Monteverdi: L’incoronazione di Poppea

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Monteverdi
WORKS: L’incoronazione di Poppea
PERFORMER: Danielle de Niese, Alice Coote, Iestyn Davies, Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke, Tamara Mumford, Dominique Visse, Paolo Battaglia, Lucia Cirillo, Marie Arnet, Claire Ormshaw; Glyndebourne Chorus; Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Emmanuelle Haïm;
CATALOGUE NO: 074 3339 (NTSC system; dts 5.0; 16:9 anamorphic)


There are half a dozen DVD versions of Monteverdi’s late masterpiece, but this 2008 Glyndebourne production ticks more boxes than most. The richly musical and searching interpretation on show here is in a league of its own; we are inexorably persuaded that the stark isolation of Poppea at the end makes perfect worldly sense.

Emmanuelle Haïm controls everything from the keyboard with brilliant finesse, underscoring crucial words and events with constant harmonic care. The upward transposition of Amore’s role, and the use of the delightful Naples version of the Act II encounter between Valletto (Lucia Cirillo) and Damigella (Claire Ormshaw), add lightness. Robert Carsen’s ingenious direction grinds down traditional perspectives with a stream of insights.

That said, the ‘gay’ encounter between Nero and Lucano, and the latter’s murder, might have better underscored the complexity of the character of love were Cupid allowed some dark manipulative intervention in the background (as he is allowed elsewhere). Many of these issues are helpfully explored in the bonus talks on the DVD.

Danielle de Niese looks stunning in the title role, and matches the action with musical flexibility. Sometimes she seems to confuse Poppea with Monteverdi’s Arianna – parting briefly after a night of sexual pleasure does not quite merit the same anguish as being abandoned forever.


Alice Coote (Nero) exudes authority, and has a certain menace which comes through in her well-controlled voice. The other singers are all good (Dominique Visse is terrific as the Nurse), and the presentation and sound are clear and effective. Anthony Pryer