The team of Richard Williams (Director) and
Philip Thorby (musical director) have scored another triumph,
fielding a double cast of Trinity College of Music students for four
performances of Poppea, a scandalous tale of secular hedonism
and immorality prevailing to be given in an ecclesiastical setting!
At the Old Naval College Chapel at Greenwich, Williams
had impressed with his flare for productions in awkward venues with
Arthur, and for Poppea he exploited the grandeur
of St Bartholomew's, assisted by David Collis (stage design), Sam Spencer
Lane (choreography) and lighting by Neil Sulcher, who bathed the set
in red for the emotional high-point of Seneca's suicide to Nero's command.
Fortune, Virtue and Love contested their supremacy, and observed the
proceedings throughout with ironic detachment. Love descended from the
organ console to the stage to save Poppea from imminent murder. Surtitles
kept us on track with this first opera about the lives of real people,
but were rather rudimentary until we got the full text of Arnalta's
exaltation in her good fortune when her protégé achieved
the ambition to become Empress. The singing by a large cast (we saw
the second cast) was fully adequate but I have not thought it appropriate
to review individual performances. Some of the acting was under stated
(e.g. the evil Nero, who kicked his new wife to death after a few years).
The principals and (non-singing) chorus were choreographed with elegant,
stylised gestures and the (non-singing) chorus made an important contribution
with their reactions to the events they witnessed. The Trinity
College of Music Baroque Ensemble with continuo led by
Philip Thorby conducting at the harpsichord, had Ibrahim Aziz (bass
violin; see Agnes
Kory's lecture) and Linda Sayce on citarrone and baroque guitar
to give stylish support to the recitatives and an expanded group with
recorders, cornets and strings to accompany the arias and ensembles.
A rewarding evening for a full house audience, and a tremendous learning
experience for all the participants.
Since their move to Greenwich, Trinity has an enhanced
profile and the current Diary of Events for Summer 2002 offers concerts,
master classes and competitions, mostly open to the public, at more
than a dozen venues in and around London. Website http://www.tcm.ac.uk
and email: email@example.com
Peter Grahame Woolf