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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    La Fanciulla del West at Opera Carolina

    La Fanciulla del West, opera in three acts, sung in Italian
    Music by Giacomo Puccini
    Libretto by G. Civinini and C. Zangarini, after the play The Girl of the Golden West by David Belasco
    Premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City on December 10, 1910

    This review is of the third and last run of this show at Opera Carolina in Charlotte, NC, USA on 4/29/17. This is a new co-production; this show will travel next to New York City Opera, then a string of cities in Italy. Unfortunately Opera Lively could only review this excellent show on the occasion of its last run in Charlotte but catching it in one of the partner companies is highly recommended.

    The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra conducted by James Meena
    The Men of the Opera Carolina Chorus
    Production Designer and Stage Director - Ivan Stefanutti
    Lighting and Video Design - Michael Baumgarten
    Costumes - Atelier Nicolao; Stefano Nicolao, director - Venice, Italy

    Cast

    Principal Singers

    Minnie, title role, owner of the Polka Saloon - Opera Lively interviewee Kristen Sampson
    Dick Johnson (Ramerrez), a bandit - Opera Lively interviewee Marcello Giordani
    Jack Rance, sheriff - Opera Lively interviewee Aleksey Bogdanov

    Other important singing roles

    Sonora, a miner - Giovanni Guagliardo
    Nick, barkeep at the Polka - Gianluca Bocchino
    Ashby, agent of the Wells Fargo Corporation - Jason McKinney
    Jake Wallace, the Camp Minstrel - Jeff McEvoy

    Comprimarios

    Billy Jackrabbit - Opera Lively interviewee (in a past production) Donald Hartmann
    Wowkle - Anna Harreveld
    Josť Castro - Carl DuPont

    (and several miners)

    SEE THIS LINK FOR INTERVIEWS WITH THE THREE PRINCIPAL SINGERS AND PRODUCTION PICTURES: CLICK [HERE]

    ---------------

    Opera Lively has been covering all the shows in Charlotte by Opera Carolina for several seasons, and the quality has been very high in most performances. From time to time, the company goes above and beyond its customary high standards, and produces something truly memorable. This was one such occasion: one of their best efforts, ever.

    Starting with the trio of principal singers: very rarely one can listen to such a good cast, in a regional opera company, anywhere. World-class tenor Marcello Giordani was every bit as good as expected for someone with his prestigious career. His pitch control, phrasing, volume, and diction were near perfect. In spite of the singer's age - 54 - no signs of wear and tear whatsoever were present. Mr. Giordani is likely to be able to sing for several more years, given that his voice still sounds very fresh.

    Ms. Kristen Sampson had enormous stamina during this long role with wide range without any fatigue by the end of the last act, and was able to deliver dramatic soprano singing with power and good colors. Aleksey Bogdanov matched his two colleagues, being just as excellent.

    These three very strong singers were able to pierce through the rather loud score that Puccini composed for this opera, and their voices filled the large Belk Theater with no trouble.

    Maestro Meena and the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra were in great form tonight. My favorite element in La Fanciulla del West is the score, and it was phenomenally rendered by the pit. The orchestra sounded dense, rich, resonant, and agile.

    The chorus did very well and the remaining singers were also very good, especially Giovanni Guagliardo - maybe with the only exception of an under-powered Gianluca Bocchino.

    The physical production by renowned Italian stage director and designer Ivan Stefanutti (sets and projections done by Opera Carolina with Michael Baumgarten being responsible for the video parts and lighting) was very nice. It makes use of a large screen on the background that supplements the sets with beautiful images that bring up the icy, snowy and foggy environment, so that the props and pieces of furniture acquire more depth.

    The traditional costumes conveyed very accurately the Wild West atmosphere; blocking was good, and overall the acting was rather solid by all involved.

    I felt that this production was the best one of the season in all of North Carolina, and it would look good anywhere in the world. As a matter of fact it will look good in several other places in the world, since it is traveling next to New York City Opera and then to some six or seven Italian cities.

    To increase my enjoyment even more, Maestro Meena announced from the stage the 2017-18 Opera Carolina season, and I was very pleasantly surprised with the news that the company is going back to four operas per year, and will be treating us to not only one, but two contemporary operas - I Dream by Douglas Tappin, and Cyrano by David DiChiera. As a big fan of contemporary opera, I'm ecstatic: the company is presenting twice as many as the Met (they got only one this season). The other two operas will be Rigoletto by Verdi and Le Nozze di Figaro by Mozart.

    With this new phase of trans-state and international co-productions, a season that includes contemporary opera (which is important to keep the art form alive), and this stratospheric level of quality, Opera Carolina by now is entitled to national recognition, no longer deserving to be labelled as simply a regional company. I used to say that people at driving distance should come to attend Opera Carolina. Now I believe that people anywhere in the United States should hop on a plane and come to Opera Carolina. They are getting this good.

