This is your 6th and a half production with Pinchgut (we have included when you stepped in during the final stages of Ormindo and the director couldn't continue). What draws you to working with us and specifically collaborating with Erin, that keeps you coming back?
There are rumours out there that opera is dead, that in five or so years existing companies will start closing their doors. But Pinchgut flies in the face of this thinking – audiences are building, responding I think to the power of the live musicianship and receiving the Pinchgut ethos that there are operas that provide us with both entertainment and insight into our lives. Erin is as passionate as I am about making opera that both delights and surprises, and about finding stories within pieces from another time that can connect with who we are now.
You've made a directorial decision to place the characters firmly in the 'here and now' with Poppea, I heard you mention 'not a toga in sight!' Why did you do that and what do you hope the audience will take away from this Poppea?
What's real about L'incoronazione di Poppea is music that cuts to the heart of human experience, and situations that are as murky and complex today as they were in Monteverdi's time. Audiences can draw parallels between old worlds and now but sometimes the best way to release something like this is to let it intersect very directly with our own contemporary worlds.
Opera Australia did a celebrated production of The Coronation of Poppea which was many years ago, but which some of our audience may remember. Do you feel any connection to that production or any responsibility to reference it in any way?
I have fond memories of Suzanne Johnston on a glossy red staircase – an astonishing design by Carl Friedrich Oberle. The production was referencing its own time – there was a context of corporate 1980s excess and of life as a cocktail party. There are other goings on in the opera that resonate with us today; we're now in a very different political and social climate, and the excesses and dangerous behaviours of the 21st Century necessitate that we take a dirty fighting spirit into the arena. There's no point in staging the piece unless we connect it directly to our own experience.
What is your favourite thing about being in a rehearsal room? How do you work with singers and also with your creative crew? How do you get the best from your creative team on all fronts?
All of us, the musicians, singers, actors, the production and management teams, spend such a long time preparing for rehearsals, that once we're released into the rehearsal room, we're ready to let it rip. I love the challenge of making sure that this intense creative environment moves forward collectively to a common goal. The singers arrive note perfect and are hungry for information that lets them build their character and tell the story. We all have our part to play in making an experience that thrills the audience, and that responsibility is not taken lightly by anybody.
Click here to read our blog about the images of inspiration Mark and set designer Charles Davis used to create their world for Poppea.