By ELYSSA RENEE MADSEN
The Utah Opera will join the international celebration of opera’s 400th birthday with its production of Monteverdi’s “The Coronation of Poppea,” performed in Salt Lake City’s Capitol Theatre.
Performances begin Saturday at 7:30 p.m., with performances Monday, Wednesday and Friday of the folllowing week. A matinee will be performed on March 15 at 2 p.m.
Spearheaded by the opera companies of Florence, the quadricentennial celebration of opera reveres an artform that began in 1597, when Florentine nobility witnessed “La Dafne,” which is believed to be the first “sung through” theatrical piece.
Considered by some to be the greatest opera of the genre’s first 50 years, and perhaps the greatest opera of the 17th century, “The Coronation of Poppea” features sensuous music, intriguingly complex characters and a swiftly flowing plot, according to Judith Carleson, spokesperson for the Utah Opera.
Martin Pearlman, a renowned interpreter of baroque music, will be the guest conductor and harpsichordist for “Poppea.” Pearlman’s internationally acclaimed series of baroque recordings were nominated for a Grammy in 1992.
Meastro Pealman has developed a new score for the production based on two surviving fragmentary and widely divergent 17th century manuscripts.
“This is the first time Utah Opera has done an early music piece … There is a lot of beautiful music that was written in the early period,” Carleson said.
Musicians from all over the U.S. and Canada will make up the orchestra for “Poppea,” playing classic instruments, including the harpsichord, baroque violoncellos, theorobes (long-neck lutes with extra base strings), and baroque guitars and recorders.
Members of the Utah Symphony will accompany the period instruments with violins, violas, cellos and bass during selected pieces.
To keep with 17th century tradition, the Utah Opera will raise the Capitol Threatre stage serveral feet above its usual position to place musicians and singers in closer proximity.
Like many of the earliest operas, Maestro Pearlman will perform several roles in the performance. He will conduct the orchestra and play the harpsichord.
Sung in Italian with English supertitles, the performance features modern ideas, according to Judith Carelson.
“This piece has a lot of political intrigue and the plots have a lot of contemporary themes,” Carleson said.
Judith Lovat, a Scottish-born soprano, will make her Utah Opera Debut as Poppea. Tenor Mathew Lord will portray Nero. The countertenor role of Ottone will be sung by David Sebella, winner of the 1995 Pavarotti Competition and the New York Oratorio Competition at Carnegie Hall in 1996. Lani Pouslon, a native of Utah, will play the role of Octavia in her first performance with the Utah Opera. Basso Thomas Paul will sing the role of Seneca.
A story of intense love, consuming passion and painful betrayal, Poppea will excite and delight audiences, according to Carleson.
Tickets prices are from $12-55 at Capitol Theatre ArtTix Box Office, at Albertson’s ArtTix outlets or by calling 355-ARTS. Student tickets can be purchased at a 50 percent discount 30 minutes before each performance.