If you want to see live opera in the DC area in December, the choice is obvious; in fact, there is only one option. It’s Bel Cantanti Opera. They will be presenting Puccini’s Suor Angelica Dec 3-17. The ambitious 2016-2017 season schedule for Bel Cantanti Opera is listed below; the first entry is already past:
Sept 11-18: Medium by Gian Carlo Menotti; The Unicorn, the Gordon, and the Manticore by Gian Carlo Menotti
Dec 3-17: Suor Angelica by Giacomo Puccini; Puccini's Heroines from Le Villi to Turandot
Jan 29-Feb 5: Mozart and Salieri by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; Le Voix Humaine by Francis Poulenc
March 3-12: The Tales of Hoffman by Jacques Offenbach
May 6-14: Le Villi by Giacomo Puccini; Zanetto by Pietro Mascagni
Opera Bel Cantanti’s existence and success rests squarely on the shoulders of its Founder, and General and Artistic Director, Katerina Souvorova. Ms. Souvorova, a native of Belarus and an accomplished pianist, came to the United States in 1996, moving to the DC area in 2001 where she worked on the faculty at George Mason University, serving as a vocal coach. She is currently working as a vocal coach for Catholic University. She founded Opera Bel Cantanti in 2003. Her commitment and ability to sustain this enterprise is truly impressive. Operas produced by Bel Cantanti employ local professional singers and pre-professional singers in training. Their goal is “to provide an affordable and viable option for singers and audiences alike to experience the magic of high quality opera.” This troupe has drawn praise for many of its productions in local publications, including the Washington Post, which is especially impressive given that this opera company operates on a shoe string budget. Reviews for many of their performances can be found on their website, although I have been unable to locate a review for their first offering for this season. Bel Cantanti uses several small venues around the DC area, mainly in suburban Maryland.
Their December offering is labeled as a “Tribute to G. Puccini” and combines a short opera by Puccini and a program of arias by Puccini written for the heroines in his operas. This sounds to me like a pleasing choice for the holiday season. There is no additional information as yet about the portion of the program that will be Puccini’s Heroines from Le Villi to Turandot (in other words, from Puccini’s first opera to his last). On the other hand, Suor Angelica is a well-known, opera by Puccini. It is a one act opera that is part of an opera triology by Puccini, that is typically performed together by major opera companies as Il Trittico. The plot for Suor Angelica is a little Hitchcockian; it starts slow and relatively uneventful, builds suspense, and then throws a couple of plot surprises at the end. I won’t spoil the ending for those who like to be surprised, but bring your handkerchiefs. The holiday season, live opera, Puccini, quality performers, inexpensive – what’s not to like?
There are three productions planned for the first half of 2017 that cover three one-act operas, a two-act opera-ballet, and one member of the standard repertoire. It includes formidable composers, including Rimsky-Korsakov, Poulenc, Offenbach, Puccini, and Mascagni, and works that, with the exception of Tales are not oft performed. It includes an early treatment of the conflict which was latter made famous by the movie, “Amadeus” (Mozart and Salieri); an opera with the telephone as a central character (Le Voix Humaine); an opera with a muse, incarnations of evil, and three lost loves (The Tales of Hoffman); an opera with a siren, fairies, and a ghost (Le Villi); and an opera about love not realized (Zanetto). And it includes a collaboration with The Olney Ballet Theater for Le Villi. I must say that I am impressed and excited by the audacity of Bel Cantanti’s season. Nonetheless, this formidable undertaking offers a chance to broaden and deepen our personal opera repertoires.
Tickets are available through eventbrite.com. Prices are $40 for adults, $35 for seniors, $15 for students, and $30 per ticket for groups of ten or more. The “Tribute To Puccini” is being held in the Theater of Concord, St. Andrews United Methodist Church, Bethesda, MD, located on Goldsboro Road at the intersection with River Road. English supertitles are provided.