    Again, CLICK [HERE] for the exclusive Opera Lively interviews with the three principal artists and production pictures.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); April 30th, 2017 at 07:58 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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  3. #2
    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) View Post
    La Fanciulla del West, opera in three acts, sung in Italian
    Music by Giacomo Puccini
    Libretto by G. Civinini and C. Zangarini, after the play The Girl of the Golden West by David Belasco
    Premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City on December 10, 1910

    This review is of the third and last run of this show at Opera Carolina in Charlotte, NC, USA on 4/29/17. This is a new co-production; this show will travel next to New York City Opera, then a string of cities in Italy. Unfortunately Opera Lively could only review this excellent show on the occasion of its last run in Charlotte but catching it in one of the partner companies is highly recommended.

    The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra conducted by James Meena
    The Men of the Opera Carolina Chorus
    Production Designer and Stage Director - Ivan Stefanutti
    Lighting and Video Design - Michael Baumgarten
    Costumes - Atelier Nicolao; Stefano Nicolao, director - Venice, Italy

    Cast

    Principal Singers

    Minnie, title role, owner of the Polka Saloon - Opera Lively interviewee Kristen Sampson
    Dick Johnson (Ramerrez), a bandit - Opera Lively interviewee Marcello Giordani
    Jack Rance, sheriff - Opera Lively interviewee Aleksey Bogdanov

    Other important singing roles

    Sonora, a miner - Giovanni Guagliardo
    Nick, barkeep at the Polka - Gianluca Bocchino
    Ashby, agent of the Wells Fargo Corporation - Jason McKinney
    Jake Wallace, the Camp Minstrel - Jeff McEvoy

    Comprimarios

    Billy Jackrabbit - Opera Lively interviewee (in a past production) Donald Hartmann
    Wowkle - Anna Harreveld
    Josť Castro - Carl DuPont

    (and several miners)

    SEE THIS LINK FOR INTERVIEWS WITH THE THREE PRINCIPAL SINGERS AND PRODUCTION PICTURES: CLICK [HERE]

    ---------------

    Opera Lively has been covering all the shows in Charlotte by Opera Carolina for several seasons, and the quality has been very high in most performances. From time to time, the company goes above and beyond its customary high standards, and produces something truly memorable. This was one such occasion: one of their best efforts, ever.

    Starting with the trio of principal singers: very rarely one can listen to such a good cast, in a regional opera company, anywhere. World-class tenor Marcello Giordani was every bit as good as expected for someone with his prestigious career. His pitch control, phrasing, volume, and diction were near perfect. In spite of the singer's age - 54 - no signs of wear and tear whatsoever were present. Mr. Giordani is likely to be able to sing for several more years, given that his voice still sounds very fresh.

    Ms. Kristin Sampson had enormous stamina during this long role with wide range without any fatigue by the end of the last act, and was able to deliver dramatic soprano singing with power and good colors. Aleksey Bogdanov matched his two colleagues, being just as excellent.

    These three very strong singers were able to pierce through the rather loud score that Puccini composed for this opera, and their voices filled the large Belk Theater with no trouble.

    Maestro Meena and the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra were in great form tonight. My favorite element in La Fanciulla del West is the score, and it was phenomenally rendered by the pit. The orchestra sounded dense, rich, resonant, and agile.

    The chorus did very well and the remaining singers were also very good, especially Giovanni Guagliardo - maybe with the only exception of an under-powered Gianluca Bocchino.

    The physical production by renowned Italian stage director and designer Ivan Stefanutti (sets and projections done by Opera Carolina with Michael Baumgarten being responsible for the video parts and lighting) was very nice. It makes use of a large screen on the background that supplements the sets with beautiful images that bring up the icy, snowy and foggy environment, so that the props and pieces of furniture acquire more depth.

    The traditional costumes conveyed very accurately the Wild West atmosphere; blocking was good, and overall the acting was rather solid by all involved.

    I felt that this production was the best one of the season in all of North Carolina, and it would look good anywhere in the world. As a matter of fact it will look good in several other places in the world, since it is traveling next to New York City Opera and then to some six or seven Italian cities.

    To increase my enjoyment even more, Maestro Meena announced from the stage the 2017-18 Opera Carolina season, and I was very pleasantly surprised with the news that the company is going back to four operas per year, and will be treating us to not only one, but two contemporary operas - I Dream by Douglas Tappin, and Cyrano by David DiChiera. As a big fan of contemporary opera, I'm ecstatic: the company is presenting twice as many as the Met (they got only one this season). The other two operas will be Rigoletto by Verdi and Le Nozze di Figaro by Mozart.

    With this new phase of trans-state and international co-productions, a season that includes contemporary opera (which is important to keep the art form alive), and this stratospheric level of quality, Opera Carolina by now is entitled to national recognition, no longer deserving to be labelled as simply a regional company. I used to say that people at driving distance should come to attend Opera Carolina. Now I believe that people anywhere in the United States should hop on a plane and come to Opera Carolina. They are getting this good.

    Again, CLICK [HERE] for the exclusive Opera Lively interviews with the three principal artists and production pictures.

