Conservatory Offers Puccini Comic Opera
The great Italian master of music drama, Giacomo Puccini, created only one comic opera, Gianni Schicchi, and it is a hoot. (La Rondine has some comic elements, but it's not a laugh-fest.) With the popular aria "O mio babbino caro" and beautiful music throughout, Schicchi is a delight every way.
Written in 1918, the opera goes back to Dante's medieval story about a Florentine family's conspiracy to change the will of the rich merchant Buoso Donati by hiring a man to impersonate the dead man.
San Francisco Conservatory's Opera Theatre is presenting the opera in two free performances this week, at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10 and 2 p.m. Nov. 11. It is staged by Heather Mathews, who especially enjoys working on Schicchi because it is "so wonderfully funny and the music so rich and glorious."
To support the very purpose of the opera workshop, which she says is "to understand how to develop an entire character musically and dramatically from start to finish," Mathews moved the setting from the 13th century to a more contemporary time, "allowing our students a chance to identify a little more with these characters."
For baritone Efrain Solis, singing the title role, it's a significant step up from his first opera experience, also Schicchi, but playing one of the family members, in the chorus.
"It's a blast being on a different side of the action. This is an ensemble piece and every character has a unique personality and that makes it more fun for me when reacting to each character as the plot thickens. I especially enjoy playing with the writing of the will and changing things up so that everyone stays on their toes."
Mezzo-soprano Amber Rose Johnson, who has other Puccini operas under the belt already, believes "it is also perfect for anyone new to opera. The story is very accessible and moves at an exciting pace. I have a seven-year-old niece and I wish she lived in the state so that I could bring her! It's really perfect for all ages."
In the role of Simone, the magistrate who comes up with the idea of hiring an impersonator, bass Chris Filipowicz finds the work "a barrelful of laughs," enjoying the work with Mathews.
"She's taken a unique spin on the piece, and it only enhances the comedy, the romanticism, and the reality inherent in the opera. Audiences will be able to relate to the story and enjoy it all the more."
Curt Pajer conducts the performances, piano accompaniment is by Ron Valentino on Saturday, Darryl Cooper on Sunday.
Included in: Music News: Nov. 6, 2012
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