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About October 14, 2008 performance of Cav/Pag:
“The operas were simply wonderful!  We thought the singers and the orchestra were especially good.  Everyone seemed to enjoy!  You do a wonderful, wonderful job.  Both you and Giorgio are to be applauded for all your efforts.  If it were not for your group, staged opera just could not happen in a community like ours.  You truly give our audience a taste of what opera is all about. 
Thank you! “
Mary Ann Smith
Rockford Coronado Concerts

Teatro Lirico D'Europa electrifies with two operas at Touhill
By: Brian Kennedy
Posted: 10/27/08

“The European opera touring company, Teatro Lirico d'Europa, made a smashing performance at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on Wednesday, Oct. 15, at 7:30 p.m. The double-bill featured two classic operas: "Cavalleria Rusticana" and "I Pagliacci."
The operas were written in the late 1890s by, respectively, Ruggiero Leoncavallo and Pietro Mascagni, who wrote the music and lyrics. They were based on a real newspaper crime report in 1882 Milan. The two operas are not connected in any way but this: revenge runs through them like a knife. Cavalleria Rusticana is a straightforward tale of vengeance, encompassing a jealous young man, Turiddu, leaving his lover, Santuzza, for an old flame, Lola, who is now married. The distraught Santuzza, in a rage of anger, confesses to the married woman's husband, Alfio, that his wife is unfaithful. Alfio challenges Turiddu, and the young man is killed.

The opera opens with Turiddu pining for Lola from offstage. The part is played by Mexican-American tenor, Gabriel Gonzalez. His voice complimented the deep Verdi bass of Theodore Lambrinos, who played Alfio. Renowned the world over for his stage presence and interpretation of characters, Lambrinos' voice evoked deep rumbles in the heart.

Santuzza was sung by Russian soprano Olga Chernisheva. In her third tour with Teatro Lirico, and with a number of other international performances on her resume, she takes the spotlight with lilting tones that soften even the harshest moments of the opera.

The high points include the famous Intermezzo, where a famous arrangement of the hymn, "Ave Maria," had its origins. The Sofia Symphony Orchestra made the music fold into a tearfully slow moment framing the rising action, with the audience's nerves tensed to break, in an amber-brilliant quality. If a word so misused as transforming could find an appropriate use, it would be to describe that moment.

Teatro Lirico's founder, Giorgio Lalov, designed and gathered most of the set pieces and costumes in Bulgaria, where the troupe originated. The modest design included a Mediterranean cityscape, recalling the opera's Italian origins. Detailed construction revealed subtle lighting along the arches of the church, and wood tables and boxes that were moved by the characters themselves during the performance. The costumes also kept with the classic Italian theme, and together they made for a very convincing transport to the end of the 18th century.

After a twenty-minute intermission, Teatro Lirico launched into its second feature, I Pagliacci. The story of a comic opera within a serious tale of spurned love, jealous hatred, bitter pain, and violent retribution seemed to be the stronger of the two performances. Theodore Lambrinos returned in baritone majesty as the jealous Tonio, who betrays the unfaithful Nedda, played by Romanian soprano, Christin Molnar, to her husband and comic theater troupe leader Canio, a role sung by Romanian tenor, Viorel Saplacan. The remaining company supported these three main roles well, and the spotlight stays on them through the duration. Molnar’s soprano tones were playful and light, moving the feeling along pleasantly. However, she was outshone by the thrusting presence of Lambrinos. Although his role was minor, his every note seemed to overshadow the soprano's position in the melody. Saplacan was born for this role. When Canio played the heartbroken clown, he supremely sang the despairing tirade sometimes called the "quintessential tenor lament."

One could not help but feel the pain lance in vibrations that reverberated across the row seats - a wave formation, from the tips of one's feet up to the top of the head.

