Baltimore Opera Company offers two blockbusters and a dollop of sentiment

March 10, 1992|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Music Critic

The 1992-'93 Baltimore Opera Company season will be characterized by two blockbuster operas that play bookends to a lyric and sentimental one.

The season, announced yesterday by the BOC, will open in October with Puccini's "Turandot," continue in March with Donizetti's "The Elixir of Love," and conclude in April with the first Baltimore performances of Verdi's "Nabucco," perhaps the first piece in which the composer unequivocally announced his greatness. All of the operas will be sung in Italian with English subtitles.

"Nabucco" (April 24, 28, 30 at 8:15 p.m. and May 2 at 3 p.m., in 1993) is probably the season's most exciting news. This drama, set in the days of the Babylonian captivity of the Jewish people, had revolutionary political overtones in the 1840s that made Verdi one of the most feared men in Italian palaces. The chorus of exiles, "Va, Pensiero," remains one of his most popular anthems. The cast includes James Dietsch in the title role and Linda Roark-Strummer, a highly touted new coloratura, in the role of Abigaille.

The performances of "The Elixir of Love" (March 6, 10, 12 at 8:15 p.m. and March 14 at 3 p.m., also in 1993) will be particularly anticipated because of the appearance of Chris Merritt as Nemorino. Merritt last appeared with the BOC in 1983, but that was before he established his fame as one of the world's leading bel canto tenors: He is a particular favorite of La Scala music director Ricardo Muti. The cast also includes the gifted young Korean soprano, Young Ok Shin, and Joszef Gregor, who made a fine impression as Bartolo in the "Barber of Seville" a few seasons back.

The production of "Turandot" (Oct. 17, 21 and 23 at 8:15 p.m. and Oct. 25 at 3 p.m.) is reputed to be a spectacular one. This Allen Charles Klein production (originally for the Miami and Houston operas) will feature a dragon holding a pearl from which the title character emerges and will also feature the largest chorus -- 64 in all -- ever to appear on a BOC stage. It will star Ealynn Voss as Turandot, Augusto Paglialunga as Calaf and Marquita Lister as Liu.

Season tickets for the 1992-'93 BOC season go on sale Friday. Subscriptions to the three-opera series are available for $46 to $234. For further information and to charge by phone, call (410) 685-0692.

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