Interview with Maestro Brent McMunn

The USC Thornton Opera Program’s fall 2013 production of Claudio Monteverdi’s 17th-century masterpiece, L’incoronazione di Poppea, combines politics, sex, and religion—the staples of all great opera—with the sublime Baroque music of one of the genre’s greatest masters.

While Poppea is performed at many universities, the process of producing this early masterwork is no small task. The opera asks performers to step back in time, to a period where composers left many details to the discretion of the singers—singers who were trained in specific methods of improvisation. Consultation with experts in period performance practice is essential to any successful performance. “It can’t be done without the collaboration of a skilled and intelligent early music program, which of course we have here,” said Opera program music director and conductor, Brent McMunn.

This collaboration was “a happy confluence of relationships and events,” said McMunn, who called on Early Music program director Adam Gilbert and renowned lutenist Paul O’Dette of the Eastman School of Music to help the cast understand and successfully prepare the music. Producing a work from the 17th century presents a multitude of challenges, demanding performers to adopt a new approach to combining text, drama, and musicianship. But for the musicians, the challenge is also the reward. “I hope and fully expect that their approach to all of the music they do will be deepened by this searching for how to shape the text hand-in-glove with the music,” McMunn said.

There will be three performances of L’incoronazione di Poppea in Bing Theatre on the University Park Campus:

  • November 20th and 22nd at 8:00 pm
  • November 24th at 2:00 pm

Tickets can be obtained online from the USC Ticket Office.

On Friday, November 22, a pre-performance discussion at 7:00 p.m. will Paul O’Dette of the Eastman School of Music and the artistic team of resident stage director Ken Cazan, conductor Brent McMunn, and Early Music program director Adam Gilbert.