Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria hasn’t proved as popular as his other late work L’incoronazione di Poppea but, given as compelling a performance as it got at the Teatro Real, it’s a bit hard to see why that is. On this 2007 recording we have an elegant and interesting production by Pier Luigi Pizzi, an excellent cast headed by Kobie van Rensburg and Christine Rice and the incomparable William Christie and his Les Arts Florissants. It’s a compelling package.
Oddly enough, given the post previous to this, Reiner Moritz’s essay in the booklet accompanying this recording of Cavalli’s La Didone brings up the Harnoncourt/Ponelle Monteverdi recordings as a precursor to what he sees as Bill Christie’s similar championing of Cavalli. I guess the big difference is that only three of Monteverdi’s operas survive while we have 27 of Cavalli’s. I think he may have a point though. It seems to me that 17th century Italian opera works on an aesthetic which is very in tune with today. The relative spareness and clarity of the music seems closer to Britten than to Verdi and the cynicism and explicit sexuality of the libretti closer to Anna Nicole than La Bohème.