Opera Scotland

Incoronazione di Poppea 2014Ryedale Festival Opera

Read more about the opera Coronation of Poppea

The recent Scottish performances of Poppea have been given by talented student casts at the Glasgow Conservatoire. It needs a large assembly of well-schooled singing actors, but does not demand powerful operatic voices. This gripping drama made a good choice for the Lammermuir Festival's first venture into opera. From Musselburgh this enterprising production moved on for a performance in Perth.

The Ryedale Festival has been steadily building a reputation for the quality of its performances in beautiful rural surroundings. This production received two performances during July in the attractively intimate theatre at Ampleforth College. A further date took it to the Arcola Theatre in East London at the end of August, so it was well run in by the time it arrived in Scotland.

The wide open spaces of Perth's Concert Hall may not have seemed the obvious venue for an intimate production of this kind. In the temporary absence of the theatre, St John's Kirk might have seemed more appropriate. However for chamber-sized performance the hall has an equally clear acoustic and there were several distinct advantages provided by the venue.

Visually there were some remarkably felicitous moments. There was no set to speak of - three boxes of varying heights that could be shunted around as couch, seats or platforms, plus three mannequins, though they occasionally got in the way. There was a small band - string quartet, organ (in the hands of conductor Christopher Glynn), harpsichord, theorbo, baroque harp and trumpet - and they were spread across the back, attractively silhouetted against a pale skyscape. Indeed, this last feature worked remarkably well in providing visual variety without being in any way a distraction.

John Warrack's new translation came over clearly, and the audience were absorbed in the drama right from the start. The singing was of a generally high quality, with much doubling and tripling of the shorter parts ensuring the singers all had plenty to do. The well-known set pieces all came over well - Seneca's farewell,  the duet for page and maidservant, Arnalta's lullaby, Ottavia's lament, the final duet. The duet for Nero and Lucan was cleverly handled, with the poet also taking over at the harpsichord for a short period.

This was a thoroughly absorbing evening.

Performance Cast

Fortuna Goddess of Fortune

Maria Ostroukhova

Virtù Goddess of Virtue

Rose Stachniewska

Amore Cupid

Caroline Kennedy

First Soldier of Nero's bodyguard

Thomas Morss

Second Soldier of Nero's bodyguard

Gwilym Bowen

Poppea Nero's mistress

Elizabeth Holmes

Nerone Nero, Emperor of Rome

Stephanie Williams

Ottavia Octavia, Empress, Nero's wife

Maria Ostroukhova

Ottone Otto, former lover of Poppea

Ben Williamson

Seneca a philosopher, Nero's former tutor

James Fisher

Drusilla Otto's lover

Rebecca van den Berg

Nutrice Octavia's nurse

Thomas Morss

Arnalta Poppea's nurse

Rosie Aldridge

Liberto a freedman (former slave)

Gwilym Bowen

Valletto page in Octavia's household

Caroline Kennedy

Damigella maidservant in Octavia's household

Charmian Bedford

Pallade Pallas Athene, goddess of wisdom and justice

Charmian Bedford

Lucano Lucan, a poet

Gwilym Bowen

Littore Lictor

Timothy Murphy

Student in Seneca's entourage

Catherine Backhouse

Rose Stachniewska

Timothy Murphy

Performance DatesIncoronazione di Poppea 2014

Map List

Brunton Theatre | Musselburgh, East Lothian

13 Sep, 19.00

Perth Concert Hall | Perth

15 Sep, 19.00

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