Miami Lyric Opera offers a pleasurable “L’Amico Fritz”
While Pietro Mascagni achieved his greatest success with his very first opera, the violent and impassioned Cavalleria Rusticana, his second opera L’Amico Fritz, composed in 1891, was also highly acclaimed in its day. That score continues to hold the stage in Italy but has largely disappeared from the international operatic repertoire. Miami Lyric Opera, which presented the opera in 2011, revived their production Saturday night at Miami Beach’s Colony Theater.
Unlike the bloody milieu of Cavalleria, L’Amico Fritz is a warm-hearted tale of a rich landowner who disdains marriage but is attracted to the daughter of one of his tenants. A wily, kind-hearted rabbi is the matchmaker who brings them together for a happily-ever-after ending. Conceived in three brief acts, the score is a fount of inspired melody. The opera features beautiful arias and duets for tenor and soprano, and is stylistically closer to the romantic lyricism of Puccini than the combustible verismo of Mascagni’s one-act Cavelleria (and its double-bill twin Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci).
The famous “Cherry Duet” has taken on a life of its own as a concert staple. Mascagni’s orchestral and choral writing frame the alternately lyrical, martial and bucolic score. The pastoral offstage chorus at the opening of Act II returning at the act’s conclusion to mirror the heroine’s sadness is a particular masterstroke.
Credit MLO artistic director Raffaele Cardone with championing this lovely work and staging a simple but effective production. Set designer Carlos Arditti provides lovely tableaux that match the sweetness of the music. Jeffrey Eckstein conducted a lively performance, drawing robust playing from the much-improved orchestra. The flowing melodic line and plush string tone in the pulsating Intermezzo was one of the evening’s highlights.
In the title role, Emanuel Cristian-Caraman disaplayed a well-schooled lyric tenor that scaled the opera’s peaks impressively. An old fashioned stand-and-deliver singer, the Romanian-born singer took some time to warm up, sounding slightly dry initially. Once his voice opened up, he brought passionate lyricism to Fritz’s melodic outbursts. His aria of despair at losing his beloved Suzel was imbued with real vocal drama, Cristian-Caraman’s high notes ringing through the house.
Nathalie Avila was a glamorous Suzel, commanding the stage with a sumptuous lyric soprano. Her sizable, rich timbre gleamed in duet with Cristian-Caraman. She vividly traced the heroine’s journey from youthful naiveté to heartbreak and loving devotion. Avila displayed emotional fervor in recounting the Biblical tale of Rebecca, imbuing the text with multihued coloration. The couple’s final love duet soared in passionate, Italianate tones.
Daniel Snodgrass was an appropriately wise and cagey Rabbi David, his sonorous voice finely modulated and nuanced. Emilia Acon proved a scene-stealer in the trousers role of the gypsy Beppe. Her warm, evenly produced mezzo voice and strong theatricality suggest a future Carmen. Daisy Su, Jesse Vargas and Gabriel Menendez made fine contributions in supporting roles.
Miami Lyric Opera will reprise L’Amico Fritz in July at downtown Miami’s Gusman Center Olympia Theater. Opera lovers should not miss this opportunity to hear this appealing work from the byways of Italian opera.
Miami Lyric Opera repeats L’Amico Fritz 4 p.m. Sunday at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach and 4 p.m. July 12 and 13 at the Gusman Center Olympia Theater in Miami. 305-673-7311; miamilyricopera.org.
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Sun Mar 16, 2014
at 1:15 pm