The set is awful. A large mosquito puddle is on stage back right and the peasants occasionally stomp around in it and then dribble over the rest of the stage. What looks like the poles (except they are trees) for an Indian teepee is on stage right--open, no covering! The opera opens with Musica, a countertenor (at least he could have had a wig instead of a close-shaved head!)--this should be a female soprano. It then breaks the famous lyre, thus eliminating the whole setting of this opera. The lyre does not appear again! Emotion is shown by the singer lying prone, flopping and rolling around on-stage like a semi-dead fish, at the same time trying to sing. Since the lyre has already been broken and thrown aware, Orfeo does not have it to help him charm Caronte in the River Styx scene. Nonetheless, which is amusing, he sings about his `golden lyre' which is nowhere to be seen. The entrance to the underworld does not have the famous sign `Lasciate ogni speranza voi chentrate!' The underworld scene which Monteverdi has wonderful echos of violin and recorder has no visuals like Harnoncourt's to emphasize the echo. Also, instead of being played off-stage to simulate the echo, it seems to be just played at lower volume which is not as effective. The costumes for the peasants are nice, but the rest of the costumes are a mess--a combination of shrouds, remade bedspreads, pants and robes. Yuck! When Euridice is finally set to follow Orfeo out of the underworld, she instead wanders aimlessly in the mosquito pool. To make up for the lack of scenery, fires are lit on-stage, including in the mosquito pool. How the fire marshals ever allowed this is stunning; but, of course, it's Amsterdam! The lighting is dark and darker. The fields of Arcadia are almost as dark and uninviting as the underworld. Monteverdi would have lost his last three years' Christmas dinners if he had been unfortunate enough to have seen this production. The music is tremendous, just don't expect much visually other than Euro-trash and Euro-kitsch masquerading as art! If one wants to see a truly outstanding version of this opera, get Harnoncourt's Zurich production from 1978. Second to this is Jordi Savall's 2002 Barcelona production--tremendously good musically, but not nearly the visual spectacular of Harnoncourt's 1978 production.
Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria
This opera staging is also a mess. Pierre Audi makes a great point of how he `eliminated the extraneous gods!' Of course the ones he eliminated are Jove, Juno and Neptune. This basically eliminates scene 8 of Act 1 and scene 7 of Act 3 which is potentially the greatest spectacle in the entire opera. It also eliminates the whole reason this opera exists; i.e., Neptune is angry at Ulisse for blinding Neptune's son, the Cyclops, and thus causes Ulisse to wander for ten years before returning home. Neptune takes his vengeance out on the group of Phaeacians who sailed Ulisse back to Ithaca. Finally, at the intervention of Minerva and Jove, he forgives Ulisse. Audi does show the Great Eagle of Jove as a live golden eagle that flies about 15 feet; otherwise it is on its handler's arm. One wonders what on earth Pierre Audi was thinking! The key scenes of Penelope weaving and, late at night, unweaving the burial shroud for Ulisse's elderly father, Laertes (which is her key to holding off the three suitors) have no shroud, but she sings about it anyway! Minerva is poorly cast--she's a bit too long in the tooth. Also, her shield is a terrible disappointment! The great bow of Ulisse looks like an overly long sapling. Terrible! The high point of the opera is Iro's suicide scene. Iro, a 400+ lb bass, by far the heaviest on DVD, manages to galump across the stage and it doesn't even creak! He whines about food for 8 minutes. Added to the standard Euro-trash low-cost costumes is white padded long underwear. It would be uncomfortable under strong lights, but the lighting is certainly low, not quite non-existent--perhaps environmental-ecumenical! The music is good, but not matched by the visuals. If one wants to see a truly outstanding version of this opera, get Hans Werner Henze's 1985 Salzburg production (with modern instruments). Or get Harnoncourt's period instrument Zurich production of 1979. Both are spectacular.
L'incoronazione di Poppea
The set is basically balls of varying size, fire and a big vertical pole along with various lumps and walls. It looks like some money was finally spent on costumes, but only a few; however, the lighting is so dark that it's hard to tell. The rest of the costumes look again like recycled bedspreads or whatever was found in the rag bag, but of varying vintages! The lack of lighting is matched by the lack of stage sets. The music is good but not matched by the visuals. If one wants to see a truly outstanding version of this opera, get Harnoncourt's period instrument Zurich production of 1979.
Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda
This is a wonderful production. Stunning visually and musically. It's provided as a bonus DVD in the set and is worth the cost of the whole set.