Miami Lyric Opera delivers impassioned double bill of “Cav” and “Suor”

By David Fleshler

The scrappy, low-budget Miami Lyric Opera presented two works Thursday in performances that for sheer operatic power blew away many glossier productions.

At the Colony Theater in Miami Beach, the five-year-old company put on Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Puccini’s Suor Angelica, two direct, straight-to-the-heart works that played to its strengths.

 Despite the small orchestra and stark sets, there was something strangely appealing about these simple productions. The intimacy of the 440-seat theater seemed to discourage the sort of silent-film overacting that often occurs on the opera stage. And the absence of lavish sets and obtrusive stage directions allowed the focus to remain firmly on the first-rate singing and acting.

 It is clear that the company’s founder and artistic director, the retired tenor Raffaele Cardone, places a premium on attracting excellent singers. Of these the most impressive was the tenor Francesco Valpa, a West Palm Beach singer who tackled the role of Turiddu in Mascagni’s tale of jealousy and death in a Sicilian village. Although performing under the formidable burden of a wig that looked like a black shellacked muskrat, he had a big, intense, tightly focused voice that would command respect in any opera house, and a dramatic fire that dominated the production.

 Equaling him in passion and almost in vocal glitter was the soprano Veronica Murua, whose lyric soprano and subtle acting made an affecting Santuzza. Less successful was the baritone Kevin Misslich as Alfio, whose voice lost strength in the upper register and who lacked the brutal swagger called for by the role.

 The company’s low budget was clear in the tiny orchestra, which had just six violins. Intonation was often poor, wrong notes frequent. And the harp got lost trying to follow Valpa in the opening O lola ch’ai di latti la cammisa. But conductor Jeff Eckstein made the most of what he had, often coaxing a surprisingly warm sound from the 23-piece ensemble.

 Traditionally, opera companies pair the Mascagni work with Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, creating a double-bill of homicidal Sicilian passion. But in place of an angry clown, the Miami group offered the gentle nun Suor Angelica, forced into a convent by her family after the illegitimate birth of her son. Heartbroken at learning of his death, she takes poison, then realizing she has committed a mortal sin, pleads with the Virgin Mary for a sign of forgiveness.

 Performing on an effectively grim, gloomily lit set of grays and blacks, the soprano Daniella Carvalho brought a superb, creamy voice and heartfelt acting to the role, portraying the nun’s grief and love for her son. With Carvalho at stage center singing her farewell to her son, the last ten minutes of the opera were deeply moving. Emilia Acon was appropriately distant and aristocratic as Angelica’s wealthy aunt, despite looking about 35 years too young. Joyce Wong stood out with her sweetly sung portrayal of Suor Genovieffa.

 You’ll find more lavish sets and bigger orchestras in other performances of these works, but dollar-for-dollar you probably won’t find more opera.

 The program repeats Saturday at 8 p.m. Call 305-674-1040 or go to

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Miami Lyric Opera delivers impassioned double bill of “Cav” and “Suor””

  1. Posted May 29, 2009 at 11:09 pm by veronica murua

    Thanks a lot for your kind review. I truly appreciate your comments about my performance.
    Truly yours,
    Veronica Murua

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Fri May 29, 2009
at 12:24 pm
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