Opera Saratoga’s 55th season starts tomorrow with a season that includes what is considered the greatest opera ever written, the American premiere of an opera-ballet, and an American opera barely six years old.
“I wanted this season to show what contemporary opera can be and sound like,” said Lawrence Edelson, the company’s artistic and general director. “It’s not just one thing. There’s a huge diversity.”
To make sure traditional opera fans get their fix first, however, Mozart’s glorious “The Marriage of Figaro” opens the season. David Paul, who’s directing the opera, is a huge fan.
“It’s the best opera ever written,” he said. “Part of that is because Lorenzo Da Ponte based his libretto on the best source material, which was a really good play. There are no stock characters. The issues of love and trust, fidelity and betrayal are young adult issues.”
It’s what Mozart did with this text that turns the four-act opera into a masterpiece.
“He was such a genius,” Paul said. “He had a keen sense between comedy and serious material. In this opera they exist side by side. In his music, he is also less prescriptive emotionally. Singers have more freedom to interpret. It’s really profound.”
* ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ — 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday ; 2 p.m. Monday and July 9
* ‘The Witches of Venice’ — 7:30 p.m. July 2; 2 p.m. July 11, July 17
* ‘Il Postino’ — 7:30 p.m. July 7; 2 p.m. July 10, July 16
WHERE: Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs
HOW MUCH: $50 - $95
MORE INFO: 584-6018, www.operasaratoga.org
The only change he’s made is to update the opera to the late 19th century. The cast is also exceptional both as singers and as gifted actors, he said.
New Glass work
In 1995, Philip Glass wrote music to Beni Montresor’s libretto called “The Witches of Venice,” which was based on Montresor’s 1989 children’s book. The opera premiered at Milan’s Teatro La Scala. On Saturday, July 2, the 90-minute opera-ballet will get its American premiere. Karole Armitrage directs and choreographs. The cast includes singers from OS’s Young Artist Program, members of the Capital District Youth Chorale, four dancers from Armitrage Gone! Dance, and ten local child dancers. The show will be sung in Italian.
“The music is great. It has a ferocious energy,” Armitrage said. “Its rhythmic underpinning is reflected in my choreography. But it’s a strange opera. The story is told through dance.”
The story: the king and queen of Venice want a child and the fairies grant their wish with a magical plant-boy. He lives a lonely life until he hears there’s a plant-girl entrapped in the witch’s grand palace and escapes to find her. Fairies, the wind, pigeons, monsters, flowers, a bee all help in the adventure.
“I’d never heard of the opera, so I listened to the music a lot,” Armitrage said. “It was my idea for the kids to be the garden and the dancers the wind.”
This premiere also includes live music from a six-piece group. When the show premiered in Italy, Glass provided a recording of two synthesizers.
“It feels like I’m creating another show,” Armitrage said.
Based on the film
Film buffs who saw the 1994 “Il Postino” will recognize Daniel Catán’s libretto for his “Il Postino” opera that premiered in 2010 at Los Angeles Opera.
“I love his music. It touches the soul,” Edelson said, who is directing the three-act opera. “It’s impressionistic coloring and unabashedly romantic. Traditional opera goers will love this opera. It has all the great themes: love, death, romance.”
The cast is phenomenal, he said, lead by tenor Daniel Montenegro, who worked on his role of the postman with Catán, prior to Catán’s death, and sang it recently at the Paris Opera. Sung in Spanish — the first for OS, the show will have an earthy feel with numerous scene changes, Edelson said.
A 24-piece orchestra will perform.