Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

‘Poppea’ brings ‘sex appeal’ to the stage

Conflict, love and deceit are just a few words that describe the next performance the Theatre/Dance and Music Departments are hosting in the Barnett Theatre.

The joint performance of the Theatre/Dance and Music departments is the opera “The Coronation of Poppea.” The opera centers on Poppea, a mistress who is trying to steal the crown and become Empress. The performance opens at 2 p.m. Feb. 26 and there are performances at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28, March 1 and March 3. Photo by Daniel Sheldon.

“The Coronation of Poppea” is an Italian baroque opera written in the 1700s by Claudio Monteverdi and Giovanni Francesco Busenello.

Director Jim Butchart said the opera is based on true events and is about the character “Nero,” who was the emperor of Rome from 54 to 68 A.D.

Nero was married to Octavia, but a girl named Poppea seduces him because she wants to be empress. Poppea is engaged to Otho, who is also seeing Drusilla. The plot centers on Poppea doing anything to get Nero to fall in love with her.

“Opera is like a soap opera turned up,” Butchart said.

Junior Ariel Wilberg, who plays “Poppea,” said her character wants power and is willing to do anything in order to get it.

“It’s about all of the things we like to see on TV these days,” freshman Ben Riddle said. “It’s about conflict, love and lust.”

Although most portrayals of this opera are done in historical context, Butchart said their version has modernized costumes in order to make them accessible to students. He even changed some of the language within the script that was not fitting for the audience.

Music Director Robert Gehrenbeck said the singers will be accompanied by violins, violas, a harpsichord and an electric guitar.

Gehrenbeck said the music was originally written to be accompanied by a specific lute, but the departments didn’t have anyone who could play it.

“The guitars will update the sound just like the costumes that were modernized,” Gehrenbeck said.

Baroque music, which was influenced by dance music of the time, shares similarities with modern music which is played today.

“Music of the 17th century has more in common with modern music because it is very rhythmic,” Gehrenbeck said. “It supports what is happening on stage, it doesn’t take over.”

Senior Christopher Tate said people wouldn’t expect things musically to happen the way they do.

“The Coronation of Poppea” is classified as a “chamber opera” because it was written to be performed with a chamber ensemble instead of a full orchestra.

“It’s different than other operas because it has a lot of roles instead of a large chorus,” Butchart said.

Students who were cast in the opera were chosen through an audition process.

“We ran a workshop a week before auditions in order for the students to learn the style of the music,” Butchart said. “As always, the auditions are open to anyone.”

Most of the student actors are music or theater students.

“It is very important to have experience in opera,” Wilberg said.

Butchart said that students should attend this opera because it is very appealing.

“The sex would appeal to the students, and there’s lots and lots of that,” Butchart said. “We even have a scene in a bed, but there is no actual sex on stage.”

Students are encouraged to see the performance in order to become familiar with opera.

“If it’s boring that’s fine, but I’d encourage students to give it a chance,” Butchart said.

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Founded 1901
‘Poppea’ brings ‘sex appeal’ to the stage