L'incoronazione di Poppea

West Edge Opera L'incoronazione di Poppea Preview

West-edge-opera-poppea-2013-1* 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.

Gran Teatre del Liceu's 2008-2009 Season

October 4-20 2008: Tiefland
November 11-30 2008: Le nozze di Figaro
December 23 2008- January 14 2009: Simon Boccanegra
January 3-10 2009: El retablo de Maese Pedro
February 3-15 2009: L'incoronazione di Poppea
March 17- April 18 2009: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
April 20- May 2 2009: La cabeza del Bautista
May 18- June 2 2009: Fidelio
June 19- July 7 2009: Salome
July 21-31 2009: Turandot

Barcelona's opera season was announced in January. Karita Mattila sings Fidelio, Nina Stemme sings Salome, and Bo Skovhus sings in Die Meistersinger. The one Baroque offering is a production by David Alden.

2008-2009 Season | Official Site

L'incoronazione di Poppea

Claudio Monteverdi* Notes *
Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea was performed at Los Angeles Opera from November 25th to December 16th this year. I had the opportunity to attend the penultimate performance in the Grand Circle. All in all, the experience was moving. The music is amazing and the production did not detract from it. Harry Bicket conducted the dozen musicians well, although the hall rather cavernous for such a small ensemble. All the singers had too much vibrato for Baroque music, most notably Frederica von Stade as Octavia. Flicka does not have control of her voice and should retire, she was simply embarrassing. Susan Graham sang well in the title role, though there were times in her higher register when she was shrill. Tenor Kurt Streit was wonderful as Nerone, he did not strain too much and had good volume. Reinhard Hagen made a fine Seneca, his last scene was strong, both in his acting and singing. Countertenor David Daniels was also pretty good, neither shrill nor gritty.

Pierre Audi's production was nondescript, though it had a few interesting moments with the device of deus ex machina. The choreography was the weakest part, it seemed that no one considered that the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is immense and poorly-suited to Baroque music. Many times the singers were made to turn upstage and deliver their lines in the opposite direction of the audience. The stage, designed by Michael Simon, was mostly empty but had a few props, such as a large sphere or a wall, depending on the scene. Emi Wada's costumes were at best pretty and at worst nonsensical, especially Arnalta's costumes, one of which looked like something out of Alice in Wonderland, and another one which looked like an origami project gone awry. Arnalta was played by a tenor, and this seemed to amuse the audience to no end.

* Tattling *
A couple came in just before the music began and took their seats in front of me. The female half of the couple fell asleep within 10 minutes, and the male half kept checking his mobile device for the entire first act. They had the good sense to leave at the first intermission. Unfortunately, the people next to them moved in, and they whispered throughout the entire opera. The elderly man next to me had a watch that beeped at each hour, and when I asked him to silence it at the second intermission, he denied that his watch made sounds. At the end, the two women in front of me gave Frederica von Stade a standing ovation, and I could not stop laughing at the irony in this.