Tuscan Traveler’s Tale – Opera in Spoleto

Taking a short break from Tuscany in August, visitors are well advised to avoid the crowded beaches and head to Spoleto, arguably one of the most musical towns in all of Italy. In August, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM Spoleto) takes over where the Spoleto Festival dei Due Mondi (June/July) leaves off.

Overlooking Spoleto - an Umbrian hill town
Overlooking Spoleto - an Umbrian hill town

CCM Spoleto is open to all students from around the world. In 2010, CCM offered the experience of a lifetime to singers, instrumentalists, conductors, accompanists, and stage technicians. Over 100 talented young people were chosen to travel to Spoleto and participate in numerous chamber and vocal concerts, orchestral concerts and operas, interwoven with Italian language classes, coaching, lessons, and field trips.

Rocca Albornoziana - the fort guarding Spoleto
Rocca Albornoziana - the fort guarding Spoleto

The tie between Cincinnati and Spoleto comes from the Festival dei Due Mondi, founded by Gian Carlo Menotti and Cincinnati’s own Thomas Schippers, the late music director of the Cincinnati Symphony. (Festival dei Due Mondi has been steeped in controversy since the death of Menotti in 2005.)

CCM Spoleto 2010, in addition to a vigorous concert calendar, included Benjamin Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia. Cast members received coaching in Italian repertoire and many joined their I Solisti di Spoleto colleagues in a gala concert with orchestra at the close of the Festival.

Eutruscan Tarquinius attacks Roman Lucretia
Eutruscan Tarquinius attacks Roman Lucretia

The opera, The Rape of Lucretia, was directed by CCM J. Ralph Corbett Distinguished Chair of Opera, Robin Guarino, and conducted by Annunziata Tomaro, instructor of conducting, CCM.  The singers, including J. Trombley (Lucretia), L.A. Orozco (Tarquinius) and N. Bouley (Collatinus), worked with CCM Spoleto’s renowned faculty and coaches to master their language and interpretive skills. Daily Italian language classes were included in the Opera Production Program.

Collatinus struggles to prevent Lucretia's suicide
Collatinus struggles to prevent Lucretia's suicide

Versatile directo­r Robin Guarino’s sphere of activity continues to expand beyond conventional opera production.  Lincoln Center has long been her artistic home as she has staged numerous productions at the Metr­opolitan Opera (including Don Giovanni, Così Fan Tutte, Die Zauberflöte, Le Nozze di Figaro and Lohengrin) since 1992. Nationally, her work has been featured at such companies as San Francisco Opera (Merola and Adler Programs), Glimmerglass Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Arizona Opera, Tulsa Opera and Virginia Opera.

The CCM Spoleto 2010 opera’s two performances played to packed enthusiastic audiences at the beautiful jewel of a theater, Teatro  Caio Melisso.  The graciousness of the theater was a striking juxtaposition to the found-item construction of  stage director, Stacy Taylor‘s, set and the military uniforms and feminine attire used by costume designer, Emily Wille, which took the story from ancient Rome and transported it to the 1950s.

We can’t wait to see what CCM Spoleto 2011 brings to music-loving visitors in Umbria.

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