Baltimore Opera prepares delightfully tragic season Music: Highlights of the year include 'Andrea Chenier,' 'Fedora,' 'Norma' and 'Eugene Onegin.'

August 25, 1998|By Judith Green | Judith Green,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The man of the 1998-1999 opera season is neither Verdi nor Mozart. It's (are you ready?) Umberto Giordano, whose "Andrea Chenier" will be performed by the Baltimore Opera and "Fedora" by the Washington Opera.

"Andrea Chenier" caps a largely Italian season for the Baltimore Opera, whose advertisements promise "four nights of blood and violence tastefully set to music." There you have a fine description of opera in general.

Based on the life and death (on the guillotine) of the poet Andre Chenier during the French Revolution, the opera is best known for "La Mamma Morta," which -- sung by Maria Callas -- was the aria in the film "Philadelphia." In this production it will be sung by Aprile Millo, with Fabio Armiliato as Chenier. It will be performed April 22-May 2.

"Fedora," which is not about a hat, is a lesser-known piece with lovely music. Mirella Freni will sing the title role, with Placido Domingo as her lover. Performances are Oct. 24-Nov. 20.

The rest of Baltimore Opera's season includes "I Pagliacci" (Ruggiero Leoncavallo) and "Cavalleria Rusticana" (Pietro Mascagni) (Oct. 15-25); "Norma," in which (as the ad summarizes it) "a Roman proconsul and his Druid girlfriend burn to a crisp" (Nov. 12-22); and Tchaikovsky's melancholy "Eugene Onegin." It's a completely tragic season. Irina Mishura, who survived her broken arm in last season's "Carmen," will be seen as Adalgisa, Norma's assistant Druid, and in "Onegin."

All performances are in the Lyric Opera House. Call 410-727-6000.

Washington season

The Washington Opera season includes Verdi's early, splendid tragedy "Simon Boccanegra" with Simon Estes in the title role (Oct. 31-Nov. 24); Saint-Saens' "Samson et Dalila," with Denyce Graves as the hairstylist and Justino Diaz as the Philistine high priest (Nov. 10-28); and Mozart's comedy of harem life "Abduction From the Seraglio" (Dec. 26-Jan. 24).

The season continues with "The Crucible," Robert Ward's setting of Arthur Miller's drama of the Salem witch trials, itself an allegory of the McCarthy hearings (Jan. 2-30). Bruce Beresford, the Australian film director, makes his opera stage directing debut with "The Crucible."

Modest Mussorgsky's epic of medieval Russia, "Boris Godunov," has Samuel Ramey in the title role (Feb. 13-March 3). It will run in repertory with another epic, Richard Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde" (Feb. 27-March 23).

The season ends March 10-24, with a real curiosity: the North American premiere of "Sly" (1927) by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari. Christopher Sly is the main character of the almost never performed prologue to Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew": a henpecked drunkard about whom Wolf-Ferrari (better known for "The Jewels of the Madonna") concocted a wholly original story.

All performances are in the Kennedy Center Opera House or Eisenhower Theater. Information: 202-295-2400 or 800-876-7372.

Peabody season

Peabody Conservatory of Music has a fascinating opera season: "The Cunning Little Vixen," an animal fantasy by Leos Janacek (Nov. 19-22); a fully staged and choreographed version of the medieval mystic Hildegard von Bingen's "Ordo Virtutum" ("Book of Virtues") (Nov. 5-6); and Conrad Susa's chamber opera "Transformations" (April 23-May 3).

Capping the season is the premiere of "Where Angels Fear to Tread," based on a novella by E.M. Forster. by Peabody graduate Mark Lanz Weiser, organist and music director of Second English Lutheran Church in Baltimore, to a libretto by Roger Brunyate, director of Peabody Opera Theater.

"Vixen" and "Angels" will be performed at Peabody; "Ordo" at Emmanuel Episcopal Church; and "Transformations" at the Baltimore Theater Project. Information: 410-659-8124.

Pub Date: 8/25/98

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