Last night I attended a performance in San Diego of Ildebrando Pizzetti’s ASSASSINIO NELLA CATEDRALE which had its premiere at La scala in 1958, and was based on T. S. Eliot’s verse drama MURDER IN THE CATHEDRAL.
Created for the great Italian bass Nicola Rossi Lemeni, it has been rarely revived in the more than fifty years since its creation, but every so often a great singer, like Ferruccio Furlanetto can persuade a company to mount a production, which is really a showcase for the artist appearing as Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury.
The music has many influences, and one can hear traces of Wagner and Debussy, but most obviously, a touch of Respighi. It is a static work, in many ways more like a religious pageant or oratorio than an opera, but it is a worthy star vehicle for someone of Mr. Furlanetto’s stature, and was magnificent. There are ten other solo roles, but none of them really matter. The other major principal role in the opera is taken by the chorus, and in San Diego the chorus rose to the challenges of the complex choral writing.
Furlanetto was powerful as Becket and rightly dominated the production. The only other singer whose music allowed him to stand out was baritone Malcolm MacKenzie, although stalwart support was also offered by Dallas Opera regulars Allan Glassman and Kevin Langan.
The production was very well staged by San Diego Opera’s long time general director Ian Campbell on a beautiful gothic cathedral setting by Ralph Funicello.
In the pit, as he was for the revival at La scala three years ago with Furlanetto, was conductor Donato Renzetti. It was wonderful to see him after the performance and catch up. He and his lovely wife, Silvia, and I reminisced about his many visits to Dallas (beginning with RIGOLETTO in 1986, and most recently, a wonderful CAVALLERIA and PAGLIACCI in 2005. We have offered him many other productions over the last eight years, but he is in such great demand that it simply hasn’t worked out, but he is eager to come back and work in the Winspear!
One other thing I wanted to mention, which relates back to my trip to Chicago just prior to going to San Diego. While I was getting dressed to go to hear Renee Fleming in STREETCAR, I turned on the television only to stumble on a half hour HBO documentary of Renee mentoring four young singers. They weren’t much younger than she was when she made her Dallas Opera debut as “Tatiana” in an unforgettable EUGENE ONEGIN in 1992. I thought it was an interesting coincidence that this program was on just before I headed over to the theatre that evening.
Well you can imagine the eerie feeling I had when I turned on the radio when I got in my car at the airport this morning after flying back to Dallas, to hear her speaking voice in a sketch on A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION.
Could this all be just a coincidence or is Renee subliminally trying to tell me something?