A company still in its infancy but already essential, Odyssey Opera brings Boston three comic operas next week: Giuseppe Verdi’s slightly overlooked second opera, Un giorno di regno (King for a Day), and two one-act operas, Pietro Mascagni’s Zanetto and Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari’s Il segreto di Susanna (Susanna’s Secret). The fully staged productions runs June 11–14 at Boston University Theater.
Un giorno di regno peers into the scheme of the future King of Poland and his military friend; the King attempts to secretly claim the throne and while his friend poses as the King while both are in Paris. The “false King” accomplishes two great goals while serving only a day; he stops two ill-fated marriages, of course! Mascagni’s Zanetto puts two could-be lovers in front of each other, meeting, though one of them is not as they truly are. Wolf-Ferrari’s Il segreto di Susanna confuses a husband’s vision of his wife, rightfully so as his wife is holding onto a not-so-dark secret.
Attempting always to keep the stage fresh and solid, Odyssey Opera is debuting several new faces while bringing back some of our long-time favorites. Boston regulars will include James Maddalena, Yeghishe Manucharyan, and David Kravitz in Un giorno, Eleni Calenos in Zanetto, and Kristopher Irmiter in Il segreto. New faces in the Verdi include Michael Chioldi, Amy Shoremount-Obra, and Jessica Medoff, Eve Gigliotti in Mascagni, and Inna Dukach in Wolf-Ferrari.
Three-time Grammy nominated, founder of several striking musical organizations (BMOP, Opera Boston, etc.), and advocate for new music, conductor Gil Rose will conduct. But an opera is only as good as its stage direction and Odessy’s two directors are truly world-class. Joshua Major, rooted locally at NEC has worked all over the world with companies like New York City Opera, Academy of Vocal Arts, Cleveland Opera, Welsh National Opera, and has been the Artistic Director of the Pine Mountain Music Festival since 2003; Joshua will be directing Verdi’s Un giorno di regno. Daniel Gidron, another locally rooted director at UMass Boston, has not strictly worked in opera, working a great deal in stage theatre. This will likely give an exciting edge to the Mascagni and Wolf-Ferrari. He has worked extensively with The Nora Theatre Company (Artistic Director) and the Lyric Stage Company of Boston. These potent and well-crafted collaborations have the potential to truly inspire.
Odyssey Opera brings a new face to the basic organizational body of Opera Boston. Though, now is is riding with a slightly leaner production style and a broader outlook on its programming. Its mission is to “affirm opera as a powerful expression of the human experience” and will do this through adventurous and eclectic programming. Well, if you know anything about the former manifestation it’s pretty much the same; however, the idea of resurrection is a powerful one.
In the current economy, with the occasional downright collapse of many opera companies, orchestras, and other major music institutions one must ask (society has regardless), “What is the relevance of classical music today?” More specifically, “How can opera speak to us today?” Of course, these are rather broad and seemingly elementary questions but they arguably get at the core of what every discipline should ask, that is, “What is our purpose and mission?” And like Odyssey Opera, it is a wise move for all classical organizations now to fashion themselves as vehicles for the “human experience.” The Nobel Prize winning American novelist John Steinbeck would argue that it is our duty as artists (though, he specifies writers) for our art to speak on behalf of the people and for the greater good. Odyssey Opera has created the potential to do just that.
Three comedies, performed in June, the plots all about arranged marriages, identity confusion, and rich folks, performed by a resurrected opera company: How can these operas touch us? How can we relate? There are a few key words here: June, Resurrection, Identity, and Comedy. This translates to something like, “It is summer and with the continued political crises around the world, economic hardship, a vision of an unknown future, and personal stress at a tipping point, I think it is about time for a triumphant resurrection story and a good hearty laugh!” But if we want to relate these operas to ourselves more closely, we have all concealed something at sometime or another, something as small as a trivial secret or as large as our true self-actualization. So with this said, you should tickle your curiosity, come and watch as Gil Rose, Joshua Major, Daniel Gidron and the performers of Odyssey Opera unveil and conceal secrets in these humorous and underperformed operas!