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

Emmanuel Chabrier L’Étoile — Royal Opera House London

Premièred in 1877 at Offenbach’s own Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens, Emmanuel Chabrier’s L’Étoile has a libretto, by Eugène Leterrier and Albert Vanloo, which stirs the blackly comic, the farcical and the bizarre into a surreal melange, blending contemporary satire with the frankly outlandish.

Robert Ashley’s Quicksand at the Kitchen

Robert Ashley’s opera-novel Quicksand makes for a novel experience

Premiere of Raskatov’s Green Mass

One of the leading Russian composers of his generation, Alexander Raskatov’s reputation in the UK and western Europe derives from several, recent large-scale compositions, such as his reconstruction of Alfred Schnittke’s Ninth Symphony from a barely legible manuscript (the work was first performed in 2007 in the Dresden Frauenkirche by the Dresden Philharmonic under Dennis Russell Davies), and his 2010 opera A Dog’s Heart, based on Mikhail Bulgakov’s satire (which was directed by Simon McBurney at English National Opera in 2010, following the opera’s premiere at Netherlands Opera earlier that year).

Orpheus in the Underworld, Opera Danube

I’m not sure that St John’s Smith Square was the most appropriate venue for Opera Danube’s latest production: Jacques Offenbach’s satirical frolic, Orpheus in the Underworld.

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in Lyon

This nasty little opera evening in Lyon lived up to the opera’s initial reputation as pure pornophony. This is the erotic Shostakovich of the D minor cello sonata, it is the sarcastic and complicated Shostakovich of The Nose . . .

Bel Canto: A World Premiere at Lyric Opera of Chicago

During December 2015 and presently in January Lyric Opera of Chicago has featured the world premiere of the opera Bel Canto, with music by Jimmy López and libretto by Nilo Cruz, based on the novel by Ann Patchett.

Tosca, Royal Opera

Christmas at the Royal Opera House is all about magic, mystery and miracles: as represented by the conjuror’s exploits in The Nutcracker — with its Kingdom of Sweets and Sugar Plum Fairy — or, as in the Linbury Theatre this year, the fantastical adventures of the Firework-Maker’s Daughter, Lila, and her companions — a lovesick elephant, swashbuckling pirates, tropical beasts and Fire-Fiends.

Lianna Haroutounian resplendent in Madama Butterfly at the Concertgebouw

The title role is a deciding factor in Madama Butterfly. Despite a last-minute conductor cancellation, last Saturday’s concert performance at the Concertgebouw was a resounding success, thanks to Lianna Haroutounian’s opulent, heart-stealing Cio-Cio-San.

Classical Opera: MOZART 250 — 1766: A Retrospective

With this performance of vocal and instrumental works composed by the 10-year-old Mozart and his contemporaries during 1766, Classical Opera entered the second year of their 27-year project, MOZART 250, which is designed to ‘contextualise the development and influences of [sic] the composer’s artistic personality’ and, more audaciously, to ‘follow the path that subsequently led to some of the greatest cornerstones of our civilisation’.

Benjamin Appl — Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Luca Pisaroni and Wolfram Rieger were due to give the latest installment in the Wigmore Hall's complete Schubert songs series, but both had to cancel at short notice. Fortunately, the Wigmore Hall rises to such contingencies, and gave us Benjamin Appl and Jonathan Ware. Since there's a huge buzz about Appl, this was an opportunity to hear more of what he can do.

Ferrier Awards Winners’ Recital

The phrase ‘Sunday afternoon concert’ may suggest light, post-prandial entertainment, but soprano Gemma Lois Summerfield and her accompanist, Simon Lepper, swept away any such conceptions in this demanding programme at St. John’s Smith Square.

Pelléas et Mélisande at the Barbican

When, o when, will someone put Peter Sellars and his compendium of clichés out of our misery?

Samuel Barber: Choral Music

This recording, made in the Adrian Boult Hall at the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music in June 2014, is the fourth disc in SOMM’s series of recordings with Paul Spicer and the Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir.

L'Arpeggiata: La dama d’Aragó, Wigmore Hall

Having recently followed some by-ways through the music of Purcell, Monteverdi and Cavalli, L’Arpeggiata turned the spotlight on traditional folk music in this characteristically vibrant and high-spirited performance at the Wigmore Hall.

Tippett : A Child of Our Time, London

Edward Gardner brought all his experience as a choral and opera conductor to bear in this stirring performance of Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time at the Barbican Hall, with a fine cast of soloists, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Taverner and Tavener, Fretwork, London

‘Apt for voices or viols’: eager to maximise sales among the domestic market in Elizabethan England, publishers emphasised that the music contained in collections such as Thomas Morley’s First Book of Madrigals to Four Voices of 1594 was suitable for performance by any combination of singers and players.

Fall of the House of Usher in San Francisco

It was a single title but a double bill and there was far more happening than Gordon Getty and Claude Debussy. Starting with Edgar Allen Poe.

