Opera Warhorses

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

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In Quest of High Drama in Early 19th Century Opera – September 2015 to March 2016

May 24th, 2015

Often, the early 19th century operas of Verdi are dismissed as merely vehicles to display the technical vocal skills of artists, with little attention to the operatic “plots”. However, modern directors, many with long experience with the theater, have found that the early operas of Verdi and his predecessors Gaetano Donizetti and Vincenzo Bellini have much to offer dramatically as well as musically.

Below is a list of performances of selected early 19th century Italian operas that I am scheduled to review in productions created or staged by such formidable theatrical talents as Francesca Zambello, Michael Cavanaugh, Anne Bogart and Kevin Newbury:


This list is supplementary to previous lists in this “Quests and Anticipations” series of selected operas being performed from June 2015 through February 2016:

Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” at the Glimmerglass Festival, San Francisco Opera and Los Angeles Opera and Mozart’s “La Finta Giardiniera at the Santa Fe Opera [See In Quest of Mozart Operatic Magic – July 2015 to March 2016.]

Tutino’s “Two Women (La Ciociara)” at the San Francisco Opera, Higdon’s “Cold Mountain” at the Santa Fe Opera, Heggie’s “Great Scott” at The Dallas Opera and Adamo’s “Becoming Santa Claus” at The Dallas Opera [See In Quest of Operatic World Premieres – June-December, 2015.]

Bernstein’s “Candide” at the Glimmerglass Festival and Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” at the San Francisco Opera [See In Quest of American “Opera Repertory-Expanding” Musical Works, March-September, 2015.]

Donizetti’s “La Fille du Regiment” at the Santa Fe Opera, Verdi’s “Macbeth” at the Glimmerglass Festival and Verdi’s “Nabucco” at the Seattle Opera [See In Quest of Donizetti and Early Verdi – March 2015 through August 2015.]

Richard Strauss’ “Salome” at the Santa Fe Opera and Wagner’s “Die Meistersinger” at the San Francisco Opera [See In Quest of Operas by Wagner and Richard Strauss: March-November, 2015.

Verdi’s “Rigoletto” at the Santa Fe Opera [See In Quest of Popular Verdi Operas – October 2014 to Summer 2015.]

Berlioz’ “The Trojans (Les Troyens) at the San Francisco Opera, and Vivaldi’s “Cato in Utica” at the Glimmerglass Festival [See In Quest of Less Well-Known Operas – February to August, 2015.]

Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” at the San Francisco Opera and Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro at the San Francisco Opera and the Houston Grand Opera [See In Quest of “Figaro” Operas – February 2015 through February 2016.]



Luisa Miller (Verdi), San Francisco Opera, September 11, 16, 19, 22, 25 and 27(m), 2015.

Francesca Zambello’s 2000 production of Verdi’s “Luisa Miller” is revived for the opening of San Francisco Opera’s 2015-16 season.

[Below: Michael Fabiano as Rodolfo in Francesca Zambello’s production of Verdi’s “Luisa Miller”; edited image of a Cory Weaver photograph, courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.]


The revival is staged by Laurie Feldman and stars Michael Fabiano as Rodolfo and Leah Crocetto as Luisa. Ukraianian baritone Vitaliy Bilyy is Miller, Rafal Siwek is Conte Gualtiero. Andrea Silvestrelli is Wurm and Ekaterina Semenchuk is Frederica.

Nicola Luisotti conducts. The sets are by Michael Yeargan, the costumes by Dunya Ramicova.

[For my performance review, see: Review: Michael Fabiano’s Star Ascends in Verdi’s “Luisa Miller” – San Francisco Opera, September 11, 2015 and Review: A Second Look at “Luisa Miller” at the San Francisco Opera – September 27, 2015.]


Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti), San Francisco Opera, October 8, 11(m), 13, 16, 21, 24 and 28, 2015.

A new production has been created for San Francisco by Michael Cavanagh and Erhard Rom whose mountings of Floyd’s “Susannah” for San Francisco Opera and Adams’ “Nixon in China” for Vancouver Opera (seen also in San Francisco) are in the forefront of the use of computer projections to enhance the theatrical experience.

[Below: Nadine Sierra as Lucia di Lammermoor; edited image of a Cory Weaver photograph, courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.]


Diana Damrau and Piotr Beczala return as Lucia and Edgardo. Baritone Brian Mulligan (Cavanagh’s Nixon for San Francisco) is Enrico. Nicolas Teste debuts as Raimondo.

Nicola Luisotti conducts. Mattie Ullrich designs the costumes.

[For my performance review, see:  Review: Soprano Nadine Sierra’s, Director Michael Cavanagh’s Vivid “Lucia di Lammermoor” – San Francisco Opera, October 8, 2015.]


Norma (Bellini), Los Angeles Opera, November 21, 29(m), December 2, 5 10 and 13(m), 2015. 

I have reported on Anne Bogart’s production of “Norma” for Angela Meade [See Legend Making at the Kennedy Center: Angela Meade’s First Norma – Washington National Opera, March 9, 2013] as I have on the performances of Jamie Barton as Adalgisa and Russell Thomas as Pollione [See A Second Look: “Norma” at the San Francisco Opera – September 14, 2014.]

[Below: Norma (Angela Meade, left)  has been visited by Flavio (Rafael Moras, center) and Pollione (Russell Thomas, right); edited image, based on a Ken Howard photograph, courtesy of the Los Angeles Opera.]


The Los Angeles Opera imports Washington National Opera’s Bogart production with a cast that includes Meade, Barton and Thomas, as well as the distinguished basso Morris Robinson as Oroveso.

Neil Patel created the sets, James Schuette the costumes. James Conlon conducts.

[For my performance review, see: Review: Meade, Barton, Thomas, Robinson Sing Beautifully in “Norma” – Los Angeles Opera, November 21, 2015.]


Maria Stuarda (Mary Stuart), Seattle Opera, February 27, 28(m), March 2, 5, 9, 11 and 12, 2016.

Seattle Opera double-casts major roles in its opera productions. Donizetti’s opera is based on Schiller’s Romantic Era drama about an imagined in-person confronation between Protestant Queen Elizabeth I and Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots.

The title role has attracted the great 20th and 21st century divas. Seattle Opera has cast Serena Farnocchia and Joyce El-Khoury as Maria and Mary Elizabeth Williams and Keri Alkema as Elisabetta and John Tessier and Andrew Owens as Leicester.

I have reported on Farnocchia’s Liu in Munich and her Donna Elvira in San Francisco, but relevant is her creditable performance as Maria Stuarda [See The Donizetti Revival, Second Stage: Stephen Lawless’ “Maria Stuarda” in Toronto – May 4, 2010.] El-Khoury’s successes in the Donizetti repertory suggests that those able to sample both casts should find the effort rewarding.

Singing all performances is Weston Hurt as Talbot, Michael Todd Simpson as Cecil and Renee Rapier as Anna.

[Below: the Earl of Leicester (John Tessier, left) consoles Mary Stuart (Joyce El-Khoury, right); edited image of a Philip Newton photograph, courtesy of the Seattle Opera.]


The sets are Neil Patel’s and the costumes are Jessica Jahn’s from the Minnesota Opera, but Seattle Opera’s director will be Kevin Newbury, whose work in staging both contemporary operas (including world premieres for San Francisco Opera and Santa Fe Opera) and early 19th century Italian works I have admired. Carlo Montanaro conducts.

[For my performance review, see: Review: Seattle Opera’s “Mary Stuart” – Joyce El-Khoury’s, Mary Elizabeth Williams’ Regal Confrontation – February 27, 2016.]

Tags: Quests and Anticipations