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Opera America

Pagliacci/The Seven Deadly Sins

An Unconventional and Sinful Pairing

Abduction From the Seraglio

It's a pretty safe bet that composers Ruggero Leoncavallo and Kurt Weill never met (although their lives did overlap), but their works will nonetheless share the stage when Festival Opera returns to the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek this summer.

Though created only forty years apart, Leoncavallo's Pagliacci and Weill's The Seven Deadly Sins inhabit quite different musical styles, yet explore complementary themes.

In Festival Opera's innovative pairing, the double-bill opens with Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, a work well-known to audiences around the world, and which contains some of the best-known music in all of opera, including its signature aria, "Vesti la giubba." In it, a traveling troupe of performers act out a real-life tragedy which echoes the play which they are performing.

The role of Canio, the tormented clown, will be sung by tenor Alex Boyer, making his company debut. Boyer has also sung the role at Opera San José to great acclaim. Soprano Hope Briggs, making her role debut, is his unfaithful wife, Nedda. Completing the cast are Zachary Gordin as Silvio, Robert Norman as Beppe, and baritone Roberto Perlas Gomez as Tonio. They'll be joined by the Festival Opera Chorus under the direction of Lynne Morrow, assisted by Arnold Lee.

The second opera in the program, The Seven Deadly Sins, was originally conceived aa a ballet and tells the story of Anna I, a singer, and Anna II, a dancer. Perhaps sisters, perhaps two aspects of a single person, the two Annas head off on a journey across America to raise money to help their family build a home back in Lousiana. Along the way, they encounter each of the seven deadly sins and their journey becomes a cautionary tale.

With music by Weill and a libretto by Bertold Brecht, The Seven Deadly Sins was an artistic triumph at its premiere in Paris, but was not performed in the United States until twenty-five years later in 1958, with Lotte Lenye singing the role of Anna I, the more practical, down-to-earth sister.

Making her company and role debuts, soprano Laura Bohn will sing Anna I at Festival Opera. She has been seen most recently in the Bay Area as the Duchess in Thomas Adés' Powder Her Face at West Edge Opera and as Fefjulka in Erling Wold's chamber opera UKSUS. Members of her family will be sung by FO veteran bass/baritone Kirk Eichelberger, tenor Jonathan Smucker, tenor Robert Norman, and baritone Zachary Gordin.

Returning as stage director for both operas is noted Bay Area choreographer Mark Foehringer. While his previous stage direction includes La Traviata and The Most Happy Fella for Festival Opera's 2011 season, his dance experience makes him the perfect choice for The Seven Deadly Sins, which is considered a ballet chanté, or singing ballet.

Leading the Festival Opera Orchestra for Pagliacci and The Seven Deadly Sins will be Maestro Michael Morgan and Conductor Bryan Nies. Morgan is in his 27th year as music director of the Oakland Symphony and longtime conductor of Festival Opera. He is music director for the production, and will conduct Pagliacci. Nies, who will conduct The Seven Deadly Sins, has conducted a number of Festival Opera presentations, including The Most Happy Fella in 2011.

There will be two performances of Pagliacci and The Seven Deadly Sins, on Saturday, June 24, 2017 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, June 25 at 2:00 p.m. John Kendall Bailey will give a free pre-opera lecture one hour prior to each performance. All performances will be in the Hofmann Theatre at the Lesher Center for the Arts in downtown Walnut Creek, which is conveniently located two blocks from BART. The Lesher Center is ADA accessible. Tickets are $44–$94; click here for detailed ticketing information.

Hear Luciano Pavarotti sing "Vesti la giubba" from Pagliacci...

Kirk Eichelberger
Kirk Eichelberger

Roberto Perlas Gomez
Roberto Perlas-Gomez

Jonathan Smucker
Jonathan Smucker

Lynne Morrow
Lynne Morrow
Chorus Director

Arnold Lee
Arnold Lee
Assistant Chorus

Mark Foehringer
John Kendall Bailey