Monteverdi-L'incoronazione Di Poppea (Haymon/Balleys/Amsterdam/Rousset) (1994) (NTSC)

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Released 26-Feb-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Booklet
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 1994
Running Time 201:47 (Case: 219)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (38:48)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Hans Hulscher
Opus Arte
Select Audio-Visual Distrib
Starring Cynthia Haymon
Brigitte Balleys
Michael Chance
Claron McFadden
Heidi Grant Murphy
Ning Liang
Harry van der Kamp
Jean-Paul Fouchecourt
Dominique Visse
Case Amaray-Opaque-Dual
RPI $79.95 Music Claudio Monteverdi

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Italian Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
Italian dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles German
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Monteverdi's final opera was first performed in Venice in 1642, the year before his death. Unlike his other surviving operas, and probably most of the operas written up to that time, it is based on real historical events. The libretto was based on the writings of the ancient Roman historian Tacitus and covers the divorce of Emperor Nerone (Nero) from Ottavia in order to marry Poppea.

    The story starts with a disagreement between Virtue and Fortune as to who is the greater. Love appears and claims to be superior to both. Meanwhile in the realm of humans Ottone arrives at his lover Poppea's house to discover Nerone's guards. Realising that he has been betrayed, he turns his attentions to Drusilla. Ottavia, Nerone's wife, also feels betrayed and prevails on Seneca to intervene with the Emperor. This only makes Nerone angry and, prompted by Poppea, condemns Seneca to commit suicide. Ottone then plots with Ottavia to slay Poppea.

    The lack of big, rip-roaring tunes is probably the first thing those used to 19th century opera will notice. The music is more delicate in the early Baroque style and it is intended to convey more sensitive and refined feelings. Few composers could achieve this as well as Monteverdi, even though some doubt has been cast upon the authorship of some of the music in this opera. Certainly Monteverdi was a very old man (75) at the time of this work and would probably have delegated some of the effort to students and assistants, much in the way Renaissance artists would supervise but not always paint all of the strokes on their paintings.

    The performance on this DVD comes from the Het Muziektheater in Amsterdam and, like the other productions in the box set in which it is available, was directed by Pierre Audi. The staging is somewhat more opulent than in the later productions of Monteverdi's earlier operas, though the sets are almost as stark. A bare floor with large stones, a featureless wall or a large sphere are the main elements of the set. The costumes are less minimalist as well, particularly those worn by Poppea's nurse. Audi also attempts to bring out some of the sexual ambiguity of the piece, which is not difficult given some of the female roles are played by men, and the male roles by women (for example Nerone) and there's even some cross-dressing in the plot.

    The performance is universally well acted and sung. I find Brigitte Balleys (Nerone) to have a slightly less pleasing voice than some of the other principals, and her facial contortions seem a bit much. The role was originally intended for a castrato, but as there are few young singers nowadays willing to undertake the necessary surgery it is usually given by a mezzo-soprano or a countertenor. Harry van der Kamp is a fine Seneca and soprano Cynthia Haymon an equally fine Poppea, while Jean-Paul Fouchécourt impresses in the female role of Arnalta.

    I doubt whether anyone would be disappointed with this production, as it is in the spirit of the piece and has an intimate television recording that enables the performers to act not just with their voices and a few crude gestures. It is available separately or as part of a box set of all of Monteverdi's surviving operatic works.

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Transfer Quality


    This is an NTSC transfer in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced. This would appear to be the original aspect ratio.

    According to a sticker on the cover this video was recorded in high definition, although it dates from the early days of HD (1994). Judging by the appearance of the video it has that downscaled high definition look to it, and the clarity and sharpness of the image is better than on the other, later recordings included in the same box set.

    The video is quite good though there are problems at some points. Colour is good, with flesh tones looking realistic when the lighting levels are higher. Most of the time they are quite low, as if to mimic the candlelight that would have been used in the first performances back in the 1640s.

    On Disc One I noticed some horizontal banding on the singer's face at 46:55. This seemed to disappear but came back again briefly later. On Disc Two there seems to be a considerable amount of motion blurring and some occasional aliasing. The former can be seen when Seneca is moving about the stage prior to putting an end to himself.

    Otherwise there is some low level noise in the dimly lit backgrounds. This being shot on video, there are no film artefacts.

    Optional subtitles are provided in clear white text and these are easy to read without any spelling or grammatical errors.

    Both discs are RSDL-formatted, and the layer breaks are conveniently placed during natural breaks in the music at 38:48 and 56:55 respectively.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are two audio tracks available, both in the original Italian. I listened to the DTS 5.1 track in full and sampled the Linear PCM stereo track.

    Both tracks are very good with no transfer-related issues apart from the usual digital edge that compression brings. There is a good balance between singers and orchestra. I note though that when the singers turned from facing the audience the volume level dropped substantially.

    The acoustic is quite reverberant, and this is especially clear on the surround track. Directional effects are limited to audience sounds. Most of the music comes from the front channels, with the soundstage emulating the concert hall acoustic with the listener being placed somewhere in the audience. While the voices are heard across the front channels in accordance with their relative position on the stage, the video makes use of close-ups and side shots which often have them on the opposite side of the screen.

    The low frequency effects channel serves to emphasise stage noise, particularly thumping footsteps. Otherwise there is no noticeable subwoofer activity.

    The stereo track has a slightly more pleasing sound to it, more like a CD recording than the surround track in that it is not as forward.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The 28-page booklet includes an essay about the work and the production by musical director Christophe Rousset.

Synopsis (8:15)

    A spoken synopsis with still images from the production.

Introduction (8:40)

    This introduction looks to have been recorded some time after the actual video recording, probably for the DVD release. Pierre Audi and Harry van der Kamp are interviewed.

Photo Gallery-Cast

    Photos of the cast with text identifying them and the characters they play.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This Opus Arte release is identical the world over.


    An excellent performance of this opera, both musically and visually.

    The video quality is good.

    The audio quality is very good.

    A handful of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Monday, August 20, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS9100ES, using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-HS60 LCD Projector projected to 80" screen. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-AX4ASIS for surrounds, Elektra Reference for mains
SpeakersMain: B&W Nautilus 800; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Tannoy Revolution R3; Subwoofer: Richter Thor Mk IV

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