My personal favourite of the Ponnelle-Harnencourt-Monteverdi trilogy was L'Orfeo for its symbolism and visual opulence. L'Incoronazione was also very good, but this Il Ritorno D'Ulisse in Patria ranks very close to L'Orfeo.
I think of the three Monteverdi productions, Il Ritorno D'Ulisse in Patria has the best cast. Phillippe Huttenlocher is every bit as impressive as he was in L'Orfeo, Trudelise Schmidt is a very charismatic Penelope and Janet Perry sings beautifully as Melanto.
This production is also notable for Mozart/Rossini specialist Francisco Araiza, whose performance is one of his better ones both in singing and in acting, and Simon Estes whose singing is as resonant as ever.
What I loved about L'Orfeo is also here, the production is visually stunning, and while it is not symbolic as such it is very bold. There are some great discreet jokes, L'Orfeo also did with the singing skeleton, but the whole scene with the three suitors has a cracking sense of comic timing.
Monteverdi's music is wonderful, and the orchestra's performance of it throughout is evoked with power and emotion. Nikolaus Harnencourt deserves credit for this, his musicality and sense of style is ideal for these trilogy of operas.
Likewise with Jean Pierre Ponnelle, I imagine as I've said before that trying to recreate the atmosphere of the times the opera was written in is a daunting task, but Ponnelle does an exemplary job with it.
All in all, an excellent production. I've enjoyed Ponnelle's Monteverdi work so much that I am eager to see more productions of Monteverdi's operas to see if they are even better. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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