Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
L'amore dei tre re premiered in 1913, stylistically a post verismo work, looking forward to Wagner and Debussy, yet clearly the work of an Italian composer. Much of the emotionalism of the piece is heard in the orchestration which is thicker than late Puccini. The opera proved fairly popular for about 30 years after its premiere, including 70 performances at the Metropolitan Opera where it was a favorite role of Ezio Pinza, but since that time it lies largely dormant. Sarasota Opera produced it back in 2003 and since then, the only other performances in the U.S. were a concert version by Opera Orchestra of New York for Samuel Ramey (according to Opera America). I have heard the opera on a recording but have never seen it on stage before this performance. It is actually a quite good opera, offering a really nice aria for the bass (Archibaldo) and two extended love duets for the tenor and soprano (Avito and Fiora). I can understand its previous popularity but also its fall from grace. I could imagine occasional performances popping up here and there, programmed for a star bass.
This is a bass-heavy opera and Kevin Short as Archibaldo delivers the goods. I remember him as a stunning Phillippe II in the French language Don Carlos two years ago and he delivers an equally fine performance here; his performance of the first act aria is excellent as is his acting of the blind king. Elizabeth Tredent is Fiora, married to Archibaldo's son for political purposes but still in love with a former lover from her home land, Avito. The role is entirely composed of two love duets and an extended scene with her baritone husbandshe is afforded no aria of her own. Ms. Tredent does a fine job, but the role, while dramatically important, doesn't contain the juice to really make an impression, plus she is dead by the end of the second of three acts. Matthew Vickers as her lover Avito does some fine, impassioned singing. Marco Nistico as the husband/son Manfredo sings well but his extended second act scene is not Montemezzi's finest writing. Studio Artist Dane Suarez is good as the king's page Flaminio. Also appearing in cameo roles are Apprentice Artists Mark Tempesta, Anna Bridgman, Caitlin Crabill and Molly Burke.
The real heroes of this production are Maestro Victor DeRenzi and the Sarasota Opera Orchestra. Maestro DeRenzi gives this score the strong forward thrust it requires and his orchestra plays gorgeously for him all night. I have heard many performances in provincial opera houses in Europe where the orchestras were nowhere near this good.
Stephanie Sundine directs so that, with the aid of surtitles (a huge blessing in a somewhat unfamiliar work), it is relatively easy to follow the storyline. Scenic design by David P. Gordon appropriately sets the period and gives the singers space to work in. Costumes by Howard Tsvi Kaplan are lovely to look at and Ken Yunker's lighting design is effective.
It is wonderful to see and hear L'amore dei tre re for the first and probably only time. It may not be a masterpiece, but for someone like me who has seen more than his fill of the basic standards, it's great to see a fine production of it.
Sarasota Opera presents Rossini's The Love of Three Kings (L'amore dei tre re) through March 26, 2017, at 61 N. Pineapple Avenue, Sarasota. For tickets and information call (941) 366-8450 or visit www.sarasotaopera.org.
Conductor: Victor DeRenzi