And so Dell’Arte Opera’s revival this month is welcomed by Trove Thursday with a broadcast from Sweden’s exquisite Drottningholms Slottsteater with Ann Hallenberg and Petteri Salomaa as the soon-to-be-reunited Penelope and Ulysses.

Listening to this Monteverdi, I thought back to 1992 when I spent July on Lake Como. My partner at the time was awarded a residency at the Rockefeller Foundation’s ravishing Villa Serbelloni. Other residents during our stay included Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Samuel P. Huntington, Paula Vogel and Tania León. Among this dazzling company I felt self-conscious about my status as a “spouse” plus I soon learned I was also the youngest person there.

Although exhausted from our transalantic flight and drive from Malpensa to Bellagio, we jumped right into the villa’s routine. Each artist or scholar was asked to make an after-dinner presentation about his or her current project, and on our very first night it was musicologist Ellen Rosand’s turn. I knew her monumental study Opera in Seventeenth-Century Venice: The Creation of a Genre, so despite heavy jet-lag I was keen to hear her.

While everyone else nodded politely as she spoke about Monteverdi, I was fascinated. At the end, she invited questions so I asked about Ritorno d’Ulisse’s gluttonous Iro. Ellen brightened and we had a lively interchange about the opera’s comic characters.

I didn’t feel so much like the “new kid” after that interchange, and the rest of the month was Lombardian bliss. Ellen’s presentation eventually was published in Monteverdi’s Venetian Trilogy: The Late Operas. The last time we ran into each other was at Alice Tully Hall a few years ago after a performance of Ritorno d’Ulisse under John Eliot Gardiner.

Speaking of Iro, today’s performance makes the unprecedented step of dropping Anfinomo. one of the suitors, and replacing him with Iro. My first acquaintance with Ritorno d’Ulisse was a broadcast from the BBC Proms of the legendary Glyndebourne Festival production with Janet Baker and Benjamin Luxon in an expectedly lush realization by Raymond Leppard.

Alexander Oliver, its Iro, also happened to perform the role the first time I saw the opera in person. The Dutch National Opera brought Pierre Audi’s version to the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1993, and I was delighted to have Oliver make that special connection for me. Anthony Rolfe Johnson and Graciela Araya were its superb Ulisse and Penelope.

Nine years later BAM again presented Ritorno d’Ulisse in Adrian Noble’s production for Les Arts Florissants. It was particularly newsworthy as its lead pair were a married couple: Serbian contralto Marjana Mijanovic and Croatian tenor Kresmir Spicer. As the video of that show demonstrates, both were wonderful, but she grabbed all the attention which led to big engagements and recordings.

Unfortunately, vocal problems swiftly followed and she soon disappeared from the scene and the couple also divorced. Spicer, however, has steadily continued doing fine work over the past two decades; he was recently featured in the appallingly misconceived Aix Idomeneo.

Ritorno d’Ulisse also delivered my first glimpse of the stage magic of William Kentridge whose puppet-driven Monteverdi arrived in New York in 2004 with the Ricercar Consort. Another fine Swedish mezzo Kristina Hammarström waited patiently for baroque specialist Furio Zanasi (who performed more Monteverdi with Jordi Savall at Carnegie Hall this past fall).

Three years later, Kentridge’s Die Zauberflöte arrived at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. After experiencing it and Ritorno d’Ulisse, I had seen most everything in his limited bag of tricks, as I later realized after attending his Shostakovich and Berg productions at the Met.

Monteverdi: Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria

Penelope: Ann Hallenberg
Minerva/Fortuna: Susanne Rydén
Melanto/Amore: Tuva Semmingsen
Ericlea/Giunone: Miriam Treichl
Ulisse: Petteri Salomaa
Telemaco: Anders J. Dahlin
Eumete/Giove: Niklas Bjorling Rygert
Eurimaco: Fredrik Strid
Iro: Johan Christensson
Pisandro/l’Humana Fragilita: Martin Vanberg
Antinoo/Nettuno/Tempo: Lukas Jakobski

Conductor: Mark Tatlow
Drottningholm Court Theater
9 August 2008


Ritorno d’Ulisse can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a loud with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.

In addition, nearly 600 other podcast tracks are always available from Apple Podcasts for free, or via any RSS reader. An archive which lists all Trove Thursday offerings in alphabetical order by composer has recently been updated.