By Jean Strauber, Entertainment Editor
The Two Foscari
What an evening! My friend and fellow opera lover Blossom Shores and I had the privilege of enjoying this early and less familiar work of Giuseppe Verdi, which opened at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on September 15.. As the Los Angeles Times critics Mark Swed so well put it, “there is no justice in the world. And parents can’t do a damn thing about it.” Written shortly after the death of Verdi’s wife and two infant children, “The Two Foscari” combines two of Verdi’s recurring themes: the abuse of political power and the bond between father and child.
Taken from a historical play by Lord Byron, you have the libretto of the 15th century Doge of Venice, Francesco Foscari, attempting to hang on to power at the age of 84. His son was accused of murder based on falsified evidence. Francisco puts the law above his love for his son and the ruling Council of Ten exiles Joseph, Foscari’s son. Sent into exile, Joseph dies and evidence is discovered which proves his innocence. Francesco is voted out as Doge and dies of a broken heart.
Placido Domingo is powerful as the elder Foscari in his 140th role. In Act III, Scene 2, his final aria Quel bronzo feral (What fatal knell) produced sustained applause. Francesco Meli as Jacopo Foscari, the Doge’s son, performed more than adequately. But, it is in Act 2 while Jacopo is in prison, that Meli excels in the aria Non maledirmi o prode (Mighty warrior, do not curse me). However, it is Marina Poplavaskaya who shines in her role as Jacopo’s wife. In her arias, whether a solo, a duet, or a trio she is outstanding. She is well on her way to becoming a major star of the opera world. Ievgen Orlov does well as the villain Jacopo Loredano and was appropriately booed as Orlov took his first bow in the curtain call, but the
n was appropriately applauded for his fine performance. The staging is rather unique especially (as in Act 1, Scene 1) with prisoners enclosed in hanging cages or an “angel” flying over the people of Venice scattering gold during the Act III, Scene 1. I found that Verdi’s music in this opera appeared “light and lyrical” but there were glimpses of what was to come in his later masterpieces. Conductor James Conlon was his usual efficient self and kept things on even keel. Blossom and I agreed that it was another wonderful evening provided by the LA Opera Company. “The Two Foscari” is being presented at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in the Los Angeles County Music Center, 135 No. Grand Avenue in Los Angeles on September 29 and October 7 and 9. Tickets range from $20-$298. For reservations or more information call (213) 972- 8001 or go to laopera.com.
Also being performed at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is a dazzling, highly theatrical production new to Angelenos. Opened on Saturday on September 22, the internationally acclaimed Italian bass-baritone Ildebrando D’Arcangelo stars in the title role, Don Giovanni, the legendary Don Juan whose numerous attempted and successful seductions lead him down a fateful path to divine retribution. Mr. d’Arcangelo has performed this signature role with prestigious opera houses in Vienna, Berlin, Geneva, Verona and Milan to name a few.
The cast also includes American sopranos Julianna Di Giacomo and Angela Meade, both making their Company debuts as Donna Anna; Finnish soprano Soile Isokoski as Donna Elvira; Russian tenor Andrei Dunaev in his LA Opera debut as Don Ottavio; Serbian bass David Bizic in his LA Opera debut as Leporello; Romanian mezzo-sorpano Roxana Constantinescu returning as Zerlina, a role she shares with American soprano Micaela Oeste; Australian bass Joshua Bloom in his Company debut as Masetto; and Ukranian bass Ievgen Orlov (Loredano in “The Two Foscari” 2012) as the Commendatore. Director Peter Stein’s psychologically penetrating production of Don Giovanni was first seen in Chicago in 2004 and will be staged in Los Angeles by Gregory A. Fortner, who made his 2012 LA Opera debut directing “La Boheme.” Visit www.laopera.com for the performance schedule. Tickets begin at $19 and can be purchased in person at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion box office, by telephone at (213) 972-8001 or online.
Poetry Open Mic
Poets and would-be poets are welcome to the Encino- Tarzana Branch Library (18231 Ventura Boulevard) on Saturday, September 29 from 2:00 to 4:30 p.m. The public is invited to bring some of their poems or a work by a favorite poet to read and share. For those who sign up (beginning at 1:30 p.m.) you’ll have six minutes to perform. Featured poet of the month is Joe Camhi. Camhi, born in Brooklyn, NY raised in Long Island, has published poetry and fiction in various magazines and websites. He is also a teacher of English, literature and creative writing at the College of the Canyons and Los Angeles Mission College.