Monteverdi: The Coronation of Poppea (3CD)

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Helen Sherman, Jake Arditti, Pinchgut Opera, Orchestra of the Antipodes, Erin Helyard

Celebrating 450 years since the birth of Monteverdi, Pinchgut Opera performed one of the greatest operas of all time, Coronation of Poppea.

Coronation of Poppea charts the consuming erotic obsession of the Emperor Nero for the beautiful Poppea Sabina. Ruthlessly sweeping aside anyone who stands in the way of their union - including Nero's wife Octavia and the poet and philosopher Seneca - Nero and Poppea triumph over all their opponents and rejoice in one of the most sensuous and exquisitely beautiful duets, "Pur ti miro".

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Monteverdi Coronation of Poppea
(libretto by Giovanni Francesco Busenello)

Helen Sherman - Poppea 
Jake Arditti - Nero
Natalie Christie Peluso - Ottavia, Drusilla
Roberta Diamond - Amore
Owen Willetts - Ottone 
Kanen Breen - Arnalta
Adam Player - Soldato I, Famigliari II
Jacob Lawrence - Soldato II, Liberto, Console
David Greco - Seneca
Jeremy Kleeman - Famigliari III, Tribuno

Orchestra of the Antipodes, Erin Helyard (conductor)

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Reviews for the Live Performance:

Sydney Morning Herald

4 Stars

"Helen Sherman sang Poppea with limpid vocal sensuality showing glistening focus and presence in some scenes of part one. As Nerone, Jake Arditti's voice was as beguiling as his stage persona was repulsive. David Greco draws out rich nobility as Seneca with purity of vowel and flamboyant ease of line. Singing not one but two neglected women (Ottavia and Drusilla), plus the role of Virtue, Natalie Christie Peluso sang with fullness of colour and quietly assertive dramatic presence. In a cross-dressing representation of the nurse, Analta, Kanen Breen sang with a wittily androgynous voice and created moments of humour and disturbing edginess. As Ottone, Poppea's former lover, Owen Willetts captured stylish, fluid expressiveness while Roberta Diamond looked on as Amore, the allegory of Love, singing with transparent clarity and grace. ... With delicately pointed balance and graceful ornament and improvised moments, the Orchestra of the Antipodes provided instrumental textures of gently glowing transparency which Helyard shaped to exquisite expressive purpose."

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A committed performance of an old master from Pinchgut Opera



Sydney's Pinchgut Opera has created an international reputation for itself through the presentation of early operas, beginning in 2002 with Handel's Semele and continuing into 2018 with works by Hesse and, again, Handel. This production of Monteverdi's The Coronation of Poppea dates from November 2017, when it was recorded live in Sydney's City Recital Hall. The Orchestra of the Antipodes accompanies, conducted by their Artistic Director, harpsichordist Erin Helyard.

Poppea was first produced in Venice, during carnival season, in 1643. Set in Ancient Rome, it is concerned with the Emperor Nero's lustful desire for Poppea, whom he eventually marries. The work set a template that few later operas followed: namely, the bad characters are rewarded while the good ones die or leave town. The last word goes to sleazy Nero and his ambitious, gold-digging Queen: we don't have to look far to see the contemporary equivalent.

Monteverdi's music is highly stylised, and the trick is to balance the decoration of the vocal lines with the drama of the action, and to clarify the characters' motivation. Pinchgut is renowned for getting this balance right. The cast sing beautifully and act convincingly, obvious even without the visuals. I particularly warmed to soprano Helen Sherman, who sings Poppea with enchanting tone. As Nero, who is suitably enchanted, Jake Arditti has both the range and flexibility to do the role justice. Natalie Christie Peluso is touching in Ottavia's aria Addio Roma; Owen Willets as Ottone and David Greco as Seneca also stand out, and with such accomplished singers as Kanen Breen and Adam Player in smaller roles we know we are in good hands.

This recording was made at a live performance, so there are the usual moments of stage movement noise, and sometimes singers stray away from the microphones. That is inevitable but you get used to it. The upside is the immediacy of the dramatic tension, which is palpable.