The Comet / Poppea Premiere: Reviews & Previews Roundup

This innovative co-production, which was recently met with glowing reviews in Los Angeles, will receive its East Coast premiere with Curtis Opera Theatre November 1–3 at the historic 23rd Street Armory

Curtis Opera Theatre will open its exciting 2024–25 series this November with the East Coast premiere of The Comet / Poppea, featuring MacArthur Award-winning composer George Lewis’ highly anticipated operatic setting of W.E.B. Du Bois’s proto-Afrofuturist science fiction short story, The Comet (1920), juxtaposed with Claudio Monteverdi’s hot-blooded political thriller, L’incoronazione di Poppea (1643).

This groundbreaking new production, directed and conceived by fellow MacArthur-winner Yuval Sharon, recently premiered at the Geffen Contemporary at Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles to rave reviews.  Presented on a turntable divided in two halves, these worlds unfold simultaneously, with the stage’s rotation creating a visual and sonic spiral for audiences—inviting associations, dissociations, collisions, and confluences.

To learn more about Curtis Opera Theatre’s November 1–3 performances here in Philadelphia at the historic 23rd Street Armory, click HERE

Reviews of The Comet / Poppea from the premiere in Los Angeles presented by MOCA and The Industry:

  • The LA Times called the production “exceptional in every way.” They also said: “And what American opera needs most of all is “The Comet / Poppea.” It has huge ramifications for the wide world we now occupy, what with growing arsenals of potential Neros and nukes. Unlike other Industry productions, this one will have a necessary afterlife. Over the next two years, it will travel to New York, the Curtis Institute of Music and Yale University.”
  • The Wall Street Journal praised the “excellent” cast, noting that “Mr. Lewis’s vocal settings mesh surprisingly well with the Baroque style of Poppea. Both are constructed to maximize the intelligibility of the words and deal in emotional extremes, albeit in different musical languages.”
  • San Francisco Classical Voice applauded the “strong singing” throughout, saying that Lewis’s “taut” music inserted itself in “agile and fluid dialogue with Poppea, and the assembled players handled [his] gestural language with aplomb.”
  • Classical Voice North America noted that “If this counterintuitive smashing together of idioms aims to attract new audiences, there were signs that it was working, given the presence of more younger people in the sold-out opening-night audience than you normally see in conventional opera houses.”
  • Brooklyn-based art and culture magazine Hyperallergic commended the “richness of conceptual, visual, and sonic material” of the pairing and commended the production for its “burst of imagination and creativity.”
  • Stage and Cinema called the production “revolutionary” and “transformational,” through “glorious music and inventive staging.”

Read preview articles for The Comet / Poppea in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times OperaWire, Ebony Magazine, San Francisco Classical Voice, Hollywood Reporter, Broadway World, Cultural Attaché, Arts Beat LA, Airmail News Larchmont Buzz, and Bomb Magazine

The Comet / Poppea is produced by Anthony Roth Costanzo and Cath Brittan, The Industry, AMOC* (American Modern Opera Company), Curtis Institute of Music, and Yale Schwarzman Center.

Photo credits: 1.) Nardus Williams and Anthony Roth Costanzo (L to R) in The Comet / Poppea (2024), performance documentation from the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. Image by Austin Richey, courtesy MOCA and The Industry. 2.) Davóne Tines in The Comet / Poppea (2024), performance documentation from the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. Image by Elon Schoenholz, courtesy MOCA and The Industry.  3.) Amanda Lynn Bottoms and Nardus Williams in The Comet / Poppea (2024), performance documentation from the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (all images by Austin Richey, courtesy MOCA and The Industry)