International season opens with ‘The Daughter of the Regiment’
By Charlene Baldridge | SDUN Reporter
It may come as news to some that San Diego Opera (SDO) General and Artistic Director Ian Campbell knows how to play his cards. Throughout his long career in grand opera – 30 years of it devoted to the City’s well-run 48-year-old institution – Campbell has kept cards on each singer he’s heard on stages in the U.S. and abroad.
Campbell’s frequent European sojourns to discover new talent and his penchant for introducing new singers on their way up are legendary: sopranos Sondra Radvanovsky and Latonia Moore, this season’s Aida, are but two examples. When he hears someone with extraordinary talent, Campbell has been known to rush backstage after the performance and offer a contract on the spot.
Occasionally, the director plays a card that is trumped by circumstance, but that does not happen often. The opera network, comprising singers, managers, conductors and artisans, tells enquiring potential debutants that San Diego is a lovely city, SDO treats its artists well, the music-making is of high quality, and the audiences enthusiastic and informed.
The 2013 season, including four performances each of four operas plus two performances of another (Jan. 26 – April 28), is especially pleasing to Campbell. He is staging the West Coast premiere of an opera he much admires (Idelbrando Pizzetti’s “Murder in the Cathedral,” March 30 – April 7), and championing a special engagement of the first Mariachi opera (José “Pepe” Martinez and Leonard Foglia’s “Cruzar la Cara de la Luna,” March 13). Other operas in the repertory are Gaetano Donizetti’s “The Daughter of the Regiment” (Jan. 26 – Feb. 3), Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Samson and Delilah” (Feb. 16 – 24) and Giuseppe Verdi’s “Aida” (April 20 – 28).
All are performed in their original languages with English supertitles. The bilingual “Cruzar” has both English and Spanish supertitles.
“The Daughter of the Regiment” features the return of two extraordinary singers, soprano L’ubica Vargicová as the regiment’s tomboy darling, Marie, and tenor Stephen Costello as Tonio, the peasant who loves her. Kevin Burdette portrays Sergeant Sulpice, Tonio’s rival, and divas Ewa Podleś and Carol Vaness make cameo performances as the Marquise de Birkenfeld and the Duchess of Krakenthorp respectively.
Campbell wanted to go beyond the Tyrol and lederhosen, so he went with this production from Italy’s Teatro Comunale di Bologna, which moves the time and setting to France in the waning days of World War II. French-Canadian conductor Yves Abel makes his SDO debut.
Based on the biblical story and blessed with Saint-Saëns’ voluptuous score, “Samson and Delilah” features Bulgarian mezzo-soprano Nadia Krasteva in her company debut as Delilah. She is paired with renowned tenor Clifton Forbes as the heroic Samson, dependent upon his unshorn locks for his strength. The production is known for its dance, costumes and of course, the collapse of the temple.
Campbell said he has been fascinated by “Murder in the Cathedral” (based on T.S. Eliot’s verse drama) since the 1970s, when he laid hands on a pirated reel-to-reel tape of the opera’s 1958 La Scala debut.
“We have a lot of information about Sir Thomas Becket, even though he was assassinated at Canterbury Cathedral in 1170,” Campbell said. “I also wanted a vehicle for Ferruccio [Furlanetto, a renowned Italian bass who sings here frequently], who loves the role and has performed it twice.”
Because there is no production in the U.S., where it has never been performed in a fully staged professional production, SDO created its own, with production design by the renowned Ralph Funicello. La Scala’s Donato Renzetti makes his SDO debut as conductor.
One of the most popular, spectacular and aria-laden operas in the repertoire, “Aida,” concerns an Ethiopian slave (Moore) in the ancient Egyptian court who is in love with the battle hero Radames (tenor Walter Fraccaro). Radames is betrothed to Aida’s mistress, Amneris (mezzo Jill Grove). As part of his battle spoils, Radames has captured Aida’s father, Amonasro (Mark S. Doss), and brings him to court along with other enslaved Ethiopians (the famous Triumphal March). Having been discovered in an attempt to escape, Aida and Radames die together, proclaiming their love in one of grand opera’s unforgettable scenes. Italian conductor Daniele Callegari makes his SDO debut in the pit. Renowned designer Zandra Rhodes, who began her opera career at SDO, creates sets and costumes.
Featuring Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitián, the semi-staged “Cruzar la Cara de la Luna” (To Cross the Face of the Moon) concerns the Mexican-American Mark Velasquez (Brian Shircliffe) who questions his place in a bicultural world that sweeps him from Michoacán to Texas. Broadway director Leonard Foglia (“Moby-Dick”) stages the Mariachi opera, which has been acclaimed in Houston, Texas and Paris.
Jeff Nevin, well-known Southwestern College Mariachi teacher, said that Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitián is the most important ensemble in the history of mariachi music, and is considered the best mariachi in the world. “Pepe Martinez has been their onstage music director, [and] the face of Mariachi Vargas for about 40 years,” Nevin said. “He’s a legend as a performer and composer.” Campbell said he expects the two performances to sell out.
In addition to three conductor debuts this season, Campbell’s deck also includes eye-catching opera posters created by artist R. Black, a San Diego native who got his start 12 years ago with flyers and posters for local underground clubs. Now an artist in residence at Shotgun Players in the San Francisco Bay Area, Black created the poster for actor-playwright Woody Harrelson’s recent off-Broadway play, “A Bullet for Adolf.”
Tickets for SDO’s 2013 season are available now. There is no rise in prices this year, and some tickets are being sold at substantial discounts. Three- and four-opera season tickets are still available. Not part of the subscription packages, tickets for “Cruzar” are individually priced. For specific dates and times, further information, and tickets, visit sdopera.com or call 619-533-7000.