There's always new worlds to conquer in opera — Kentucky Opera, that is.
Spurred by Thomson Smillie's know-how and careful casting, Kentucky Opera successfully staged Mascagni's "Rustic Chivalry" and Leoncavallo's "Strolling Players." These tragic tales of passionate love are taken from daily life. The music was breathtakingly beautiful and the staging reﬂected credit on all who had a hand in it.
Here are the stories:
It is Easter morning. Turiddu, the son of the innkeeper Lucia, has abandoned Santuzza, with whom he had consoled himself for the loss of his former sweetheart, Lola. Lola had married Alfio during Turiddu's military service but she is now flirting again with Turiddu. Rejected and jealous, Santuzza tells Alfio of his wife's infidelity. Alfio challenges Turiddu and the men duel off stage and a villager brings Lucia the tragic news of her son's death.
The Strolling Players
A troupe of strolling players arrives in a village. The actor/manager, Canio, becomes suspicious of his young wife, Nedda, when Tonio, another actor, tells him that he saw her with a lover. She in fact plans to elope with Silvio, a young villager. Though surprised in their rendezvous by Canio, Silvio escapes unidentified. In the play that evening, a situation quite similar to this real life is enacted. Losing control, Canio demands the name of his wife's lover. When she refuses, he stabs her and then Silvio, who has come to her rescue.
Some Second Thoughts
Adrio Firestone gave us a fiery, distraught Santuzza which eclipsed Jennifer Taylor's talented portrayal of Lola. The acidic encounter between the two women did not fully present the contrasting emotions they have for each other.
In the main, Peter Riberi's Turiddu was a believable callous small-town Cassanova. Peter seems to improve each time he comes to sing for us.
Timothy Noble had a busy evening. First, he enacted the role of Alfio. Then he doubled as Tonio the clown while acting as stage manager for the whole show. In the latter dual role, he was quite effective, but his rendering of Alfio's opening aria did not fully reveal the affable aspect of the teamster's character.
A newcomer to our stage, Antonio Barasorda, drew hearty applause and clearly showed why he was chosen to play Canio in last month's performance of this work by the world-famous Metropolitan Opera. Maryanne Telese's presentation of Nedda was well received but her aria about the song of birds left some members of the audience not fully impressed.
Bob Bernhardt conducted both works with his usual zest and aplomb. It is always a pleasure to find his name in the program.
It was something of a surprise to find that the Courier-Journal's interesting and well-written review of these performances omitted any comment about Ms. Taylor, a native Louisvillian and her portrayal of Lola. Perhaps it was a temporary attack of critic's amnesia.