• DATE /May 22nd, 2021
  • TIME /tba
  • CONTACT /Tel. (+43/1) 514 44/2250
  • ADDRESS /Wiener Staatsoper, Opernring 2, 1010 Wien, Austria

I am very much looking forward to this project with Concentus Musicus, an orchestra I played with several times, even witnessing Nikolaus Harnoncourt directing few meters in front of me. Also this time will be very special for me since it is my first performance in the Wiener Staatsoper, a place I was passing by daily during my teens on my way to school. In this beautiful opera by Monteverdi I will play in a viol consort of 4 parts.


L‘Incoronazione di Poppea with Concentus Musicus Wien

Amor vincit omnia – love conquers all: Amor wants to prove this and thus parades with the allegories of happiness and virtue that fight for supremacy. He has chosen the protagonist of his experimental arrangement to be the emperor Nero, who is married to Ottavia, with the intention of making his mistress, Poppea, empress of Rome that very same day. The three acts of the opera »L’incoronazione di Poppea« that follow have nothing whatsoever to do with a dispute between ancient deities who are removed from all earthly concerns. With music of supernatural beauty, great emotional intensity, but also full of comedy and bitter mockery, Claudio Monteverdi leads us directly into a web of power games, conspiracies, unscrupulousness, disappointments, love vows and murders. The philosopher Seneca, driven to suicide at the decadent court of Nero, becomes a symbol of the bankruptcy of an entire society. In the end it is not love that trumps all, but intrigue, ambition, seduction and seductiveness.
The triangular story of Nero, Ottavia and Poppea, handed down in the Annals of the Roman Tacitus, was chosen by the Venetian freethinker Giovanni Francesco Busenello as the basis for his libretto for Monteverdi’s last opera, which was first performed in Venice in 1642. As maestro di capella of San Marco, Busenello not only held the most prestigious musical post awarded by the Catholic world outside Rome, but also gifted the performing arts a musical theatre that is still stunningly spectacular, to the point of being revolutionary, even to this day. Since the first performance of his first opera »L’Orfeo« in 1607 at the court of the Gonzagas in Mantua, Monteverdi has been considered the founder of modern opera theatre and of singing that follows the diction of language, touching our feelings and senses with an intensity hitherto unknown to vocal music. Moreover, the two authors dared something in »L’incoronazione di Poppea« never before seen on the opera stage: with the portrayal of historically authenticated personalities, the gods have lost their power and only provide the framework for a Shakespearean world theatre between tragedy and comedy, which puts man with all his passions, obsessions, longings and abysses at the centre. Monteverdi responds to the dissecting, morally non-judgmental distance with which Busenello looks at his characters with a music of differentiated humanity in which violence, desire and emotional distress become sound.

Only once before has an opera by Monteverdi been included in the repertoire of the Vienna State Opera: Under the musical direction of Herbert von Karajan and in a production by Günther Rennert, »L’incoronazione di Poppea« celebrated its premiere on April 1, 1963 in a strongly romanticized “free new version”. Much has changed since then in Monteverdi research and historically informed performance practice – not least triggered by the pioneering work of Nikolaus Harnoncourt and his Concentus Musicus. 68 years after its inauguration, the Vienna-based ensemble, under the direction of Spanish conductor Pablo Heras-Casado, is now making its debut at the Vienna State Opera.

Director, choreographer and set designer is Jan Lauwers from Belgium, who also works as an author and visual artist and was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2014. With his Brussels-based Needcompany, he has created a theatre over the course of 35 years in which music, drama, dance and visual arts are constantly inspiring and uplifting. His melancholy yet cheerful, humorous and sceptical style meets the great human draughtsman that is Monteverdi in this co-production with the Salzburg Festival in which all participants meet on one level: »In our version of »L’incoronazione di Poppea« every singer, musician and dancer is an independent force – and everyone wants to survive as one«, says Jan Lauwers of his concept.

Surrounding the American Kate Lindsey, who in the Salzburg premiere already portrayed a seductive and unscrupulously tyrannical Nerone with great acting power and a mezzo that oscillates between darkest shades and fascinating eroticism, a first-class ensemble of guests and members of the opera house is gathering for a L’incoronazione di Poppea, which does not only fill a gap in the repertoire of the Vienna State Opera. Rather, the new production is also an invitation to a more comprehensive examination of Monteverdi’s works, as it is the prelude to a trilogy in which the three great surviving operas of the musical dramatist will be performed in the upcoming seasons: »L’incoronazione di Poppea« as well as »L’Orfeo« and »Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria«.