LOON Presents Enticing Operatic Double-bill
October 13, 2011
Lyric Opera of the North begins its season with a double bill of operatic one-acts combining the tragedy of Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana with the comedy of Giacomo Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi.
In its quest to apparently never be seen in the same venue twice, LOON has settled upon the Superior High School Performing Arts Center, which offers not only an orchestra pit for conductor Keith Swanson’s two-dozen musicians but great sound for the orchestra and the singers.
Cavalleria Rusticana, set on an Easter Sunday in a 19th-century Sicilian village, finds peasant girl Santuzza (Vicki Fingalson) as the fourth wheel on a love triangle. Turridu (Andrew Oakden), a soldier, has returned from the war and taken her honor, only for Santuzza to find he is now seeing Lola (Katelyn Olaf), the girl he left behind, who married Alfio (Calland Metts), a village teamster.
Fingalson cuts a figure of pathos, even before she begins to sing, and her voice carries her pain out to the audience. Oakden’s big voice provides a ringing indifference to her plight. Both are making their LOON debuts, and made for a powerful pairing.
There are supertitles providing the lyrics for both shows, and I appreciate the effort, but there is something to be said for just enjoying the singing when Fingalson begs Oakden to come back to her. Besides, I can promise you there will come a point in their powerful duet when you are going to forget the words and just let the emotions wash over you.
The processional into the church was positively Zeffirelli-like, by which I mean that as stage director, Metts has put as many people and as much pageantry on stage as he can muster, which ended up being close to four dozen bodies.
The famous Intermezzo offers the innovation of a charming little dance, choreographed by Rebecca Katz Harwood, and performed by Suzanne Kritzberg and Reinhard Von Rabenau of the Minnesota Ballet.
With Gianni Schicchi, which was sung in English, Puccini proves he can do comedy as well as tragic opera, mainly by continuing to embrace the conventions of the form, albeit in a wickedly skewed context.
Buoso Donati has died, and his family learns his will leaves them nothing, which leads them to seek help from Gianni Schicchi, (Jeffrey Madison), who would like to provide his daughter, Lauretta (Rachel Inselman) with a dowry so that she can marry Rinuccio (Marcus McConico).
Heading the cavalcade of comic characters concerned with who is fighting to get the mansion, the mule and the sawmill are Jill Hoffman as Zita, Paul Waterman as Simone and Hunter Jaakola as Gherardino.
Like many, I knew “O mio babbino caro” only from the movie “A Room with a View.” When Inselman launched into it, I wanted to laugh out loud, because I never knew that one of the most delicately beautiful arias in opera was intended to be so wonderfully ironic.
But then irony abounds in a night at the opera where the only corpse on stage ends up being in the comedy and not the tragedy. It just so happens that I really, really like irony.
LOON Opera’s Two Operas in one acts
The LOON opera, otherwise know as the Lyric opera of the north offered an opportunity of a lifetime this season. Two one act opera’s Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana” & Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi”. The opposition of the two shows was intriguing. Mascagni’s serious story of Adultery, and Puccini’s genius comedy were easy to consume as an audience member and the transition from serious too seriously hilarious was ingenious.
It was surprising for the LOON to have such a large opera at a high school, but the space was perfect. From the orchestra’s sounds filling the air, to the beautiful voices of professional singers bouncing from wall to wall, LOON could not have chosen a better location.
“Cavalleria Rusticana”, a story of lust, and adultery covered every aspect of a classical opera. The supertitles above translating the Italian were an audience members dream. Not having to know Italian to understand what was going on, or to only follow by gestures of the performers made this opera more enjoyable than most audience members would have expected from an opera. “Cavalleria Rusticana” is set in a small Tuscan town on Easter Sunday. Turridu, a soldier has cheated on his lover Santuzza, a peasant girl with a neighbor Lola. Lola’s Husband Alfio returns from his long trip working and Santuzza tells him what has happened. In his anger Alfio sets out to seek revenge on Turridu and the dramatic act ends.
The most beautiful part of this entire performance was not done by the singing of professionals, but by the dancing of Suzanne Kritzberg and Reinhard Von Rabenau of the Minnesota Ballet. Any person who enjoys, and has an appreciation for ballet had wet eyes after their dance. Every emotion you could imagine was shown through their bodies, and their story of love needed no words.
The Second performance of “Gianni Schicchi” had the audience laughing so hard some may have begun to cry. Puccini truly was a musical mastermind. He not only made an opera hilarious, but tied in a tragedy and one of the most well known opera arias’s of all time. Rachel Inselman began to sing O Mio Babino but the opera was in English. This took away from the overall fun of hearing this song from such a talented performer. The supertitles during this Act were surely not necessary as they were during “cavalleria Rusticana”, and were much of a distraction.
The story told was that of Buoso Donati’s death, and his family member’s greed. In a time of need his rather quirky family calls on the prankster Gianni Schicchi. Whose daughter, Lauretta is in love with Gherardino, Donati’s son. The pair’s tragic love story became more humorous as the act went on. The two young and in love sing their hearts out over Gianni Schicchi, and Donati’s family members. Gianni Schicchi’s scheme to change Donati’s will works not only in the family’s favor but also in his own.
This page contains a single entry by Mark Harvey published on October 13, 2011 11:20 AM.
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