January 19-25, 2006
As the Opera Company takes fiscal refuge in well-known titles (with the important exception of next month's co-sponsored new work, Margaret Garner), the local conservatories have been stepping up to the plate classily with productions of gourmet operatic fare long unheard here. This week AVA tackles two exciting short works: Jules Massenet's La Navarraise and Giacomo Puccini's Le villi. Massenet's tempestuous one-act, set in Spain's bloody Carlist wars, finds the passionate Anita desperate to marry her soldier beau Araquil despite his father's financially based opposition; the bargain she drives accidentally leads Araquil to seek death and she herself to lose her mindright up there onstage! Beginning with a virtual orchestral explosion, the ever-canny Massenet pours on the musical fireworks.
"Villi" are vengeful undead spirits (that's where the expression "getting the willies" comes from); Puccini's medieval-set plot concerns the betrayal of the virtuous Anna by her fiance Roberto (Stephen Costello, pictured) and howunlike in the ballet version of this universal folk tale in Giselleher ghost snares him in a dance of death. Puccini was a student in his mid-20s when he wrote Le villi (1884), but the romantic melodiousness that was to make La bohème and Tosca hits can definitely be previewed here. AVA offers triple leading casting under the worthy batons of Christofer Macatsoris (Massenet) and Richard A. Raub (Puccini).
La Navarraise and Le villi, Thu.-Fri., Jan. 19-20, 7:30 p.m., Perelman Theater, 300 S. Broad St.; Sat., Jan. 21, 7:30 p.m., Centennial Hall at the Haverford School, 450 Lancaster Ave., Haverford, Pa., $45-$80 ($25-$60 for students), 215-735-1685, www.avaopera.org.