Next season's operas include 'Siege of Corinth,' 'Bartered Bride'

November 20, 2005|By TIM SMITH | TIM SMITH,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

The Baltimore Opera Company will spice up its 2006-2007 season with two works new to its repertoire, Rossini's The Siege of Corinth and Smetana's The Bartered Bride, and another, Verdi's Nabucco, that it has staged only once before. Puccini's evergreen Tosca rounds out the lineup.

The only casting details that have been announced are for the season-opening Rossini opera next October, and they are promising.

Soprano Elizabeth Futral, who made a memorable debut last season in Bellini's I Puritani, will return, along with mezzo Vivica Genaux, who starred in Rossini's La Cenerentola in 1999. Futral's husband, Steven White, who sensitively guided that Puritani production and is currently conducting Bellini's La Sonnambula for the company, will be back as well.

The Siege of Corinth illustrates Rossini's famous habit of self-borrowing. The work started out in 1820 as Maometto II, written in Italian and dealing with a war between Turks and Venetians. In 1826, dusted off and massaged in a variety of ways, it became Le Siege de Corinth, sung in French and now all about a conflict between Turks and Greeks.

Either way, it adds up to a bold work filled with coloratura flights and grand ensemble scenes.

The Baltimore production will go one step further by presenting the work in an Italian translation of the semi-original French.

Smetana, one of the greatest Czech composers, created a comic masterpiece in 1866 with The Bartered Bride, which had among its champions Gustav Mahler (he introduced the work to the Metropolitan Opera in 1909). This slice of Czech village life, complete with a marriage broker, reluctant suitors and a traveling circus troupe, is a musical charmer.

Although the much-played, rhythmically charged overture and dances from the score have made the opera's title well known, the full work unfairly remains under-performed in this country.

With Nabucco in 1842, Verdi's third opera, the composer had his first true success. For spectacle, drama and musical fire, it's still a hot property.

This treatment of the biblical story of the Babylonian captivity came to be viewed as a symbol of Italian longing for freedom from foreign occupation. The chorus of the Hebrews, Va, pensiero, seemed to speak for all of Italy, and remains one of the most beloved melodies in that country (and beyond).

Tosca, of course, is the "shabby little shocker" from 1900 that helped cement Puccini's fame with its tune-rich score and wonderfully fervid melodrama. Baltimore Opera last presented it in 2001.

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tim.smith@baltsun.com

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