Archives for category: Miranda Jackson

There are so many issues to address when planning to present opera seria. The first of these is whether or not to cut. If you don’t cut, the performance is likely to last three hours plus however long you allow for intervals. If you don’t cut, there has to be an early evening start (no later than 7pm) or your audience will struggle to get home in areas not well served by public transport and/or those in which most local residents are tucked up in bed by 10.30pm. English Touring Opera performs on tour throughout England and has to be kind to its audience. The trouble is that if you cut so much recitative and focus instead on the “extraordinary psychological landscape” provided by the arias as James Conway chose to do, you do indeed (as he suggested) risk presenting a series of soliloquies, or a glorified song-cycle with all of the real drama knocked out of the opera.

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This year in the August heat and dust of Neapolitan Italy, I made my first visit to Poppea’s villa at Oplontis. Like neighbouring Herculaneum, the villa was preserved in the eruption of 79 A.D. Unlike the modest townhouses in Herculaneum, Oplontis boasts a huge complex of elegant drawing rooms, cool inner courtyards, a huge swimming pool and endless trompe l‘oeil wallpaintings of birds, exotic fruit and mythological characters set against a backdrop of Pompeian red, giving a unique insight into the extravagant lifestyle of the patrician class. Standing alone in the afternoon stillness, with no other sound than the cicadas in the pine trees, it took little imagination to visualise the steamy sexual intrigues perpetrated by this great Roman siren, as portrayed in L’incoronazione di Poppea of 1643, attributed to Monteverdi.

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rsz_eno_xerxes_-_alice_coote_1_c_mike_hobanI began this review thinking comparisons with those who have previously sung these roles in Nicholas Hytner’s extraordinary 1985 production of Xerxes should probably be avoided, but, wouldn’t you know, my fellow critics across the broadsheets and internet have leapt into this muddy pit with gusto. I feel transported back to a typical 18th century theatre where those in the more expensive boxes of the third tier would throw pasta onto the heads of the poor souls in the “pit”, while the rival supporters of the castrati challenge each other in the streets surrounding what is now Trafalgar Square.

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