A second surprise came in the electric ending. Canio, unable to bear the mask of theatrical performance, burst from his role and murdered Nedda and Silvio. As the villagers stood horrified and the audience sat in stunned silence, Tonio's bass voice announces "the comedy is over."The curtain rushed to meet the stage. The chill of shock flattened. Applause followed as the artists took their bows, followed by three curtain calls. The eruptions of fury, pain, and rage made these operas a treasure of humanity, and a picture of emotion in music. Teatro Lirico d'Europa performed magnificently, and the orchestral complement was seamless in its delivery.”
                 © Copyright 2008 The Current – St. Louis, MO

A Night at the Opera in Cerritos- By Glen Creason – November 2008
“Teatro Lirico D’Europa visited the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts over the weekend and gave local opera-philes a chance to luxuriate in some classic Italian performances of two nineteenth century short operas. “Cavalleria Rusticana” and “Pagliaccci” were the pair, sung in one and two acts that did not lack in drama or memorable arias. The Teatro is in its eighth year of bringing culture outside the big opera halls of Europe and the Cerritos faithful seemed hungry for the opportunity to hear these old favorites live. Teatro Lirico brought a cast that was very good throughout the evening. It is a international group with singers coming from all over the globe. Of course, Opera is the high art form with the plots that seem straight out of a Mexican telenovela but when the focus is on the majestic singing you tend to accept the bloody conclusions to these twisted tales along with the rest of the merriment. Both operas feature tragedy brought on by infidelity and the wages of that sin paid in terrible destruction. In “Cavalleria Rusticana” it is the straying Turiddu who leaves his loyal Santuzza for thecharms of the restless and rather irresistible Lola. The object of these affections is unfaithful to the feckless husband Alfio and it turns out badly despite some rather grand singing and drinking of wine. Olga Chernisheva carries the piece in her role as Santuzza, singing the heart-wrenching “Voi lo sapete” and “Tu qui, Santuzza?” The smitten Turiddu refuses to be swayed and the powerful tenor Viorel Saplacan was outstanding in “Mama, quel vino” which is both a drinking song and farewell. Alfio played by the most active singer of the night, baritone Theodore Lambrinos, was both sympathetic and deserving of admiration. However, it is opera and the conclusion does not turn out well for the womanizer who pays for his transgressions in blood.

The familiar “Pagliacci” was more on the sad lessons of the breaking of vows and ensuing breaking of hearts leading to the spilling of blood. Theodore Lambrinos was back, this time as the evil Tonio, the disfigured clown who when rebuffed by the beautiful Nedda exposes her affair with another to her husband Canio. Nedda, played here by Christina Molnar was perfect in the role and her singing of “Stridono Lassu” was as sweet as the birds she described. There is the terrible moment in the show when the cuckholded husband faces the truth that his wife is unfaithful and his agony pours out in the aria “Vesti La Giubba” sung by Gabriel Gonzalez on this night with a conviction and passion that brought tears to many in the audience. To flush out the lover of his Nedda, Canio puts on a comedy based on true life. In his clown makeup he tries to get her to reveal the name of Silvio who rushes to her side too late after the spurned husband has stabbed her. If nothing else, this evening was a great example of the value of marriage counseling in such situations.”

Review of Cavelleria Rusticana/I Pagliacci by Mark Northcross
San Rafael, CA – Oct. 2008  - MARIN INDEPENDENT JOURNAL  
“Last Thursday, October 30th, we got to see what Marin's only opera company, the Golden Gate Opera (GGO), could do after a two year performance drought. Drawing on the artistic prowess of a traveling opera company, TEATRO LIRICO D’EUROPA, GGO gave us a very credible and moving performance of two one act stand-bys of the opera repertoire, Cavalleria  Rusticana (rustic chivalry) by Pietro Mascagni and I Pagliacci (the clowns) by Ruggiero Leoncavallo.  

