Glimmerglass 'Poppea' Staged in NY
Jan. 15, 1996
NEW YORK (AP) _ One day after the head of the Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown, N.Y., was named to head the New York City Opera, Glimmerglass made its performing debut here.
This added interest. What approach does Paul Kellogg favor?
The answer, based on Saturday night's first of five performances of Monteverdi's ``The Coronation of Poppea,'' at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, is: To be interesting, with few gimmicks, using simple scenery, letting the music carry the day.
``The Coronation of Poppea'' is set in first-century Rome and was premiered in Venice in 1643, a day when, usually, one singer appeared at a time and sang, before operatic ``conversations'' and choruses. Director Jonathan Miller has lessened the static nature of this by having Fortune, Virtue and Love, women dressed in white with white makeup, appear sometimes to stand like classical statues, unseen by the human singers. Or they listen from upstairs windows.
The three of them sang the prologue, which concludes with Love saying she is the most powerful.
Early in the opera, Nero and Poppea pledge love. He will dump his wife Ottavia and she will dump her fiance Ottone. He feels lust and she feels ambition to be empress. She demands that he kill his tutor, the philosopher Seneca, who disapproves of their plans. Nero orders the death.
Ottavia gets Ottone to stab Poppea but Love rushes in and grabs the knife.
Ottavia has the opera's best aria, a farewell to Rome when she is banished. Phyllis Pancella sings it with drama, sorrow and vocal beauty.
Dana Hanchard, singing Poppea, seems to have taken lessons from singers of Carmen in deliciously sensual, self-absorbed tones of voice. When she and countertenor David Daniels as Nero sing a final duet, after she is crowned empress, their voices have the same timbre. That is unusual and thrilling.
This production also has Ottone sung by a countertenor. Drew Minter sounded tentative in the part. And Poppea's nurse was sung by a tenor, Cesar Ulloa, dressed as a woman, for a bit of camp and comic relief.
Daniel Sumegi, an excellent, rich-voiced bass, sang Seneca. In stage deportment and sound, he was calm and wise.
One set was used, the fronts of several narrow, adjoining Renaissance buildings. Two had open arches for doors and all had upstairs windows.
Jane Glover conducted nine musicians playing ancient instruments. The sound was effective but her conducting was overly measured and slow.