L’INCORONAZIONE DI POPPEA. Monteverdi

MUSICAL DIRECTION Diego Fasolis
STAGEJens Kilian
DRAMATURGYMark Schachtsiek, Roman Reeger
COSTUMEJulia Rösler
LIGHTOlaf Freese, Irene Selka
EXTRASStaatsoper Unter den Linden
WITH:Max Emanuel Cencic
Katharina Kammerloher
Anna Prohaska
Roberta Mameli
Xavier Sabata
Franz-Josef Selig
Gyula Orendt
Lucia Cirillo
Jochen Kowalski
Mark Milhofer
Narine Yeghiyan
Linard Vrielink
David Ostrek
Artina Kapreljan
Noah Schurz
Evelin Novak
Florian Hoffmann
Photos: Bernd Uhlig

“The Berlin Staatsoper Unter den Linden, 275 years old, presents top-class musical theater with “Hansel and Gretel” as well as with the ” Crowning of Poppea”.

On the other hand, one day later Eva-Maria Höckmayr is using the scalpel – also the razor – for her production of Claudio Monteverdi’s opera “L’incoronazione di Poppea”. She confronts two body worlds: the representative, social body and the biological one. The representative obeys a fixed dress code – with hoop skirts and Spanish ruffs by Julia Rösler – as well as a rotating ceremonial on the abstract stage by Jens Kilian. The biological is discharged in ever new pas de deux and pas de trois of sexual bondage of gasping hot drasticness. The civilization-pessimistic conclusion of this play, that sexual energy cannot be tamed, is drawn by Höckmayr with all cruelty. Even the corpse of the dead Seneca, who cut his throat with a razor, is at best able to frighten the driven ones, but does not put a stop to them. Only the shivering of Poppea at the moment of her crowning reveals the psychosomatic rejection reaction of the biological body against the representative one – while, on the other hand, in the disrobing of the Empress Octavia, the biological body was violated at the same time as the social body. (…) This is music theater of the highest level. The city and the world are now surely happy about it.”

FAZ, Jan Brachmann, 11.12.2017

“No one is safe from Cupid – Monteverdi’s “L’Incoronazione di Poppea” at the Berlin State Opera is world class. At the premiere on December 9, director Eva Höckmayr shows an impressive feeling for in-between lines and intermediate tones. (…) it is the picture of a decadent, unscrupulous society around the emperor Nero and his mistress Poppea that Monteverdi sketches here and that in Berlin conductor Diego Fasolis with the Akademie für Alte Musik in the orchestra pit and director Eva-Maria Höckmayr on the gold-colored stage trace with pleasure and art. The more reprehensible the characters, the more beautiful, pure, golden the music. (…) Director Eva-Maria Höckmayr needs for the play about power, ego and sex no more than a gold leaf stage surface without any props, where her partly already quite worn-out personnel in implied renaissance costumes is completely represented throughout the opera. Quickly – for the sake of love and lust – the first layers are removed, and the reference to today, to always, is obvious: thus Poppea alias Anna Prohaska becomes a modern, frivolous woman, who spends the majority of the evening in suspenders and black blouse, before at the end, for her own crowning glory, she icy-coldly puts on the red robe of the dead philosopher Seneca.

In addition, the direction impresses with parallel interactions of those who are not singing at the moment. Eva-Maria Höckmayr also reads and listens to the intervening lines and uses them for sometimes extremely funny, sometimes illuminating stage interludes, which unravel the thicket of the plot and the everyone-has-fast-what-with-everyone of the performance score almost as if in passing. (…) Moreover, the musical-dramatic interplay of trouser roles, rock roles and counters is quite casual and wonderfully successful: on Höckmayr’s stage, voice, gender and figure are not fixed constants. Here many things go, with each other, against each other, even Nero’s exit in the love duet not with the at the end neurotic-cracking Poppea, but with the next, new lover Lucano. In this Berlin production of Poppea, in which the supposedly “impossible work of art opera” shines in all its facets, even the title heroine is not safe from Cupid in the end.”

BR Klassik, Annika Täuschel, 9.12.2017

“Accomplished Early Music Happiness Representation is the keyword for the golden surface with skid marks that extends up to the wall at the back, built by Jens Kilian. There is no escape here, Höckmayr asks the figures to socialize – in Julia Rösler’s splendid baroque-meets-today costumes. The rest is pose and play. This is excellently done, because there is always something happening in the background that sharpens the characters, small gestures, conversations, flirtations. But in the front, the affects dominate – and the music. The music often sounds as contemporary as the story itself: Like Höckmayr, the Akademie für Alte Musik works with fades, sharpenings, shimmering rhythms. (…) On stage, too, there is perfect early music happiness. First and foremost in Anna Prohaska’s Poppea (…). (…) On stage, too, there is perfect early music happiness. First and foremost in Anna Prohaska’s Poppea (…). See it!”

Berliner Morgenpost, Georg Kasch, 11.12.2017

“Power and sex are one in this opera and in this congenial production. (…) The music usually tells a completely different truth than the libretto. It lies, just as the characters lie. Only more beautiful. Because music knows no morals. It offers its power to sexual greed as unconditionally as God does to Cupid. The monster sings as beguilingly as his victim. Nothing is as it seems to be in the music. (…) Here commedia dell’arte and opera marry in a socially critical way .(…) In this rightly acclaimed production by the young director Eva-Maria Höckmayr, the stage is no more than a ramp that bends towards the wall in the background, sometimes shimmering silver, sometimes golden, sometimes red like blood, sometimes blue like the night. The colours change like the affects and ecstasies of the characters. Everyone plays along for three hours without a break, no one steps up, no one steps down. Even Seneca, whose blood spurts from his neck before the intermission, is present as a corpse until the final jubilation. (…) Franz-Josef Selig sings a man who only becomes a great stoic when he dies – because he is convinced of his immortality. Satire cannot be blacker.”

