Salzburg’s new Poppea is met with silence (followed by loud boos)

Salzburg’s new Poppea is met with silence (followed by loud boos)


norman lebrecht

August 14, 2018

The first-night audience made clear its disapproval of the Dutch director Jan Lauwers’ dance-oriented production. Total silence is a good measure of audience mood.

Sonya Yoncheva as Poppea and Kate Lindsey as Nerone were applauded, as was the conductor William Christie, whose Arts Florissants ensemble played on stage as part of the performance.


  • Peter says:

    Needcompany is an artists’ company set up by the artists Jan Lauwers and Grace Ellen Barkey in 1986. Maarten Seghers has been a member of Needcompany since 2001. Lauwers, Barkey and Seghers form the core of the company, and it embraces all their artistic work: theatre, dance, performance, visual art, writing, etc. Their creations are shown at the most prominent venues at home and abroad.

    Since the very beginning, Needcompany has presented itself as an international, multilingual, innovative and multidisciplinary company. This diversity is reflected best in the ensemble itself, in which on average 7 different nationalities are represented. Over the years Needcompany has put increasing emphasis on this ensemble and several artistic alliances have flourished: Lemm&Barkey (Grace Ellen Barkey and Lot Lemm) and OHNO COOPERATION (Maarten Seghers and Jan Lauwers).

    Needcompany revolves around the individual artist. Everything is founded on the artistic project, on authenticity, necessity and meaning. The medium itself is continually questioned, and there is constant examination of the quality of the content to be conveyed in relation to the form it takes. Needcompany believes in quality, cooperation and innovation. Needcompany is a leading voice in the social debate on the urgency and beauty of art at both a domestic and an international level.

    Jan Lauwers is a Belgian.

    • Martin says:

      “Needcompany is a leading voice in the social debate on the urgency and beauty of art at both a domestic and an international level.”

      No, it’s not! It’s stupid, complacent, trivial.

  • Jonathan Ellis says:

    Let me guess… A modernistic Regietheater-style production? And the audience has the wit to applaud individual performers (singers and conductor) but falls silent when asked to applaud the production as a whole?

    Learn, guys. Audiences are getting sick of directors’ tripe. When people go to see Poppea, they expect Ancient Rome. Not some modernistic nonsensical symbolism.

    It’s quite clear: if the audience applauded the singers and the conductor (and thus, by extension, the musicians), then the silence and booing was quite clearly for the director.

    • Bogda says:

      “When people go to see Poppea, they expect Ancient Rome”?
      Have you actually ever seen a baroque opera?

      Not to mention that the same Salzburg audience loved both Salome and Queen of Spades, that were both “modernistic Regietheater-style productions”.

    • Nik says:

      “Let me guess…”
      Yes, that’s pretty much how all well-informed comments start on this site.
      Can we hear from someone who was there please?

      • Katinka says:

        I was there. The problem certainly is not that it isn’t set in Ancient Rome; literal staging is pretty much the last thing I crave from an opera experience. The problem is that this production is 3.5 solid hours of vacuous, distracting garbage. A real shame, because the singers and orchestra are excellent. I have another ticket for tomorrow and plan to listen with my eyes averted or closed.

      • RobertJH says:

        I was there and although there was indeed some booing for the director and his team, there was also a lot of acclaim for them. There was certainly no total silence (I wish there would have been after the beautiful end). I would say the audience was divided on the stage-direction, and there was total acclaim for the musical side (and not just for the two main roles and Les Arts Florissants).

        All in all it was a very interesting evening. The production was very different in that a lot of elements (dance, movement, video-images) appeared simultaneously and in the beginning I felt it was too much and it was hard to focus. In the second half, it was more quiet and there were somer very strong scenes and images.
        It will be shown on Medici.TV and MyFidelio, so do see for yourself when you have the opportunity.

  • Bogda says:

    “When people go to see Poppea, they expect Ancient Rome”?
    Have you actually ever seen a baroque opera?

