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!

poppeafinalePoppea: 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:


Screw the Senate and the people!

  1. femme fatales ftw! 

About dehggial

Mozart/Baroque loving red dragon

Posted on September 25, 2015, in baroque, mezzos & contraltos and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 33 Comments.

  1. Great stills, love the subtitles 🙂

    • yes, methinks i’ve been focusing on the wrong thing in this opera, kept getting stuck and pissed at Ottavia for some reason!

      • yea, I kept wondering why you haven’t warmed up to this yet 😉 screw Ottavia, I usually skip her bit (I get her plight but still).

        • since you’re now “famous” i a bit hesitant spamming your site as much 😀 (you made it to front center page of I.Bostridge’s fb site–i was searching for him (!!) after listening to Ulisse.. and found my way there) , so some random thoughts on this opera as i quit on re-watch after Ottavia pouting: sopranos/mezzos with odd tones makes really nice Nerone sound! i stumbled on this one with Invernizzi and Prina! also, J.Larmore made a great Ottavia (why am i still stuck on her??) or i like the one where Otter almost tackled and strangled the poor Zazzo’s Ottone in Paris, and it’s true warm tone CT like I.Davies’ (or SM 😉 ) is great for Ottone..
          so back to Nerone and (her) storyline.. blame it on the *tragic
          first experience! probably will need to attend a “proper” one live to erase this image that i want to purge from head of Nerone.. see you should have put up this kind of tutorial much earlier, like last Oct before my first Poppea concert 😀

          • I was wondering who facebooked the post 😀 it’s got a massive reception, skyrocketed straight to the second spot in my most read posts and made this week the best in many months. You really never know what’s going to get off the hook.

            Well, I hope Larmore is a good Ottavia, since she’s in the Wien production! I actually like Ottavia’s lines but in this context it’s a bit like Bradamante – cool but get your own opera.

            • oh? how cool, i’m curious how Larmore will sound! she sang Ottavia in the dark bologna production.
              ha, i never thought of bramadante that way, but it’s true she’s interfering big time with “our” plot 😀

              • I always think of Bradamante that way. Cool chicka but get your own show and leave these two alone. I really wish in the end she’d say “ok, Ruggiero, I get it, Alcina is super cool. I’ll be on my way to fun adventures, see you at some dragon slaying – as friends only”.

                that Pur ti miro was quite different. I’m not sure how I much I like it though I don’t dislike it.

                I remember now, David “knee-flexing” Hansen was your first Nerone, poor you. I don’t think even this post would’ve helped you 😉

                I’m listening to VK’s Orphee now in preparation for seeing it tomorrow (obviously not with VK – still very excited though).

                • power JDF!!! i so suure you’d have a great time!! 😉
                  (to put things in perspective, imagine my first alcina experience was with VK as Bradamante and a tenor w/ transposed music as Ruggiero, then 2nd experience was w/ David ‘knee-flexing’ Hansen as Ruggiero.. and you might see why i only talk about Bradamante — it’s true my first poppea was actually yt’s version w/ a tenor Nerone so i skipped everything to only Ottone’s music and didn’t realize at all there’s this “story” b/t Nerone + Poppea.. adding to confusion was Agrippina’s storyline where i was so sure Ottone would get the girl.. still not sure how Ottavia entered in any of this..) But it’s great to finally get around to the main storyline 😀

                  • ha, I managed to book the ONLY performance where JDF isn’t singing! I don’t know the tenor but frankly I don’t care, unless he’s shit.

                    so basically your first Poppea was “Ottone and Poppea” 😉

                    • it was “Ottone & Druisilla” !! (coz Popppea was on screen w/ Ottone only once 😉 . and then Ottavia was on screen w/ Ottone also once.. but she didn’t have much to do w/ Nerone, so she has more memory footprint

                    • Ottone and Drusilla sounds kinda cool. That girl is dumb as a rock 😀

                      Ottone: Can I wear your dress when I stab Poppea?
                      Dru: Sure, hon, no problem!

                      and then they have that winning scene at the end where they’re outdoing each other:

                      Ottone: Nerone, it’s true that I tried to off your babe.
                      Dru: No, it was my idea!
                      Ottone: It was mine!
                      Dru: Mine! I thought of it!

