- Two Weddings -

Two Weddings (and a Funeral): Gianni Schicchi & Il campanello


Two delightful Italian one-act operas: Gianni Schicchi by Puccini & Il campanello by Donizetti

Donizetti’s Il campanello will be presented again as part of “Two Weddings & A Reunion” at the New Hamburg Live! Festival of the Arts on June 7, 2014!

Friday, March 15, 2013, 7:30 p.m.
Heliconian Hall, 35 Hazelton Ave., Toronto
Sung in Italian, with English translation

Photos: Il campanello

Photos: Gianni Schicchi

Cast and Creative Team

Music director: Michael Rose

Cast – Gianni Schicchi

Gianni Schicchi – James Levesque
Lauretta – Maureen Batt
Rinuccio – Ryan Allen
Zita – Catharin Carew
Ciesca – Erin Bardua
Nella – Beth Hagerman
Betto – Jesse Clark
Marco – Fabian Arciniegas
Simone – Giovanni Spanu
Gherardo – Joseph Lévesque
Maestro Spinelloccio and Ser Amantio di Nicolao – Keith Lam
Gherardino – Taylor Van Binsbergen

Cast – Il campanello

Don Annibale Pistacchio – James Levesque
Enrico – Fabian Arciniegas
Serafina – Erin Bardua
Spiridione – Joseph Lévesque
Madama Rosa – Maureen Batt

Michael Rose

Music Director

Michael Rose, pianist, has worked with Edmonton Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Opera in Concert (Toronto), Opera Nuova, and The Banff Centre. In 1984, while still a student at the St. Louis Conservatory of Music, Michael was chosen by CBS Television as the pianist for their first excursion into classical music video. After studying abroad and winning prizes in several competitions, including the Rio de Janeiro Competition for Vocal Accompanists, he returned to Canada to join the faculty of the Alberta College Conservatory of Music in Edmonton.

Michael now lives in Toronto, where he is in demand as a performer and coach.

Recent engagements include Opera in Concert (Armida; Les Huguenots; The Devil and Kate; I puritani; Kamouraska; Il mondo della luna, Giulio Cesare), Toronto Operetta Theatre (Earnest, The Importance of Being; The Mikado; Iolanthe; Knickerbocker Holiday), and Summer Opera Lyric Theatre (Idomeneo; Vanessa; Falstaff; Venus and Adonis).

James Levesque

Gianni Schicchi; Don Annibale (Il campanello)

Baritone James Levesque – noted for his “expressive singing and acting abilities” (Opera Canada) – has performed on both sides of the Atlantic with such conductors as Harry Bicket, Richard Egarr, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, and Raffi Armenian. Recent roles and performances include: The title role in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin (Opera by Request); Count Perrucchetto in Haydn’s La fedeltà premiata (Opera in Concert); Mozart’s Requiem (Mississauga Choral Society/Pax Christi); Handel’s Messiah (Thunder Bay Symphony/MCS); Schubertiad (Aldeburgh Connection); Duruflé’s Requiem (Toronto Beach Chorale); Balthazar in Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors (Choralis Camerata); Achilla in Handel’s Giulio Cesare (OIC); Mark in Estacio’s Frobisher, and the title role on tour through the Canadian Arctic; Jacob in Burry’s Brothers Grimm and Old Andy in Allan Bell’s Turtle Wakes, all for Calgary Opera; and Marco in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi (Opera York). Other roles include Don Giovanni, Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro, Manuel in La Vida Breve, Sam in Trouble in Tahiti, and William Draper in the world premiere of Kulesha’s The Last Duel.

Fabian Arciniegas

Enrico (Il campanello); Marco (Gianni Schicchi)

Colombian baritone Fabian Arciniegas just completed his MMus in Opera Performance at the University of Toronto under the guidance of Patrick Raftery. He recently performed the role of Cascada in Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow with Toronto Operetta Theatre. With Essential Opera, he appeared as Le Duc in Massenet’s Chérubin. At the University of Toronto he sang Sulpice in Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment, Don Alfonso in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Le Directeur and Le Gendarme in Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tirésias, Il Marito in Menotti’s Amelia al Ballo and Leporello in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. He has also performed the role of Giorgio Germont in Verdi’s La Traviata with Summer Opera Lyric Theatre. In Colombia, he performed the roles of Count Almaviva in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, Guglielmo in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Figaro in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Malatesta in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale with the Orquesta Sinfonica del Valle and Orquesta Sinfonica de Colombia.

