Monteverdi: L'incoronazione di Poppea
This is Emmanuelle Haïm’s second DVD of Monteverdi’s great opera in the space of four years. The first was the 2008 Glyndebourne production (on Decca) with the title role played for manipulative strength with underlying vulnerability by Danielle De Niese, in an insightful production by Robert Carsen. Here we have something less opulent and questioning, but effective nonetheless – the version given in Lille and Dijon in 2012. The fact that Haïm directs both productions from the harpsichord leads to a certain communality of style: a fine sensitivity towards the urgent, tensile springiness of the melodic lines; and a superb handling of the instrumental forces. In both performances the role of Amore is transposed upwards.
The title role here is taken by the suitably voluptuous Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva who has admirable technique and tone, with Nero sung by the Croatian strong-voiced countertenor Max Cencic. They act well, even if the slightly fast speeds and limited vocal colouring occasionally prevent a fuller sense of tenderness or sensuality. Again, the comical character of Poppea’s confidante Arnalta (Emiliano Toro) is just a little underplayed – Toro is a strong high tenor whose concern for vocal professionalism tends to keep him away from caricature. As for the others, Drusilla (Amel Brahim-Djelloul) can really act with her voice, Lucano (the tenor Mathias Vidal) sings a spirited and stylistically aware duet with Nero in Act II, and the rival goddesses who open the show (Anna Wall, Khatouna Gadelia, Camille Poul) are winningly coquettish rather than spiteful.