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 Reviews

In Parenthesis, Welsh National Opera in London

‘A century after the Somme, who still stands with Britain?’ So read a headline in yesterday’s Evening Standard on the eve of the centenary of the first day of that battle which, 141 days later, would grind to a halt with 1,200,000 British, French, German and Allied soldiers dead or injured.

Die Walküre, Opera North

A day is now a very long time indeed in politics; would that it were otherwise. It certainly is in the Ring, as we move forward a generation to Die Walküre.

Early Gluck arias at the Wigmore Hall

If composers had to be categorised as either conservatives or radicals, Christoph Willibald Gluck would undoubtedly be in the revolutionary camp, lauded for banishing display, artifice and incoherence from opera and restoring simplicity and dramatic naturalness in his ‘reform’ operas.

Das Rheingold, Opera North

Das Rheingold is, of course, the reddest in tooth and claw of all Wagner’s dramas - which is saying something.

Peter Grimes in Princeton

The Princeton Festival presents one opera annually, amidst other events. Its offerings usually alternate annually between 20th century and earlier operas. This year the Festival presented Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, now a classic work, in a very effective and moving production.

Scintillating Strauss in Saint Louis

If you like your Ariadne on Naxos productions as playful as a box of puppies, then Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is the address for you.

Saint Louis Takes On ‘The Scottish Opera’

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis took forty years before attempting Verdi’s Macbeth but judging by the excellence of the current production, it was well worth the wait.

Anatomy Theater: A Most Unusual New Opera

On June 16, 2016, Los Angeles Opera with Beth Morrison Projects presented the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang's Anatomy Theater at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT).

Shalimar in St. Louis: Pagliaccio Non Son

In its compact forty-year history, the ambitious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has just triumphantly presented its twenty-fifth world premiere with Shalimar the Clown.

Jenůfa, ENO

The sharp angles and oddly tilting perspectives of Charles Edwards’ set for David Alden’s production of Jenůfa at ENO suggest a community resting precariously on the security and certainty of its customs, soon to slide from this precipice into social and moral anarchy.

The “Other” Marriage of Figaro in a West Village Townhouse

Last week an audience of 50 assembled in the kitchen of a luxurious West Village townhouse for a performance of Marriage of Figaro.

West Wind: A new song-cycle by Sally Beamish

In a recent article in BBC Music Magazine tenor James Gilchrist reflected on the reason why early-nineteenth-century England produced no corpus of art song to match the German lieder of Schumann, Schubert and others, despite the great flowering of English Romantic poetry during this period.

Florencia en el Amazonas, NYCO

With the New York Premiere of Florencia en el Amazonas, the New York City Opera Steps Out of the Shadows of the Past

Idomeneo, re di Creta, Garsington

Opportunities to see Idomeneo are not so frequent as they might be, certainly not so frequent as they should be.

Don Carlo in San Francisco

Not merely Don Carlo, but the five-act Don Carlo in the 1886 Modena version! The welcomed esotericism of San Francisco Opera’s extraordinary spring season.

Jenůfa in San Francisco

The early summer San Francisco Opera season has the feel of a classy festival. There is an introduction of Spanish director Calixto Bieito to American audiences, a five-act Don Carlo and two awaited, inevitable role debuts, Karita Mattila as Kostelnička and Malin Bystrom as Janacek's Jenůfa.

Musings on the “American Ring

Now that the curtain has long fallen on the third and last performance of the Ring cycle at the Washington National Opera (WNO), it is safe to say that the long-anticipated production has been an unqualified success for the company, director Francesca Zambello, and conductor Philippe Auguin.

Nabucco, Covent Garden

Most of the attention during this revival of Daniele Abbado’s 2013 production of Nabucco has been directed at Plácido Domingo’s reprise of the title role, with the critical reception somewhat mixed.

Tristan, English National Opera

My first Tristan, indeed my first Wagner, in the theatre was ENO’s previous staging of the work, twenty years ago, in 1996. The experience, as it should, as it must, although this is alas far from a given, quite overwhelmed me.

The Cunning Little Vixen, Glyndebourne

Four years ago, almost to the day (13th to 12th), I saw Melly Still’s production of The Cunning Little Vixen during its first Glyndebourne run. I found myself surprised how much more warmly I responded to it this time.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Claudio Monteverdi: Coronation of Poppea
05 May 2009

Opera Atelier does it as it was

It’s an odd day in opera when the bad girl wins, but that is only one thing that makes the Opera Atelier production of Monteverdi’s Coronation of Poppea remarkable — and admirable.

