(Previous section here.)
About the music. This is not a production that appears to be attempting much more with the opera than what is on the surface. Patricia Schumann sings Poppea’s music with accuracy and a nice sound and enough personality that the character makes sense, although it doesn’t feel like a deep or subtle interpretation. Poppea is pretty much what she appears to be, see-thru dress and all. I guess that’s kind of the point, though, isn’t it.
I believe that Nero is normally a counter-tenor role, but in this case it’s a tenor, and I have no objection, because it’s Richard Croft, and he’s one of the best things in this. One of my favorite parts of this was the scene at the end of Act I where Nero and his buddy Lucano (John La Pierre) are dancing around whooping it up that Seneca is dead. It’s very pleasant to listen to, and the staging in this sequence is effective too – amid the singing and dancing and kissing, Nero grabs some straps on the large symbolic disc that had descended from the ceiling as Seneca expired, and begins to swing back and forth. The swinging meshes with the music and the general feel of the scene rather well. Nero and Poppea’s final duet is also well worth hearing.
Ottavia is one of those operatic characters that I feel ought to be more interesting than she seems, here – I mean, she’s unwilling to commit adultery, but she is willing to commit murder. There’s got to be something in that, right? But while Kathleen Kuhlmann projects appropriate gravitas in this role, and plenty of dignity at the end, when Ottavia is exiled, I didn’t have any “woah, this is getting interesting” moments during the course of the performance.
Darla Brooks is entirely adequate as Drusilla – again, this is a role (like Dalinda in Handel’s Ariodante) where what the character chooses to do is weird enough that it ought to be interesting, but here it just kind of . . . isn’t. It’s pleasant to listen to, I guess. But I ended up not caring all that much. (Although Buffy fans will note that the fanfiction theory may not be so far fetched after all, given that Drusilla’s best vampire friend in the world was named . . . Darla.)
Finally, the subtitles sometimes lag behind the singing, so you have those “Seneca just said what?” moments every so often.
So yeah. I had two productions of L’incoronazione di Poppea to choose from. I should have watched the other one.