NAU Opera brings early Baroque Monteverdi to the Ardrey stage

The Coronation of Poppea

posterEarly Baroque opera comes to Northern Arizona University this spring with NAU Opera’s production of L’incoronazione di Poppea (The Coronation of Poppea), by Claudio Monteverdi, April 4-6 in Ardrey Memorial Auditorium.

First performed in Venice in 1642, L’incoronazione di Poppea is one of the first operas to use historical events and people as subject matter, telling the highly dramatic story of Roman emperor Nero, his ambitious mistress, Poppea, and her scandalous climb to empress status.

Nando Schellen, director of opera theatre, calls the characters in this nearly 400-year-old story colorful, strong and controversial.

“It is a piece where you need to put your moral judgments on standby while watching,” he said. “It is highly dramatic and very political, and it shows that we as people have not changed and our politics have certainly not improved.”

Because the original score of the opera’s manuscript has been lost, very little is known about L’incoronazione di Poppea. Despite this, the work is generally accepted as Monteverdi’s last and perhaps most celebrated work.

NAU Chamber Orchestra will provide the musical accompaniment for this performance, with two cellos and approximately 10 string instruments as well as a synthesizer filling in for the sounds of authentic Baroque instruments.

“The music is also extremely beautiful and way ahead of its time,” Schellen said. “Early Baroque musicians were all very good at improvisation, much like jazz musicians.

A cast of 18 singers—many double cast—perform in L’incoronazione di Poppea. The mostly female singers also have the added challenge of gender-bending to play male roles, while one male singer also plays a female role.

Performances take place at 7:30 p.m., with a pre-performance lecture at 6:45 p.m., April 4-5, and at 2 p.m., with a pre-performance lecture at 1:15 p.m., on April 6 in Ardrey Memorial Auditorium. Tickets cost $22 for adults, $18 for seniors, $10 for NAU employees and $6 for NAU students with an ID.

Tickets are available by calling (928) 523-5661 or visit