Maureen Batt

Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi); Madama Rosa (Il campanello)

Noted by Opera Canada as a “young, lovely and captivating soprano,” and by the Halifax Herald as having an “endlessly energetic and animated interpretation,” Maureen Batt is an accomplished concert and opera artist.

Selected opera credits include Die Freunde von Salamanka (Eusebia), La dame blanche (Jenny), Die Zauberflöte (Papagena), Don Giovanni (Zerlina), Così fan tutte (Despina), The Old Maid and the Thief (Laetitia), The Maid Mistress (Serpina), Ten Belles Without a Ring (Limonia), and The Impresario (Miss Silverpeal). Essential Opera credits include Le nozze di Figaro (Susanna), Chérubin (Nina), Alcina (Morgana), and Threepenny Opera (Polly).

She has worked with Opera in Concert, Toronto Operetta Theatre, Maritime Concert Opera, Toy Piano Composers, and New Hamburg Live!. An avid Canadian music supporter and promoter, Maureen has commissioned and premiered works by emerging and established composers. Maureen’s formal training includes a MMus from the University of Toronto, a BMus from Dalhousie University, and a BA from St. Thomas University. She is an alumna of the Opera from Scratch workshop, St. Andrews Opera by the Sea workshop, the Halifax Summer Opera Workshop, the Casalmaggiore International Music Festival, and the FerroVoce Program in Italy.

Erin Bardua

Serafina (Il campanello); Ciesca (Gianni Schicchi)

Soprano Erin Bardua made her debut as Anna in Pacific Opera Victoria’s production of Verdi’s Nabucco. In Toronto, she went on to sing Cathleen in Vaughan Williams’ Riders to the Sea with Opera Anonymous, two of the three heroines (Antonia and Giulietta) in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Pamina in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, and across the country, she sang Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with Halifax Summer Opera. Her roles with Essential Opera so far have included the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro, L’Ensoleillad in Massenet’s Chérubin, the title role in Alcina, and Lucy in Threepenny Opera. She is thrilled to add Serafina in Donizetti’s neglected gem, Il campanello.

Ms. Bardua is also a seasoned concert soloist who has sung Handel’s perennial favourite, Messiah, with numerous choirs and orchestras. Other oratorio engagements include Beethoven’s Mass in C Major with the Toronto Sinfonietta and the Northumberland Orchestra, Vaughan Williams’ Hodie with the Pax Christi Chorale, Haydn’s Creation, Handel’s Esther and Judas Maccabaeus, Mozart’s Requiem and Vesperae solennes de confessore, Rutter’s Requiem, M.A. Charpentier’s Te Deum and Messe de Minuit, Bach’s Magnificat, St. John Passion and St. Matthew Passion, Saint-Säens’ Christmas Oratorio, and Vivaldi’s Gloria, Nulla in mundo pax sincera, and In furore justissimae irae. Erin will round out this season with Zelenka’s Missa Omnium Sanctorum in Kitchener-Waterloo, a collection of mostly-Canadian contemporary repertoire with Toronto’s Talisker Players in May, and a recital of Shakespeare texts in New Hamburg.

Joseph Lévesque

Gherardo (Gianni Schicchi); Spiridione (Il campanello)

Tenor Joseph Lévesque is glad to be back with Essential Opera after playing a very Whiny Walt in the fall 2012 production of Die Dreigroschenoper.

Described as “simply superb” (Talkin’ Broadway), Joseph has performed all over North America on the operatic and theatrical stage, and in concert halls. Favourite stage roles include: Belmonte in Die Emtführung aus dem Serail (Opera NUOVA), Don José in Carmen Flamenco!, Paco in La Vida Breve (Summer Opera Lyric Theatre), Archibald in The Secret Garden, Governor/Innkeeper in Man of LaMancha (University of Cincinnati – CCM), Frankie in Forever Plaid (Charlottetown Festival), Count Almaviva in Barber of Seville in Jazz (Leave It To Jane Theatre), Tony in The Most Happy Fella and Vanya in Uncle Vanya (MacEwan University). New Yorkers saw Joseph off-Broadway as Christopher Crawford in Christmas with the Crawfords, Biff Baxter in Andrew Sisters’ Hollywood Canteen, and Joe in Judy’s Christmas Garland. He can also be seen as John Diefenbaker in the CBC Radio Canada film Laurier.