GGO's general manager, Roberta Wain-Becker struck gold in finding this company. Tetatro Lirico D’Europa comprises powerful and dramatic singers from throughout eastern Europe, as well as the Sofia Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. We were also gifted with stunning performances in both works by transplanted local talent in the form of soprano Olga Chernisheva. Both Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacco are part of what is called the "verismo" (Reality) genre of Italian opera. Verismo operas are that art form's equivalent of TV reality shows. Real people living real dramas. "Cav and Pag", as they are known to opera fans, are about the reality of love, infidelity, jealousy and ultimately, heartbreak. The evening began with "Cav". Mascagni's opera is about a rejected woman, Santuzza, and her former lover, Turiddu, now infatuated with the belle of Santuzza's village. Mascagni composed one of the most searing expressions in the opera repertoire for life as a wronged woman, known as "Voi lo sapete, o mamma" (you know it, mamma). Recorded by just about every famous soprano of the last 90 years, Olga Chernisheva's rendition Wednesday night moved me as much as any recording I have heard. Opera fans not only love beautiful singing; they love those singers who have the special gift of being able to transmit deeply intense emotion through their voices.  Mascagni wrote very powerful music for that acute moment when a spurned woman finally gets her one-on-one moment with her oversexed former boyfriend. Turridu was sung by Mexican tenor Gabriel Gonzalez with a wonderful combination of power, authority and beauty. I only wish that my own moments with jilted former lovers had been as heartfelt and truthful as Santuzza and Turridu's dueling arias are in "Cav". Turridu gets murdered at the end of the opera. His murderer, the village belle's husband, was sung by Greek American baritone, Theodore Lambrinos. Again, we were very lucky to get have such a strong and skilled performer bring this role to life.  

After the intermission, we were treated to a very competent performance of "Pag". The big aria in this opera is "Vesti la giubba" (on with the play).  Another jilted lover, this time a tenor, sings about his heartbreak before he goes on stage to play his role as a clown. Our heartbroken clown, Canio, was sung by Romanian tenor Viorel Saplacan. In "Vesti la giubba" Leoncavallo gave us an exquisite aria about the acutely human paradox of going on with our jobs in the world while feeling utterly devastated in our hearts. Saplican transmitted to us true understanding of that paradox through his singing. Moments like that are what we go to the opera for. Both Olga Chernisheva and Theodore Lambrinos were recycled into new roles in "Pag". This time Chernisheva got to play Nedda, and Lambrinos played another clown, Tonio, who vengefully sets up the tragedy between Canio and Nedda. The Nedda role requires a challenging combination of lyric soprano lightness with full on dramatic soprano intensity. Chernisheva gave us both. Lambrinos is a wonderful singing actor, performing the role of Tonio as well as I have seen anyone do it. Russian baritone, Plamen Dimitrov, sang Nedda’s new lover Silvio, movingly. It is sad that GGO was only able to mount one performance of this "Cav" and "Pag". We were given powerful and compelling performances by skilled singers in classics of musical theater. Let us hope that Golden Gate Opera can continue to bring us gifts like Thursday's performances of  "Cav and Pag".

Mesmerizing Propulsion
Teatro Lirico D’Europa’s Cavalleria Rusticana/I Pagliacci
Touhill Perf. Arts Center, St. Louis, MO – October 2008

