Neither Fortune nor Virtue can vie with Love who, with a mere wave of the hand, can transform the world: such is the message conveyed by L'Incoronazione di Poppea, Monteverdi’s last masterpiece. Thirty five years had passed since his Orfeo, which had opened the era of the favola in musica. In the City of the Doges, riven by vice in Rome’s eyes, the composer wrote his opera about desire and seduction in which Poppea’s beauty bewitches Nero and provokes the death of Seneca, the banishment of Othon and the repudiation of Octavia. One by one, the pillars of morality crumble before we can bond with any of the characters, leaving us with the exquisitely delightful music. In the twilight of his life, Monteverdi invites us into a sensorial world where “the voice becomes a kiss before turning into profound utterance” (Starobinski). With “Poppea,” producer Robert Wilson, the poet of movement and space, writes a new chapter in his history with the Paris Opera.
Palais Garnier - First performance on 7 June 2014 - 7:00PM
Ticket rates : 10€, 25€, 45€, 70€, 115€, 180€, 195€
Running time : 3H44 with 2 intervals
LIBRETTO BY GIOVANNI FRANCESCO BUSENELLO
|Robert Wilson||Stage director|
|Giuseppe Frigeni||Co-stage director|
|Robert Wilson / Annick Lavallée-Benny||Sets|
|A. J. Weissbard / Robert Wilson||Lighting|
La Fortuna, Drusilla
La Virtù, Damigella
Manuel Nuñez Camelino
Giuseppe de Vittorio
Nahuel Di Pierro
Secondo Tribuno, Famigliare di Seneca
Soldato pretoriano, Lucano, Famigliare di Seneca, Secondo Console
Soldato pretoriano, Liberto, Primo Tribuno
COPRODUCTION WITH THE TEATRO ALLA SCALA, MILAN
WITH THE EXCEPTIONAL SUPPORT OF THE AMERICAN FRIENDS OF THE PARIS OPERA & BALLET⁄FLORENCE GOULD AMERICAN ARTISTS FUND
Claudio Monteverdi was born in Cremona in 1567 and died in Venice in 1643. The eldest of five children, he studied music with Marc’Antonio Ingegneri before being taken on, in 1590, as a singer and viol player at Vincenzo Gonzaga’s court of Mantua where he would remain for twenty-two years and compose numerous pieces of chamber and church music. In 1601, he was appointed as the Duke’s choirmaster. From then onwards he took an ever-growing interest in the experiments of the Florentine humanists and his research led to the creation of the lyric drama (Orfeo in 1607, Arianna in 1608). In 1612, upon the death of Vincenzo Gonzaga, Monteverdi resigned from his post and succeeded in being appointed to Saint Mark’s in Venice, taking with him his brother, Giulio Cesare, also a composer and singer, and his two sons. However in 1631 he lost his son Francesco to the plague and possibly his other son too. In 1632 Monteverdi was ordained priest. From then on he was to devote himself entirely to Venice, composing for his church, as well as for private and public events and following his students: Francesco Cavalli and Heinrich Schütz among others. When Venice opened its opera houses to paying audiences Monteverdi was soon drawn back to his former passion. After a revival of Arianna and several works which have not survived, he wrote Il ritorno d’Ulisse (1641) and then L’Incoronazione di Poppea (1642). He died the following year after a short journey to Cremona and Mantua.
L’Incoronazione di Poppea is the last of the three operas by Monteverdi which have come down to us in a relatively complete form, even though certain musicologists contest that he was the sole author of the work. The libretto, inspired by the Annals of both Tacitus and Suetonius, was written by Gian Francesco Busenello, a Venitian aristocrat who had been trained as a lawyer and was a member of the Accademia degli Incogniti, the city’s principal intellectual society. He chose an episode from the life of Nero – thus making the work the first ever opera based on historical events – painting a striking picture of human passions, skilfully contrasting virtue, embodied by Seneca, with evil, represented by Poppea and Nero’s adulterous love. However, in order to satisfy the public of the times, and in contrast with Orfeo, intended only for the eyes and ears of the court of Mantua, he added secondary plots and characters of low birth, reflecting the behaviour of the main protagonists and sometimes even dialoguing with them. The work thus alternates tragic scenes and more comic ones, nobles and commoners, attaining a dramatic force reminiscent of Shakespeare.
From a musical point of view, Monteverdi demonstrates a great liberty of language, always finding a suitable solution to each theatrical difficulty. He makes great use of recitative, but also composes numerous arias that are distributed fairly among the various characters. The couple formed by Poppea and Nero is of course at the heart of his inspiration. The various editions of the work that have come down to us provide only the vocal line and bass continuo and thus often require orchestration before they may be performed. However, Monteverdi clearly used few instruments, preferring to concentrate on the vocal line and its multiple structural possibilities.
The first performance
L’Incoronazione di Poppea was first performed in the autumn of 1642 at the Teatro Grimano in Venice.
The work at the Paris OperaAfter being performed at the Opéra-Comique, L’Incoronazione di Poppea was first performed at the Palais Garnier in March 1978, in the version orchestrated by Raymond Leppard and conducted by Julius Rudel in a staging by Gunther Rennert, with Gwyneth Jones, Jon Vickers, Christa Ludwig, Richard Stilwell, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Jocelyne Taillon and Valerie Masterson. In 2005, a new production staged by David Alden and conducted by Ivor Bolton was presented at the Palais Garnier, with Anna Caterina Antonacci as Poppea.