Claudio Monteverdi: Coronation of Poppea

João Fernandes, Carla Huhtanen, Peggy Kriha Dye, Cory Knight, Olivier Laquerre, Laura Pudwell, Vicki St. Pierre, Tracy Smith Bessette, Michael Maniaci, and Curtis Sullivan. Conductor: David Fallis. Director: Marshall Pynkoski. Choreographer: Jeannette Lajeunesse-Zingg. Set Designer: Gerard Gauci. Lighting Designer: Kevin Fraser. Costume Designer: Dora Rust d'Eye.

Above: Publicity photo courtesy of Opera Atelier

 

For the Toronto company, the sole endeavor in North America devoted exclusively to the authentic staging of early opera, is in itself both remarkable and admirable. OA’s founding director Marshall Pynkoski and choreographer Jeannette Lajeunmesse Zingg leave no scholarly stone unturned in their effort to create productions that take their audience back to the time of the composer. And in so doing they do not merely create a physical replica of a historic staging; their success lies rather in their ability to lay bare the intense emotional involvements that once made Poppea a blockbuster of the Italian Baroque.

The Poppea on stage in Toronto’s handsomely restored 1913 Elgin Theatre began as a co-production with Houston Grand Opera and was first on stage here in 2002. In the intervening years the production has lost none of its glittering beauty, and its star — Michael Maniaci as Nerone — has grown even more impressive in his artistry since then. Now just into his 30s, Maniaci is a unique phenomenon in a world now overrun by talented countertenors.

By his own definition Maniaci is a male soprano whose larynx failed to develop, leaving him with a high voice that is totally natural. He was spared the agony of his voice breaking and thus must resort to falsetto in his work. That’s the technical side of things.

Maniaci is now in demand everywhere, and the voice continues to overwhelm with its strength and dramatic power. As Nero(ne), who in the final B.C. century allegedly played his violin while Rome burned, Maniaci has a lot of fiddling to do in the melodramatic entanglements in Poppea and in the final performance of the season seen on May 2, he was equally excellent as the demonic politician and as the gentle lover. His most tender moment, however, came not in an exchange with ambitious Poppea, but rather with “hands-on” relief provided by a servant as he lay on his bed. Happily, Maniaci has his vocal and dramatic equal in the passionately obsessed Poppea of soprano Peggy Kriha Dye, a leading figure in opera houses since she created the role of Stella in Andre’ Previn’s Streetcar Named Desire at the San Francisco Opera.

European João Fernandes brought both dignity and majesty to Seneca, in this story not merely the noblest Roman of them all, but the only the only unsoiled character in the entire drama. A hush settled upon the audience at the conclusion of his death scene, which appropriately ended the first half of the performance.

Beyond these leads men in the cast largely outsang the women involved. As Ottone, Poppea’s rejected husband who in newly-found love for Drusilla plots to murder his ex-wife, bass baritone Olivier Laquerre was a commanding and convincing figure, while Carla Huhtanen was a sweetly adequate, but in no way overwhelming Drusilla. Kimberly Barber sympathetically portrayed Ottavia, Nerone’s rejected wife and thus the great loser in the story.

Compared to the concept of the role in other productions Vicki St. Pierre took a largely straight-forward approach to Ottavia’s nurse, who then lowers herself to the general level of indecency prevalent in the story to jock up her heels — literally — at the thought of the greater glory that she will henceforth enjoy as Poppea’s servant. The nurse is more commonly sung by a man who makes this a comic role — as in a recent Houston Poppea imported from Bologna where she took cues from TV’s Aunt Emma.

Distinction is brought to OA productions by Toronto’s Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, conducted for Poppea by OA resident music director David Fall is. And eight members of the Atelier added both to the beauty of the staging and its dramatic continuity.

All the above, however, are factors that contribute to a success far greater than the mere sum of these many parts of this production. For it is the total impact of this Poppea that makes it overwhelmingly moving music theater.

Elders recall the infancy of the early music movement when emphasis was upon scholarship and respect for history. Performances were impressive — but anemic. Here, on the other hand, is opera as full blooded and vital as anything that Verdi and Wagner were later to write. The company has no fear either of emotion or the searing sensuality often present in Monteverdi’s score. It’s what makes Opera Atelier the winner that it is.

Sets and costumes true to the period were by — respectively — Gerard Gauci and Dora Rust d’Eye. The staging was effectively lighted by Kevin Fraser. In its next season Opera Atelier stages Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride and Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. Call 416-703-3767 or visit www.operaatelier.com.

Wes Blomster

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):