Saturday, October 16, 2010

ArtsPreview 2010-11: The season in opera

Anthony Roth Costanzo,
who will sing Orfeo for Palm Beach Opera.
(Illustration by Pat Crowley)

By Greg Stepanich

South Florida‭’‬s two chief opera companies mostly played it safe at the box office last season when it came to repertoire,‭ ‬with dueling productions of Bizet‭’‬s‭ ‬Carmen closing both companies‭’‬ offerings.

But Palm Beach Opera and Florida Grand Opera also took some risks with staging,‭ ‬including a bold vision from Stefano Poda for Palm Beach of Mozart‭’‬s‭ ‬Don Giovanni,‭ ‬and André Barbe and Renaud Doucet‭’‬s sometimes wonderful,‭ ‬sometimes risible mounting of‭ ‬Carmen for Florida Grand.‭ ‬Things are likely‭ ‬to be safer staging-wise this year,‭ ‬but the operas are somewhat more adventurous,‭ ‬and that should make opera-going in‭ ‬2010-11‭ ‬a richer experience.

Palm Beach Opera:‭ ‬The group‭ ‬opens its‭ ‬49th season with the work that made Giuseppe Verdi‭’‬s career in‭ ‬1842:‭ ‬Nabucco.‭ ‬Based on the Biblical story of the power struggle and conversion of King Nebuchadnezzar,‭ ‬it contains the great choral song‭ ‬Va,‭ ‬pensiero,‭ ‬which was an instant smash in the Italian states of its time and remains beloved today.‭ ‬For its first staging of the opera in about‭ ‬25‭ ‬years,‭ ‬baritones Mark Rucker and Sebastian Catana sing the title role on alternate nights,‭ ‬with sopranos Paoletta Marrocu and Susan Neves as daughter Abigaille.‭ ‬Adam Diegel is Ismaele in all four performances,‭ ‬and company artistic director Bruno Aprea leads the orchestra‭ (‬Dec.‭ ‬10-13‭)‬.

The company reduced the number of productions from four to three last year,‭ ‬and added a concert performance of Beethoven‭’‬s Ninth Symphony on two nights.‭ ‬This year,‭ ‬a semi-staged version of Gluck‭’‬s‭ ‬1762‭ ‬classic,‭ ‬Orfeo ed Euridice,‭ ‬is heard for two nights,‭ ‬with a very young all-American cast including countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo,‭ ‬a recent Grand Finals winner,‭ ‬as Orfeo,‭ ‬Fort Lauderdale‭’‬s own Nadine Sierra as Euridice,‭ ‬and mezzo Irene Roberts as Amor‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬21,‭ ‬23‭)‬.

Mozart‭’‬s‭ ‬Così fan Tutte wraps up the company‭’‬s survey of the three Mozart-Da Ponte collaborations as it presents this brilliant‭ ‬1790‭ ‬work about love,‭ ‬jealousy and infidelity.‭ ‬Slovenian soprano Sabina Cvilak,‭ ‬last year‭’‬s Desdemona in‭ ‬Otello,‭ ‬returns as Fiordiligi,‭ ‬alternating with American soprano Caitlin Lynch,‭ ‬also a recent Grand Finals winner,‭ ‬with Lithuanian mezzo Jurgita Adamonyte and American mezzo Patricia Risley as Dorabella.‭ ‬Norman Shankle and Joel Prieto sing Ferrando,‭ ‬and David Adam‭ ‬Moore and Andrew Schroeder trade off as Guglielmo.‭ ‬Gianluca Martinenghi conducts a production by Stephen Lawless‭ (‬Feb.‭ ‬25-28‭)‬.

Ending the regular season is Puccini‭’‬s‭ ‬1900‭ “‬shabby little shocker,‭”‬ Tosca,‭ ‬a red-blooded exploration of love,‭ ‬politics and evil‭ ‬that contains some of the composer‭’‬s most powerful music.‭ ‬Sopranos Chiara Taigi and Tiffany Abban take the title role of the singer who lives for her art,‭ ‬with tenors Riccardo Massi and Warren Mok as artist Mario Cavaradossi.‭ ‬Baritones Claudio Sgura and Stephen Powell sing Baron Scarpia.‭ ‬Massimo Gasparon directs‭; ‬Aprea conducts‭ (‬March‭ ‬25-28‭)‬.

The biggest names coming to the opera this season arrive Jan.‭ ‬16‭ ‬for a one-night-only presentation of Verdi‭’‬s‭ ‬Requiem,‭ ‬written in‭ ‬1873‭ ‬and one of the composer‭’‬s greatest works.‭ ‬Mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick,‭ ‬one of the very best Verdian mezzos singing today,‭ ‬takes the part here with soprano Angela Meade,‭ ‬tenor Carl Tanner‭ (‬last season‭’‬s Otello‭) ‬and bass Morris Robinson.‭ ‬Aprea and the orchestra will be joined by a‭ ‬150-voice massed choir made up of the company‭’‬s chorus and members from other regional choral ensembles.

