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Fall arts: 6 productions on tap for Pittsburgh Opera

Mark Kanny
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Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale”
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Puccini’s “La Boheme”

The late Tito Capobianco, longtime general director of Pittsburgh Opera, liked to say that opera is emotion expressed through singing. Opera is an extravagant artform, in which the singing of the characters in the drama is supported by orchestra, chorus, costumes, sets and sometimes projected images.

Pittsburgh Opera will present six operas this season, starting with Giacomo Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly,” Oct. 6, 9, 12 and 14. Dina Kuznetsova will star as Cio-Cio San, known as Madama Butterfly. She’s the 15-year-old geisha of Navy Lt. B.F. Pinkerton. He’s a cad, who marries her knowing someday he’ll get himself a real American wife. After Pinkerton’s ship leaves harbor, Butterfly waits three years with their child, confident of his return. When he does, he brings his new wife, Kate. In response, Cio-Cio San chooses honorable death.

The children’s fantasy “Hansel and Gretel,” Nov. 3, 6, 9 and 11, by 19th-century German composer Engelbert Humperdinck sets the fable by the Grimm Brothers. It will be sung in English. Corrie Stallings and Ashley Fabian will play the siblings lost in a magical forest. Marianne Cornetti will play the witch.

Afterwards, Mozart’s “Idomeneo Reimagned,” Jan. 26,
29, Feb. 1 and 3, will be a dramatically tightened and much shorter version of the original. The opera is set in Crete, whose king Idomeneo is off fighting in the Trojan war. His son, Idamante, played by Antonia Botti-Lodovico, falls in love with a Trojan prisoner, Ilia, played by Ashley Fabian.

“Glory Denied,” Feb. 23, 26, March 1 and 3, will continue the opera’s exploration of thematically significant contemporary opera. Composer Tom Cipullo’s work is based on Tom Philpott’s book about Col. Jim Thompson, America’s longest held prisoner of war. Terrence Chin-Loy will play the younger Thompson, Ben Taylor will sing the Thompson who returns from Vietnam nine years after capture to find his wife, Alyce, believing him dead, has remarried. The younger and older Alyce will be portrayed by Ashley Fabian and Caitlin Gotimer.

Puccini’s “La Boheme,” March 30, April 2, 5, and 7, is the popular romantic tragedy about young artists in 1830s Paris, which was updated in the musical “Rent.” The end of Act I, when Mimi, sung by Nicole Cabell, and Rodolfo, sung by Sean Panniker, fall in love is one of the most magical scenes in opera. Sari Gruber will play Musetta, whose waltz is the highlight of the party scene in Act II.

Gaetano Donizetti’s comic opera “Don Pasquale,” April 27, 30, May 3 and 5, will be updated in staging to mid-20th-century America. The opera features the old bachelor Pasquale, sung by Kevin Glavin, who wants to marry the young widow Norina, played by Lisette Oropesa. She loves his nephew, Ernesto, played by Javier Abreu.

Carnegie Mellon also presents smartly staged opera performances, which will include Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s witty and sublime “The Marriage of Figaro,” Oct. 24-27.

Mark Kanny is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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