Opera companies give early peeks at 2004-2005 season

Both Baltimore and D.C. to stage works new to them

December 22, 2003|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

The Baltimore Opera Company's 2004-2005 season will include the original spaghetti Western, a chapter of the English Civil War, the ultimate marital comedy and a hyper-fantasy.

Like the Washington Opera, which has a world premiere, a zarzuela and seven other productions slated, the Baltimore company has made its season announcement earlier than usual to attract early subscription renewals. The initial Baltimore release has gone to a select number of patrons; a wider renewal campaign will be launched early in the New Year (with additional casting details).

The Baltimore season opens with the company's first-ever production of Puccini's La Fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West). It contains some of the composer's most adventuresome and colorful music. With a life-or-death poker scene and a near-lynching, it also packs plenty of action into an unlikely love story.

Giovanna Casolla, who starred in the company's recent productions of Puccini's Tosca and Turandot, will sing the role of Minnie. Frank Porretta, heard earlier this season in Verdi's Il Trovatore, has been cast as Dick Johnson. Ned Barth will sing the role of the Sheriff. Andrea Licata will conduct.

One of the major works of the mid-19th century Italian style known as bel canto, Bellini's I Puritani, will also get its first Baltimore Opera production. This work, with its dazzling and eloquent coloratura writing, is set amid the battles between Puritans and Cavaliers. Singing the role of Elvira will be Elizabeth Futral, a stellar component of the Metropolitan Opera's production of Halevy's La Juive this season. Gregory Kunde, a specialist in demanding bel canto tenor roles, will sing the role of Arturo. Steven White will conduct.

Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, his defining masterpiece of music and theater, will receive its first staging by the company in 17 years. Susan Patterson, a leading light in last season's Die Fledermaus, heads the cast as the Countess. She will be joined by Karen Coker (Susanna) and Sebastian Catana (Almaviva).

Roberto Aronica, featured last year in Lucia di Lammermoor, will sing the title role in Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann. Hoffmann's "ideal" loves in his fantastical journey in and out of reality will be sung by Valeria Esposito (Olympia), Renata Lamanda (Giulietta) and Antonia Cifrone (Antonia). Christian Badea conducts.

The Washington Opera's 2004-2005 season opens with Giordano's Andrea Chenier starring headline-making tenor Salvatore Licitira. Company director Placido Domingo will conduct some performances. The company's first production of Britten's Billy Budd will feature Dwayne Croft and Samuel Ramey. Verdi's Il Trovatore will offer Denyce Graves in her first portrayal of the gypsy woman Azucena. Heinz Fricke conducts. Domingo will star in the first Washington production of Frederico Moreno Torroba's 1932 zarzuela Lusia Fernanda.

One of the greatest sopranos of the post-war era, Mirella Freni, will perform the title role in Tchaikovsky's The Maid of Orleans, a version of the Joan of Arc story. Sergei Leiferkus will also be in the cast. Mozart's The Magic Flute will feature Andrea Rost (Pamina) and Rodney Gilfrey (Papageno). Puccini's Tosca, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, will see Licitra back, alternating in the role of Cavaradossi with Marcello Giordani. Carl Tanner and Olga Borodina will sing the biblical lovers in Saint-Saens' Samson and Dalila.

The premiere of Scott Wheeler's Democracy: An American Comedy will be performed by members of the company's young artists program.

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