5 LP - 6.35247 HD - (p) 1974

4 CD - 8.35247 ZC - (c) 1985

Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)

L'Incoronazione di Poppea

Prologo: Fortuna, Virtù, Amore
8' 55"
Atto primo

- Scena I: Ottone, Due Soldati 8' 36"
- Scena II: Due Soldati 3' 37"
- Scena III (inizio): Poppea, Nerone 9' 50"
- Scena III (fine): Poppea, Nerone --' --"
- Scena IV: Poppea, Arnalta 7' 43"
- Scena V (inizio): Ottavia, Nutrice 12' 25"
- Scena V (fine): Ottavia, Nutrice --' --"
- Scena VI: Seneca, Ottavia, Valletto 9' 15"
- Scena VII: Seneca 1' 12"
- Scena VIII: Pallade, Seneca 2' 23"
- Scena IX: Nerone, Seneca 7' 00"
- Scena X: Poppea, Nerone, Ottone 10' 14"
- Scena XI (inizio): Ottone, Poppea, Arnalta 9' 50"
- Scena XI (fine): Ottone, Poppea, Arnalta --' --"
- Scena XII: Ottone 2' 33"
- Scena XIII: Drusilla, Ottone 6' 18"
Atto secondo

- Scena I: Seneca, Mercurio 5' 50"
- Scena II: Liberto, Mercurio 7' 06"
- Scena III: seneca, Famigliari
5' 02"
- Scena V (la Scena IV manca): Valletto, Damigella 4' 41"
- Scena VI: Nerone, Lucano 6' 58"
- Scena VIII (la Scena VII manca): Ottone
4' 34"
- Scena IX: Ottava, Ottone
6' 18"
- Scena X: Drusilla, Valletto, Nutrice
5' 43"
- Scena XI: Ottone, Drusilla 6' 18"
- Scena XII: Poppea, Arnalta
8' 19"
- Scena XIII: Amore, Poppea 3' 28"
- Scena XIV: Ottone, Amore, Poppea, Arnalta
4' 42"
- Scena XV: Amore, Sinfonia 1' 14"
Atto terzo

- Scena I: Drusilla 1' 27"
- Scena II: Arnalta, Littore, Drusilla 1' 15"
- Scena III (inizio): Arnalta, Nerone, Drusilla, Littore 5' 48"
- Scena III (fine): Arnalta, Nerone, Drusilla, Littore --' --"
- Scena IV: Ottone, Nerone, Drusilla 6' 34"
- Scena V: Poppea, Nerone
6' 47"
- Scena VI: Ottavia 3' 56"
- Scena VII: Arnalta 3' 28"
- Scena VIII: Nerone, Poppea, Consoli, Tribuni 15' 40"

Jane Gartner, Fortuna (Prologo) Maria Minetto, Nutrice
Rotraus Hansmann, Virtù (Prologo), Drusilla
Carlo Gaifa, Arnalta, Famigliare di Seneca
Solist der W. Sängerknaben, Amore (Prologo)
Philip Langridge, Lucano, Famigliare di Seneca, Console, Soldato
Helen Donath, Poppea Enrico Fissore, Famigliare di Seneca, Console, Tribuno, Littore, Mercurio
Elisabeth Söderström, Nerone Kurt Equiluz, Console, Liberto capitano, Soldato
Cathy Berberian, Ottavia Margaret Baker, Valletto
Paul Esswood, Ottone Jane Gartner, Damigella, Pallade
Giancarlo Luccardi, Seneca, Tribuno


- Alice Harnoncourt, Violine
- Jürg Schaeftlein, Schalmeien
- Walter Pfeiffer, Violine
- Milan Turkovic, Dulzian
- Wilhelm Mergl, Violine - Josef Spindler, Trompete
- Josef de Sordi, Violine - Hermann Schober, Trompete
- Kurt Theiner, Viola
- Richard Rudolf, Trompete

- Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Violoncello - Toyohiko Satoh, Theorbe
- Friedrich Hiller, Violoncello - Erna Gruber, Harfe
- Eduard Hruza, Violone - Herbert Tachezi, Orgel, Cembalo, Virginal
- Elisabeth Harnoncourt, Blockflöte - Johann Sonnleitner, Orgel, Cembalo, Virginal
- Leopold Stastny, Blockflöte

Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Musikalische Einrichtung und Gesamtleitung
Luogo e data di registrazione
Palais Rasumowsky, Vienna (Austria) - dicembre 1973 e aprile 1974
Registrazione live / studio
Producer / Engineer
Prima Edizione CD
Teldec "Das Alte Werk" - 8.35247 ZC - (4 cd) - 60' 24" + 39' 32" + 60' 52" + 54' 33" - (c) 1985
Prima Edizione LP
Telefunken "Das Alte Werk" - 6.35247 HD - (5 lp) - 45' 45" + 43' 50" + 43' 43" + 42' 16" + 38' 23" - (p) 1974

Claudio Monteverdi: The Coronation of Poppea - An introduction
Opera as a genre was "invented" around 1600 in Florence and immediately taken up by the artistic-minded courts in Mantua and Parma, enriched and further developed. Orfeo was composed in 1607, Arianna in 1608, La favola di Peleo di tetide in 1617, and La finta pazza licori in 1627, to name but a few of Claudio Monteverdi's works as examples. Monteverdi, who was well-acquainted with the Florentine opera pioneers Caccini, Peri and Gagliano, filled their dogmatic ideas with artistic vitality. While he was still chapel master at San Marco in Venice he was supplying some courts and also Venetian aristocrats with musical dramatic works.
Nevertheless in 1620 he admitted that, compared with his tasks as a church musician, he had been only peripherally interested in operatic work. At about this same period the opera wave swept over Rome, where Cardinal Rospigliosi, subsequently Pope Clement IX, virtually established a Roman school of opera, but it was not until 1637 that opera returned to Upper Italy, this time under different auspices: in Venice the first opera house in the world was opened which every ordinary citizen could visit on payment of an entrance fee. The premiere was provided by a Rome company with "Andromeda,” an opera by Monteverdi's pupil F. Manelli, In the subsequent years many other theatres were opened in Venice, all run as independent institutions and financed by admission tickets; that is to say for economic reasons they were dependent upon the success of the pieces.
Claudio Monteverdi analysed the question of opera once more. In 1639, after a period of over 30 years, he had performed “Arianna” (probably in a new arrangement at the Teatro S. Moisé). Then in 1641 he composed "Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria” (S. Cassiano) and in 1642 "L'Incoronazione di Poppea” (SS. Giovanni e Paolo). He incorporated in these works all the innovations of his young rivals - they were all his pupils - and brought the genre, which over 30 years earlier he had helped towards its decisive breakthrough, to a climax. This diversion of the genre as such by way of Rome also explains the enormous difference in style between Orfeo and the two late operas. What is difficult to understand, however, is the mental freshness with which the 74-year-old composer, two years before his death, was able to surpass his pupils in the most modern style and to set standards which were to apply to music theatre of the succeeding centuries. (We are convinced that with "L’Incoronazione di Poppea" we are performing one of the most important works of all opera literature, comparable with the masterpieces of Mozart and Verdi.)
Around 1600 the composer was mainly concerned with a kind of text declamation to notes, accompanied by simple supporting chords.
While Monteverdi took over the ideas of innovators, he by no means subordinated himself to their strict dogmas. First of all he fused madrigal with dance (Orfeo) in a new style of dramatic recitative singing. In his late works he finally discovered the path to a completely fresh musical language which, although subject to the text, nevertheless at the same time interpreted and dramatised it. The "maximum imitation of nature" had always been his chief preoccuption. In Poppea Monteverdi had at last found the tonal language which depicts the whole nature of human characters, of human utterances, of dramatic movement. With this in mind, Monteverdi always selected his libretti very carefully, on the one hand according to the beauty of the poetic language, and on the other according to quite definite affects and contrasts which he wished to represent musically. Thus, in the preface to his Combattimento (1624), he said he had chosen Tasso's text because the latter “Expresses naturalness... the desired emotions... " and because he found in them the "contrasts, which appear suitable to me for setting to music, namely warlike mood, prayers, death.” He rejected with precise reasons those libretti which did not appear feasible to him. For instance in 1616 he wrote to A. Striggio, who had sent him a text, "I cannot imitate the language of the winds because they do not speak; how should I arouse sympathy there? Arianna moved her listeners because she was a woman; similarly Orfeo thrilled the listeners because he was a human being and not the wind... " As we know from the correspondence in 1627 (concerning "La finta pazza licori"), Monteverdi arrived at his text interpretation following precise analyses as to dramatic and psychological effect. We can therefore rest assured that Monteverdi chose this historical libretto (normally operas had to deal with mythological material) with the greatest attention, so that it exactly accorded with his conceptions.
