NIDA's Mark Gaal takes on Nero in Coronation of Poppea
Mark Gaal, NIDA’s Director Vocational Studies, is directing his sixth Pinchgut Opera production, The Coronation of Poppea.
Photo: Jake Arditti as Nero
The National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) is proud of its strong ties to the arts and entertainment industries in Australia and internationally. Mark Gaal, NIDA’s Director Vocational Studies, is an example of how the sink-your-teeth-into industry flows into the NIDA building to enrich student learning experiences and enable expert program development. Mark is currently directing his sixth Pinchgut Opera production, The Coronation of Poppea. Conducted by artistic director Erin Helyard, the production at Sydney’s City Recital Hall celebrates 450 years since the birth of the composer Claudio Monteverdi.
‘There are lots of ways that NIDA ensures there are industry connections into all its accredited programs – for example the guest artists we have coming in all the time and professional opportunities undertaken by staff which enriches their teaching. NIDA is supportive of my work with Pinchgut Opera, and sees this as an opportunity for me to remain connected to the industry. It means that the currency that you end up having with the industry can feed back directly into our training. It helps ensure that you are abreast of work processes and audience needs and how industry functions.’
‘Like music ensembles all around the world, Erin and I were looking at Monteverdi material to celebrate his anniversary,’ explained Gaal. ‘The other reason why we chose this opera is the topicality and modernity of the piece. It is musically satisfying and has something to say about the world we live in. We were looking for stories that touch us, which audiences can relate to. This piece is one that feels very contemporary.’
Set in modern times, among the ruins of an apartment block, the design is by Charles Davis. ‘It’s interesting that when Monteverdi and the librettist Busenello wrote it, they were looking backwards in history to ancient Rome and the story of the Emperor Nero and his consort Poppea Sabina. They would have chosen the story because they felt it had resonances with their own time and that aspects of it are timeless. We feel that too.’
‘Nero was a bully and a tyrant and ran an empire with incredible recklessness and we can relate to regimes where this still happens. He is master of a gang of thugs who have their own code and way of behavior that is abusive. I think we can all relate to the machinations and the selfishness and capriciousness of the behavior of Nero and the people around him.’
The Coronation of Poppea: 30 November - 6 December.