Joseph holds a Bachelor of Music with Honours from the University of Alberta, and a Master of Fine Arts in Theatre Performance from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM). As a certified stage combatant, he is proficient in short sword, quarterstaff, rapier and dagger, and unarmed combat.

Ryan Allen

Rinuccio (Gianni Schicchi)

Praised for his “superb acting and singing” (Toronto Star), tenor Ryan Allen studied voice at the University of Toronto and the Glenn Gould Conservatory. This season Ryan debuted the role of Tahir in Arthur Bachmann’s What Brought Us Here with Calgary Opera. Other contemporary works include the Dora-nominated Giiwedin, Dean Burry’s Pandora’s Locker and Tapestry New Opera’s touring production of Get Stuffed. In more standard rep, Ryan has sung Martin in The Tender Land, Jupiter in Semele, Argirio in Tancredi and Arbace in Idomeneo, all with Summer Opera Lyric Theatre. This past summer Ryan sang Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi in Italy under the baton of Maestro Simone Luti as part of Accademia Europea Dell’Opera. Ryan has also sung Ferrando in Così fan tutte with Metro Youth Opera. Most recently, he was a member of the National Arts Centre’s English Theatre Acting Company where he lent his voice to the characters Orpheus and Apollo in the production of Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses.

Ryan has been seen as an actor in regional theatres across Canada and in several film/tv productions. This year he played the role of Jasper Longfield in BBC America’s new series Copper.

Catharin Carew

Zita (Gianni Schicchi)

Described as “a real personality with a dark edge to her mezzo as well as clear top notes” (WhatsOnStage, UK) as well as “exhilarating” by Opera Canada, Canadian mezzo Catharin Carew’s most recent operatic engagements include Judith in Bartok’s A Kékszakállú Herceg Vára:Bluebeard’s Castle with Opera Five, Mrs. Nolan in Highlands Opera Studio’s production of The Medium, La Zia Principessa in Suor Angelica with Toronto Opera Collaborative, Malika in Lakmé with Opera By Request, Sesto in the RCM Summer Opera’s production of La Clemenza di Tito, and Mrs. Grose in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw with the Aldeburgh Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme. Upcoming engagements include Larina in Eugene Onegin with Opera Tchai and Pepa in Goyescas with Opera Five. Miss Carew was the first prize recipient of the 2010 NYCO Mozart competition, a semi-finalist in the 2011 Eckhardt-Gramatté competition, and is a finalist in the upcoming Clifford Poole Vocal Competition with Cathedral Bluffs Symphony Orchestra.

Beth Hagerman

Nella (Gianni Schicchi)

Soprano Beth Hagerman is a passionate singer who enjoys both the concert and operatic stage. This year, she was a finalist for the Atelier Lyrique Competition. She was seen recently in Essential Opera’s production of Weill’s Threepenny Opera as Debbie Dallas. In 2011 and 2012, she performed the role of Pamina in The Glenn Gould School’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Giunone in La Calisto by Cavalli. In the summer of 2011, her Antonia in Offenbach’s Les Contes D’Hoffman with The Halifax Summer Opera Workshop was lauded by Opera Canada as “spectacular.” This summer, she will be returning to the program to perform the role of Countess in their production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro with Kevin Mallon, conductor. In 2010, she appeared in the GGS production of Weill’s Mahagonny-Songspiel. That same year, she performed with the Chebucto Symphony in their season end concert, “A Russian Spring.” Miss Hagerman has also been engaged by Opera Nova Scotia: she performed in their production “Puccini’s Women”, and sang the role of Zemfira in Opera Nova Scotia’s concert production of Rachmaninoff’s Aleko.

Jesse Clark

Betto (Gianni Schicchi)

Receiving international acclaim for his performances, Jesse Clark has been called “Supremely inspired, poised, vivacious and vocally gripping” (Roderic Dunnet, UK,). Jesse has been in demand for his skills in the classical and the contemporary genres of concert repertoire, most recently performing the world premiere of Andrew Ager’s The Rubiyat of Omar Kayyam in February 2012 with the Ottawa Choral Society. Jesse also débuted Matthew Larkin’s Wife in Winter with the Ottawa Choral Society and Orchestra, with a repeat performance in 2011 with the Larkin Singers in Toronto. Also a natural for operatic roles such as The Count in Le nozze di Figaro, Jesse has also performed the role of Harlekin in R. Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos directed by Colin Graham. Jesse has performed with the Canadian Opera Company as the Aide-de-Camp in Sergei Prokofiev’s War and Peace, having also previously covered the role of Pelléas in Pelléas et Mélisande.

