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.


Unknown said...

Thank you Lisa! We erred, but have have now restored the Opera Medium Rare pages (modified to the past tense, and without ticket buttons) . Thanks for calling our attention to the oversight. Interested readers can now see the full scope of our recent efforts at http://www.westedgeopera.org/omr-main/

Besides Jonathan Khuner, conductor, on piano, the instrumental ensemble consisted of:

Violin, Sara Usher;
Cello, Nancy Bien;
Clarinet, Nora Adachi.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Thank you, and hah! Performance archives are great to have, for so many reasons. :)