L'incoronazione di Poppea
December 22, 2006
* 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.