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Monteverdi: L’Incoronatione di Poppea [Norwegian National Opera] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Video Codec: MPEG-2
  • Resolution: 1080i/60
  • Audio Codec: PCM 2.0
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Run Time: 180 Mins.
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: C Major
  • Blu-ray Release Date: February 24, 2012
  • List Price: $39.99

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L' Incoronatione di Poppea (Den Norske Opera & Ballet) -

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Overall
[Rating:2/5]
The Performance
[Rating:2.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:2.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:2/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:0/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Performance

[Rating:2/5]


L’Incoronatione di Poppea (The Coronation of Poppea) was my introduction to the operas of Monteverdi and I could think of no better entrée to this composer’s extensive vocal catalog. Departing from the traditional use of mythologic subjects, this opera takes on the historical figures of Emperor Nero (the famous fiddler), his mistress Poppea, and the philosopher Seneca. The story centers on the machinations of Poppea to attain the throne of Rome at the expense of her paramour Ottone, and the reigning empress Ottavia. Eventually, everything works out to the advantage of Poppea and the ruin of her antagonists, a good example of rewarding evil and punishing good.

For those that are unfamiliar with this work, you should note that it debuted in 1642 with period-accurate costumes suggesting ancient Rome.  This 2010 Norwegian National Opera production by director by Ole Anders Tandberg is seriously updated and plays hard upon the sexual tensions of the principal characters (take a gander at the Poppea legs akimbo pose in Act I).  Traditionalists will bristle at the minimal sets but, even more so at the filmed rather than videoed monochromatic (!) Blu-ray and the 2.0 LPCM soundtrack which has a very hollow ring to it.  This works to the disadvantage of the overall production that features some excellent vocalism by the principals, soprano Birgitte Christensen (Poppea), countertenors Jacek Laszczkowski (Nero) and Tim Mead (Ottone), mezzosoprano Patricia Bardon (Ottavia), soprano Marita Solberg (Drusilla), and baritone Giovanni Battista Parodi (Seneca). Alessandro Marchi directs the NNO players with some attempt at authenticity but the “modern” musical interludes clash with the intent of the score’s original music.

Video Quality

[Rating:2.5/5]

The monochromatic palette of this film casts a definite pall over the proceedings. Red, the color of the blood that is occasionally, but copiously, spilled on the empty stage is the only color contrast to B&W. In addition, the use of film rather than HD video means that there is grain which is normally not seen in a live production and less of a life-like look. While the director may have been going for some sort of shock factor, these artifices get old quickly and make this Blu-ray a visual tough sledding experience. Soprano Christensen, unfortunately, is on the pudgy side and is done no great service by the frequent close ups of her double chin and ample bosom.

Audio Quality

[Rating:2/5]

Why, oh why, record a contemporary production (2010) only in LPCM stereo when the atmosphere would have been considerably aided by the use of a lossless surround track in DTS-HD or Dolby TrueHD?  What were the sound engineers thinking? The music and vocals are seriously undermined by a flat and boxy audio environment, falling far short of the kind of theater experience that classical Blu-ray viewers are seeking in today’s market.  I also thought that “updated” musical interludes were kitschy and would have Monteverdi rotate in his sarcophagus had he heard them.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:0/5]

Given the deliberately perverse nature of this production’s staging or lack thereof, I would have appreciated some time with its director, Ole Anders Tandberg, simply to help me understand what he was going for.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:2/5]

I have often found that older operas can be updated visually without diminishing their dramatic impact. But this Blu-ray represents more than an updating as the director and videographers go for graphic sexual effects at every opportunity, and avoid any stage atmosphere except for the hemorrhage scenes whenever they occur. This L’Incoronatione di Poppea becomes more of a bloody caricature than an honest representation of a pre-Baroque masterpiece and distracts from what is generally a well sung performance.  The use of inferior recording techniques and the monochromatic palette result in a tedious three hours’ watch from the viewing seat and will not encourage me to make return visits.  There are several DVD alternatives including a soon to be released set featuring the video-luscious Danielle de Niese and conductor William Christie. Her previous Poppea, recorded at Glyndebourne, was a stunning effort. I can only imagine how good the new one will be! I would not be surprised at all if it is issued in BD format as well. Monteverdi lovers, and I know that there are plenty of you out there, stay tuned. It can only get better than the current EuroArts Blu-ray.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B006O8K3V8[/amazon-product]

[amazon-product]B006O8K3V8[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
L' Incoronatione di Poppea (Den Norske Opera & Ballet) -

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:2/5]
The Performance
[Rating:2.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:2.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:2/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:0/5]

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