The Toledo Opera’s season-ending production of Pietro Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana” promises passion, jealousy, betrayal and revenge, along with appealing music made all the more recognizable thanks to its starring role in “The Godfather: Part III.” The result is a riveting tale about ordinary people caught up in a love triangle gone wrong.
“Cavalleria Rusticana,” which means “rustic chivalry” in English, takes place in a Sicilian village circa 1890. It tells the story of the peasant girl Santuzza, who is in love with Turiddu, the father of her child. Turiddu, however, pines for his beloved Lola, who is married to the wine carter Alfio. Consumed by jealousy over Turiddu’s love for Lola, Santuzza tells Alfio of the pair’s infidelity, which has deadly consequences for Turiddu.
Amy Johnson, who has performed with the Prague National Theater and Indianapolis, Arizona and Portland operas, will play the role of Santuzza. Richard Crawley will star as Turiddu. He has appeared with the San Francisco Opera, Florida Grand Opera and Opera Colorado.
“What’s special about this opera is that it deals with the lives of ordinary people like you and me who live in a small town and who sometimes get caught up in intrigues with their neighbors,” said Renay Conlin, general and artistic director of the Toledo Opera. “It deals with very basic but real human emotions. This situation is something that could happen to almost anyone, anywhere. These are just your everyday working people going about their daily lives, when something extraordinary happens that shouldn’t have happened — somebody falls in love with somebody’s wife — and wow, all heck breaks loose.”
The portrayal of everyday folks makes “Cavalleria Rusticana” a popular opera, said James Marvel, who is directing the Toledo Opera production. Performances will take place at the Valentine Theatre at 7:30 p.m. May 2 and 3 and 2 p.m. May 4.
“It’s one of the operas classified in the verismo category, which actually means realism,” he said. “This is not an opera in which there are kings and queens, and perhaps some figures the average person can’t necessarily relate to. These are townsfolk and field workers.”
The opera’s beautiful and passionate music has been a perfect complement to movies such as “Raging Bull” and “The Godfather: Part III,” said Thomas Conlin, conductor.
“I think anyone who goes to the movies and sees this opera will recognize some of the music because it was used pretty much as a soundtrack for ‘The Godfather: Part III,’ “which also has a plot that, in some ways, parallels this opera,” he noted.
In the “Godfather” movie, Michael Corleone’s son, Anthony, is an opera singer, and the family travels to Palermo to see him perform the role of Turiddu. While revenge is being exacted on stage, the Corleone family’s enemies are being brutally murdered outside the opera house.
The opera’s short length of an hour and a half, coupled with its romantic and violent overtones, will resonate with the audience, Conlin said. “It’s short and has an immediate appeal and will suck you right in.”
For those who have never attended an opera, this one comes highly recommended from Marvel. “If you come to ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’ as your first opera, you’ll be hooked for life,” he said. “I’ve worked with two of the performers before, and they’re magnificent and wonderful. And based on what we heard at our first music rehearsal, it’s going to be outstanding.”
Ticket prices for “Cavalleria Rusticana” begin at $29. The opera will be sung in Italian with English translations projected above the stage.
Each performance will be preceded by a free, informal chat that will provide background information on the opera. Following each performance, the audience is invited to attend “Festa Italiana,” an Italian dessert reception that gives opera fans the opportunity to socialize with each other and with the performers.
To purchase tickets, visit the Web site www.toledoopera.org or call (419) 255-7464.