Judith Charron, Sara Parker, Lucilla Graham in rehearsal
Judith Charron, Sara Parker, Lucilla Graham in rehearsal

Barefoot Opera – Hastings and St Leonards’ very own opera company – for one night only, at St Mary in the Castle, will present what promises to be another unique and scintillating spectacle. Considered by many to be Monteverdi’s operatic masterpiece, L’incoronazione di Poppea (The Coronation of Poppea) is a morally ambivalent tale of lust, deceit and power set in Ancient Rome. One of the earliest operas to take a real, historical event for its subject, it describes how Poppea, a beautiful and conniving noblewoman and the erotic obsession of Emperor Nero, used charm and intrigue to manipulate her way to the imperial throne. Nero is already married to Claudia Ottavia when he falls in love with Poppea with whom he has an adulterous liaison, putting relations between him and his family and court in murderous jeopardy.

Known for their innovative and youthful productions, Barefoot Opera have chosen to stage L’incoronazione in honour of the 450th-anniversary of Monteverdi’s birth. And, given that it premiered in Venice, in 1643, and is thus one of the earliest operas to be composed, its staging is an important opportunity to witness opera in its earliest development as a dramatic musical form.

The intimate ensemble of musicians will include Lesley-Anne Sammons on keyboards, Lucy Mulgan on double bass and Evelyn Nallen on recorder, and among the singers, Lucilla Graham will play Nero – some of you may remember Graham starring in Barefoot Opera’s 2014 Carmen. Adding interest to the evening will no doubt be the setting. The Regency auditorium of St Mary in the Castle is designed in the form of an amphitheatre and therefore is appropriately reminiscent of the ancient Roman context of the opera’s narrative.

Jenny Miller, the director of Barefoot Opera, has collaborated with Peter Fillingham (who designed Derek Jarman’s Garden Installation for the Design Museum) and costume designers Cressida Lewis and Vicky Turner in producing what will certainly be a feast for the eyes, as well as the ears.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, St Mary in the Castle, Hastings, Saturday 11 November, 7:30pm, tickets: Standard £16.50 in advance (£18.50 on the door), £3.50 under 12s, available from the Barefoot Opera website (and Hastings Tourist Office): www.barefootopera.com