William S. Levison | Valdosta, GA United States | 06/23/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The previous reviewer (ONE, not two) concentrates on the historical inauthenticity of this version, but I would question the views of someone who misidentifies one of the leading performers (the great Francis Bible, not Elizabeth Bainbridge, sings Octavia). Neverthless, I have to agree to the extent that performance authenticity was a relatively new concept in 1967. I purchased this performance on disc the year it was issued and loved it. Now that it returns on CD, I love it even more. My other CD version of "Poppea" (Gardiner on Archiv) is "complete," "historically accurate," and beautifully sung, but much of it bores me silly. This recording also boasts excellent singers (Bible, Laszlo, Dominguez, and Cava particularly) and is consistently listener friendly. This recording provided my introduction to early opera, and it is responsible for whetting my appetite for more. Furthermore, the terrific bargain price and the addition of some of Monteverdi's finest madrigals, make this an exceedingly attractive package."
Not for the purist, but...
David deJongh | Carrollton, TX United States | 02/06/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I have owned the Seraphim vinyl set of this opera since the early 1980's, and transferred it to CD a few years ago. The EMI double fforte pressing is an OK transfer, but bear in mind this is an analog recording from the 1960's "remastered and noise-shaped" and I think they've overdone the bass emphasis. This is easily corrected by changing tone controls or equalizer settings. That said, this has long been a great favorite of mine.
I also have the Harnoncourt recording on four (at the time very expensive) CD's.
The Harnoncourt recording is superior in many ways: the instrumentation; the singing style; the completeness. Unfortunately, I rarely have time to listen to a complete opera and give it my undivided attention. What generally happens is, I put on a CD while I am working, and have the music as a kind of thinking man's wallpaper. Every now and again, something will come to the foreground and I will think "Wow! What was that?". The Harnoncourt Poppea doesn't do that. The Leppard "realization" does it time and again, however. I could listen to the Nerone/Lucano duet (Hor che Seneca e morto) until my ears fell off. Hugues Cuenod (Lucano), by the way, celebrated his 100th birthday a year or two ago - see http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Cuenod-Hugues.htm.
I think the real problem with the Harnoncourt production is that opera is so very largely a visual medium, and adjustment must be made when the visual aspect is absent from the recording, to include more vocal or instrumental excitement. Listen to the care that was taken with the Solti / Culshaw Ring cycle, for example. We really feel we are descending into the bowels of the earth in Rheingold, or standing in front of a great hall in the crowd scenes of Gotterdammerung.
Frankly, I don't have any gripes about the performances on this recording. At least it is clear who is singing, unlike the Harnoncourt production, which seems to take a delight in having voices of such similar range and timbre that it is hard to tell whether it's a duet or an aria.
A real bonus of this recording is the madrigals, added to pad out the remaining 43 minutes on the second disc. They are absolutely stunning! Sadly, there is no libretto included with the recording, either for the opera or the madrigals."
ketchrigged | Marco Island, FL USA | 07/10/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Many opera fans didn't care for Leppard's realization but it is far better, far more interesting and breathes more life into this moldy old thing than many of the authentic instrument versions that trip over each other with their scratchy out of tune violins. And Dominguez' Arnalta is unsurpassed. It's a wonderful production and even though this recording is an abridged version, there is more than enough of it. A little goes a long way."
A Great Monteverdi CD The Non-Purist
Timothy Dougal | Madison, Wi United States | 12/21/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'll start by admitting this disc contains a historically incorrect performance. I'll continue by admitting that that's the way I like it in the case of early opera which I am listening to at home. Extended recitatives are just not musically interesting! I only wish somebody would issue an abridgement or highlights for 'Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria'. What is important to me is the beauty of Monteverdi's music, especially when it is this well sung, and Leppard's abridgement delivers what is most musically compelling about this work. I just love it. The madrigals that fill out the disc are not in the same league, being kind of stilted, but not bad all the same."