The Merry Widow at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its latest production of the current season Lyric Opera of Chicago is presenting Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow (Die lustige Witwe) featuring Renée Fleming /Nicole Cabell as the widow Hanna Glawari and Thomas Hampson as Count Danilo Danilovich.

Kindred Spirits: Cecilia Bartoli and Rolando Villazón at the Concertgebouw

Mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli has been a regular favourite at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam since 1996. Her verastile concerts are always carefully constructed and delivered with irrepressible energy and artistic commitment.

Cav/Pag at Royal Opera

When Italian director Damiano Michieletto visited Covent Garden in June this year, he spiced Rossini’s Guillaume Tell with a graphic and, many felt, gratuitous rape scene that caused outrage and protest.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Claudio Monteverdi, L’incoronozione di Poppea
09 Aug 2009

Monteverdi: L’incoronozione di Poppea

This excellent production of Monteverdi’s final (premiered in 1643) and most problematic opera features first-rate singing and a very effective (and restrained) staging.

Claudio Monteverdi, L’incoronozione di Poppea

Poppea: Danielle de Niese; Nerone: Alice Coote; Ottone: Iestyn Davies; Arnalta: Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke; Ottavia: Tamara Mumford; Seneca: Paolo Battaglia; Amore: Amy Freston. Emmanuelle Haïm conducting the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Glyndebourne Chorus. Stage Director: Robert Carsen. Libretto by Giovanni Busenello. DVD of live performance at Glyndebourne Festival, June 2008

Decca 074 3339 [DVD]

$21.97  Click to buy

Early baroque opera is always a challenge for the producing company since the musical language, artistic conventions, and vocal tessituras are so far removed from modern day practices. L’incoronazione di Poppea, ups the ante by portraying the Emperor Nero, one of history’s most barbaric tyrants, in a somewhat positive light, which, most likely was meant to be understood by its original audience as symbolic of the northern Italian disdain for Roman corruption and decadence.

Busenello’s libretto is largely based on Seutonius’ The Twelve Caesars and begins with a debate among Fortune, Virtue, and Amore as to who is the most powerful. Director Robert Carsen stages this Prologue as though Virtue and Fortune are actually members of the Glyndebourne Festival audience and even has the action begin in the pit and in English before quickly transitioning to the stage and the Italian. This works most effectively because it reinforces the idea that the action to take place hence is an opera-within-an-opera.

The action of the opera basically follows the parameters of the Aristotelian unities. Within approximately 24 hours Nero will exile his wife Ottavia, make Poppea his new empress, condemn his disapproving tutor Seneca to death by suicide, all the while showing kingly magnanimity to Ottone (Poppea’s former lover and would-be assassin [at the behest of Ottavia]) and Drusilla, the once and future lover of Ottone. By opera’s end, Amore has thoroughly triumphed over Virtue and Fortune. This triumph, however, is short-lived, as the historical record shows that within a year after the end of the action in the opera Nero kicked to death the then-pregnant Poppea.

The staging of the opera in large part mitigates the dramatic difficulties that the work presents. Taking advantage of the limited space of the Glyndebourne stage, the sets are minimal and easily flow from one scene to the next. Since a great deal of the action takes place in the boudoir, bed sheets become gowns. Although the staging abandons authentic Roman-era verisimilitude, the visual effect is one of an otherworldly milieu, not a vulgar deconstruction of the baroque. Indeed, the creative minds behind this staging are to be commended for not succumbing to the fashionable kitsch of Regieoper. Their emendations and interpolations are few and help to enhance the musical and dramatic effects of the opera.

Particularly satisfying was the choice not to sacrifice musical integrity for visual effect. Rather than transpose the opera to accommodate modern tessituras, singers were selected for the appropriateness of their voice, rather than gender. As such, this staging employs counter-tenors (Ottone), females performing male roles (Nerone), and males performing female roles (Arnalta). This is done, however, not for the sake of gratuitous gender bending, but to allow for the experience of authentic baroque vocal ranges.

Soprano Danielle de Niese’s performance in the title role is musically, dramatically and visually spot on. As a musical actress, de Niese is believable even in love scenes with Alice Coote’s Nerone. Also impressive are counter-tenor Iestyn Davies in the role of Ottone and bass Paolo Battaglia as Seneca. Although it is a secondary and somewhat thankless role, Tamara Mumford performed admirably as Ottavia, particularly in her Act I rage aria “Disprezzata regina.”

Conductor Emmanuelle Haïm directed from the keyboard and displayed a spontaneity and musicality that is often lacking in baroque opera. Her approach is authentic performance for the sake of musicality rather than authenticity for authenticity’s sake. In her hands, the performance was alive and was fully in synch with the drama and rhetoric of the libretto, as one would expect in a performance of a work by the creator of the secunda prattica.

This DVD has several additional features that are quite good, including a brief history of the Glyndebourne Festival, interviews with the creative team, and retrospectives of the 1962 and 1984 Glyndebourne stagings of Poppea. All in all, this is an excellent DVD that will be satisfying to both devotees of Monteverdi and baroque opera as well as those who are experiencing the genre for the first time.

William E. Grim

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):