L’Incoronazione di Poppea at the Barbican

*L’Incoronazione di Poppea Barbican Hall, London*
By David Murray
Published: October 28 2004 03:00 | Last updated: October 28 2004 03:00
This was the third glorious concert-performance of a Monteverdi opera at the Barbican – his 1643 Coronation of Poppea was his last one – to be enterprisingly borrowed from a French production, like Orfeo and Il ritorno di Ulisse in previous years. All were rightly packed out, for they have been hugely satisfying. Ulisse, “semi-staged” here, was memorable. It was a pity Poppea was reduced to a single concert-performance from its full-dress version at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées.

Why? It is thriftier, of course, to put on a mere walk-through performance; even that – as the Barbican well knows – will fill a Monteverdi-loving house. But wouldn’t two or three fully staged, or even semi-staged, performances sell even better? For operatic purposes, the complex, utterly cynical plot of Poppea needs its visible throne-rooms and private nooks where anything nasty prospers, including most of the characters.
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