Written by Sason Bishope Parry

Ah, the Opera, a place where hearts are broken, tragedy strikes at any given moment, emotions go up and down like a rollercoaster and where powerhouse singers navigate you through these emotions with their gifted voices. This was the feeling and scene on Saturday, September 22 as we caught the 98th season of the San Francisco opera’s doubleheader of Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana & Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. The performances were amazingly captivating to keep everyone’s attention throughout both shows with a total running time of almost 3 hours. Walking into the War Memorial Opera house always brings on a majestic feeling, as many were dressed to the hilt and the beautiful architecture in the room takes you back to a time when art and design were primary to the builders and cookie cutter buildings were far and few. As we took our seats, we noticed that every seat was taken and we immediately knew we were in for something special, memorable and visually and audibly stimulating. Both productions were set in the same neighborhood of La Boca in Buenos Aires Argentina with a continuous storyline united by set designer Jose Cura’s production who also has credits as a conductor and director. What is an opera without love and of course jealousy, which was central to both plots where adultery, heartbreak, and revenge run rampant in this small Argentinian neighborhood? Cavalleria opens with women peering from top windows, cleaning blankets and down below waiters reset tables and chairs after what seemed to be a long night of wine indulging. Then we hear the beautiful voice of Turiddu played by tenor Roberto Aronica, who just returned home from serving time in the military. Because of his long absence his former lover Lola, played by sultry soprano Laura Krumm had moved on and married Alfio, played by the burly and confident baritone Dimitri Platanias. To make matters more complicated, Turrido who wanted to make Lola jealous, seduced Santuzza, played by the charismatic powerhouse soprano Ekaterina Semanchuk. Clearly, none of this would fair well and once Alfio’s rage and Santuzza’s jealousy spun out of control, revenge left Turrido dead and his mother Mamma Lucia played by the moody soprano Jill Grove filled with grief. Cavalleria showcased how love makes us do crazy things, and conductor Daniele Callegari, who was making his company debut, led the cast through this volatile number, bringing out great performances in each character and left the audience leaving us thrilled but also and deeply heartbroken. Intermission was just long enough to allow us to gather our senses and emotions and gear up for the second bill – Pagliacci. Set again in the same neighborhood, starts out with the composer Leoncavallo, played once again by Dimitri Platanias, delivering delivered a strong prologue and which set setting the mood for another tragic plot line. In this story, Tonio, played by Platanias, tries desperately to gain the attention of Nedda, played by the very talented soprano Lianna Haroutounian. Haroutonian, was, in my opinion, was the breakout singer of the entire double bill. She’s been featured in both Madame Butterfly and Tosca and seems to be vocally at ease, but yet is able to deliver strong emotions with every note she belted out.  Back to the story, Nedda who is married to Cannio played by tenor Marco Berti, has no interest in Tonio at all. She does however become infatuated with Silvio, played by baritone David Pershall, who gives a wonderful performance as her love interest. Here we are left with a similar ill-fated Quadruple love paradox as in Cavalleria.  Soon enough Cannio finds out about the affair and becomes engulfed in rage and ultimately takes his revenge out on the adulterous pair, which ends in bloodshed and loss. Conductor Daniele Callegari once again did a brilliant job of drawing us into the characters and the ill-fated story. Both stories of love gone bad, revenge that ended in heartbreak and death, left us with mixed emotions, which signified the power of the performances of the cast. As the final curtain came, we were all on our feet, looking around, cheering and sharing in the love for the SF opera and this spectacular double bill performance. Bravo, bravo, bravo, was loud and clear…

 

For more info on the SF Opera and to buy tickets visit:  www.sfopera.com