L’Incoronazione di Poppea: Claudio Monteverdi (1643)

Monteverdi: L'Incoronazione di Poppea (Berlin)

★★★★

(Berlin Staatsoper, conducted by Diego Fasolis, 13 December 2017)

Berlin’s Staatsoper has just reopened after a seven-year refurbishment. On Wednesday, the house was sold out as people gathered to celebrate its freshly gilded finery. And what was on the menu for the grand reopening? Not a safe and predictable opera – a Tosca or a Bohème – but a dose of Roman passion and psychosis from the 17th century. With only three performances (this was the last, until its projected revival next summer), this Poppea felt intense, fresh and daring. It wasn’t without its wobbles, but it featured some very strong casting and offered a compelling picture of a court in thrall to an egotistical, unpredictable sun king. Unsurprisingly, I’ve got slightly carried away with the length of this post, so you may wish to furnish yourself with a cup of tea before starting. There are, however, some very pretty pictures.

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Alessandro: George Frideric Handel (1726)

Handel: Alessandro

★★★★

(Goethe-Theater Bad Lauchstädt, with Armonia Atenea and George Petrou, 6 June 2015)

On Saturday afternoon, with the mercury rising above 30°C, we headed off to the Goethe-Theater at Bad Lauchstädt for our second staged opera of the week. This time it was the Parnassus production of Handel’s Alessandro, which is already something of a modern classic. Like Lucio Cornelio Silla, this staging sets the story in the 1930s, but its playful and vivid spirit couldn’t be more different from Handel’s tale of tyranny. Unfolding beneath a proscenium arch of Art Deco splendour, Alessandro presents us with the bristling egos and squabbling actors of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

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Stefano Landi: Il Sant’ Alessio (1632)

Landi: Sant' Alessio

(Théâtre de Caen, Les Arts Florissants with William Christie, 2007)

★★★★ ½

Over the weekend I treated myself to another opera DVD, this time one which transported me back to the very earliest days of the art form, to Rome in 1632. At this date the Counter-Reformation was in full swing and the Baroque was just coming into being. Gianlorenzo Bernini, who would become the supremo of 17th-century Rome, was 25 and had been asked to design the stage set for Stefano Landi’s new religious oratorio Sant’ Alessio. The production available on this DVD attempts to recreate the feel of that first performance and I admit I came to it with some trepidation. This all felt a very long way from the exuberance of the 18th century.

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