The Coronation of Poppea

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Snape Maltings (Snape Proms)


Snape Maltings (Snape Proms)

The first event in this year's splendidly varied month-long Snape Maltings prom series attracted a large, enthusiastic audience for the Opera Theatre Company's perform-ance of Monteverdi's Coronation of Poppea. In music with a distinctive accent, it portrays sexual scheming in the heady atmosphere of Nero's court in Rome.

On Nicky Shaw's versatile set with its great hinged doors, director Annilese Miskimmon works hard to ensure there was never a dull moment. At times, in fact, she seemed to be trying too hard for a giggle.

As well as borrowing one detail straight from Carry On Cleo, she used that old trick of bringing in heavenly messengers on children's scooters.

The love scenes moved on quickly from necking to groping, with the girls not hesitating the make the first move.

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In modern dress, with just a welcome touch of elegance for the final scene, the singers attacked their florid music with skill and determination.

But not enough of the words of the English translation were audible. Much of the acting displayed more energy than insight or finesse.

Alan Ewing used his bass voice to great effect as he maintained his dignity as Seneca dying in his bath.

At the opposite end of the vocal spectrum, the tall Stephen Wallace, was a counter-tenor emperor whose range was remarkable despite some worryingly uneven tone.

Allison Cook and Doreen Curran, in the two main female parts, knew how to produce thrilling delivery, while Neil Jenkins brought a high tenor voice and a nicely calculated sense of fun to his role as Poppea's Nurse.

Christian Curnyn conducted the Irish Baroque Orchestra, which provided well balanced support with the pair of theorboes keeping up the rhythmic pulse.