Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea

Ted Huffman (stage director), Leonardo García Alarcón (conductor) — Elsa Benoit (Poppaea), Jake Arditti (Nero) ...

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Ted Huffman — Stage director

Johannes Schütz — Stage design

Anna Wörl — Scenography

Astrid Klein — Costumes

Bertrand Couderc — Lighting

Pim Veulings — Movement director

Antonio Cuenca Ruiz — Dramaturgy

Maud Morillon — Assistant stage director

Elsa Benoit — Poppaea

Jake Arditti — Nero

Ambroisine Bré — Octavia, Virtue

Iestyn Davies — Otho

Alex Rosen — Seneca

Stuart Jackson — Arnalta, the Nurse, Friend 1

Maya Kherani — Fortune, Drusilla

Julie Roset — Cupid, a Valet

Laurence Kilsby — Lucano, Soldier 1, Friend 2

Program notes

Whispers on the wind among the stone columns, daggers hidden in the folds of togas, a marble pattern stained with blood… What better place to stage Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea than the Palace of Versailles itself?

Under the direction of the remarkable Leonardo García Alarcón and Ted Huffman, this historical drama with a libretto by Busenello comes to life with striking relevance. The plot narrates the social climbing exploits of Poppea, a mistress of Nero who becomes his wife—and thus the Empress. Her enemies? Put to the sword… Such is the fate of Seneca (flawlessly performed by Alex Rosen), Stoic philosopher and a one-time teacher of Nero, who chooses to die rather than live under enemy rule. While the composer’s historical source, Tacitus, favors a dark depiction of Poppea, Monteverdi’s character emerges in a more ambivalent light, as she is also capable of great love. Elsa Benoit’s refined interpretation helps the public appreciate the character’s complexities, strengths, and ambiguities.

Besides, as the allegorical prologue of the opera says, it is neither Virtue nor Fortune that drives the history of humankind—it is Love itself, as L’incoronazione di Poppea amply demonstrates!

Photo © Ian Rice

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