Der Freitag, Wolfgang Herles, Ausgabe 50/2017

“Monteverdi and his congenial librettist Giovanni Francesco Busenello pay homage in their masterpiece to an unrestrained hormonal hedonism, which later, in the rationally contained age of the Enlightenment, was to become an outrage. (…) Eva-Maria Höckmayr and her team of directors have understood this unbelievably well – and translated it with wonderful sensitivity into the staging. What she doesn’t need at all is to arrange all kinds of sex orgies on Jens Kilian’s empty stage. Instead, Höckmayr relies on sensitive precision in the direction of the characters, a great deal of calm, dance-like immediacy and mutual observation. In a social system that allows everything, no one has to hide, after all. Travesty is suddenly the most natural thing in the world here, as is a threesome: whatever pleases is permitted. (…) To witness all this over three enchanting hours is spectacular in an unspectacular way, it gives the characters flesh and blood in a lovingly sensitive way. On this evening of perfect operatic fulfilment, one might think of the art of condensation of a Peter Brook, in any case of the master directors of long-gone times of opera,(…). An evening for the history books.”

Concerti, Peter Krause, 13.12.2017

“The crowning conclusion of the Monteverdi trilogy with the Dramma per musica L’incoronazione di Poppea’ (1642) becomes a splendid prelude at the Staatsoper Berlin in the finally completed, but still not quite functioning opera house Unter den Linden. (…) Anna Prohaska turns this Poppea into an unscrupulous slut who sleeps her way to the top and knows how to beguile the men with lingerie and sensual touches, at first still shielded, then openly on the ramp, if need be also in threesomes. The main thing is that it serves Poppea’s rise to empress. (…) Eva-Maria Höckmayr brings the two wet nurses into the play in an extremely amusing way with a touch of Commedia dell’Arte. Jochen Kowalski as Ottavia’s wet nurse with an oversized wide hoop skirt holds the position at court like a flagship and sometimes rushes in between. (….)”

klassic.com, Michaela Schnabel, 9.12.2017

“To the first drum roll, the stage set in gold unrolls from above across the stage slope. The figures, all positioned on it in constant variations, seem like little marionettes that cast more or less large shadows and, draped dead on the revolving stage, mutate into an allegory of the circle of life between lust and murder. (…) The bizarre mix of bizarre baroque hoop skirts, stiff renaissance ruffs and chic party dresses parodies the power of their wearers, and through the sophisticated light direction they are transported as border crossers between this world and the next (…), director Eva-Maria Höckmayr succeeds in permanently revealing the latent immorality of Monteverdi’s arsenal of characters, decoupling love as pure lust and the story as farce. (…) The constant presence of all the characters on stage with ever new, surprising plot details gives this first great opera in the history of music a very exhilarating parodic intermediate level – precisely because the direction does not cover up with images, but very differentiates the music. (…) Every scene is a pleasure for eyes and ears, every movement in the pulse of the music.”

Der neue Tag, 14.12.2017

“The fact that Nero ditches his wife to enthrone a noble prostitute in her place has a moral purpose – as a warning against the power of Cupid. (…) When Poppea is crowned, it dawns on her that she herself is now becoming ripe for the fall. Anna Prohaska in the title role is also artistically the centre of the performance. I have never seen so much levity, lasciviousness and eroticism in a Poppea. One senses that this courtesan is both an agent of Cupid and a plaything of her own instincts. (…)”

rbb Kultur-Radio, Kai Luehrs-Kaiser, 11.12.2017

“Director Eva-Maria Höckmayr manages without props in her minimalist production. Her standard stage, designed by Jens Kilian and extending up to the wall at the back, shines entirely in gold, and on it the partly worn-out staff gathers, who will remain on stage the whole evening without any exits and entrances. Such a concept could easily have become monotonous in the long run, but the way Höckmayr cleverly uses the respective characters, who are not singing at the time, for parallel interactions, she avoids such a danger.”

Orpheus, Kirsten Liese, Januar/Februar 2018

“The enthusiastic audience celebrated the opening production, which also paid homage to the house with its many gold and brocade. Politics wanted it to shine in its old splendour again instead of a new one, and the challenge for future artistic teams will be all the greater to deal with the historical splendour and to prove the suitability of opera for the present. Making history one’s accomplice instead of playing against it is only one – in this case wonderful – possibility.”

Das TheaterMagazin, Karin Winkelsasser, Dezember 2017

“For her Roman love intrigue, director Eva-Maria Höckmayr relied solely on the play. All the figures, finely rendered in renaissance gold by Julia Rösler, are constantly on stage, nothing else. Everyone sees everything on the smooth old-gold floor, which Jens Kilian has also pulled over the back wall of the stage. Even a love game is an act of state, and Höckmayr succeeds in stage eroticism that is not embarrassing. (…) Beauty and the imagination in this now real opening of the Berlin State Opera. One enters a happy island on Unter den Linden.”

Neues Deutschland, Irene Constantin, 11.12.2017

“The Coronation of Poppea” is, if you will, a thoroughly immoral opera. It was performed during the Venetian carnival season, when one’s true face and intentions could be well concealed behind a mask. (…) Eva-Maria Höckmayr has thus acted entirely in harmony with the colourful goings-on in the lagoon city when she adds a few perversities to the already rather licentious plot. (…) at Poppea’s coronation as empress, when she sings the wonderful final duet “Pur ti miro, pur ti godo” / “Only see you” with Nerone, Lucan approaches the emperor again – the two leave closely embraced, leaving Poppea alone.”

Kieler Nachrichten, Jürgen Gahre, 11.12.2017