Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Collision: Spectra Ensemble at the Arcola Theatre

‘Asteroid flyby in October: A drill for the end of the world?’ So shouted a headline in USA Today earlier this month, as journalist Doyle Rice asked, ‘Are we ready for an asteroid impact?’ in his report that in October NASA will conduct a drill to see how well its planetary defence system would work if an actual asteroid were heading straight for Earth.

Joshua Bell offers Hispanic headiness at the Proms

At the start of the 20th century, French composers seemed to be conducting a cultural love affair with Spain, an affair initiated by the Universal Exposition of 1889 where the twenty-five-year old Debussy and the fourteen-year-old Ravel had the opportunity to hear new sounds from East Asia, such as the Javanese gamelan, alongside gypsy flamenco from Granada.

Hibiki: a European premiere by Mark-Anthony Turnage at the Proms

Hibiki: sound, noise, echo, reverberation, harmony. Commissioned by the Suntory Hall in Tokyo to celebrate the Hall’s 30th anniversary in 2016, Mark-Anthony Turnage’s 50-minute Hibiki, for two female soloists, children’s chorus and large orchestra, purports to reflect on the ‘human reverberations’ of the Tohoku earthquake in 2011 and the devastation caused by the subsequent tsunami and radioactive disaster.

Janáček: The Diary of One Who Disappeared, Grimeborn

A great performance of Janáček’s song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared can be, allowing for the casting of a superb tenor, an experience on a par with Schoenberg’s Erwartung. That Shadwell Opera’s minimalist, but powerful, staging in the intimate setting of Studio 2 of the Arcola Theatre was a triumph was in no small measure to the magnificent singing of the tenor, Sam Furness.

Khovanshchina: Mussorgsky at the Proms

Remembering the centenary of the Russian Revolution, this Proms performance of Mussorgsky’s mighty Khovanshchina (all four and a quarter hours of it) exceeded all expectations on a musical level. And, while the trademark doorstop Proms opera programme duly arrived containing full text and translation, one should celebrate the fact that - finally - we had surtitles on several screens.

Santa Fe: Entertaining If Not Exactly (R)evolutionary

You know what I loved best about Santa Fe Opera’s world premiere The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs?

Longborough Young Artists in London: Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice

For the last three years, Longborough Festival Opera’s repertoire of choice for their Young Artist Programme productions has been Baroque opera seria, more specifically Handel, with last year’s Alcina succeeding Rinaldo in 2014 and Xerxes in 2015.

Full-throated Cockerel at Santa Fe

A tale of a lazy, befuddled world leader that ‘has no clothes on’ and his two dimwit sons, hmmmm, what does that remind me of. . .?

Santa Fe’s Trippy Handel

If you don’t like a given moment in Santa Fe Opera’s staging of Alcina, well, just like the volatile mountain weather, wait two minutes and it will surely change.

Santa Fe’s Crowd-Pleasing Strauss

With Die Fledermaus’ thrice familiar overture still lingering in our ears, it didn’t take long for the assault of hijinks to reduce the audience into guffaws of delight.

Santa Fe: Mad for Lucia

If there is any practitioner currently singing the punishing title role of Lucia di Lammermoor better than Brenda Rae, I am hard-pressed to name her.

Janáček's The Cunning Little Vixen at Grimeborn

Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can be a difficult opera to stage, despite its charm and simplicity. In part it is a good, old-fashioned morality tale about the relationships between humans and animals, and between themselves, but Janáček doesn’t use a sledgehammer to make this point. It is easy for many productions to fall into parody, and many have done, and it is a tribute to The Opera Company’s staging of this work at the Arcola Theatre that they narrowly avoided this pitfall.

Handel's Israel in Egypt at the Proms: William Christie and the OAE

For all its extreme popularity with choirs, Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt is a somewhat problematic work; the scarcity of solos makes hiring professional soloists an extravagant expense, and the standard version of the work starts oddly with a tenor recitative. If we return to the work's history then these issues are put into context, and this is what William Christie did for the performance of Handel’s Israel in Egypt at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday 1 August 2017.

Sirens and Scheherazade: Prom 18

From Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria, to Bruch’s choral-orchestral Odysseus, to Fauré’s Penelope, countless compositions have taken their inspiration from Homer’s Odyssey, perhaps not surprisingly given Homer’s emphasis on the power of music in the Greek world.

A new La clemenza di Tito at Glyndebourne

Big birds are looming large at Glyndebourne this year. After Juno’s Peacock, which scooped up the suicidal Hipermestra, Chris Guth’s La clemenza di Tito offers us a huge soaring magpie, symbolic of Tito’s release from the chains of responsibility in Imperial Rome.

