Thursday, January 10, 2013

Double Baroque Trouble

Is the title too Harry Potterish? Ah well, this has been a week of studying languages (Italian and French mostly, I’m kinda running away from the German), talking a lot about opera (I really had a blast at the #operarox live show, really, those people are awesome, they get me! It’s so difficult to find people who are willing to talk about opera nonstop), and watching new stuff (new to me, this stuff is ancient actually).

Sarah Connolly as Cesare and Danielle De Niese as Cleopatra
Well, I’m gonna talk about the two last operas that I saw, Handel’s Giulio Cesare and Monteverdi’s L'incoronazzione de Poppea both productions from the Glyndebourne Opera and also staring Danielle De Niese as the leading lady. What I think is super cool about these baroque operas is that gender isn’t really an issue, I mean, you have women playing man and man playing women and it’s ok. And it works, and that for me is awesome, especially since I came from a very theatrical background where gender sometimes really doesn’t matter.

Danielle De Niese as Poppea
and Alice Coote as Nero
Well I automatically feel in love with the two leading couples! I love this more fiery kind of love that both have as opposed to sweet and tender one, I like love with action! Also I think it’s so cool how both ladies start off maybe not really in love with the guys, but then fall helplessly for them (especially Cleopatra, she turns out to be so devoted to Cesare!). And really, I don’t blame them because, those guys are really something! I don’t know if it’s the fact that they are Emperors, they have that power allure, although the power doesn’t attract me, what does it’s the attitude and the posture one has when it has absolute power. Does that even make sense?

Well, I loved both productions, I thought they were very well done, and it was my first time seeing both and they were both staged in a nontraditional setting. But as I’ve said before, these stories live through so many years because they are timeless. So you get it when Cleopatra wears a little black dress to seduce Cesare and then does the victory dance when she’s successful! I absolutely adored the guy who was the lady in waiting for Cleopatra (his character is a guy) so funny, like the sassy gay friend! Who would have thought there were sassy gay friends in Ancient Egypt! Again TIMELESS stuff!

While watching Poppea I made sure my bedroom door was locked, the last thing I needed was my parents walking into one of those spicy scenes. The opera itself kinda shocked me a little bit because I kept going back to something Tony Pappano said in a documentary about Italian opera, that Monteverdi was 70 something years old in the 17th century holding the most important church musician position when he wrote this opera. And it’s pretty steamy; it’s one of the fieriest things I’ve seen so far in the world of opera.

Danielle De Niese as Cleopatra

I love Danielle De Niesse, I think she’s so fresh and she brings something so hers to the pieces. She’s a very physical performer, which I like very much, she can move, she can dance while singing and that I think adds so much to the whole interpretation of the operas. Sarah Connolly stole my heart as Cesare, she’s one of those women that just KNOW how to play man, she’s got the man swag, and I felt a lot of attraction toward her Cesare, she looked really hot. But to me, you really can't tell that she's a woman in that costume or whenever she plays guys really. Just to be sure, I asked my sister (expert cross-dressing cosplayer that she is) if she looked like a real man or not, and she told me she definitely did. Another mezzo who has got the man swag up her sleeve is Alice Coote who was playing the ever scary Nero (he scares me because he’s kinda like a serial killer). I’ve said before on the Cendrillon post that she is such a marvelous pants role performer and in this that the character is so different from Prince Charmant, she also nails.

Sarah Connolly as Cesare
I particularly like the scene in the second act where Nero is singing a duet with one of his senate companions (I really don’t know who that guy is actually) and they are talking about ruby red lips, delicious, irresistible, and it’s just so sexy! The music, Alice’s face changes with every passing phrase, Nero seems to at first be talking about Poppea’s lips, but then he looks at his fellow differently, and at first it’s an odd feeling for him, but then he kinda surrenders to it and just enjoys singing about the guy’s lips. And then singing about it isn’t enough, he has to kiss him, so he does and it’s a very “hold your breath” moment, he seems to enjoy it and but then he can’t do that, so with all his absolute power and grace he drowns the guy, still singing about the red lips! For me that was unbelievable, it was so intense, I loved it! 

But to me one of the most moving piece of music in Poppea is the final duet, oh God, it's so beautiful and the way they end in unison, they are one! And even though this opera is about power, sex and passion, with that duet it ends up being a piece about love and about two people who adore each other. Even though historically Nero kills Poppea one year after with a kick on her pregnant stomach, but let’s just pretend they lived happily ever after :)

 Alice Coote as Nero
Well, I don’t care about what other people say baroque opera rocks!


  1. Hi, I just followed a link from thadieu to your blog. Thank you for your posts about Kasarova, I appreciated them! I heard her sing Romeo in Oslo and it was a fantastic experience, though I didn't sit in the front row and didn't go backstage so I didn't get the kind of personal connection you did. I'm seeing her again in Rosenkavalier this summer so really looking forward to that! Anyway, just wanted to tell you I also love the Glyndebourne Giulio Cesare and especially Sarah Connolly as Cesare. She's also my favourite Nerone, it's funny you mentioned Harry Potter because her Nerone actually reminds me quite a bit of Snape, with Miah Persson as a wonderful naughty Poppea (I'm not a huge fan of de Niese though I don't mind her as Cleopatra), it's also on DVD so you really should check it out if you haven't already. And don't forget to check out Alice Coote as Ruggiero in Alcina if you haven't seen it - a classic!

    1. Hey Solander, first I'm sorry I took so long to reply to your comment, life has been crazy. And thanks for reading, my whole last week was magical thanks to Vesselina and you are so very lucky to be seeing her as Octavian, I WISH. It's only my favorite Strauss opera and probably my favorite Strauss character (I'm naming one of cats Octavian one day).
      I think Sarah is such a fantastic Cesare, hands down the best I've ever seen. I did see the Poppea production with Sarah and Miah, and YES, I also thought she looked JUST LIKE Snape in that one, which I found oddly attractive since I like Snape very much. hahahaha But I still prefer the Glyndebourne production, maybe because Miah's Poppea didn't seem to really like Nerone and I'm that kind of romantic. hahaha
      I have already downloaded that Alcina production, but since I'm in such a Kasarova vibe I wanted to watch the one she did last year I think...
      Thanks so much for your comment and I hope you do come back, my last post is again about Giulio Cesare hahaha :)