Recent concert appearances include the Mass in C (Mozart)with the Amadeus Choir, and Jesus in the St. Matthew Passion (Bach) with the Masterworks of Oakville, conducted by Charles Demenchyuk.

Giovanni Spanu

Simone (Gianni Schicchi)

Giovanni Maria Spanu, baritone, is a graduate of the Master of Music in Opera Performance and Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance programs at the University of Toronto.

Giovanni recently performed the role of Dulcamara in L’elisir d’amore by Donizetti with Metro Youth Opera, and Curio in Giulio Cesare with the Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra. Other operatic performances include Peter in Hansel and Gretel, Leporello in Don Giovanni, the Hunter in Rusalka, Harlekin in Ariadne auf Naxos, and Antonio in Le Nozze di Figaro. Contemporary pieces include Mr. Moreover in Mr. Moreover’s Magic by Isaiah Bell, Signor Naccarelli in The Light in the Piazza by Adam Guettel and Maximilian in Candide by Bernstein. Giovanni was featured in concert at Massey Hall with St. Michael’s Choir School in performances of Fantasia on Christmas Carols by Ralph Vaughan Williams, and in recital with Aldeburgh Discovery Series.

Upcoming performances include Paquiro in Goyescas by Granados and Don Quijote in El Retablo de Maese Pedro by De Falla with Opera Five, the title role in Le Magicien by Jean Vallerand with Metro Youth Opera, and Count Carl-Magnus in A Little Night Music by Sondheim at the Halifax Summer Opera Workshop.

Keith Lam

Maestro Spinelloccio & Ser Amantio di Nicolao (Gianni Schicchi)

Toronto-based baritone Keith Lam was hailed as “a suave, fine-grained baritone” (Boston Globe) in his American debut with Helios Early Opera singing the role of Achis in Charpentier’s David et Jonathas and was described as the “comically animated Schaunard” (The Charlebois Post) in the acclaimed production of Puccini’s La Bohème with Against the Grain theatre. Keith was named the winner of the Audience Prize at the inaugural Classical Music Consort Handel Competition. Among his operatic roles, highlights have included the title role of John Blow’s Venus and Adonis, Papageno (Die Zauberflöte), Dr. Falke (Die Fledermaus), Nireno (Giulio Cesare), Der Lautsprecher (Der Kaiser von Atlantis), and Dr. Dulcamara (L’Elisir d’amore). Keith makes frequent appearances with Opera Atelier, Aradia Ensemble and is a member of the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir. He was trained at the Banff Centre’s Opera as Theatre program, Highlands Opera Studio, Opera NUOVA, Queen of Puddings Music Theatre Program, and Tafelmusik Baroque Institute. This summer, Keith will be heading to Colorado to join the Aspen Opera Theater program and reprising the role of Schaunard with Jeunesse Musicales of Canada opera tour in the fall.

Taylor Van Binsbergen

Gherardino (Gianni Schicchi)

Taylor Van Binsbergen, soprano, is a 17-year-old, grade 11 student at North Toronto Collegiate Institute. Taylor has been taking private singing lessons for 5 years at Bravo Academy and is currently studying with Maureen Batt. Taylor also performed in Bravo Academy’s production of Into The Woods. Taylor has been a member of VIVA! Youth Singers of Toronto directed by Carol and Brad Ratzlaff for 2 years; and, this past fall had the opportunity to perform the role of Mrs. Jaffett in their production of Britten’s Noye’s Fludde. Taylor is an active member of her school’s vocal music program (lead by Carol Ratzlaff at North Toronto C.I.), and was recognized with the vocal award for her grade 9 year. Taylor has performed in various music festivals in Toronto including the North York Music Festival and the Kiwanis Music Festival. Last year, Taylor was recorded and filmed in an ensemble of teen singers for a MuchMusic/Coca-Cola Covers commercial. Taylor is looking forward to joining the Essential Opera team for her debut in an Italian opera.

