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Season 2014 at San Diego Opera

On Saturday evening January 25, San Diego Opera opens its 2014 season with Ruggero Leoncavallo’s verismo blockbuster Pagliacci (Clowns).

Season 2014 at San Diego Opera

A commentary by Marie Nockin


Other performances of this work are on January 28, 31, and February 2. Leoncavallo, who wrote both the text and the music, claimed that he based his story on a murder investigation that his father, a magistrate, had presided over many years earlier. San Diego Opera will present this tightly wound tale of love and sudden violent death in a new production by Andrew Sinclair who directed the company’s Aida last year.

On Saturday evening January 25, San Diego Opera opens its 2014 season with Ruggero Leoncavallo’s verismo blockbuster Pagliacci (Clowns). Other performances of this work are on January 28, 31, and February 2. The opera tells the story of an unhappy marriage, an unfaithful wife and a double murder. Leoncavallo, who wrote both the text and the music, claimed that he based his story on a criminal investigation that his father, a magistrate, had presided over many years earlier. French author Catulle Mendès sued him for plagiarizing his 1874 play, La Femme de Tabarin in which a clown murders his wife, but eventually dropped the charges.

San Diego Opera will present this tightly wound tale of love and sudden violent death in a new production by Andrew Sinclair who directed Verdi’s Aida for the company last year. Dramatic tenor Frank Poretta will be the clown, Canio, an older husband whose wife has a young lover. Romanian soprano Adina Nitescu will portray his trophy wife, Nedda. Baritone Stephen Powell will play Tonio, a misshapen, vicious clown who, having been rejected by Nedda, plots her downfall. It’s a fascinating story for which Leoncavallo wrote memorable arias.

Renowned conductor Yves Abel who will lead the performance writes: “Pagliacci is the most Italian of Italian operas. In addition to the Commedia dell'Arte comedy on a stage within the stage, there is the violent, lethal story behind the scenes, which culminates in one of the most famous arias, “Vesti la Giubba,” sung by the clown Canio, whose wife has cheated on him. This aria of uncommon beauty and sadness was made famous by Caruso and used in countless movies. Conducting the comedy while tragedy lurks close by makes this short opera a challenge for any conductor.”

Gaetano Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore (The Elixir of Love) opens on Saturday evening February 15, and continues on the 18, 21, and 23. This bel canto work requires the type of excellent cast that Ian Campbell of San Diego Opera so often brings from various corners of the earth. It features Tatiana Lisnic as the wealthy young Adina, Giuseppe Filianoti as the poor but good hearted Nemorino, Malcolm MacKenzie as the attractive military man, and John Del Carlo as the traveling patent medicine salesman who has an elixir for every problem. Making her San Diego debut is conductor Karen Kamensek, General Music Director of the Hannover Staatsoper.

Director Stephen Lawless writes: “I have directed this production of Donizetti's comic masterpiece L’elisir d’amore many times both in America and around the world. It is always a pleasure to return to this piece. The opera is an humane and affectionate comedy examining the tribulations strewn along the path to true love. It is funny to those observing, but heartbreaking for those involved. Our production is set in Italy in the middle of the nineteenth century, at roughly the time of composition. It portrays a small rural community, in which everybody knows everybody else, and everybody else's business. It shows the chaos that ensues when a platoon of soldiers is billeted upon them. It contrasts the undying love of the shy peasant Nemorino for the local landowner Adina with her seeming inability to see the emotion in her own heart. Donizetti's score is suffused with Italianate warmth and understanding.”

San Diego Opera’s March presentations include of two works by Giuseppe Verdi: Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball) on March 8, 11, 14, and 16, and a single performance of his Manzoni Requiem on March 20. The opera’s cast includes tenor Piotr Beczala who is remembered for his exquisite rendition of Rodolfo in La bohème. He will sing Gustav III of Sweden and Krassimira Stoiyanova will be his wife, Amelia, who is thought to be unfaithful with Count Anckerström. Making his United States debut, Greek baritone Aris Argiris will sing the part of the Count who is Gustav’s best friend. Stephanie Blythe will be the sorceress Madame Arvidson and Kathleen Kim will sing the coloratura trouser role of Oscar. The performances will be directed by Lesley Koenig and conducted by Massimo Zanetti. Powerful, threatening, dangerous and romantic, this production promises to be one of the most visually exciting and musically moving ever to have graced the San Diego Opera stage.

Written in memory of Verdi’s literary contemporary, Alessandro Manzoni, the Requiem is sometimes called his greatest opera. Capitalizing on the casts of Un ballo in maschera and the opera that follows it, Jules Massenet’s Don Quixote, San Diego Opera’s Requiem will showcase the best of the best: soprano Krassimira Stoyanova, mezzo Stephanie Blythe, tenor Piotr Beczala, and bass Ferruccio Furlanetto.

Furlanetto writes: “There are few roles or vocal parts that could give an interpreter a total accomplishment, Verdi’s Requiem is certainly one of these. Every time it is a new emotion. To be in San Diego also for this event is a tremendous joy that I am happy to share with colleagues that I admire very much and with an audience that has given me so much since my debut in 1985.” Massimo Zanetti will conduct the San Diego Opera Orchestra and a double chorus consisting of the opera chorus and the Master Chorale. There is only one performance of this gem and no serious San Diego opera lover should miss it.

Don Quixote, the last opera of the season, was written for the great bass of the early twentieth century, Fyodor Chaliapin. Thus, it is a most fitting role for the great bass of our time, Ferruccio Furlanetto. He writes: “I will keep going doing the role of Don Quixote for the rest of my career because it is without any doubt a wonderfully accomplished character. Vocally it is just a splendid promenade. As a character it is basically impossible to find a more involving one, the satisfaction that comes from it is overwhelming. It is a role that gives me a few hours of total happiness, quite a privilege in these times.” Others in the cast are Eduardo Chama as Sancho Panza, and Anke Vondung as Dulcinea. The director is Keturah Stickann and the conductor Karen Keltner.

Maria Nockin

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