Sunday, November 23, 2014

Cavalleria Rusticana in Brooklyn Heights

My wife and I attended Saturday evening's performance of Pietro Mascagni's one act opera Cavalleria Rusticana at St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Church, performed by the String Orchestra of Brooklyn (which does not shy from its acronym), the Grace Chorale of Brooklyn, and a stellar group of vocal soloists. Set in a small Sicilian town on Easter Sunday, Cavalleria Rusticana ("Rustic Chivalry") is a tragic tale of love, betrayal, jealousy, and death that plays out against a background of religious devotion and festivity.

The action begins when Santuzza (Sarah Hetzel; photo above by Arielle Doneson) finds her lover Turiddu (Alex Richardson) in a passionate embrace with Lola (Joan Peitscher). Santuzza first seeks solace with Turiddu's mother, Lucia (Kirsten Sollek), then confronts Turiddu and Lola, then lets Lola's husband, Alfio (Richard Lippold), know he's been cuckolded; he then vows revenge. After the Easter mass ends, Turiddu encourages the townspeople to celebrate while he and Lola share what seems to be the Dogpatch ham of wine bottles. The jollity ends when Turridu is confronted by Alfio, who challenges him to a duel, leading to the fatal conclusion.

Hetzel's rich mezzo voice gives full expression to Santuzza's despair, jealousy, and rage. Richardson's Turiddu, in blazer and open collared shirt, is a sexy good old boy; his ringing tenor runs the gamut from amorous to celebratory to furious. Peitscher, another mezzo, plays Lola as a shameless hussy in a bright flowered dress, dispensing seduction and scorn. Lippold's Alfio, in suit and tie, is a smug yuppie who enters bragging, in his confident baritone, about his good job and having scored a trophy wife on his first pass. Sollek's Lucia is understated, her alto registering emotion in muted but compelling tones. The orchestra, under the sure direction of Eli Spindel, was flawless, as was the choir, directed by Jason Asbury. Overall direction of this superb performance was by Sam Helfrich.

Re-posted from Brooklyn Heights Blog.