Prom 9: Fidelio lives by its Florestan

The last time Beethoven’s sole opera, Fidelio, was performed at the Proms, in 2009, Daniel Barenboim was making a somewhat belated London opera debut with his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

The Merchant of Venice: WNO at Covent Garden

In Out of Africa, her account of her Kenyan life, Karen Blixen relates an anecdote, ‘Farah and The Merchant of Venice’. When Blixen told Farah Aden, her Somali butler, the story of Shakespeare’s play, he was disappointed and surprised by the denouement: surely, he argued, the Jew Shylock could have succeeded in his bond if he had used a red-hot knife? As an African, Farah expected a different narrative, demonstrating that our reception of art depends so much on our assumptions and preconceptions.

Leoncavallo's Zazà at Investec Opera Holland Park

The make-up is slapped on thickly in this new production of Leoncavallo’s Zazà by director Marie Lambert and designer Alyson Cummings at Investec Opera Holland Park.

McVicar’s Enchanting but Caliginous Rigoletto in Castle Olavinlinna at Savonlinna Opera Festival

David McVicar’s thrilling take on Verdi’s Rigoletto premiered as the first international production of this Summer’s Savonlinna Opera Festival. The scouts for the festival made the smart decision to let McVicar adapt his 2001 Covent Garden staging to the unique locale of Castle Olavinlinna.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at Covent Garden

The end of the ROH’s summer season was marked as usual by the Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance but this year’s showcase was a little lacklustre at times.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Danielle de Niese as Poppea
19 Aug 2008

Prom 18 — L’Incoronazione di Poppea

Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s annual appearance at the Proms is always an eagerly-awaited event, but there is a varying degree of success with which the productions adapt from a full staging at Glyndebourne to a semi-staging suitable for the small platform and cavernous space of the Royal Albert Hall.

Prom 18 – L’Incoronazione di Poppea
Glyndebourne Festival

Danielle de Niese (Poppea), Alice Coote (Nerone), Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke (Arnalta), et al., Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Emmanuelle Haïm (cond.)

Above: Danielle de Niese as Poppea
All photos by BBC/Chris Christodoulou

 

Richard Jones’s production of Macbeth last year, whose big blocks of set and full-chorus choreography didn’t made it to the Proms, ended up a shell of its former self, and the voices that had sounded impressively powerful in the intimate Sussex theatre were, if not lost, then at least diminished in effect when transferred to the Hall.

The fact that Robert Carsen’s production of L’incoronazione di Poppea was relatively austere to begin with, starting off at Glyndebourne with little more on stage than a big red curtain, meant that it was destined from the start to transfer successfully to the Proms, in a semi-staging by Bruno Ravella.

Alice Coote as NeroneAlice Coote as Nerone

The central relationship between Nerone and the upwardly-mobile sex kitten Poppea was portrayed quite unconventionally. The two began the opera drunk with lust and longing for one another, but as the drama progressed, it was clear that Nerone was gradually becoming aware that Poppea’s lust for power and position had overtaken any genuine love towards him. His resentment grows to the point that as he promises to make her Empress, he barely stops himself from striking her – and though he still cannot resist her, most of the final duet was sung from opposite sides of the stage, with the two hardly looking at one another. Poppea gets what she wanted, but for Nerone it’s an empty celebration.

As thought-provoking as it was to see their relationship from that angle it isn’t a concept that’s borne out by the music. From the very beginning, we are told in no uncertain terms that it is going to be a victory for Love over both Virtue and Fortune, and at the end the sinuous intertwining lines of ‘Pur ti miro’ are clearly a musical evocation of a couple united in erotic love. Though historical sources relate that Nero later killed Poppaea by kicking her in the stomach while pregnant, this is not something that casts a premonitionary shadow over Monteverdi’s score. It is not even an idea which sits well within this staging, given the constant presence of Cupid (Amy Freston) as a sort of master of ceremonies.

In other respects it was a lively performance, with the comic episodes brought off really sharply. The two Nurses were both sung by men in drag – Poppea’s nurse Arnalta was the larger-than-life tenor Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke, while Ottavia’s nurse, sung by counter-tenor Dominique Visse, was a more subtle creation, all pursed lips and disdaining looks. The interchange between the Page (Lucia Cirillo) and the Damigella (Claire Ormshaw) was brought vividly to life.

Poppea_Glyndebourne_Proms1.pngScene from L’Incoronazione di Poppea

Musically, Emmanuelle Haïm and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment never let the lengthy score drag, and the cast was very strong, with Alice Coote’s smoky-voiced Nerone particularly striking. Besides Coote, the other vocal highlight was Tamara Mumford’s warm-voiced, impassioned Ottavia, even if Nerone’s complaint about her ‘barren frigidity’ raised a laugh thanks to Mumford’s advanced stage of pregnancy. The role of Poppea seems to lie well for Danielle de Niese’s soft-grained soprano, and she looks wonderful although she does have a tendency to overact. Only Paolo Battaglia, as Seneca, sounded dry and uneven, though I did find myself wondering, given the forces – a chamber orchestra and smallish voices – quite how successful I would have found the performance if I’d been sitting up in the rear of the Circle or standing in the Gallery.

Ruth Elleson © 2008

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):