Virginia Opera Turns to Italy for Center for the Arts Performances

Posted: March 13, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

The final performances of Virginia Opera’s 2006-07 season in Fairfax will bring audiences to Old World Sicily with a double-bill production featuring two of Italian opera’s most beloved one-act tragedies, Pietro Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana” and Ruggiero Leoncavallo’s “I Pagliacci.”

Performances are Friday, March 30, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, April 1, at 2 p.m. A free wine and cheese reception will take place on Friday, March 30, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Concert Hall lobby. Both performances will feature artistic discussions, free to ticket holders, 45 minutes prior to curtain on the hall’s Grand Tier.

Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana,” the title of which translates to “rustic chivalry,” reveals with heartrending music the tragic events that unfold after the soldier Turiddu returns home to discover that his fiancée has married another.

Leoncavallo’s “I Pagliacci,” in which betrayal leads to bloody revenge, is familiar to audiences the world over. Playing the role of the clown Pagliaccio, Canio is faced with the task of making his audience laugh, even though the fresh discovery of his wife’s callous infidelity tears at his soul.

Gustavo López Manzitti, leading tenor at Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, will make his Virginia Opera debut in the leading roles of Turiddu in “Cavalleria” and Canio in “Pagliacci.” Mezzo-soprano Jane Dutton, a Metropolitan Opera veteran, will make her company debut in the lead role of Santuzza in “Cavalleria.”

Returning for “Pagliacci” is nationally acclaimed former Virginia Opera young artist Cristina Nassif as Nedda. Also returning are French-Canadian mezzo-soprano Geneviève Després as Mamma Lucia in “Cavalleria” and baritone Michael Todd Simpson as Silvio in “Pagliacci.”

Returning British stage director Lorna Haywood explains how she unites the two stories: “The pairing of these operas is apt,” says Haywood. “The action of both takes place in Southern Italy on important Feast Days: ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’ occurs on Easter Sunday, while ‘I Pagliacci’ is set in August, on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. Infidelity, passion and murder are common to both plots.

“I decided to set both operas in the same small Sicilian village during an uncertain and dangerous time, the 1940s during Mussolini’s tenure as Italy’s dictator. By then, the country’s economy was destroyed; the people impoverished, downtrodden and war-weary. They tried desperately to cling to the old ways – their ancient codes of honor and their religious traditions in which the Feast Days were an important and stabilizing influence in their lives.”

Virginia Opera Artistic Director Peter Mark, who will conduct all performances, says, “Opera’s most famous twins – ‘Cav’ and ‘Pag’ – are not only thrilling dramas based on the raw passions of ordinary people, but soaring and searing musical icons of realistic human situations and struggles, immediately recognizable to anyone who hears and sees them for the first time.”

Tickets for are $44-$86 (Friday) and $48-$90 (Sunday). Charge by phone at 888-945-2468 or visit

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