Who can afford to see opera in Chicago? Everyone can! See below.
CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA by Pietro Mascagni
Presented by the Lithuanian Opera of Chicago
April 24, 2005
- S. Morton H.S. Chodl Auditorium, Cicero IL
If you missed this show, too bad, because you missed a lot. For this scale of ticket price it is unbelievable that a production of this caliber can even be produced. Viewers should be thrilled that such bargains still exist in the world of theater and especially operatic theater. Consider the opera presented. It’s P. Mascagni’s only significant work in the substantial body of operatic materials available in the world today. Granted, it’s basically a one act opera, in this case produced in two scenes with intermission before the famous Intermezzo. But the music rings immediately with terse innuendo of the tragedy to come on a gloriously lazy Easter morning in Sicily around 1890. This opera is a masterpiece of operatic literature, beloved by listeners and performers alike.
The Prelude of the opera presents an opening section displaying the quiet solace of peace, but quickly, very quickly, builds to a terse melodic statement of the impending drama in several leitmotif melodies to be heard in full emotional context later on in the opera. In the middle of the Prelude we hear the opening tenor aria, the Siciliana, capably sung by tenor Vytautas Kurnickas, who was cleverly concealed within the orchestra pit, but without the usual pitfalls of balance in this aria when sung backstage. The effect was almost eerie, the voice appears right there, yet nowhere to be seen, portraying his love of Lola, wife of the village carter. The prelude concludes in a string postlude of stirring grace and beauty. The orchestra was not large (43 musicians), rather small by some standards, but fully adequate. The conductor, maestro Alvydas Vasaitis, led the orchestra in a full interplay of orchestral dynamic ranges and tonal coloration. Listeners were led seamlessly into the fantasy world of operatic theater.
Ringing church bells arouse the serene atmosphere as the curtain rises. The opulent sound of the chorus right from the beginning was a real indication of the musical treasures that lay ahead. The opera introduces Alfio, Lola’s husband and the local carter, sung by bass-baritone Eugenijus Vasilevskis. Visually, Mr. Vasilevskis portrayed the perfect Alfio. His considerable experience in the world of professional opera could be felt immediately, both vocally and dramatically.
The set was simple, yet strikingly realistic and grand for this verismo opera. One could actually believe viewing a scene from Sicily over one hundred years ago, that this was in fact a transmogrification for the operagoer of a realistic view into another world. One could imagine oneself as being a part of this little Sicilian village.
As the action proceeded, we were introduced to Santuzza and Mama Lucia, sung by soprano Nida Grigalavičiūtė and contralto Laima Domikaitė. The contrasting vocal timbre gave pause to the notion that Santuzza should be sung by a mezzo soprano. The dialogues (recitatives) were clear, concise and easily distinguishable within the milieu of Santuzza‘s rich and melodious soprano and Mama Lucia‘s dark and sumptuous contralto voices. The scene has a great musical moment in the singing of the Easter hymn Regina Coeli. This ensemble was marked by well defined melodic lines set forth in this polyphonic choral masterpiece, fully enhanced by subtly defined yet powerful orchestral playing. The effect was stultifying, as one heard the prayer of the people in praise of Easter Sunday. Interesting to note that a full backstage supplemetary chorus, the P. J. Matulaitis Mission chorus, was included, just as the composer intended. The final chord of this piece was also performed as the composer intended, with sustained brass instruments sounding after the final choral cutoff, unlike some other performances of this opera that strive to elicit an audience approval point (applause) at this dramatic juncture of the opera.
As became evident early on, Santuzza, soprano Nida Grigalavičiūtė, was the star of the opera. Her delicate presentation of a lover‘s plight in her world famous aria was truly overwhelming. The subsequent huge duet, the argument with her ex-lover Turiddu, was sung with convincing and fervent passion by both soprano and tenor, and provided the listener with multiple doses of glorious melodic development and passionate dramatic impulse. Much needed dramatic pause presented Lola, Alfio‘s wife, who had stolen Turiddu away from Santuzza. Capably sung by soprano Genovaitė Bigenytė, this little ditty provided the necessary dramatic relief from the previously established tension. Lola indeed ably displayed her coy mettle in subtle ironic hints to Santuzza. As the drama continued, the argument between Santuzza and Turiddu escalates in a truly dramatic operatic moment for soprano and tenor, making chills crawl as the feeling for vengence develops.Here again, the composers intentions were maintained throuout.
The first scene concludes with yet another duet for Santuzza (soprano) and Alfio (bass-baritone), wherein Santuzza reveals to Alfio his wife‘s infidelity. A truly dramatic duet musically and vocally demanding for both soprano and bass-baritone alike. Both soprano (Nida Grigalavičiūtė)and bass-baritone (Eugenijus Vasilevskis) provided the required tonal ambience and dramatic impulse. Especially noteworthy was the way Mr. Vasilevskis demonstrated his utmost dramatic and tonal rage at the situation that was revealed to him. The musical drama of this duet left one wanting for more (as it should be) as the curtain closes on scene one.
