Ataste of tragedy, comedy and psycho-sexuality is in store for the Baltimore Opera Company's audiences during the 2003-2004 season.
The total dosage of operatic fare will be smaller - four productions instead of the current five. Like most other arts organizations in the country, the company is feeling the pinch of harder economic times. It also has been dealing with considerable uncertainty over the start of planned renovations at the Lyric Opera House.
"We thought we would have to leave the theater in March 2004," BOC general director Michael Harrison said, "so that complicated everything. Only in the last few months was it confirmed that we could stay at the Lyric through all of next season, but we decided to keep it at four productions. Everyone wants to go back to five as soon as possible, or even expand to six."
The company has presented five operas since the 1999-2000 season, with one of them marketed as light, family fare for the holidays. That slot is the one being dropped next season.
Starting off the 2003-2004 lineup will be a new production of Verdi's Il Trovatore, Oct. 18-26, designed by Alessandro Ciammarughi. The director is Stefano Vizioli, whose memorable treatment of The Barber of Seville was a company highlight in 2001. Andrea Licata, who also led Verdi's Aida in 2000 and Otello in 2001 for the company, will conduct this indelibly melodic, famously tortured tale of love, blood-lust and immolation.
Dimitra Theodossiou will make her U.S. debut in the role of Leonora. Marianne Cornetti, who was Amneris in the 2000 Aida here, will sing Azucena. Frank Porretta, a notable Cavaradossi in the company's Tosca last year and Calaf in Turandot in 2001, has been cast as Manrico. Giovanni Meoni makes his company debut as Di Luna.
Donizetti's Don Pasquale, a comedy of the sexes and generations, returns to the company's repertoire after a 23-year absence Nov. 15-23, conducted by Claudio Desderi and directed by Vizioli; the two also collaborated on Barber of Seville. The cast includes Simone Alaimo in the title role and Valeria Esposito, who sang Lucia for the company last season, as Norina.
Strauss' Salome, with its irresistible blend of the grotesque, the erotic and the sumptuous, is slated for March 13-21, 2004. This revival of the 1989 BOC staging designed by Roberto Oswald and Anibal Lapis will be directed by John Lehmeyer. Christian Badea, whose conducting has distinguished several productions, will be in the pit. The title role will be sung by Nina Warren, who was Chrysothemis in Baltimore Opera's last Strauss offering, Elektra, in 2000. Chris Merritt will sing the role of Herod. The pivotal role of John the Baptist has not yet been cast.
The season will close with a perennial favorite, Bizet's Carmen, May 1-9, 2004. Milena Kitic will sing the title role of the seductive gypsy, with Jose Luis Duval as Don Jose. Alberto Veronesi, who conducted Lakme elegantly at the start of this season, will be on the podium. Production details haven't been finalized.
Subscriptions for the four-opera season are $116 to $639. All performances will be at the Lyric Opera House, 140 W. Mount Royal Ave. For more information, call 410-727-6000 or visit www.baltimoreopera.com.