A selection of exceptional young singers and musicians from across the University will perform a concert version of The Coronation of Poppea, Claudio Monteverdi’s final opera, on Saturday 7 March in Somerville College Chapel.
The performance, which forms part of Somerville Arts Week, is produced by Somerville music scholar Katie Jeffries-Harris (2013, Music), who is also Secretary of Schola Cantorum, President of Somerville Music Society and a member of the Somerville Choir.
“We wanted to put on an opera here in Oxford – it’s something that so many singers want to get involved in but there has been a huge lack of opportunity,” said Katie. “So we encouraged as many people to audition as we possibly could and we managed to get a lot of the best singers from across the university.”
Twelve singers and seven band members will entertain the audience with the story of Poppea, the emperor Nero’s mistress, and the subsequent revenge of Nero’s wife, Ottavia. This opera was also the first to focus on human protagonists rather than divine ones.
The Coronation of Poppea will feature a Renaissance band using period instruments, including the College harpsichord. Katie said that her greatest challenge had been to make everything fit together as seamlessly as possible.
“There are lots of fast-moving, interactive parts, typical of the baroque period, and so it’s a challenge to make everything happen at the right time,” said Katie. “But the most important part, particularly with this opera, is finding a good translation.”
The production will use a 2010 translation made by Tim Albery for a recent production by Opera North. The performers have had around five weeks to ready their performance – and the performance will be delivered in concert dress.
“It’s hugely exciting to be putting it on,” said Katie. “There are operas performed in Oxford but it is notoriously hard to get involved with them, and rare for the auditions for them to be open to all members of the university.”
The Coronation of Poppea will begin at 8pm on Saturday 7 March in Somerville College Chapel. For more information and to book tickets, visit the production’s Facebook page.