Vesselina Kasarova (Penelope), Dietrich Henschel (Ulisse/Umana Fragilità), Jonas Kaufmann (Telemaco), Isabel Rey (Amore/Minerva), Martina Janková (La Fortuna/Giunone), Malin Hartelius (Melanto), Martin Zysset (Pisandro), Martin Oro (Anfinomo), Thomas Mohr (Eumete), Cornelia Kallisch (Ericlea), Boguslaw Bidzinski (Eurimaco), Reinhard Mayr (Antinoo), Pavel Daniluk (Nettuno), Anton Scharinger (Giove), Giuseppe Scorsin (il Tempo)
“The renowned collaborations between Zurich Opera and Nikolaus Harnoncourt in the 1970s and early 80s were crucial milestones in projecting historically aware performance away from historicism-for-its-own-sake, towards vitally conceived productions for contemporary audiences. Il Ritorno enjoyed great success in 1977 in Jean-Pierre Ponnelle's imaginative staging: Harnoncourt's opulent instrumental palette lifted the hearts of many, though only the eyebrows of the purists. In this musical 'revival' to celebrate 25 years of the swashbuckling original, Harnoncourt allows the nobility of the score to roll unimpeded by the driven intensity of the older recorded account on Teldec from 1971. The vocal contributions are more eloquent than ever, with outstanding contributions from Vesselina Kasarova and Dietrich Henschel. Can Monteverdi have ever heard this opera sung with such an extraordinary range of vocal beauty and immediacy of expression? This extends to all the characters. Of the two caveats here, the durability of Harnoncourt's big-band score with its bold instrumental canvas is likely to be a source of debate. Monteverdi left only a shell of his musical genius and, as convention dictated, the performers filled in the rest. The logic of using the greatest array of coloration to suit the context of characterisation and emotional states is highly plausible for all those who value music drama – and Monteverdi, more to the point – in pastels rather than charcoal. Yet there are moments when the spirit of realisation enters the realm of transcription, especially in the richly endowed brass ensembles used for divine intervention. A later baroque soundworld occasionally prevails, and the luminosity of the moment is lost. However, the warm glow of assured fidelity in 'Hor di parlar e tempo' – where Ulysses's accompagnato recitative lends authenticity to the composer's primal communicative instincts – is ravishing and persuasive. The DVD production is flawed only by some poor dubbing in Act 2.”
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