More on the Operas
A street in Chinatown, San Francisco. Chinese New Year. A cock crows
at daybreak as the night’s gamblers and revelers return home while
others go to the temple. Cim-Fen (baritone), the proprietor of an opium
den, meets Hua-Qui (mezzo-soprano), the nurse to wealthy businessman
Hu-Tsin’s (bass-baritone) little son, Hu-Ci. Cim-Fen pretends to
be interested in her, but in reality is only using her to get to Ah-Joe
(soprano), the lovely niece of Hu-Tsin. Hua-Qui leaves as the learned
doctor, Uin-Sci (bass), the oracle of the title, meets Cim-Fen, predicting
an evil end for him. Uin-Sci’s son, San-Lui (tenor), appears beneath
Ah-Joe’s window and the two sing of their love as the sun rises
and the streets begin to fill with the populace bidding each other Happy
New Year and Good Luck. A fortune-teller appears, again predicting evil
tidings for Cim-Fen.
A medieval castle, at the foot of the Italian Alps. It is winter. Folco
(baritone) and his new wife, Giselda (soprano), have just finished dinner
as Folco nervously awaits the arrival of Rinaldo (tenor). Giselda questions
why he has sent for her former suitor. Folco informs her that Rinaldo
is bringing with him a sorcerer whom he hopes will be able to explain
what happened to him while hunting that day. Rinaldo and the sorcerer,
Salomone (bass), finally arrive and Folco explains how he had hunted
a wolf in the forest and after killing it, had looked up to see a white
deer which he also killed, but as the deer lay dying, he saw Giselda’s
face in the deer’s face, with sad eyes pleading for mercy. Salomone
advises Folco that it is pride, not love, that ties his to Giselda and
that he should return to find the deer and bring it back to the castle
as though it were his wife’s own body. Folco assures Salomone that
he does love Giselda and rushes out to find the deer.
This year we ask the question “What’s In Your Future?”—a question posed by two one-act operas featuring an oracle, a fortune-teller, and a sorcerer: Franco Leoni’s L’Oracolo (The Oracle) and Italo Montemezzi’s L’Incantesimo (The Magic Spell).
L’Oracolo premiered on June 28, 2005 at The Royal Opera Covent Garden where Franco Leoni was a conductor. The performance starred Antonio Scotti, Vanni-Marcoux, Pauline Donalda, and Charles Diamorès, conducted by André Messager and scored a great success. Ten years later, Antonio Scotti was responsible for bringing it to The Metropolitan Opera where it opened on February 4, 1915 with Adamo Didur, Lucrezia Bori, and Luca Botta conducted by Giorgio Polacco. Scotti’s interpretation of the opium den proprietor, Cim-Fen, was so popular that L’Oracolo was performed a total of 55 times over the next 17 years culminating in Scotti’s farewell performance in 1933.
L’Incantesimo was Montemezzi’s last work and was composed in Beverly Hills where Montemezzi, unable to return home, resided during the war. The opera premiered on NBC radio on October 9, 1943, conducted by the composer and starring the brilliant young soprano Vivian Della Chiesa, to whom our performance is dedicated. The staged première took place nine years later at the Arena in Verona on August 9, 1952.
Montemezzi, back in Italy after the war, actively participated in planning the production with Carla Gavazzi, Francesco Albanese, Enzo Mascherini and Giuseppe Modesti, conducted by Francesco Molinari Pradelli, with sets by Nicola Benois, but on May 15th, only a few months before the première, he died of a heart attack.
We are extremely grateful to our Advisory Director, Carlo Todeschi in Rovereto, Italy, and especially to the Fondazione Arena di Verona and in particular Daniela Greco, in charge of their archives, for making available to us the 1952 première program, photos, and newspaper clippings which we will be reprinting in our libretto program this year. We would also like to thank Ivano Zanoli of Legnago who so graciously made available to us many historic photographs of that production from his private collection.
So, What’s In Our Future? An exciting move to Avery Fisher Hall, an all-star cast of international artists and emerging young singers, and the revival of two great one-act operas long overdue for another hearing by New York audiences. On behalf of the directors of Teatro Grattacielo, we hope it will be in your future, too!