It was certainly not cynicism which induced him to set such an amoral libretto to music; possibly he was attracted by the complex characters, the constantly changing psychological problems and situations. Probably, with a total victory of ruthlessness and imrnorality, he wanted to shake the listener, to let him lose the ground beneath his feet and, without his realising it, let himself see where the lack of love, sympathy and order leads, Actually the title expresses a great deal more: the courtesan is crowned empress, an insult to legitimacy, the dignity of the senate and the people of Rome - the impossible is possible through a mere whim of Love (prologue).
Monteverdi underlines by his characterising composition the negative sides of all main figures; it is remarkable, and in the representation shocking, that not a single figure in the serious drama is depicted positively or sympathetically. Octavia, who nowadays is mainly interpreted as a tragic heroine, appears in the descriptions of Nero, Seneca and even of her nurse, as an emotionally cold person, In the loathsome blackmail scene with Ottone she shows her true character, not only does she want to force Ottone to kill his lover, Poppea, but threatens him with slander, torture and death if he does not obey her. In this scene Monteverdi’s arrangement of a dramatic text becomes apparent by word repetitions, transpositions and realistic musical gesture diction: word repetitions such as ”darmni aita, col sangue, vuo'che l’uccida,” etc. are never musically founded, but always arise from the natural psychic situation: first the increasingly intensive imploring for help, then the hesitancy and simultaneously whipping into rage before the terrible exclamation (voglio...). Intervals are always just as important as the notes, also with the astounded reaction of Ottone. Every lightning change of a thought or of an emotion is drawn in diction and music. A comparison of the form of Busenello's dramatic poem and Monteverdi's realisation reveals how closely Monteverdi had reached his aim of "imitating nature": Monteverdi makes Octavia prepare and hurtle her furious "precipita gli indugi," her threat so to speak, in the middle of Ottone's verse after "Dammi tempo.” Realistic inserts of this kind can also be found at many other places. - However, Monteverdi deals far more crassly with the second "awesome figure" of the opera, Seneca. The vox populi (soldiers, page] describe him as being very unpopular and uncongenial, but Monteverdi underlines his vain and bumptious lecturing (la cote non percossa non puo mandar favilla) by ordinary sequences and occasionally empty coloraturas which are not even emphasized by words. The woodenness of his replies and statements sets off a stiff musical form. - For the detailed psychological drawing of Nero and Poppea, Monteverdi brings into play all the musical means at his disposal: and precisely the ambivalence and instability of Nero, but also the calculating cunning of Poppea, provide enormous possibilities for rapid emotional change. Nero is the emperor - as expressed in every lordly phrase - but also the spoilt, foolish and immature playboy, whose wishes have to be fulfilled instantly.
In the scene with Seneca, Nero for the first time rebels against his mentor, the grey eminence at the court, and at this point Monteverdi uses the ”concitato genere,” the stylistic method he invented for the emotion of rage: rapid semi-quaver notes sung on one note (Monteverdi describes the performance and effect of this style of playing in the foreword to his 8th madrigal book). After Seneca’s death, Nero and his poet friend Lucan - Nero, of course sees himself also as a poet and musician - sing the praises of Poppea’s beauty, and Nero gets into such an ecstasy that Lucan begins to fear for his reason.
Monteverdi illuminates the person and character of Poppea from all sides in the very first parting scene: the artful, voluptuous power with which she ensnares Nero, obliging him to return (Tornerai?] is put on, genuinely in the courtesan manner, scarcely has Nero departed (scene 4) when she starts rejoicing [Speranza...), she will reach her absurd goal of officially being crowned empress of Rome. Poppea is ready at any time to switch from all too “genuine feeling” to calculating coldness: for example in the very erotic tenth scene of the first act, in which Poppea suddenly uses Nero’s extreme aruouressness to blacken Seneca in the middle of the sweetest tones. (This characterisation problem rnust have held a particular attraction for Monteverdi.)
This diversity of scintillating characters, of which each embodies an entire palette of emotions, is faced by a group of strange figures which comments on the abstract and constructed as well as the oppressively naturalistic main plot. It is only these figures from the vulgar sphere who rouse our sympathy or understanding, for they stand with both feet firmly on the ground. They are not entirely congenial, but one can at least believe their feelings, they are genuine: the soldiers, Arnalta, the nurse, the page, the maid (Damigella). But also Seneca’s three friends - Monteverdi adheres to Tacitus and writes for three persons, not for a chorus - who with a more singular than carefree devotion to life, want to prevent Seneca from cutting his pulses. And finally the consuls and tribunes who, in a stiffly ridiculous scene, formally and officially carry out the coronation of the courtesan and thus reveal themselves as the emperor's creatures. As regards the comic figures and scenes, Monteverdi displays a most charming madrigal-type tone language which only in the parody touches the pathos of the serious figures.
Nikolaus Harnoncourt

Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1929-2016)
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