March 8, 2016
Audiences have the opportunity to experience the works of two operatic masters in one evening as the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music presents a double-bill of La Serva Padrona and Gianni Schicchi . Both shows will be performed in Italian, with English supertitles, by the Vocal Division and the CUA Symphony Orchestra. Performances will take place in Hartke Theatre, 3801 Harewood Road, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, March 17, 18, and 19, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, March 20, at 2 p.m. La Serva Padrona , a comedic opera which premiered in 1733, features music by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi with libretto by Genaro Antonio Federico. It tells the story of an aging bachelor named Uberto, who is frustrated that his servant hasn't brought him his daily hot chocolate. Meanwhile, the servant, Serpina, is secretly plotting for his hand in marriage. Gianni Schicchi , which premiered in 1918, showcases the music of Giacomo Puccini with libretto by Giovacchino Forzano. Part of a group of three operas by Puccini, Gianni Schicchi originally premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1918 and became an instant hit. A dark comedy, the show tells the story of a family trying to change the will of their wealthy relative after his death. Looking for help, the greedy family members call upon the services of Gianni Schicchi, who knows the law but has schemes of his own.Director James Hampton said the operas were chosen because of the variety of roles for performers at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Though the two shows vary in subject matter and musical styling, Hampton believes they share a common link: "Good help is hard to find." "There are so many great funny roles: some bigger roles more experienced students can do and smaller roles for undergraduates," he said. "Everyone gets a chance. This is a great opportunity for students to perform." The opera will be conducted by Maestro Simeone Tartaglione, music director of the CUA Symphony Orchestra. Tartaglione noted that both operas are known for "unique melodic treasures." In Gianni Schicchi , especially, he noted the orchestra becomes like another character in the story. "It not just accompanies, but introduces, comments on, and amplifies the story," Tartaglione said. "Having conducted many operas in Italy as well as in the United States, I can tell that the level Catholic University presents is way above average for a college. ... Our student singers worked really hard. We 'tortured' them to teach them to not only sing well, but to bring the words truly alive."For Catholic University's production, both shows will have the same 17th-century Florence setting, designed by drama professor Tom Donahue. Hampton said he hopes audiences enjoy the charming music and love story in La Serva Padrona , which reminds us that "sometimes exactly what you want is right before your eyes." As for Gianni Schicchi , he hopes audiences enjoy the story, as well as the timeless music, which includes the aria "O mio babbino caro," one of Puccini's best known works. Tickets are $20 for general; $10 for seniors and CUA alumni/faculty/staff; and $5 for students and children under 8. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit music.cua.edu .