of the Seventeenth Century, and it's interesting to note that, although these operas are based on Greek myths and legends, the costumes adopted are those of Monteverdi's day and age. This means that adopting costumes relevant to the day and age in which a work is being performed is not a new idea.

The traditional; kind of staging adopted appeals to me greatly, not least because it is designed in such a way so as to inspire the imagination. My contention is that over-staging can so easily cause the viewer's imagination to malfunction. Monteverdi was one of the first operatic composers to realise the art of capturing the imagination of the viewer-listener through appropriately styled music and singing related to every nuance of an established tale. There are quite a number of operas, even by some of the best known composers, that fail in this respect; but Monteverdi never does. Like everything else operatic art evolves and cannot stand still. However, it sometimes evolves along a backwater where it's prone to die out, whereas Monteverdi's operas have remained in the mainstream without needing to evolve very much except that anything can always be adapted and improved in variety of ways.

The Coronation of Poppea (L'Incoronazione di Poppea) is in the way of being a cautionary tale about how easy it is for women to become the playthings of men, especially powerful men, and also about how easy it is for such men to cast aside their wives when they tire of them. Trudeliese Schmidt with her deep, rich voice, is ideal for singing the role of the discarded Empress Ottavia. It's also intriguing how Fortune, Virtue and Love (Cupid) are personified, enabling the viewer-listener to form a clear cut vision of how these attributes and emotions actually function in the interplay between human beings. In the end, as Nero and Poppea are left alone together, we are left with the distinct impression that no one really cares anything about them. 'You both got what you wanted; so what?' Only a truly great opera could achieve this message in such an impressive and thought-provoking fashion.

Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria is masterpiece, beautifully presented and sung. Trudeliese Schmidt is the quintessential Penelope with her beautiful contralto voice ideal for expressing the strain she is under from the long wait for her husband Ulysses' return. Werner Hollweg is equally good as Ulysses and I would say the whole cast give a virtually faultless performance. My one gripe is that the live dog that takes part in the performance should have been acknowledged in the cast list. If he/she is good enough to be lugged around on stage, he/she is good enough to be worthy of mention. All told, this is an inspiring production and I loved every minute of it.

L'Orfeo is equally well performed and presented with the true poignancy of the Greek legend being brought out at every turn. It's a sorry tale illustrating how extremely difficult it is not to avoid doing the very thing one is told never to do. It's what I call 'a mouse under the cheese cover' tale. A rich man once befriended a poor man and woman telling them they could dine from his table once a day so long as they never looked under the cover of a dish placed in the centre of the table. Their curiosity eventually overcoming them, they lifted the lid and a mouse jumped out.

This is a great trio and I'm so pleased I bought it so as I can now enjoy all three works over and over again.
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