Excellent cast in a very good L'Incoronazione di Poppea
The cast were what drew me into this L'Incoronazione Di Poppea. Jon Vickers and Gwyneth Jones I have great respect for and Nicolai Ghiaurov is one of my favourite singers. Having this live performance from Paris Opera on audio CD, it is a very good performance indeed with well-recorded sound. Out of curiosity I did see clips of the performance online to see what it was like visually, and while I liked the costumes and sets finding them suitably regal the fuzzy picture quality didn't really enable me to enjoy any more so.
However, while not the most authentic of all performances, the orchestra play stylishly and musically, and while occasionally too fast Julius Rudel's conducting is suitably commanding. The cast are really excellent. It is very hard to believe that Jon Vickers and Gwyneth Jones gave their only performances ever in this production of these roles. Jones I worried would have too much of a big voice(she was a Wagnerian after all), but she does sensibly scale it down and sings very seductively as Poppea. Vickers is also in a very different role, known for his more noble characters like Tristan and Otello he here plays Nerone, who you'd expect to be decadent, sexually ambiguous and cruel, all three of which Vickers(not surprising considering his reputation of being a tenor who becomes the role) masters.
Valerie Masterson is luxury casting as a very sweetly-toned Drusilla and Fortuna, as is Richard Stillwell as an emotionally complex Ottone. Michael Senecal is a fine Lucan. Other than Vickers and Jones, the other big names are Christa Ludwig and Nicolai Ghiaurov. Ludwig I have seen better from, like her superlative Brangane under Bohm, but as Ottavia she does sing with her usual beauty of tone and musicality. Ghiaurov's Seneca is very powerfully sung with a low E that will knock your socks off, and he is suitably commanding and pompous. In conclusion, very good overall. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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