Rare performance of L'incoronazione di Poppea: Barbican
Acclaimed period specialists the Academy of Ancient Music return to the Barbican for the second in their trilogy of Monteverdi operas. By Katy Wright
Power, corruption, seduction, betrayal – the time-honoured ingredients of a great story. But forget about Game of Thrones; the ground-breaking opera by Monteverdi, L’Incoronazione di Poppea, has all of these, along with some of the finest music the Renaissance master ever wrote. In October the opera comes to the Barbican, as part of the Academy of Ancient Music’s three-year Monteverdi opera cycle there, bringing a stellar cast with it.
L’Incoronazione di Poppea is one of the first operas to have been based on real historical events. It’s no traditional morality tale. The setting is ancient Rome, and the opera follows the romance between the emperor Nero and his mistress, Poppea, who succeeds in persuading him to divorce his wife Octavia and make her his empress instead. While the triumph of lust and cunning at the end has been known to leave audiences dissatisfied, the score can hardly fail to delight – by turns fiery, poignant and powerfully sensual.
L’Incoronazione di Poppea needs performers who can do justice to its dramatic demands as well as its musical sophistication, and this production has them. Richard Egarr, directing, has a string of first-rate early music performances under his belt. We’re also looking forward to hearing Lesyn Davies, the rising-star countertenor, as Poppea’s spurned lover Ottone – a part he’s played many times before. Meanwhile, with an arresting voice and smouldering stage presence, the soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci is perfectly equipped for playing Poppea.
Performances of L'Incoronazione di Poppea are quite a rare thing, and performances of the standard we can expect at the Barbican are rarer still - so don't miss out on this evening of drama, intrigue and sublime music.