Have you ever seen a performance of Taming of the Shrew, and when Kate gives her big speech on obedience at the end, and she turns and winks, and you think, “well, that makes it more palatable, but you know that’s not true to the original.”
I felt that way about The Coronation of Poppea, the last opera for the season. Of course, the opera itself isn’t true to the original, the creator said upfront he was playing with history. Perhaps the version I saw was closer to the real history of Nero and Poppea. The version I saw had some extra set directions that changed the tone of the end dramatically. It made it better, absolutely: darker, less sappy, and more satisfying that the versions I saw on YouTube the next day. But is it canon? Probably not.
The costumes were interesting: they set it in the sixties. (Speaking of costumes, three people complimented us on our tiaras. We only saw one other person making an effort with her headgear: a woman wearing a very on-theme golden laurel wreath.) Instead of the sixties, they could have set it this year, given how people were chuckling over Nero’s speech on how he can be as irrational as he likes because he’s the President Emperor.
The set, on the other hand, was perplexing. It was the talk of the intermission. It looked just like a drained swimming pool, only there was a refrigerator that held Bloody Marys that were the equivalent of the oranges in The Godfather. There was also a barn door, for some reason. During the intermission, I cornered an usher, Russ, and demanded to know what’s up with this set, what the hell, Russ, and he promised to get an answer and get back with me after the show.
He did! He said because the characters all all trapped by their lies and deceits the set depicts places you can feel trapped: a meat locker, a swimming pool (trapped under water, I suppose), and so on. That’s what Russ the usher said, and I believe it.