* Notes *
West Edge Opera's L'incoronazione di Poppea opens tonight at the Performing Arts Theater at El Cerrito High School and runs through Sunday. The final dress rehearsal (Act I with Emma McNairy and Bryan Thorsett pictured left, photograph by Jamie Buschbaum) was held on Tuesday. The performances are a collaboration with MusicSources, and conductor Gilbert Martinez leads a small ensemble of period instrumentalists. Taken together, the sound of the two harpsichords, theorbo, triple harp, viola da gamba, and two violins is rather dry and spare. The cuts pare the opera down to a mere two hours, which distills the story into its essentials.
The singing is consistent all around. The cast includes Christine Brandes (Nerone), Emma McNairy (Poppea), Erin Neff (Ottavia), Tonia D'Amelio Drucilla), Ryan Belongie (Ottone), Bryan Thorsett (Arnalta), and Paul Thompson (Seneca).
Director Mark Streshinsky offers a production set in 1962, complete with pill box hats and square handbags. Much video projection is employed, which is occasionally dizzying, but keeps the scenes moving without having to physically change the sets.