That promises to be a stellar night,‭ ‬and the season will end in its usual American Idol-style fashion with another Grand Finals vocal competition,‭ ‬in which at‭ ‬least a dozen young singers will compete for prize money.‭ ‬Last year‭’‬s contest was especially good,‭ ‬with fine new voices on display and an expert orchestral performance led by the Metropolitan Opera‭’‬s David Jackson‭ (‬April‭ ‬10‭)‬.

Marian Pop and Leah Partridge in the original production of David DiChiera's Cyrano.

Florida Grand Opera:‭ ‬The Miami company‭’‬s‭ ‬70th season opens with what is by common consent the last opera to become a standard repertory piece,‭ ‬Turandot,‭ ‬the‭ ‬1924‭ ‬swan song of Giacomo Puccini.‭ ‬The composer died before completing the last‭ ‬10‭ ‬to‭ ‬15‭ ‬minutes of the opera,‭ ‬which were finished by composer Franco Alfano from Puccini‭’‬s sketches.‭ ‬The celebrated aria‭ ‬Nessun dorma is only the best-known aria‭ ‬from this magnificent work,‭ ‬set in a mythical ancient China.‭ ‬Soprano Lise Lindstrom sings Turandot,‭ ‬the cruel princess,‭ ‬and Frank Porretta sings Calaf,‭ ‬the exiled prince who wins her love.‭ ‬But the tenderest music belongs to the slave girl Liu,‭ ‬sung here by Miami native Elizabeth Caballero.‭ ‬Ramón Tebar conducts a Bliss Hebert staging‭ (‬Nov.‭ ‬13-Dec.‭ ‬4,‭ ‬eight performances‭)‬.

Another unfinished final‭ ‬work,‭ ‬Jacques Offenbach‭’‬s‭ ‬Tales of Hoffmann,‭ ‬left unfinished at the composer‭’‬s death in‭ ‬1880‭ (‬and finished by Ernest Guiraud the next year‭)‬,‭ ‬comes next,‭ ‬and brings the team of Barbe and Doucet back.‭ ‬Based on the stories of the Romantic era author E.T.A.‭ ‬Hoffmann,‭ ‬its story of frustrated desire and evil offers numerous opportunities for extravagant staging.‭ ‬David Pomeroy sings the hapless Hoffmann,‭ ‬and Elizabeth Futral handles all four of the women‭’‬s roles.‭ ‬Bradley Garvin sings all four of Hoffmann‭’‬s nemeses.‭ ‬Cuban-American conductor Lucy Arner conducts in her company debut‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬22-Feb.‭ ‬12,‭ ‬eight performances‭)‬.

Mozart‭’‬s‭ ‬Don Giovanni is next,‭ ‬the‭ ‬1787‭ ‬tale of the lecherous Spanish nobleman who meets a very bad end indeed at the hands of a stone guest:‭ ‬the ghost of the Commendatore he has slain in the first moments of the opera.‭ ‬John Pascoe,‭ ‬whose‭ ‬Carmen for Palm Beach last season featured a most effective fourth act,‭ ‬directs‭; ‬David Pittsinger sings the Don,‭ ‬Jacquelyn Wagner is Donna Anna and Ana Maria Martinez‭ ‬is Donna Elvira.‭ ‬Tom Corbeil is Leporello,‭ ‬Andrew Bidlack is Don Ottavio,‭ ‬and Jonathan Michie is Masetto.‭ ‬Morris Robinson sings the Commendatore.‭ (‬April‭ ‬16-May‭ ‬14,‭ ‬eight performances‭)‬.

Florida Grand closes its season with a local premiere,‭ ‬mounting David DiChiera‭’‬s‭ ‬Cyrano,‭ ‬which premiered in Detroit in‭ ‬2007.‭ ‬The American composer‭’‬s work is set to a libretto in French by the veteran stage director Bernard Uzan,‭ ‬and it‭’‬s based on the familiar Edmond Rostand play about the‭ ‬17th-century French courtier with the literary gift and the unfortunate nose who is hopelessly in love with his cousin,‭ ‬Roxane.‭ ‬The opera,‭ ‬which sounds heavily reminiscent of Massenet,‭ ‬stars its original cast in the ledes:‭ ‬Romanian baritone Marian Pop as Cyrano and the American soprano Leah Partridge as Roxane.‭ ‬FGO‭’‬s shows play at the Ziff Ballet Opera House in downtown Miami and at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale,‭ ‬but not Cyrano:‭ ‬Its six performances are set for the Ziff alone.‭ (‬April‭ ‬23-May‭ ‬7‭)‬.

Heather Johnson, who will sing Cinderella for Sarasota Opera.

Sarasota Opera:‭ ‬ Victor DeRenzi‭’‬s impressive company returns with one fall production and four winter productions,‭ ‬one of which is a revival of a mid-20th-century American opera,‭ ‬and the other is another in the company‭’‬s complete Verdi cycle,‭ ‬which will‭ ‬wrap in‭ ‬2013.