                      But I think the best thing about it all is that historically they all die assassinated.

                    • she has fun hair! (Invernizzi did in that one w/ SM) , i saw all these w/o translation
                      – but, why didn’t you want to hear JDF sing “J’ai perdu myself” 2x? (that’s what he’d do anyway, put some high notes into that aria, bow, and sing again) . with your recent “tenor” (and CT) passion you never know what you’d end up loving 😉
                      (and finally back to poppea, now everything fits: i saw w/o translation, and since Poppea was draping herself all over the tenor Nerone, i skipped her too.. and first time really understood what’s going on was when DH was flexing his knees 😉 )

                    • shit,. you’re right, might be a narrow miss! I’ve never been to a show yet where the public stops the performance and demands the star re-sing the top aria. I think even with my biggest faves that would be anticlimatic (unless it’s a recital).

                    • btw, just got to the end of Orphee where the chorus gets in for Le dieu de Paphos. It’s going to be the Monteverdi Choir so I’m really looking forward for some ace chorus singing 😀

                    • everytime i in that haus looking down from top balcony i have image in head of her in that white shirt in front of orchestra pit with “amour viens rendre à mon âme”.. i still much prefer it in french than italian . choir? hmm, somehow i dont recall.. oh right, right after triumph.. then the ballet which i also really love (but skipped in many cases)

                    • that’s what I thought about too when we finally got into the auditorium. I have a whole thing about “the memory of places” which is another reason why I’m excited about going to Vienna, where I was last 22 years ago.

                      It’s the Monteverdi Choir singing that bit 🙂 I like it in either language but weirdly enough it does sound a bit more right in French. Maybe because the music sounds more like French opera than Italian.

                    • might have been a tenor nerone back then hence youngster Dehggi’s passion for opera got delayed some 20 yrs? 😉
                      will tune in to chorus in office.. now finally gotten around to breakfast.

                    • even with a tenor I think stuff like Monteverdi would have worked on me better than Puccini even back then.

                      Poppea was in fact one of the first operas I heard of in our Music Appreciation Class. I remember thinking it sounded really exotic (the title! I don’t remember if the teacher played us any music or just mentioned Monteverdi as the godfather of the genre).

                    • GREAT music to start the day here! (this was the chorus bit where while admiring the sound i was counting all the male-female pairing in toronto :D)

                    • ps- too short! now guess i have to go back to the beginning of the entire opera 😀

                    • Of course you do 🙂 it’s a short opera, I used to go through it a few times a week when it was new to me

                    • found the entire recording of excerpt you gave on spotify 🙂
                      this is one of the few operas i’d show up even w/ any CT ( 😀 , havent registered yet the tenor bit.. though after excerpt yt splattered everywhere link of JDF..) simply b/c the music is superb, chorus great.. (and i have a soft spot for vk petting the cute.. rabbit i think? or bear.. some cute soft soft thing on floor.. 😀 , though her floating soft notes while tossing back and forth the violin at the gate of hell is also up there in my list of fav bit..)

                    • a cat and a monkey – but you’re right, there is a cute rabbit too. I love those animals, polar bear included. Although if she hugged the bear too I think it would have gone into some weird regie territory 😉

                      I’m with you, I don’t necessary care who’s singing, it’s such wonderful music.

                    • oh jes, the cat, which occasionally i wished were me…
                      i did sit through that whole thing, then whole Equilbey+FF+MH thing, then 1/2 through Bologna thing 😀 then had to disrupt to go home, now settling in debating the rest of Bologna.. with of course new ears tuning to what i supposed to listen to.. but that whole cast is really superb.. as well as orchestra..
                      anywho, have a great fun with the tenor! (+orchestra+chorus)

  2. 1 year later.. am finally very fluent with this music, after sitting through … oh i dont know.. 100x of ACA’s full Nerone.. then many more times with ACA as Poppea.. i now have music by every character memorized, including Ottavia! and now am able to digest all other versions as i know where the music fits… currently just made it to this Ottavia pouting :p, but really enjoyed the flirting Poppea + Nerone duet right out of the gate.
    (and wow the sound is really rigged.. we should have captured also the radio recording!)

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