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Students perform ‘The Coronation of Poppea’

| Thursday, April 24, 2014

This weekend, Notre Dame’s Department of Music will continue an important department tradition of opera performance for the student body with the presentation of Monteverdi’s “The Coronation of Poppea.”
According to senior Sean McGee, who will play Nero in the show, the opera explores Emperor Nero’s passionate affair with Poppea, a noblewoman who is eventually able to supplant Nero’s wife Octavia and become Empress of Rome.
Regarded as one of the oldest operas ever created and written in Italian, “The Coronation of Poppea” differs from pieces the department has performed in the past. These qualities presented their own unique challenges, McGee said.
“The styles of music were very different from how they’re written today, the way opera was structured is incredibly different from how it was when it later developed, and actually it doesn’t look a thing like what you would expect an opera to be,” he said. “It’s a lot more fluid, a lot more free form.”
The preparation for the opera was extensive, senior Ali Thomas, who plays Poppea in the show, said. The dedication required to perform the opera is exactly what makes it such an exceptional event.
“Because we work so hard on it and spend so much time on it, I think that’s what makes it so much better once we perform it,” Thomas said. “You can just tell how much work has been put into every single word and movement.”
Senior Joe Paggi, who will also play Nero next weekend, said the show is important to the department because of its ability to include so many students and faculty in its production.
“It basically is the culmination of everything that we do,” he said. “It involves a lot of our musicians in the pit, it involves all of our singers on stage and it involves all the teachers who direct it. That’s probably why it’s one of the biggest events that the music department does, because it encompasses all different aspects of it.”
“The Coronation of Poppea” runs this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and this Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Paggi said the show is the perfect opera to see if one has not experienced the medium before.
“It’s a very old opera, so anybody that hasn’t been to an opera before, it’s as old as it gets,” he said. “It’s opera at its finest. … People who haven’t been to opera before, I think will be pleasantly surprised by it.”
Students will be particularly surprised by their ability to relate to the show as well, McGee said.
“The thing about opera is it’s much more human than people think,” he said. “The idea that people think of when they hear the word opera is very much an idea of the fat lady onstage singing with the Viking hat, and people think, ‘I can’t relate to that.’ What I’ve learned with doing opera is that it’s so much more than that.”
Thomas also said she thinks the opera tells a relatable story.
“That storyline in general ⎯ a political leader with a mistress, scandal, climbing up the ropes of the political ladder ⎯ that can apply to so many different things,” she said.
Tickets for the show are $5 with a student ID. Students can buy tickets at performingarts.nd.edu

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