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West Edge Monteverdi, Title Changes, NEA Grant

January 22, 2013

The Emperor Nero, sung by Christine Brandes, and his mistress Poppea (Emma McNairy) Photo by Jamie BuschbaumWest Edge Opera's upcoming production of Monteverdi's L’incoronazione di Poppea is recommended for a $12,500 National Endowment for the Arts grant. The award is one of 832 grants totaling $23.3 million in funding nationwide, announced by NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. (Having served since 2009, Landesman stepped down as chairman in December, his senior deputy, Joan Shigekawa now serving in an acting position until a successor is nominated by the White House and confirmed by Congress.)

Another change is at the opera company, where Artistic Director Mark Streshinsky has been named General Director. He and MusicSources Artistic Director Gilbert Martinez are creating a reduced performance version of the 1642 L'incoronazione di Poppea, based on an orchestral edition by early-music scholar Alan Curtis. Streshinsky is stage director, Martinez will conduct a Baroque ensemble from the harpsichord.

The production will open West Edge Opera’s 34th season on Feb. 1, with repeat performances on Feb. 2 and 3. Compressing the run to a single weekend is an unfortunate decision, especially as the Sunday 3 p.m. matinee coincides with the 2013 Super Bowl, featuring a team of interest to most people in the Bay Area.

Christine Brandes, Emma McNairy, Ryan Belongie, Tonia D'Amelio, Erin Neff, Brian Thorsett, and Paul Thompson are featured in the cast. Streshinsky speaks of the production:

[We are] reducing the personnel involved and bringing the opera down to its core plot line, removing unimportant characters and focusing the piece. Gilbert is creating a performing chamber arrangement, utilizing nine instrumentalists, to be lead by himself at one of two harpsichords.

Our intention is to create a documented piece that can be done economically, not just by us, but by small companies and schools throughout the country. As with our 2010 performances of Xerxes, the production will make use of purely Baroque period instruments.

While the orchestra will be period, the production most definitely will not be. It is my intention to bring across to the audience the consequences of a leader gone wrong. Emperor Nero betrayed his people and his country and we will use projections and modern plot devices to create a production that resonates this theme. Our lighting designer, Lucas Krech, will use video and still imagery to create an immersive performance environment in which to place this fascinating and hauntingly beautiful work.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].