But the beating heart of this production was Natalie Christie Peluso, doing double duty as a wonderfully vengeful Ottavia and naïve Drusilla (she also gave voice to Virtù in the opera’s prologue). Nearly four centuries later, there are few moments in opera as breathtaking in its emotional truth and rawness of sentiment as when Ottavia laments the lot of women, describing how they give birth to their own oppressors: “born free by the will of nature and heaven,/we are made slaves by marriage…if the child we conceive is male,/we shape the limbs of our own evil/tyrant”. Strongly realised, her Ottavia is at once vulnerable, spiteful and repulsive in her abjection and fury, her threatening of Ottone (she will accuse him of raping her if he does not kill Poppea) truly ugly, resonating uncomfortably with this particular political moment.
Otherwise, Drusilla can be a bit of a wet blanket but in Peluso’s capable hands was brought off sympathetically. Taken in by Ottone yet admirable in her defense of him, noble even as she entreats him to water her grave with tears of pity, if not love, Peluso’s attractively dark, grainy instrument was appropriately lightened and more ringing when singing Drusilla, turning in not one but two star turns.
~ Justin Nguyen - Limelight Magazine
Natalie Christie Peluso was tremendous both as the glamorous scheming vengeful Empress Ottavia and the sincere, loving Drusilla (she also portrayed Virtù in the opera’s prologue). As Ottavia she is vindictive, exposed and somewhat repellent at times in her rage. As Drusilla captivated by Ottone she was charming and noble, strong in the last duet with the unfortunate Ottone
~ Lynne Lancaster - ArtsHub
Australian sopranos Roberta Diamond (Amore) and Natalie Christie Peluso (Ottavia, Drusilla, Virtù) both impressed, the latter particularly in her two dramatic scenes as Ottavia, sounding glorious and also compelling sympathy.
~ Sandra Bowdler - Bachtrack
Singing not one but two neglected women (Ottavia and Drusilla), plus the role of Virtue, Natalie Christie Peluso sang with fullness of colour and quietly assertive dramatic presence.
~ Peter McCallum - Sydney Morning Herald
Natalie Christie Peluso is another solid link as she spectacularly delineates the two widely
contrasting roles - the venomous and vengeful Ottavia and more reserved, alarmingly naive Drusilla - to which her dark and expressively charged soprano she employs for Ottavia is brightened and softened as she portrays Drusilla.
~ Paul Selar - Opera Chaser
Soprano Natalie Christie Peluso essayed the dual roles of Ottavia (Nero’s empress) and Drusilla (Ottone’s lover). Her timbral variety stood out: dark-hued as the angry, vengeful empress; fresh-voiced as the naive, trusting Drusilla.
~ Murray Black - The Australian
The singing of the cast, as always with Pinchgut Opera, was excellent, and I would single out the remarkably pure and penetrating counter-tenor of Jake Arditti as Nero, the golden-voiced Roberta Diamond, who sang Amore, and Natalie Christie Peluso’s limpidly fexible Drusilla, as being perhaps the most faithful to the stylistic norms of the seventeenth century.
~ Nicholas Routley - Australian Stage
Natalie Christie Peluso brought vocal freshness and charm to the roles of Ottavia, Drusilla, and
Virtù. This is a sumptuous voice with evenness throughout the range.
~ Michael Halliwell - The Australian Book Review