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<<  -- 3 --  Roderic Dunnett    APOTHEOSIS OF THE MADRIGAL

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Busenello -- what a clever writer he is -- gives Kevin Kyle's Arnalta (Poppea's nurse-like confidante, sung by a tenor) a couple of great comic scenes latterly; Arnalta's gloriously self-important closing soliloquy, as she imagines herself shedding Coronation Street slippers and curlers and donning a tiara, is as wittily cutting as Oscar Wilde.

Kevin Kyle as Arnalta in the Royal Academy of Music's 'L'Incoronazione di Poppea'. Photo © 2002 Jonathan Dockar-Drysdale
Kevin Kyle as Arnalta in the Royal Academy of Music's 'L'Incoronazione di Poppea'. Photo © 2002 Jonathan Dockar-Drysdale

Even more than Handel, who spaces it out by long da capo arias, Poppea's scene-intercuttings have this feel of classic TV soap drama : no wonder many maintain Shakespeare would have written for television.

But this is opera seria, and amid such clever diversions, this Royal Academy Poppea had real weight too. Take the dramatic centrepiece, Nero's verbal roasting by his former tutor, Seneca and the latter's casually enforced suicide.

James Gower as Seneca in his study in the second cast of 'L'Incoronazione di Poppea'. Photo © 2002 Jonathan Dockar-Drysdale
James Gower as Seneca in his study in the second cast of 'L'Incoronazione di Poppea'. Photo © 2002 Jonathan Dockar-Drysdale

The Athenian bass Vassilis Kostopoulos, though initially ponderous (he alternated with the excellent James Gower [see Roderic Dunnett's Stowe Opera review]), brought a tangible vocal strength to the philosopher-tutor's exchanges with Mercury (a promising baritone, Rodney Clarke) and his friends and servants (Andrew Clarke, Neil Williams, Joakim Schuster) : the wonderful madrigalian trio, 'Non morir, Seneca, no!' was done with a real poignancy, with oodles of rhythmic precision.

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Copyright © 13 December 2002 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK

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