Poppea Reflections

by Philippa Kiraly

If you enjoy early opera and you were not here in 2007, you are in for a treat. Early Music Seattle is giving a gift to Seattle (and watchers far and wide) in presenting online starting October 16 the film it made of the 2007 performance at the Intiman Playhouse of Monteverdi’s “L’Incoronazione di Poppea.” The production brought together not only many of this area’s brightest lights as singers, musicians, and the invaluable unseen backstage people, but also fine singers from across the country.

“Poppea” was the most ambitious operatic production the Early Music Guild had yet produced. Producer and chitarrone player Gus Denhard, executive director of the Early Music Guild, now Early Music Seattle, has continued its mission since of presenting fine period performances, nurturing emerging local groups and recently widening its view to include early music cultures from around the world.

“Poppea” music directors were harpsichordist Fred Hauptman (who died recently) and lutenist Stephen Stubbs, who had recently returned to Seattle after a long and illustrious career in Europe as performer and baroque opera conductor. A couple of years later, Stubbs formed Pacific OperaWorks (now Pacific MusicWorks), which has ever since given seasons of superb performances in Seattle of mostly baroque era music, usually with a vocal component and local period musicians, expanding its range to its Underground performances in pubs and bars, and lunchtime concerts in a church sanctuary.

Soprano Yulia van Doren was in her first professional appearance as Poppea, having only recently completed her BM degree, though already having won many prizes. Her stellar performance as both actress and singer was the beginning of an opera career both in baroque opera and other roles around the world.

Issaquah resident and tenor Ross Hauck as Nero took on the role only six days prior to opening night, replacing an ailing Michael Maniaci. Despite being new to baroque performance style, he nailed the role and has gone on since to sing in baroque performances and opera as well as others around the country.

The stage director who tied it all together was Theodore Deacon, longtime director of opera at the University of Washington, who intended “Poppea” to be his swan song before retiring. Instead, these days he picks and chooses special directing assignments, often by last minute requests, and composes incidental scores for plays. With Stubbs, he collaborated in shaping the performing edition used in this “Poppea.”

This production was a resounding success from all points of view.

The video which will be presented starting October 16 has been editorially tidied up and tightened with funding by Frank and Joan Conlon, while Sarah Thomson has the tricky job of setting supertitles translated from the Italian, an essential component for this opera which has so much going on.

Even if you went to the original performances, don’t miss this video. It’s enthralling.

Philippa Kiraly has been a freelance classical music critic since 1980, with a particular interest in early music and period performance. She has written for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly and for several blogs, most recently Bachtrack.com based in London and sybariticsinger.com.


Original review form Seattle Times (Note that Early Music Guild later became Early Music Seattle.)

Scenes from Poppea, 2007


Original 2007 Concert Program PDF


Early Music Seattle presents


L’incoronazione di Poppea

(The Coronation of Poppea)
by Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)

No charge | Suggested donation $20
View at earlymusicseattle.org

This opera was composed for Venice’s 1643 Carnival season and has been a standard of opera repertoire ever since. The Coronation of Poppea tells the story of the intrigue and deception that sets the stage for the fall of the Roman Empire. Early Music Seattle produced and filmed this opera in 2007 in the Intiman Playhouse. You’ll enjoy a newly enhanced and supertitled video performance of this compelling production, never before released to the public!

Recorded at Intiman Playhouse, February 16 & 17, 2007