After the drama of the first scene, one is surprised to hear music of such supreme serenity, yet hidden underlying passion, in the famous Intermezzo, played masterfully by maestro Vasaitis and the orchestra. The curtain opens on scene two. The chorus and soloists, all glowing in the aftermath of inspirational Easter Sunday Mass, revive in a rousing drinking song by the ensemble. One was made thirsty by the exuberance displayed on the stage by chorus and soloists alike. Enter Alfio. The stage for the duel is set, the two men (Turiddu, Alfio) exchange strong words, and Turiddu accepts the challenge to duel by biting Alfio‘s ear. Ah, those Sicilians. The scene is rather difficult to produce both dramatically and convincingly, but Mr Eligjus Domarkas‘ stage direction carried the show. Alfio leaves to prepare for the duel, and Turiddu expresses his remorse to his mother (Mama Lucia) in an aria full of tender remiss, yet pleading and cajoling his mother to take care of Santuzza, should he not return from his assignation, convincingly and beautifully sung by tenor Vytautas Kurnickas. .
The drama concludes with offstage screams, and a woman announces that Turiddu has been murdered. Everyone is absolutely stunned. So ends a quiet Easter Sunday in Sicily.
A marvelous performance presented by the Lithuanian Opera of Chicago in celebration of their 49th season. Soprano Nida Grigalavičiūtė wins kudos hands down for an impressive performance of Santuzza. Supporting the drama also were tenor Vytautas Kurnickas, bass-baritone Eugenijus Vasilevskis, contralto Laima Domikaitė (it‘s so rare to hear a true contralto of such refinement), all guests to the USA from the National Opera and Ballet Theater in Vilnius, Lithuania. The soubrette role of Lola was performed by Genovaitė Bigenytė.
All of the soloists and the chorus provided a truly spectacular and humanly sincere performance of this marvelous story. Stage direction by Mr. Eligijus Domarkas was superb. Maestro Alvydas Vasaitis led the combined forces with a sure and refined hand. The orchestra, chorus, and soloists under his direction were guided to surpass all musical requirement in his unique interpretation of this highly dramatic story. Scenery and costumes from Stivanello, NY, NY.
Morton Chodl Auditorium in Cicero, Illinois is a truly remarkable hall to hear opera, since it has a marvelous acoustical quality allowing the audience to hear singers in a full and natural acoustical resonance, without any need for artificial electronic enhancement.
Andrew M. Doluoi,
By Pietro Mascagni
49th season produced by the
Lithuanian Opera of Chicago
Sunday, April 24, 2005 3PM
2401 S. Austin Blvd.
For information: (773) 925-6193
or visit LithOperaChicago.org
“Worth seeing in Chicago”,
“Lithuanian Opera in Chicago – a well kept secret”
Full stage production with chorus, orchestra, soloists (from USA and Europe)
Tickets $20 – $50
ONE PERFORMANCE ONLY
maestro Alvydas Vasaitis in rehearsal
Lithuanian Opera of Chicago (49th season)
A melodrama in one act: Cavalleria Rusticana (Rustic Chivalry)
by: Pietro Mascagni
Performers of the opera:
Santuzza – soprano Nida Grigalavičiūtė
Lola – mezzo soprano Genovaitė Bigenytė
Turiddu – tenor Vytautas Kurnickas (Lithuania)
Alfio – baritone Eugenijus Vasilevskis (Lithuania)
Lucia – contralto Laima Domikaitė (Lithuania)
conductor – Alvydas Vasaitis
stage director – Eligijus Domarkas (Lithuania)
chorusmasters: Manigirdas Motekaitis
orchestra: Lithuanian Opera of Chicago orchestra
when and where:
Sunday, April 24, 2005 at 3 PM (ONE PERFORMANCE ONLY)
2401 S. Austin Blvd.
Tickets and information:
Vaclovas Momkus (Chairman of the Board)
3222 W. 66th Place
Chicago, IL 60629
tel. (773) 925-6193
Ramunė Račkauskas (Community Outreach)
10425 S. Kenton
Oak Lawn, IL 60453
tel. (708) 425-4266
|Sunday, February 6, 2005 @ 3 pm
Soprano Nida Grigalavičiūtė
A Recital of Songs
Lithuanian Youth Center
Also participating are tenor Linas Sprindys and pianist Ričardas Sokas.
Eglė Špokaitė and Nerijus Juška, acclaimed ballet artists from Lithuania, visited Chicago not too long ago to work with choreographer G. Arpino of the Joffrey Ballet for a special presentation of the ballet Secret Places. The ballet is set to music from Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C major.