Opera Warhorses

An appreciation and analysis of the 'Standard Repertory' of opera

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In Quest of Rossini and Bellini – April to October 2012

April 8th, 2012

As we approach the Verdi and Wagner 2013 bicentennial observances, it is useful to consider not only the innovations that each made to opera, but the operatic environment that each composer, in his own way, transformed.

In the case of Verdi, I have argued on these pages and elsewhere that we divide his body of works into (1) those written before “Rigoletto” and (2) “Rigoletto” and his subsequent operas. The first category I like to consider together with the innovations that his older colleague and mentor Gaetano Donizetti made to Italian (and French) opera. For me the Donizetti-Early Verdi linkage is a powerful concept.

But separating Donizetti from the two Italian composers of bel canto operas with which he is most closely associated – Gioacchino Rossini and Vincenzo Bellini – is both unorthodox and revelatory. Each of these composers were themselves innovators, and the Verdi bicentennial poses an opportunity to consider their accomplishments as well.

Over the next year it is possible to see several of the major Rossini comedies with Houston Grand Opera performing “L’Italiana in Algeri” and the Seattle and Los Angeles Operas performing “La Cenerentola”. Even Rossini’s lesser known comedy “Le Comte Ory” will be performed at the Met.

The serious Rossini operas and those of Bellini are less often performed in the United States, but each of these categories will be represented in major productions this season.


Barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini) San Diego Opera, April 21, 24, 27 and 29, 2012.

Over the next year, performances of Rossini’s less often performed comic operas will be mounted at one or more American opera companies. However, if one wishes to see the usually ubiquitous “Barber of Seville”  performed over the rest of the year by one of the larger American opera companies in a full-scale production, one must go to the San Diego. It is the San Diego Opera that has brought together a team of international artists to perform this perenially most popular of all comic operas.

[Below: Spanish soprano Silvia Tro Santafe is Rosina; edited image, based on a production photograph from www.silviatrosantafe.com.]

A Rossini specialist, Spanish mezzo-soprano Silvia Tro Santafe, makes her San Diego Opera debut as Rosina, the most famous coloratura role in comic opera. Tro Santafe’s fellow Spaniard, Carlos Chausson, the Don Bartolo, returns to the San Diego Opera, the site of his professional debut (Masetto in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”) 35 years ago.

The Russian basso Alexander Vinogradov is the Don Basilio, with Americans Lucas Meachem (San Diego Opera) in the title role (Figaro) and John Osborn as Almaviva. The Italian Conductor Antonello Allemandi is at the podium; American Herbert Kellner is the stage director.

[For my performance review, see: Meachem, Osborn, Tro Santafe Lead a Joyous “Barber” at San Diego Opera – April 21, 2012.]


Maometto (Rossini), Santa Fe Opera, July 14, 18, 27, August 2, 7 and 16, 2012 

For the Summer 2012 Santa Fe Opera Festival, a new production by the imaginative concept director David Alden will be mounted, with scenic design and costumes by Jon Morrell.

[Below: Maometto (Luca Pisaroni) captures the Greek fortress of Negroponte; edited image of a Ken Howard photograph, courtesy of the Santa Fe Opera.]

Santa Fe Opera’s music director, Frederic Chaslin, will conduct. In the title role, basso Luca Pisaroni stars, with Leah Crocetto the Anna, Patricia Bardon the Calbo and Bruce Sledge the Paolo.

[For my performance review, see: Stormy Weather, But Strong Performances from Pisaroni, Crocetto, Bardon, Sledge in Rossini’s “Maometto II” – Santa Fe Opera, August 2, 2012.


The Capulets and the Montagues – I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Bellini), San Francisco Opera, September 29, October 3, 11, 14(m), 16 and 19, 2012.

The San Francisco Opera imports the Vincent Broussard production of “I Capuleti”, which premiered in 2011 in Munich as a co-production with the San Francisco company.

[Below: a scene from the Vincent Broussard production of “I Capuleti” in Munich; edited image, based on a Wilfred Hoesl photograph for the Bavarian State Opera.]

Joyce di Donato will be Romeo with Nicole Cabell the Giulietta. Saimir Pirgu is Tybaldo and Eric Owens is Capellio. The costumes are by the Parisian fashion designer Christian LaCroix. Riccardo Frizza will conduct.

[For my performance reviews, see: Joyce DiDonato, Nicole Cabell Sing Beautifully in Bellini’s Bel Canto “Capulets and Montagues” – San Francisco Opera, September 29, 2012 and A Second Look: “Capulets and Montagues” at San Francisco Opera, October 14, 2012.]

[For my extended comments on Bellini’s work in the context of a previous performance review, see: Beautiful Singing in Bellini’s “Capuleti”: Pittsburgh Opera – May 3, 2008.]


L’Italiana in Algeri (Rossini), Houston Grand Opera, October 26, 28(m), November 3, 7, 9 and 11(m), 2012.

The Barcelona-based Spanish team of Joan Font (production design) and Joan Guillien (sets and costumes) created whimsical sets and costumes for Rossini’s first great hit comedy for the Teatro Real in Madrid, in a co-production with the Houston Grand Opera and the opera companies of Bordeaux, France and Florence, Italy.

[Below: Joan Guillien’s sets for a scene from “L’Italiana”; edited image of a Javier del Real photograph for Teatro Real, Madrid.]

The Italiana herself will be performed by Italian mezzo Daniela Barcellona, joined by an American cast of Lawrence Brownlee (Lindoro), Patrick Carfizzi and Daniel Belcher (Taddeo).

For my performance review, see:  Daniela Barcellona Triumphs in Font’s Whimsical Production of “L’Italiana in Algeri” – Houston Grand Opera, November 3, 2012.

 * * *

Each of the four productions listed above should be of more than routine interest. I plan to report on as many of them as I am able to schedule.

For the next episode in this Quest, see:  In Quest of Rossini and Bellini – January to August 2013.

Tags: Quests and Anticipations