Klaus Michael Grüber’s production of Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea, recorded at the Aix-en-Provence festival in 2000, is both stylish and stylised. The stage and costume designs, by Gilles Aillaud and Rudy Sabounghi, are extremely elegant and, at times, very beautiful. The Seneca scenes at the beginning of Act 2, set in a sort of lemon grove, are especially effective as ai the use of painterly backdrops looking like Greek vase paintings reinterpreted by a fauviste. The director complements the designs with a somewhat formalised acting style that fits rather well. He also makes some changes to the narrative to tighten up the drama, dispensing with Ottavia’s nurse and ending with Pur tí miro, rather than Poppea’s coronation. Coupled with excellent acting performances it’s a straightforward but effective way to tell the story.
After the hours of discussion about what Lee Blakeney really meant in his COC Les Contes d’Hoffmann a little light relief seemed called for. Fortuitously I had just got my hands on the 1997 Opéra National de Lyon recording of Offenbach’s Orphée aux Enfers so I thought that might do the trick. I was dead right. The production by Laurent Pelly is an absolute hoot (or, to quote young British mezzo, Emilie Renard “FILTHY!”). The high speed, somewhat surreal production is brilliantly executed by a predominantly French cast including Natalie Dessay as Eurydice and Laurent Naouri as Jupiter. There’s so much going on that it would be tedious to provide a full description. Continue reading