Topless Poppea at Vienna State Opera

Topless Poppea at Vienna State Opera


norman lebrecht

May 23, 2021

First house pics of the Jan Lauwers’ new Monteverdi L’incoronazione di Poppea in Vienna.

Nudity necessary? You say.

Photos: Vienna State Opera / Michael Pöhn

Cast: Nerone  Kate Lindsey
Poppea  Slávka Zámečníková
Ottone, former husband Poppea  Xavier Sabata
Ottavia, Nero’s wife  Christina Bock
Seneca  Willard White
Virtù / Drusilla  Vera Lotte Boecker


  • Alexander says:

    are they going to sing on Eurovision or what ? boobs are natural but not as nice as Lola’s ones …

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    I don’t mind if the men are topless!

    • Claudio says:

      Vienna is the only major opera house where Muti still conducts STAGED operas.

      The old man has a high bar in this area. There’s gotta be something there worth staging!

  • Le Křenek du jour says:

    OK. But, if the report from Der Standard plus leaked soundbite snippets are anything to go by, there appears to be more to this Poppea than a mere dearth of textile matter.

  • Tom Hase says:

    Yeah, I see your point. Adding nudity makes this nice little story about a woman who sleeps her way up all the way to empress and wife of an emperor, who in turn is willing to banish his wife and force his ethics advisor into suicide, but refuses to give up on his boy toy (leading to one of earliest gay love duets in music history) really offensive.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Yes, because women are virtuous and suffering ‘slaves’. Stick to the narrative, if you please.

  • HugoPreuss says:

    In “Poppea” everybody gets it on with everybody else. Boys and dogs and hamsters… Usually nudity on stage is a sure sign that the director had no real ideas. But there are exceptions. And one exception might be Poppea. It is not necessary, but it is justified. I remember a performance in Kiel, Germany, around 1979 – highly sexualized, but no nudity. Still, it was pretty explicit. But then, so was Monteverdi in this opera…

  • RW2013 says:

    The question is – should choreographers direct opera?

    • Petros LInardos says:

      Yes, if they have a strong background in singing. Otherwise hell no, and this applies not only to choreographers.

  • Ed says:

    Absolutely necessary to recoup losses.

  • sam says:

    I’m more shocked that they are maskless than topless.

  • Couperin says:

    I approve. It’s Monteverdi, not Bach!

  • M McAlpine says:

    Usually we suppress a groan as we murmur, “For goodness sake, luv, cover ’em up!”

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    A bit of toplessness makes up for the rather nerdy music.

  • Paul Dawson says:

    I’m surprised that this is even worth mentioning these days.

    The first naked breast I saw in a opera house was Katherine Pring’s wardrobe malfunction at ENO North’s opening night in 1978. It attracted much publicity at the time.

    40+ years on, such exposure has become so commonplace that one wonders who cares.

    • Christopher Clift says:

      Paul I was in the orchestra that evening and the brass players to a man almost had joint heart attacks! How they managed to play on seemed to me at the time nothing short of a miracle.

      • Paul Dawson says:

        LOL! Am I betraying myself by admitting that the quality of the brass playing was not front of mind at that point? She handled it with great aplomb.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Nudity may be necessary to attract headlines like the one above. Nobody cares to report about a thoughtful production with no antics.

    Nudity may also be enjoyable, to some of us.

    It could also raise questions regarding the criteria by which singers are selected.

    From a dramaturgical standpoint, I believe we could all get immersed in Poppea’s story without nudity. Insinuation can go a long way, and can sometimes be very entertaining. Remember that line in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest: “what can a man do with his clothes off for twenty minutes?”

  • John Borstlap says:

    Wien, Weib und Gesang.

  • blake says:

    horrid production (but not as bad as vienna’s recent “carmen” or the majorly flawed “interepretation” of onegin)… the worst part of this unwatchable opera was the constant and unnecessary visual distraction of the background dancers twisting and turning, not to mention goofy costumes, gratuitous blood and nudity, etc.

  • christopher storey says:

    Gerrem Off !!

  • RW2013 says:

    “The trouble with nude dancing is that not everything stops when the music stops.”
    Robert Helpmann

  • Genius Repairman says:

    It fits with the subject matter and it is part of the artistic interpretation. Not that I get to see it anyway, being trapped on the World’s largest island between the Indian and Pacific oceans thanks to… Well you know what.

    • RW2013 says:

      Is there an island down there?

    • Paul Dawson says:

      I have tickets for a November Ring Cycle on the world’s largest island. Copy and paste is one of my favourite features in Windows, so …

      Not that I shall get to see it anyway, being trapped off the World’s largest island between the Indian and Pacific oceans thanks to… Well you know what.

  • Nick2 says:

    I recall a performance of Poppea by Scottish Opera back in the less permissive 1970s. I think it was around 1974 and conducted by Raymond Leppard in his rather lush (by today’s standards) edition. Poppea was sung by Anne Howells and Nero by David Hillman. The producer was Anthony Besch.

    Besch wanted nudity at some point where Poppea was in bed and invited Nero to join her. Hillman was wearing a toga. He then withdrew the bedcover to reveal Poppea’s upper half. Ms Howells was clearly not game and so the costume designer had a body stocking made for her covered with strands of fake hair. Hillman was less concerned because, as he disrobed, only his back was seen. Somehow Besch had found a way of this being effected with some sort of brief covering so that those backstage would not see what Hillman might not want them to see.

    There was no audience concern about this brief episode until one performance when Ms Howells had to be replaced by her understudy, a young Canadian singer. This lady had no concerns about her top being bared to all. When Hillman pulled back the bedcover, clearly he had not been informed. Obviously surprised, he withdrew more than he should have. At which point the audience saw a naked body on the bed wearing only some rather skimpy bright red panties!

    I believe this resulted in a letter or two to the major Scottish newspapers by the Edinburgh guardians of morality!

    • John Borstlap says:

      Since then, the collective need to become independent has been gradually brewing in Scotland.

  • violinist says:

    Who cares? Some of you sound like old ‘fuddies telling people to get off their lawn.

  • Byrwec Ellison says:

    It’s impossible to say without seeing the visual production, but maybe it’s a director’s retro reference to ancient Greece & Rome in the way that earliest Venetian operas – Poppea and various Orfeos – were said to be inspired by the classical era’s mix of poetry and music?

  • Madeleine Richardson says:

    That’s nothing. I have seen male full frontal nudity during performances of Turandot and The Pearl Fishers.
    Check out La Monnaie’s upcoming Tosca in Brussels in June.

  • Save the MET says:

    What ever it takes to bring husbands to the opera and not fall asleep. This is the 21st Century version of the Haydn Military Symphony. By the way boobies work, but the ones in the picture are not impressive.

    • Ashu says:

      [By the way boobies work, but the ones in the picture are not impressive.]

      What’s wrong with you? They’re ravishing, just the way I like them.