The New York City Opera’s April offering, at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater, was a revival of composer Italo Montemezzi and librettist, novelist, and playwright Sem Benelli’s rarely-heard “L’Amore dei tre re,” in General Director and, here, Stage Director Michael Capasso’s production, updated from Italy in the Middle Ages to 1940s Italy, with scant violence to the spirit of the original. Four performances were scheduled, from April 12 to 15, and the first is considered in this review.
Bass Philip Cokorinos starred as a larger-than-life, sightless patriarch Baron Archibaldo, rhapsodizing resonantly about his beloved Italy, in “Italia! Italia … é tutto il mio ricordo!,” his first act aria, and meting out justice, recklessly and violently, within his castle walls.
As the deposed Princess and Prince of Altura, the Italian locale that Archibaldo had conquered, soprano Daria Masiero, as his reluctant daughter-in-law Fiora, and tenor Raffaele Abete, as Avito, her former betrothed and her lover while her husband was at battle, displayed striking lirico-spinto instruments, with strong high ranges, as they sang their impassioned duets. Masiero’s Fiora responded with reserve and coldness, in contrast, to sturdy baritone Joo Won Kang’s romantic outpouring, as her spouse and Archibaldo’s son, Manfredo, and boldly and defiantly confronted Cokorinos’ Archibaldo in their fateful second act exchange.
Tenor Alex Richardson, as Flaminio, Archibaldo’s guide, but Fiora and Avito’s loyal ally, and Sharmay Musacchio, Ashley Bell, Thomas Massey, Sishel Claverie, and Daria Capasso, in other roles, offered effective support.
Pacien Mazzagatti led the Romantic score, punctuated by martial fanfares akin to those in Giuseppe Verdi’s “Otello,” with feeling. David Gordon’s castle sets, designed for the Sarasota Opera and painted by SRO Associates of San Antonio, were as literal and picturesque as Eugene Berman’s for Verdi’s “Rigoletto” and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” for the old Metropolitan Opera House, in the 1950s. Fiora’s funeral scene, in the crypt, with mourners arrayed around the stage, looked truly spectacular and received deserved applause when unveiled. Janet O’Neill’s costumes were inspired by film noir, in keeping with the concept. Kang’s Manfredo wore a full, mid-20th century military dress uniform, and Abete’s Avito, when disguised, and Richardson’s Flaminio wore military jackets. Fiora, Avito, and Flaminio all smoked cigarettes.
Cokorinos’ vengeful Archibaldo strangled Masiero’s Fiora with the very scarf that Kang’s Manfredo had given to her to wave in farewell to him. Abete’s Avito and, subsequently and ironically, Manfredo died, as indicated, from kissing the lips of the dead Fiora, to which Archibaldo had applied poison, in his attempt to entrap her lover, whom he had not, of course, seen, but the final kiss she received came, in a surprise turn, from Archibaldo himself, joining the others in death. Giuseppe Varano was slated to spell Abete as Avito in some hearings.
New York City Opera’s next endeavor is the American premiere of composer Charles Wuorinen and novelist and librettist Annie Proulx’s “Brokeback Mountain,” from May 31 to June 4. Visit www.nycopera.com
for more information.