The World of Poppea with Mark Gaal

Wow, what a towering masterpiece for us to end the year with and we couldn’t be more excited to bring this to life for you. Director Mark Gaal and Conductor Erin Helyard collaborate on their third production together, and lead an exemplary cast headed by Helen Sherman and Kangmin Justin Kim. Here Mark shares some of his insights into the work for you.

THE CORONATION OF POPPEA WILL BE YOUR SEVENTH PINCHGUT PRODUCTION IN THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR. WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES WHEN DIRECTING A NEW PINCHGUT PRODUCTION?

Audiences expect a lot from Pinchgut – great musicianship, inventive design, involving storytelling and an unforgettable experience overall – these are terrific challenges to meet!

TELL ME A BIT ABOUT THE STORY OF POPPEA, WHAT DREW YOU TO DIRECT SUCH A MASTERPIECE?

The story takes place in Ancient Rome. Emperor Nero casts aside his wife Ottavia in favour of Poppea Sabina, whose lover Ottone is left in shock. As Nero and Poppea continue to make their own luck, those around them are drawn deeper and deeper into a disturbing world that makes use of some of the most ravishing music you’ll ever hear. Having directed L’Orfeo, a work Monteverdi wrote 35 years before Poppea, I am curious to see how Monteverdi and the world around him have evolved.

TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR VISION FOR POPPEA. WHAT SHOULD OUR AUDIENCE EXPECT?

The story itself is contextualised via a prologue: 3 gods – Fortune, Virtue and Amour debate which of them has the greatest impact on humankind. This investigation of competing forces is the springboard for the opera. So while we will deliver the story of Poppea, what will be equally as interesting for the audience is an experience of the complexities that surround aspects of human behaviour such as desire, honour, and ambition.

2017 MARKS THE 450TH BIRTHDAY OF MONTEVERDI. WHY DO YOU THINK THE CORONATION OF POPPEA AND HIS OTHER FAMOUS OPERAS SPEAK TO CONTEMPORARY AUDIENCES?

Poppea speaks through its exquisite music – a great counterpoint to murky goings on, and through the goings on themselves – we are remarkable in our ability to make the same kinds of mistakes over and over.

POLITICAL DRAMAS SUCH AS HOUSE OF CARDS HAVE BECOME HUGELY SUCCESSFUL OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS. DO YOU THKN THAT THERE ARE PARALLELS BETWEEN THESE FILM AND TELEVISION PRODUCTIONS AND THE ANCIENT TALE OF POPPEA?

House of Cards is great television and the uncompromising bond between its protagonists parallels that in Poppea. But I have to say: Frank and Claire vs Nero and Poppea – there’s no contest!