L’incoronazione di Poppea (Bucharest, 19 September 2015)
The timely intervention of dumb luck; manipulation and corruption rewarded; virtue and steadfastness cast out; tonely Seneca as moral compass turned butt of jokes – truly an opera for our times.
This ace Midnight Concert by the Academy of Ancient Music and Co. was the last one at this year’s George Enescu Festival (the Midnight Series was dedicated to Baroque music this time), but yours truly wasn’t available for the livestreaming. So here’s a good opportunity to publicly thank thadieu for giving us all (yea, I saw the many clicks) the great gift of livestreaming capture 😀 Big pot o’soup for ya!
Poppea: Louise Adler
Nerone: Sarah Connolly
Ottavia: Marina de Liso
Ottone: Iestyn Davies
Seneca: David Soar
Arnalta: Andrew Tortise
Drusilla/Virtu: Sophie Junker
Amore/Damigella: Daniella Lehner
Nutrice: John Lattimore
Valetto/First Soldier: Joshua Ellicott
Conductor: Robert Egarr | Academy of Ancient Music | George Enescu Festival, Ateneul Român
Given Poppea’s bare shoulder hazard (I demand modest clothing! 😉 ), I made it through with intact concentration by first just listening to it. Perhaps I should bring a blindfold to live performances just in case 😉 But the upshot was I could properly focus on the music/singing/playing. Apparently they had one hour of rehearsal before Ulisse, so one imagines it was more or less the same in this case.
These days Poppea has joined Tito and Alcina in the rarefied abode known as my top 3 operas1. It hit me when I realised just how much I like Poppea and Nerone’s mostly spoken back and forths. Surprisingly, I also got all excited every time Ottone barged in with his wistful laments. Then again, I’ve never heard ID below competent and this role lets his sensitive countertenor voice shine.
Mr Greenhill has achieved the most with the least means. I just love how Nerone and Poppea converse then all of a sudden melody takes off in the most natural manner, just enough to shape the emotional content of the text.
I ended up replaying this bit for 5-6 times until I found myself chanting my own thoughts to the tune of Poppea’s non posso, non posso, non posso… and Egarr’s great harpsichord setup for the (equally ace) coloratura after Nernone’s non temer, non temer…! Then Poppea “loses” her patience and
asks demands tornerai? and Nerone says tornero! in an ardent yet playful manner. No fuss, no unnecessary complications, just the right amount of manipulation and ardor = gripping. It might be faulty memory, but I’ve a feeling this performance was way better than last year’s at the Barbican.
The TVR2 presenter asked a good question awkwardly during the intermission of Ulisse: would this music be boring if the singers were not into it? Most certainly! Wouldn’t any music? But, yes, here there’s definitely no fancy orchestration to hide behind. Either you’re into it or it’s going to be torture. Done well this is theatre at its best. Take for instance the moment where Nerone closes his eyes and floats a long and satisfied/seductive addio…! at Poppea. She responds with knowing sexiness via another long held note; the stuff of dreams, the Connolly/Adler pairing is ace (more, please!).
Out of the smaller roles – all well sung but one still has to pick – Daniela Lehner as Amore/Damigella fearlessly let it rip through the evening to amusing results (where Damigella beat her inconstant dreamboy with the score). She’s got a remarkable mezzo voice (very secure, heroic middle) which I hope we’ll soon see grow into the top mezzo roles that are waiting to be tackled by the new generation.
Outside of music and singing, one of the best things about TVR2 broadcasting this concert performance was Nerone’s badass coat. SC wore it to great effect last year as well, so let’s see it in more detail:
- femme fatales ftw! ↩