Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Pocket Opera to Present Cimarosa

The next San Francisco offering by Pocket Opera will be given at the end of this month. The selection will be Domenico Cimarosa’s two-act opera Il matrimonio segreto (the secret marriage), the only work by that composer to be regularly performed. The premiere took place on February 7, 1792 at the Imperial Hofburg Theatre in Vienna before the “imperial presence” of Emperor Leopold II. The Wikipedia page for the opera describes it as “arguably one of the greatest 18th century opera buffa apart from those by Mozart.” Having seen it several decades ago presented by the Santa Fe Opera, I am not one to dispute the argument!

The pedigree of Giovanni Bertati’s libretto for this opera is an interesting one. He based it on the play The Clandestine Marriage, written jointly by George Colman the Elder and David Garrick and first performed at Drury Lane in 1766. Coleman and Garrick were, in turn, inspired by a series of six pictures painted by William Hogarth entitled Marriage A-la-Mode. Hogarth is better known among opera lovers for another one of his narrative series, A Rake’s Progress; and that narrative approach makes him a major forerunner of the graphic novel.

The plot itself involves a familiar assortment of stock characters. Geronimo is the rich old codger trying to arrange marriages for his two daughters. He has a young assistant, Paolino, who has secretly married the younger daughter Carolina. The source material made for a first-rate Georgian farce, which was just ripe for reconception as an opera buffa.

Jonathan Smucker as Paolino and Liesl McPherrin as Carolina (photograph by Nicolas Aliaga Garcia)

The leading vocalists for this performance will be bass Lawrence Venza as Geronimo, tenor Jonathan Smucker as Paolino, and soprano Liesl McPherrin as Carolina. The opera will be sung in English to allow the intricacies of the comic plot to have their greatest impact. Musical direction will be by Frank Johnson. The production will be staged by Ted Zoldan.

This performance will take place at the Legion of Honor, beginning at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 27. The Legion of Honor is located in Lincoln Park. It is approached by following 34th Street north of Clement Street (which is the southern boundary of the park). General admission is $50 with a discounted rate of $45 for seniors. Tickets will be sold at the door beginning at 1:30 p.m. Tickets are also available at the presale rate of $47 for general admission and $44 for seniors. Presale is being processed online through a Vendini event page, which allows for individual seat selection.

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