“Trove Thursday” marks Monteverdi’s 450th birthday with a rare broadcast of his towering final work L’Incoronazione di Poppea in which the magnificent Ottavia of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson schemes to thwart the romantic and political alliance of Anne-Sofie von Otter and Mireille Delunsch as Nerone and Poppea under the taut direction of Marc Minkowski

Sadly Hunt Lieberson sang Ottavia only a few times—this run at Aix and the year before in San Francisco, her only appearances with the opera company there.

Ottavia was also usually von Otter’s role; she sings it on the John Eliot Gardiner recording and I saw her do it in Paris in a riveting production by David McVicar. But she’s a wonderful Nerone here opposite Delunsch who rarely if ever sang in the US; they make a beautifully matched pair.

Whatever happened to Denis Sedov whom I remember as a “strapping” Argante in Rinaldo at New York City Opera in 2000 opposite Christine Goerke and David Daniels? Those allergic to countertenors need not worry—there are none in this Poppea, a rarity over the past few decades. We do get a tenor rather than a booming contralto as Poppea’s nurse Arnalta: Jean-Paul Fouchécourt always excels in drag.

One may notice Magdalena Kozená in a pair of small roles as Minkowski was among the first international conductors to use her. I remember visiting my sister in Prague in 1998 where she was working at the time and found several disks by the then-young and unknown-to-me Czech mezzo in a large CD-store—remember those? I bought her all-Bach recital and was much impressed.

This performance comes from the first-run at Aix of a Klaus-Michael Grüber staging that was filmed the following summer but without Hunt Lieberson and Anna Larsson.

Monteverdi’s three extant operas have had many performances this year in Europe, in the US a lot fewer. However, Gardiner and his Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra conclude their seven-month world tour this month with a trio of semi-staged performances of L’Orfeo, Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria and Poppea in both Chicago and New York.

Monteverdi: L’Incoronazione di Poppea
Aix-en-Provence Festival
July 1999

Poppea: Mireille Delunsch
Ottavia: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson
Drusilla: Nicole Heaston
Nerone: Anne-Sofie von Otter
Ottone: Anna Larsson
Valetto/Virtu: Magdalena Kozena
Damighella/Amor: Cassandre Berthon
Fortuna: Marie José Trullu
Pallade: Sylvia Marini
Seneca: Denis Sedov
Arnalta: Jean-Paul Fouchécourt
Lucano: Tracy Welborn
Liberto/Littore: Luc Coadou

Les Musiciens du Louvre
Conductor: Marc Minkowski

Poppea as well as last month’s four As can each be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on the posting’s audio player and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.

Nearly 100 other “Trove Thursday” podcasts also remain available from iTunes (recently updated) or via any RSS reader.