C. Monteverdi, L'Incoronazione di Poppea, D. Borst, G. Laurens, J. Larmore, Concerto Vocale, R. Jacobs (1991, re-released 2010)
Harmonia Mundi | 3h17
Instrumentally, then, this is a beautiful and idiosyncratic version of Poppea, with some delightful realizations of the basso continuo accompaniment. Vocally, it is not ideal, with singers like Axel Köhler (Ottone), Guy de Mey (Lucano), and Dominique Visse (Nutrice) in some of the earlier renditions of these roles they performed many times. The top of the cast is quite good, with especially the puissant intensity of mezzo-soprano Guillemette Laurens as Nerone, matched by a sharp-voiced Poppea in Danielle Borst, neither with quite the ideal purity of tone for the famous concluding duet, "Pur ti miro." Jennifer Larmore is a caustic and patrician Ottavia, while tenor Christian Hornberger uses a lovely falsetto to give a funny but not over-the-top rendition of Arnalta. Michael Schopper's Seneca is a little tremulous and worn thin, perhaps a good characterization for the aging philosopher, but Franz-Josef Selig's Seneca in the new DVD reviewed last week was a greater moral center for the gravity of his voice. Jacobs gives the right air of sadness to Seneca's death scene, with a mournful trio of earnest students. Innocent joy comes across in the Valletto-Damigella duet, here cast with two lovely sopranos, Christina Högman and Maria Christina Kiehr.
Ivor Bolton (Munich)
William Christie (Madrid)
Harry Bicket and David Alden (Barcelona)