Sunday, May 10, 2015
I due Foscari, West Edge Opera
West Edge Opera's Opera Medium Rare season has closed with Verdi's 1844 I due Foscari, which I saw last Sunday at Rossmoor in Walnut Creek.
I had never heard a note of the work before, but a look at the Wikipedia synopsis suggests that there were few or no cuts. It's typical late-early Verdi, with some big sweeping tunes, cabalettas to go with each cavatina, some requirement of florid singing, and rousing choruses. Based on a Byron play, it tells the story of the two Foscari, father and son. Father is Doge of Venice, son is...his son. Son is falsely accused of murder; Dad won't save him despite a lot of desperate pleading from his soprano daughter-in-law; son dies in circumstances not entirely clear in libretto - fleeing rather than go into exile?; someone produces evidence that son was innocent; father is forced to give up his position and dies on stage shortly after singing lines that are an invitation to God to strike you down.
Okay: the libretto does leave something to be desired. However, the music is fine and has some terrific moments. I understand completely why baritenor Placido Domingo, having done a good job as the Doge of Genoa in Simon Boccanegra,* would want to take on the Doge of Venice as well.
The WEO cast had some standouts: veteran baritone Roy Stevens as the Doge mostly sang without his score and gave an impassioned and dramatically convincing performance. Tenor Michael Paul Krubitzer has a beautiful lyric tenor and a great sense of Italian style; I look forward to hearing him again. Paul Cheak was a commanding Loredano, the bad guy in the story. He sounds like he's got a Rigoletto or di Luna in him, too. Melody King sang the difficult role of Lucrezia, the son's wife.
And as usual, the teeny orchestra was terrific. I love Jonathan Khuner's conducting, and kudos to the violinist, cellist, and clarinetist (the Medium Rare page has been taken off the web site, and I don't have the program in front of me). If you're seeing one of these operas at Rossmoor, get a seat toward the rear on the same side of the house as the band; you'll hear them better and the voices will come across fine. And you can see from there too; those back seats are equivalent to maybe Row S or T at the War Memorial.
* The first version of Simon Boccanegra, pre-Boito, pre-Council Chamber Scene, would fit very nicely in the Medium Rare series.