    You're lucky to have seen such a rarely performed opera. I've only seen Fanciulla once, and that was 40 years ago!

  4. #3
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hoffmann View Post
    You're lucky to have seen such a rarely performed opera. I've only seen Fanciulla once, and that was 40 years ago!
    Yes, no doubt.

    There was a funny detail in the pre-opera talk: the lecturer said this opera is "Debussy with anchovies and pepperoni" LOL
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    I'm really in love with the score. It is extremely beautiful. It's not the most "melodious vocal line-rich opera" but the score is something! For those who love instrumental music and the tone-painting of several scenes and ideas, this score by Puccini is tops!
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) View Post
    I'm really in love with the score. It is extremely beautiful. It's not the most "melodious vocal line-rich opera" but the score is something! For those who love instrumental music and the tone-painting of several scenes and ideas, this score by Puccini is tops!
    Hate to say but I told you so. It is the best.
    Natalie

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  10. #6
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soave_Fanciulla View Post
    Hate to say but I told you so. It is the best.
    As usual, you were right, my dear friend!
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    A nice touch is that Wells Fargo is a sort of character in this opera. Well, Wells Fargo Corporation, having acquired the traditional Wachovia Bank (my first account when I'm moved to NC decades ago was a Wachovia account - so that my main banking account is now a Wells Fargo one) which was headquartered in Charlotte, NC, is an extremely important presence in Charlotte's financial and everyday life, with a lot of people who attend the opera productions in town being employees of these bankers. It is actually the main corporate sponsor for Opera Carolina.

    Apparently when Opera Carolina was having one of the students' night for kids, the youngsters laughed wildly when the lines about Wells Fargo came up, thinking that this was somehow some sort of plug-in to advertise the corporation. They had to be told that no, the original libretto does make reference to Wells Fargo, which started in San Francisco precisely providing the courier transporting of gold and money that the Ramerrez band was trying to pilfer. Opera comes to life!
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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  13. #8
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Talking about the local restaurant scene when I come to the opera in Charlotte, I've tried a few options over the years. For those who will be coming to the future productions - four per season, now! - here are my thoughts for a good time at very short walking distance from the Belk Theater (all restaurants mentioned below are within one block from the theater):

    - The Wooden Vine - casual wine bar with excellent small plates to match a good wine selection. Pleasant and fast service in a relaxed atmosphere. Fabulous food. Highly recommended.

    - Malabar - avoid. The food is good (tasty Spanish tapas) and the wine list is excellent - but in my opinion the service is atrocious with a rude and arrogant owner who has a penchant for antagonizing guests - not to forget that they tend to be late to get you to your table in spite of reservations, making of the whole experience for those with pre-theater commitments, a stressful one. If you just care for the food/wine and you don't mind being mistreated, sure, go for it. Like I said, the food and the wine are really good; you just have to have a thick skin.

    - Aria - Tuscany cuisine, practically inside the theater (and the name is great, haha). Hit and miss - fast and polite service so you won't be stressed out, but the food can go from divine - when you order something simple - to really mistaken - when you order something more complex with too many ingredients (which they don't balance so well). As long as you are wise when you order, you'll have a good time.

    - Ri-Ra - Irish pub. Wow, this is the best fish-and-chips I've had this side of the pond, able to compete with some fabulous ones I've had in London. Nice atmosphere, good beer selection; just very, very good.

    - Blue - inventive Mediterranean cuisine, live jazz band at times, great finger food to accompany a nice (although over-priced) wine-by-the-glass list. It's the site for the after-opera party sponsored by Opera Carolina, for members of the "Bravo!" young professionals opera lovers society. Beautiful crowd, nice people watching.

    - The Asbury - upscale Southern and Modern American cuisine, arguably the best of them all, but I'm going by reputation and reviews since surprisingly, I had never noticed it in years of attending Opera Carolina productions, and just now learned that it is extremely good. Next production, that's where I'll eat.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Senior Member Involved Member Nemorino's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) View Post
    A nice touch is that Wells Fargo is a sort of character in this opera. Well, Wells Fargo Corporation, having acquired the traditional Wachovia Bank (my first account when I'm moved to NC decades ago was a Wachovia account - so that my main banking account is now a Wells Fargo one) which was headquartered in Charlotte, NC, is an extremely important presence in Charlotte's financial and everyday life, with a lot of people who attend the opera productions in town being employees of these bankers. It is actually the main corporate sponsor for Opera Carolina.

    Apparently when Opera Carolina was having one of the students' night for kids, the youngsters laughed wildly when the lines about Wells Fargo came up, thinking that this was somehow some sort of plug-in to advertise the corporation. They had to be told that no, the original libretto does make reference to Wells Fargo, which started in San Francisco precisely providing the courier transporting of gold and money that the Ramerrez band was trying to pilfer. Opera comes to life!
    Yeah, the audience in Santa Fe last summer snickered & groaned at the mention of Wells Fargo. Which is a shame, it's one of the details that really sold me on the libretto as an "authentic Western". I love this opera, too! Hope it's finally finding a bigger place in the repertory.

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