Doubleheader of love, jealousy

opera preview

Annapolis company offers double bill, "Cavalleria Rusticana," "Pagliacci"

March 08, 2009|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,Special to The Baltimore Sun

In what is being billed as the most ambitious programming by the Annapolis Opera, Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci will be presented in a double bill at Maryland Hall for two shows next weekend.

"Two complete operas on one bill is a huge challenge with two sets, two casts of outstanding professional singers and two of just about everything else, including costumes, wigs and props," opera President Gregory Stiverson said. "With other opera companies cutting back or ceasing programming altogether, Annapolis Opera is proud to be able to provide even more great live opera for our audiences."

This "Cav and Pag" pair of one-act operas introduced the verismo genre in passionate tales of illicit love, jealousy and violence in times contemporaneous to both composers. Pietro Mascagni's second opera, Cavalleria Rusticana, debuted in Rome in 1890 and became an instant hit. Ruggero Leoncavallo's first opera, Pagliacci, debuted in Milan in 1892 and was conducted by Arturo Toscanini to wow the opening-night audience.

Mascagni set Cavalleria Rusticana in 1890 Sicily, on Easter Sunday, when we first hear Turiddu serenading Lola. An Easter hymn is sung by the chorus as villagers arrive at the church. Mamma Lucia wonders why her son Turiddu has not returned with the wine for their tavern and learns from Santuzza that Turiddu was seen in town last evening with his former love Lola, who is now married to Alfio. Mamma Lucia goes off to church, and Santuzza remains outside to confront Turiddu, who ignores her pleas before pushing her aside to follow Lola into church. Furious Santuzza tells Lola's husband of the affair, and he threatens revenge.

After church services, Turiddu leads a drinking song and offers Alfio wine. He refuses, and Turiddu bites Alfio's ear, challenging him to a knife fight. Turiddu later admits his guilt to his mother and asks her to take care of Santuzza before going off to die in a fight with Alfio.

Leoncavallo's Pagliacci tells the story of Canio, a showman whose stage name is Pagliaccio. Canio is married to Nedda, who plays Columbine. She is in love with Silvio. Tonio is a clown who loves Nedda, but when he is rebuffed by her, he eavesdrops on her conversation with Silvio, hearing Nedda and Silvio plan to go away together after the evening performance. Tonio tells Canio, who plans revenge and confronts Nedda, who says nothing. Before the performance, Canio sings, "Vesti la giubba," saying how he must play the broken-hearted clown.

In the realistic performance, Canio stabs Nedda, who at last reveals the name of her lover, Silvio, who runs on stage to save her only to be stabbed by Canio.

Heading the Cavalleria Rusticana cast is tenor Richard Novak, making his Annapolis Opera debut as Turiddu. Also making her Annapolis Opera debut is Alison Meuth as Santuzza. Mezzo Michelle Rice, who impressed Annapolis Opera audiences a few seasons back as "Butterfly's" Suzuki, returns to sing Lola. Baritone Daniel Lickteig makes his Annapolis Opera debut as Alfio. Singing the role of Mamma Lucia will be mezzo-contralto Patrizia Conte.

The Pagliacci cast features tenor Jon Burton as Canio, soprano Veronica Mitina as Nedda, baritone Jesse Blumberg as Silvio and tenor Joseph Haughton as Beppe. All will make their debut with Annapolis Opera.

if you go

The twin bill is scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Sunday, March 15. For tickets, priced at $75, $60 and $45, call 410-280-5640. There also will be a lottery drawing tomorrow, when five winners will be able to purchase two $75 tickets for $25 each. For information, call 410-267-8135.

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