New Music presents "Neron Kaisar"

by University Communications,

Roman emperor Nero lived his life as if he was the star of an opera. Love, sex, death, betrayal — these were the norm for this all-powerful ruler.

Now, Nero will become the opera star he always thought he was, thanks to the collaboration of Willamette University composer-in-residence John Peel and University of Vermont classics professor Mark Usher.

On March 13, New Music at Willamette presents selected scenes from Peel’s opera-in-progress, “Neron Kaisar.” The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. in Hudson Concert Hall of the Mary Stuart Rogers Music Center.

The soloists will include voice faculty member, tenor Les Green in the title role of Nero, with supporting roles by soprano Janice Johnson as Poppaea and mezzo-soprano Angela Niederloh as Octavia. Pianist Janet Coleman ’90 will accompany the singers.

Drawing from Suetonius’ “The Twelve Caesars” and classical Greek and Latin poetry, Peel and Usher hope to portray the complexities of Nero’s character.

“We are trying to capture many sides of Nero, not just the emperor who could with the flick of his hand have someone sent off to death,” Peel says. “Surely he’s an outrageous, over-the-top character. But, he also has a vulnerable side, where he wants to be taken more seriously as an athlete, a chariot-racer, a composer and a poet.”

Peel and Usher began collaborating a year ago, with Peel composing the music and Usher writing the libretto. Ultimately, their goal is a full-length opera in ten scenes with a larger cast and orchestra accompaniment.

New Music at Willamette is a series of concerts, residencies and lectures dedicated to presenting the finest performers and composers of our time. Founded by Peel in 1990, the series is supported by the Irene Gerlinger Swindells Chair and the College of Liberal Arts.

Suggested donations are $8 for adults and $5 for students. Admission is free to Willamette faculty, staff and students with an I.D.

For more information, contact the Willamette University Music Department at 503-370-6255 or e-mail Diane Trevett at