    Not to mention that the same Salzburg audience loved both Salome and Queen of Spades, that were both “modernistic Regietheater-style productions”.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    HIP conductor & orchestra + Regietheater = cultural cognitive dissonance.

  • Tristan says:

    silence after the beautiful ending of this masterpiece was more than correct, especially when sung like Sonya and Kate did plus the fine reading of Maestro Christie. The boring audience of the Salzburg Festival for once got it. The production was poor with convincing and beautiful moments though, especially in the second part. After the exceptional Salome people fortunately were silent too, somit should be after Tristan or Götterdämmerung. Voila, this has nothing to do with any mediocre production! Pique Dame was nothing special either and saw many better ones on the past. None of the singers justified those crazy prices! Jansoms has his strength in the symphony repertoire and certainly the sound was magnificent. Still, Pique Dame was away from being excellent.

  • Gus says:

    A ticket for this afternoon’s production is €430 but on top of that are charges which makes a total cost of €645, truly staggering, who goes?

    Tickets are still available.

    • Mike Schachter says:

      A bargain! Makes Glyndebourne look reasonable. Almost.

    • Bogda says:

      There are no additional charges on top the price (which is undoubtedly high) if you buy through official channels.

      • Nik says:

        Indeed, tickets are available for ALL remaining dates of Poppea at The face value is what you pay. If you book through an agency you’re a mug.

        • Ms.Melody says:

          I was there for Pique Dame. Will probably need therapy to recover from this visual horror. Agree, musically it was forgettable. Visually, Regie at its worse.
          Waste of time and a large sum of money. Thanks G-d, Salzburg is still lovely.
          And yes, Bogda, high school production that respects the book, composer and the period is preferable to
          this incoherent, insane “stage direction”.

          • Bogda says:

            I have not seen any of these productions yet, as I’m on my way to Salzburg now, so can’t jusge their quality.
            However, my comment was made to the ridiculous point that theater should be without Regie. Anyone saying this clearly has no clue what theater is, assuming that theater can work without stage direction is complete and utter nonsense. (Unless it’s part of a special experimental/improvisational production, but even then it is someone’s concept how to stage a piece).
            Different it the topic of quality of stage direction, which I was not arguing or commenting on.

  • Katinka says:

    I mean, who wakes up one morning and thinks, “You know what would really enhance an audience’s experience of Poppea? Relentless near-naked interpretive dance, a slew of tacky costumes, some night vision camera live streaming from behind the scenes with the principals acting like drunk teenagers, a podium to support 3 hours of interchanging spinning dancers who will make distracting noises when their bare feet thump and squeak on the floor, maybe some huge stupid hats (which we should definitely make the musicians wear while playing), some chicken dancing, and, let’s see, remember that costume we have that looks like a hideous, pregnant potato and that other one that looks like a decapitated star mole head? Let’s throw those in too.”

    Apparently that person is some dude in Belgium and there’s nobody allowed to say no to him.

    I saw it again today (I bought two tickets last January based on the cast) and it does not improve with a second viewing. Still—given a choice I will always opt to see a modern/Regietheater production over a traditional one. This particular train wreck is atypical in my experience. Overheard at intermission: “Just close your eyes and listen.”

    • Ms.Melody says:

      Give me a traditional, well sung and played and pleasant to look at production ,where the composer and libretto are respected and action on stage complements not contradicts the music and the text, every day of the week and twice on Sunday. But, alas, these are harder and harder to come by.

  • Katinka says:

    Have now seen the Warlikowski production of The Bassarids, which superficially has elements in common with the Poppea: nudity, corpses, blood, frenzied dancing, gender-crossing costumes, acrobatics. But Warlikowski gives us a coherent, complex artistic vision that meshes with and underscores the music and text rather than competing with or distracting from it. The aesthetic is strong, stylish, brutal, and compelling. What a difference. So, two “Regie” productions, one inconsequential and irritating, one intelligent and thrilling. Regie per se is not the problem. I’m willing to suffer through an occasional dud if it means I get to see productions like The Bassarids. Wonderful singers and orchestra in the latter also. A fantastic end to my week in Salzburg.