Two Weddings Programme Notes Essential Opera
15 March 2013
Maria Murphy

Il campanello (1836)
Music and libretto by Gaetano Donizetti
Premiered at the Teatro Nuovo in Naples on June 1st, 1836

After the break-through success of his 31st opera, Anna Bolena (1830), Donizetti’s reputation as an international opera composer was secured. The following decade was a prolific period in which he composed 25 operas including L’elisir d’amore (1832), Maria Stuarda (1835), and Lucia di Lammermoor (1839), but it was also a time of professional and personal obstacles for Donizetti. Il campanello (1836, revised 1837) was composed while Donizetti held the position of director of the royal theatres of Naples. It had become increasingly difficult to stage opera productions in the city’s theatres due to severe financial strain caused by poor management and crippling censorship restrictions. Shortly before the composition of Il campanello, Donizetti’s parents died within weeks of each other, and after he made his revisions, he lost both his young wife and their infant during childbirth.

Based on the French vaudeville, La sonnette de nuit by Mathieu-Barthélemy Troin Brunswick and Victor Lhérie, Il campanello is a true farce. The opera contains commedia dell’arte tropes including visual deception and aural jests, an old bridegroom, an artful pretender, and parodies of other character types including an opera singer who has lost his voice — all within the context of a wedding celebration! Donizetti wrote the libretto himself in an effort to alleviate the financial burden on the impresario and the theatre’s management. The text adapts practices from the 18th- century Neapolitan comedic tradition by adding local colour throughout the work, referring to specific locations in Naples and, in the original version, featuring a Neapolitan dialect. The libretto mentions various landmarks in Naples such as the Greco-Roman statue “Capa de Napole,” and the “great theatre of Mezzocannone,” which was, in actuality, a second-rate theatre suitable only for the likes of an old Apothecary such as Don Annibale. Enrico’s “Mesci, mesci” is written in the style of a Neapolitan brindisi (drinking song) and, in addition to references to life in Naples, Donizetti alludes to and borrows from his own body of work by incorporating musical quotations, largely for the sake of parody. He includes an excerpt of the opening phrases of the gondolier song from Marino Faliero (1820), as well as a quotation from Desdemona’s “Willow Song” from Rossini’s Otello (1816), which he had already parodied in Le convenienze (1800). Il campanello was immediately successful; it garnered an enthusiastic reception across the peninsula as well as in London, Dublin, Barcelona, Brussels, St. Petersburg, and Madrid.

The libretto was quickly translated into English, French, and Spanish: a testament to Il campanello’s wide-spread appeal in the 19th century.

Gianni Schicchi (1918)
Music by: Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by: Giovacchino Forzano
Premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in New York on December 14th, 1918 Italian première at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome on January 11th, 1919

Gianni Schicchi is the final opera in Puccini’s set of three one-act operas, Il trittico, serving as the comedic finale following Il tabarro and Suor Angelica. The plot of Gianni Schicchi draws on a brief passage in Dante Alighieri’s Divinia Commedia, Inferno Canto XXX, which presents a swindler named Gianni Schicchi who, as a participant in the Circle of Impersonators, is ultimately condemned to hell for deceit and greed. In addition to using Dante’s work as source material, the librettist Giovacchino Forzano also based his libretto on an 1866 edition of Divinia Commedia by Pietro Fanfani, which includes a commentary on and expansion of the original work by an anonymous source. Not unlike the libretto for Il campanello, Gianni Schicchi’s libretto employs commedia dell’arte conventions through its combination of the macabre, farce, and character types, such as a scheming rogue, love-struck youth, and more than one greedy dotard.

Although Il trittico premiered in New York at the Metropolitan Opera in 1918, its Italian première in Rome a month later generated such excitement that the Italian royal family and various state representatives attended the performance. Puccini was lauded for having shown signs of a “second youth,” especially in the energetic writing of Gianni Schicchi. After the devastation of the First World War, the Italian audience welcomed the light-hearted narrative set in Italy — Puccini’s first such opera since Tosca in 1900, which was set in Rome. Gianni Schicchi’s celebration of the beauty of Florence and its origin in a work by Dante, one of the most celebrated icons of Italian culture, quickly designated Gianni Schicchi as a national masterpiece, giving rise to a sense of shared Italian identity. The opera is an affirmation of Puccini’s ability not only to “laugh and make others laugh” through robust comedic writing, but also convey national pride through the charm of his characteristic lyricism paired with the comedic timing of the bickering Donati family ensemble. Gianni Schicchi would be the last opera that Puccini composed through to completion. Turandot, Puccini’s final opera, was not finished when he died in 1924.