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Best Opera Performances In Detroit

April 30, 2012 9:00 AM

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(credit: michiganopera.org)

(credit: michiganopera.org)

Musicals can be held at opera houses and operas can be held at theatres; and to some people, definitions of the two overlap. Others maintain that musicals are designed for mass entertainment and profit while opera is a purer form of fine art. Get a taste of this pure art form and enjoy some of the most powerful voices in the world with our picks for this coming season’s best opera performances in Detroit.
pagliacci Best Opera Performances In Detroit

(credit: michiganopera.org)

“Pagliacci”
1526 Broadway St.
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 961-3500
michiganopera.org

Dates: May 12 through May 20
Price: $25 to $125
Click here for performance information.

“Pagliacci” is an opera in two acts by Ruggero Leoncavallo. He wrote several operas, but this is the only production still widely staged. It is considered one of the best examples of Italian verismo, operas based on true life events, rather than upon mythology or sagas. The story comes from a murder trial in Calabria, Italy, over which Leoncavallo’s father presided as a judge. There is a company of travelling actors performing Commedia dell’Arte in the town. Canio, one of the traveling actors, thinks his wife Nedda is cheating on him. He believes her lover is a fellow actor, Tonio. But instead, Nedda is in love with a rich land tycoon named Silvio. Tonio makes a move on Nedda, but she spurns him. In retaliation, Tonio acts out by revealing an undercover secret of Nedda’s true feelings. While on stage, Nedda plays Colombina, while Canio plays Pagliacci, a situation where life imitates art. Pagliacci is to stab Colombina in the play – but alas the knife is real, so Canio actually kills his wife Nedda on stage. While Nedda dies, she calls for her lover Silvio who quickly appears at her side. However, this proves to be a bad idea because Canio stabs him to death, too.

The show is relatively short, and is often performed together with Pietro Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana.” The young Leoncavallo wrote this opera in Paris, where he was struggling to figure out whether he wanted to become a writer or a musician. He found the perfect compromise by writing opera. “Pagliacci” is also known in the French versions as “Pierrot.”

Related: Best Professional Theatre In Detroit

detroitoperahouse Best Opera Performances In Detroit

(credit: michiganopera.org)

“The Barber of Seville”
1526 Broadway St.
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 961-3500
michiganopera.org

Dates: October 13 to October 21
Price: $25 to $125
More information will be released closer to the performances.

Based on a comedy by French playwright Pierre Beaumarchais, “The Barber of Seville” premiered in 1816 at the Teatro Argentina in Rome. Composer Gioachino Rossini had to write it very quickly because he had already signed a contract with the theatre, and he procrastinated until the last minute. He chose this comedy because it was already well-known and beloved by the public. This was the seventh time one of Beaumarchais’ comedies had been turned into opera. Opening night was a flop, but within days it rose to fame, perhaps because the right people liked it. Beethoven loved this opera dearly, and he told Rossini these feelings. It represents the new social way of life that came out of the French revolution – the bourgeoise who superseded the old aristocratic world. The main character, Figaro, is a barber and sort of busybody middle man arranging business deals, marriages and anything he can get his nose into. You already know his famous opera that goes “Figaro, Figaro, Figaro.”

detroitoperahouse int Best Opera Performances In Detroit

(credit: Detroit Opera House/Facebook)

“Julius Caesar”
1526 Broadway St.
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 961-3500
michiganopera.org

Dates: November 10 through November 18
Price: $25 to $125
More information will be released closer to the performances.

This is the first baroque opera ever to be produced by the Michigan Opera Theatre. The plot is rather complicated, based on the poems of Pietro Antonio Domenico Trapassi, better known by his pseudonym of Metastasio. It follows the epic tale of Caesar’s conquest of Eqypt and seduction by Cleopatra. First performed in the London Haymarket in 1724, the leading man, an Italian contralto castrato named Francesco Bernardi Senesino, performed with then-famous soprano Francesca Cuzzoni. There are two warring factions in this opera: Cleopatra, Caesar, Cornelia and Sesto versus Tolomeo (the brother of Cleopatra, and also her husband) and his general Achilla. If being married to your sister isn’t twisted enough, Tolomeo played by a castrato had to cause a lot of raised eyebrows at the time. This performance is done big in a Hollywood fashion with all the gold and trimmings to boot.

Related: Local Kids Take The Stage At Michigan Opera Theatre

Romero Anton Montalban-Anderssen is the winner of the 2009 first prize in journalism from the Detroit Working Writers Organization. He earned a Juris Doctor degree from Wayne State University School of Law. He has seasonal residency in Detroit Michigan, The Italian Riviera, and Honolulu Hawaii. His work can be found at Examiner.com.


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