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Arts & Entertainment

Audiences can indulge in luxury of opera

| Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, 8:55 p.m.
The Minnesota Opera production of 'Cinderella' (La Cenerentola) by Gioachino Rossini
Photo by Michal Daniel
The Minnesota Opera production of 'Cinderella' (La Cenerentola) by Gioachino Rossini
The Count seduced Susanna in 'The Marriage of Figaro.'
Photo credit: David Bachman
The Count seduced Susanna in 'The Marriage of Figaro.' Photo credit: David Bachman
Michael Todd Simpson plays Giovanni in Pittsburgh Opera's 'Don Giovannia.'
Credit: Pittsburgh Opera
Michael Todd Simpson plays Giovanni in Pittsburgh Opera's 'Don Giovannia.' Credit: Pittsburgh Opera

Opera is a famously extravagant art form.

Originally an attempt more than 400 years ago in Italy to re-create ancient Greek drama, it quickly became characterized by the power of singing and music to bring stories to life in a way that excites passionate and lifelong devotion.

The expense of staging operas makes Pittsburgh Opera a singular institution in Western Pennsylvania, although other groups, from time to time, do present opera. Each of its multimedia components is labor-intensive and costly. From fees to singers worthy of singing the leading roles to the costs of costumes and sets, not to mention the expense of a house orchestra and chorus, opera is a genuine luxury.

Pittsburgh Opera's 2012-13 season is filled with popular Italian repertoire, most led by music director Antony Walker. It also will offer a wide array of Brown Bag, art song, cabaret and piano recitals, as well as its now-traditional New Year's Eve concert.

Giuseppe Verdi's “Rigoletto” opens the season, Oct. 6, 9, 12 and 14. Including some of Verdi's most popular numbers, “Rigoletto” is the tragic story of a court jester who tries to shield his daughter from the corrupt court in which he works.

Mark Delavan, who starred in “Falstaff” in 2009, will return to sing the title role in a cast that also includes Lyubov Petrova as his daughter, Gilda, and Michael Wade Lee as the Duke of Mantua.

The opera will mount a new production of “Don Giovanni” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Nov. 3, 6, 9 and 11. The novel power and haunting beauty of the work is unsurpassed by any opera. Justin Way will make his company debut as the stage director, while the cast includes Michael Todd Simpson as Giovanni, Wayne Tigges as his sidekick Leporello, Erin Wall as Donna Anna and Jennifer Holloway as Donna Elvira.

Even the least well-known of the operas being presented this season was a big hit in its time. Domenico Cimaro's 1792 “Il matrimonio segreto” (The Secret Marriage), Jan, 26, 29, Feb. 1, 3, 2013, was performed more often in Vienna than any of Mozart's operas were in his lifetime. The singers are all resident artists of the opera, including stage director Stephanie Havey. Sara Jobin will conduct.

“Madama Butterfly” by Giacomo Puccini will feature a new production from Boston Lyric Opera, March 16, 19, 22 and 24. Maria Luigia Borsi as Cio-Cio San (Butterfly) and Bryan Hymel as her unfaithful lover Lt. B.F. Pinkerton will make their company debuts. Jean-Luc Tingaud will conduct.

The season concludes with a comic opera that is actually funny: “La cenerentola” (Cinderella) by Gioachino Rossini, April 27, 30, May 3 and, 5. Vivica Genaux will sing the title role, with former resident artist Arthur Espiritu returning to portray Don Magnifico.

Other local opera options this season will include Duquesne University's production of Francis Poulenc's “Dialogues of the Carmelites,” Feb. 22 to 24, 2013. Microscopic Opera brings great imagination to its low-budget productions.

Finally, Opera Theater Pittsburgh recast itself as a summer festival in 2012, but will hold two vocal competitions this fall, to which the public is invited for the semi-finals and finals on Nov. 3 and 4.

Mark Kanny is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or

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