Rossini‭’‬s‭ ‬1817‭ ‬telling of the Cinderella story,‭ ‬La Cenerentola,‭ ‬is one of the composer‭’‬s most popular works,‭ ‬and it opens Sarasota‭’‬s season as its fall production.‭ ‬Mezzo-soprano Heather Johnson stars as the title character.‭ ‬Hak Soo Kim is Prince Ramiro,‭ ‬Abla Lynn Hamza is Clorinda and Melissa Treinkman is Tisbe,‭ ‬while Stefano de Peppo is Don Magnifico.‭ (‬Oct.‭ ‬29-Nov.‭ ‬10,‭ ‬six performances‭)‬.

The winter season begins with‭ ‬Puccini‭’‬s‭ ‬La Bohème,‭ ‬perhaps the most popular opera in the world.‭ ‬For this production of the‭ ‬1896‭ ‬classic,‭ ‬Maria D‭’‬Amato sings Mimi to Harold Meers‭’‬ Rodolfo,‭ ‬and Carelle Flores sings Musetta to Grant Clarke‭’‬s Marcello.‭ ‬Stephanie Sundine stage-directs,‭ ‬and DeRenzi conducts‭ (‬Feb.‭ ‬5-March‭ ‬16,‭ ‬11‭ ‬performances‭)‬.

Sarasota,‭ ‬too,‭ ‬will tackle‭ ‬Don Giovanni,‭ ‬with Lee Poulis as the Don.‭ ‬Christina Pier is Donna Anna,‭ ‬Danielle Walker is Donna Elvira,‭ ‬Joshua Kohl is Don Ottavio,‭ ‬and Andrew Gangestad is Leporello‭; ‬Sarah Asmar sings Zerlina to Patrick McNally‭’‬s Masetto‭ (‬Feb.‭ ‬12-March‭ ‬18,‭ ‬nine performances‭)‬.

The Verdi Cycle opera follows‭; ‬it‭’‬s‭ ‬I Lombardi,‭ ‬written in‭ ‬1843‭ ‬as the follow-up to Nabucco.‭ ‬Giselda is Abla Lynn Hamza and Rafael Davila‭ (‬last year‭’‬s Don José in Palm Beach‭’‬s‭ ‬Carmen‭) ‬is Oronte,‭ ‬and Kevin Short is Pagano.‭ (‬Feb.‭ ‬26-March‭ ‬20,‭ ‬seven performances‭)‬.

The season closes with‭ ‬The Crucible,‭ ‬Robert Ward‭’‬s‭ ‬1961‭ ‬setting of the Arthur Miller play about the Salem witch trials,‭ ‬as part of a new series called American Classics.‭ ‬The cast includes Heather Johnson‭ (‬Elizabeth Proctor‭)‬,‭ ‬Mathew Edwardsen‭ (‬Judge Danforth‭)‬,‭ ‬Sean Anderson‭ (‬John Proctor‭) ‬and Jeffrey Tucker‭ (‬the Rev.‭ ‬John Hale‭)‬.‭ (‬March‭ ‬5-19,‭ ‬six performances.‭)

Teatro Lirico d‭’‬Europa:‭ ‬The Maryland-based touring company brings single nights of opera to various area venues each season under the rubric of Joseph Ferrer‭’‬s Sunset Entertainment.‭ ‬The three operas coming to South Florida this year are Donizetti‭’‬s‭ ‬Lucia di Lammermoor‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬24-27‭)‬,‭ ‬Puccini‭’‬s‭ ‬Turandot‭ ‬(Feb.‭ ‬21-24‭)‬,‭ ‬and Puccini‭’‬s‭ ‬Madame Butterfly‭ (‬March‭ ‬21-24‭)‬.‭

Palm Beach Light Opera Company:‭ ‬Joseph Rubin runs this company devoted to operetta,‭ ‬and it‭’‬s a sister company to his light opera company in Canton,‭ ‬Ohio.‭ ‬Last season‭’‬s‭ ‬Naughty Marietta was‭ ‬decidedly‭ ‬uneven,‭ ‬but it was fascinating to hear its‭ ‬1910‭ ‬libretto in all its creaky,‭ ‬politically incorrect glory,‭ ‬which provided real insight into what early‭ ‬20th-century American theater was actually like.

‭ ‬This year,‭ ‬the company is producing‭ ‬a concert version of‭ ‬Little Johnny Jones,‭ ‬George M.‭ ‬Cohan‭’‬s‭ ‬1904‭ ‬musical that introduced‭ ‬Give My Regards to Broadway‭ ‬and‭ ‬Yankee Doodle Boy to the American Songbook‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬16,‭ ‬Eissey Campus Theatre,‭ ‬Palm Beach Gardens‭)‬.‭

Earlier in the season,‭ ‬the company presents‭ ‬Memories of Old Broadway,‭ ‬a concert of songs from‭ ‬1890‭ ‬to‭ ‬1928,‭ ‬including music by Rudolf Friml,‭ ‬Sigmund Romberg and Victor Herbert.‭ ‬The concert is set for Oct.‭ ‬16‭ ‬at the First Presbyterian Church of North Palm Beach.

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