The ETO’s Poppea

It has to be admitted that Monteverdi’s Poppea is a masterpiece. The extraordinary music perfectly matches its principal themes of love and power. So rich is the musical characterisation that, in my experience, it can come across in a variety of approaches: in an intimate abstract production with the protagonists dressed all in black; in a sumptuous depiction of imperial Rome; or in an updated political context. No surprise, then that English Touring Opera’s version, set in a Stalinist totalitarian state made a big impact. This was a most apt setting for fear and envy to meet lust and cruelty; with virtue and reason being derided. Some clumsiness with and around the set apart, this was a bold and imaginative undertaking, aided by the intensity and total conviction of the young performers; and some glorious singing. A very good evening.