Archives for posts with tag: Monteverdi

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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Perish the thought, but I must have a horribly suspicious mind to suggest that the scale of forces required for early opera is behind Opera North‘s choice of this particular piece as a main house production; in these cash-strapped times, an economic driver as much as an artistic aspiration.

Contemporary realisations of the operas of Monteverdi are in no small part thanks to the advocacy of an esteemed scholar – the conductor Raymond Leppard – whose performing editions re-awakened interest in these neglected works. Three operas La favola d’Orfeo, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, and Poppea – Monteverdi’s largest and grandest work – have been handed down more or less complete; in the case of Poppea – less rather than more.

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