Monteverdi – L’incoronazione di Poppea / Schwetzinger Festspiele 1993 (3)

(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.

7 thoughts on “Monteverdi – L’incoronazione di Poppea / Schwetzinger Festspiele 1993 (3)

  1. Sounds as though you had a slightly disppointing time with it. I think it is a brilliant opera – I love the fact that everyone is so completely fallible in it. There are lots of great versions to choose from – so please persevere!


    1. I definitely was disappointed with this production. The opera itself I’ve heard a few times before on CD, and while it isn’t among my favorites, I’ve found plenty to enjoy in the music.


  2. I remember the Glyndebourne version as being pretty good. Of course any production that includes Danni de Niese and serious make out action is likely to get my vote! The Pierre Audi Amsterdam version is a bit of a bust though. FWIW all the productions I’ve seen cast a mezzo as Nerone.


    1. I have heard great things about de Niese in this role. The other DVD of this opera that I’ve got at the moment has her in the title role, and I’ve seen clips of it on YouTube already – she’s terrific. (And I would certainly not complain about a mezzo as Nerone!)


      1. You can get your De Niese with two great Nerones, Alice Coote is suitably crazy and sadistic, and Jaroussky a little more spoilt boy. Both productions are worth watching. There is one from the Liceu with Sarah Connolly and Miah Persson, full of represssion and rage. And a seriously blood-soaked one – everybody dies at the send – from Oslo. I think Monteverdi should be seen not heard for full appreciation.


  3. I LOVE Richard Croft. There is a clip of “pur ti mira” at YouTube

    Regarding tenor Nerones, way back in the 60’s, Raymond Leppard “realised” an abridged version of Poppea. Musically, it’s not very HIP, but it contains some marvelous singing, especially by Richard Lewis (Nerone), Frances Bible (Ottavia), and Hugues Cuenod (Lucano). And of course Leppard’s lush orchestration!


    1. I’ll have to listen to that CD – I’ve found that since I grew up (musically speaking) in the era of HIP, the older performances of baroque operas often sound strange, but in a really useful/interesting way. (And of course they often contain great singing, too!)


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