“Cavalleria Rusticana” tells a story of love, hate and betrayal. During the sun-drenched afternoon of a Sicilian Easter, a woman has discovered a body. The opera pulls no punches in telling the story of the love, passion, rejection and betrayal that led up to the killing. On 15 October 2008, the Touhill Performing Arts Center of the University of Missouri at Saint Louis presented the verismo double bill of Pietro Mascagni's “Cavalleria Rusticana” and Ruggiero Leoncavallo's equally down-to-earth “I Pagliacci” as performed in a new production by the renowned touring company, Teatro Lirico d'Europa. These two operas make a perfect combination. Both works date from a period when enhanced realism was the ruling literary style. Mascagni took his story from Giovanni Verga's 1883 dramatization of his novella about love and death in a Sicilian village. Two of the composer's friends, Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci, wrote the libretto. The piece won a competition sponsored by the publishing house of Sanzogno, and its première on 17 May 1890 at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome was a rousing success. Leoncavallo said the story of his opera came from the account of a court case that his father, a judge, had once tried. It may have started there, but the composer, who wrote his own libretto, is thought to have also borrowed aspects of the story from a French play by Catulle Mendès “La Femme de Tabarin.” There are several similarities and the composer was living in Paris when it was performed there. Stage Director Giorgio Lalov brought out all the passionate expression of the lovers embroiled in the stories of these engrossing operas. Olga Chernisheva was a lovely but troubled Santuzza who simply could not control her obsession with Turiddu, even though she knew he was no longer in love with her. She used the many colours in her opulent voice to express her love for the village playboy and to describe her despair when she realizes he will never care for her again. She has the clear ringing high notes as well as the emotion-filled chest tones that this role calls for and she used them with artistic eloquence. Turiddu had been in love with Lola before her marriage to the wealthy Alfio. He courted Santuzza on the rebound, but lately Lola wanted him back again whenever her husband traveled on business. As Turiddu, Gabriel Gonzalez began as a devil-may-care youth but evolved into a man who eventually realized that his thoughtless actions could result in fatal consequences. His angry duet with Santuzza was a gripping ride on an emotional roller-coaster. Both singers are masters in creating vocal passion and their close harmonies were delectable. Svetomira Gitsova was a dutiful Mamma Lucia who seemed used to tying up the loose ends of Turiddu's untidy life. As Lola, Alfio's unfaithful wife, Snejana Dramcheva was a charming village temptress with an enticing smile and a lustrous sound. One wonders if her feminine wiles were able to turn away Alfio's wrath after he finished with Turiddu. Baritone Theodore Lambrinos was a rough and ready Alfio with a huge resonant voice. He commanded the stage and left no doubt that he expected total obedience from his new young wife. Much of Mascagni's drama comes from his surging, iridescent score. Under the direction of Krassimir Topolov, the Teatro Lirico D'Europa orchestra expressed it with mesmerizing propulsion. The brass section was particularly evocative in its accompaniment of the characters' passion-filled moments. After the intermission, it was Tonio the Clown's turn to introduce us to Leoncavallo's “I Pagliacci” and to remind us that clowns are real people with breakable hearts. When Lambrinos again unleashed his large bronze-toned voice we knew we could expect another fine performance from the one leading performer to appear in both operas. Viorel Saplacan was a tall, muscular Canio who guarded his young and supple wife, Nedda, with jealous rage. He sang with a strong voice that expressed his physical strength and his devastating emotional vulnerability. As Nedda, Christin Molnar was a graceful flirt who obviously longed to be as free as the birds flying overhead. She loathed the unattractive Tonio and let him know it in no uncertain terms. At the same time, she sang with silvery soprano tones and her voice blended admirably with the virile tones of Plamen Dimitrov as Silvio.  Georgi Dinev helped convey the bite of the drama as Beppe but, in the long run, it was the emotionally intense Tonio who fomented the action, and it was he who announced 'The comedy is finished', when the tragedy was complete. As with the first half of this double bill, the orchestra and chorus brought both composers' intentions to life and gave a sizzling account of these verismo pieces. This excellent performance at the Touhill Performing Arts Center was rewarded with a standing ovation.”

“Good morning Jenny,
The operas went really well this weekend. I heard lots of “bravo’s” and loud clapping with hollers of approval. One gentleman came to the box office to personally say thank you and say he has seen opera for 50 years and this was the best presentation of Cav/Pag he’d ever seen. All in all, the patrons seemed to really enjoy the weekend.”
Christina Harrington
Assistant Theatre Manager
Cutler Majestic Theatre, Boston

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