City Recital Hall
November 30, 2017

In an opera marked by violence, an invented moment during the prologue stuck in the mind. Arnalta, played to perfection by a fabulous, towering Kanen Breen, is thrown down and humiliated by Nerone’s henchmen, kicked in the genitals in a brutal policing of her gendered self-presentation. Director Mark Gaal here introduces the volatile gender and sexual politics of this updated Rome with a fearlessness to be admired. The bickering gods Fortuna, Virtù, and Amore manifest as the homeless in this staging, able to navigate the same space as humans without being seen precisely because they are the ignored and displaced.

Jake Arditti and Helen Sherman. Photo: supplied

The pomp and circumstance of ancient Rome, all lush velvet and architectural magnificence in the imagination, is replaced with a set resembling nothing so much as a seedy underpass, while Nerone and his men are costumed in baggy pants and garish Varsity jackets – you can practically smell the Lynx body spray radiating off them in droves.

A bold production then, yet not without its problems – small things bugged, as when in the final moment of the piece Poppea was...