Grand Opera Returns to bergenPAC on Sunday

Don’t miss the New Jersey Association of Verismo Opera’s double bill of Suor Angelica and Cavalleria Rusticana this Sunday, October 20, 3:00 p.m., at the Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC) in Englewood, New Jersey.  Residents throughout the region will sing, act, direct, and work behind-the-scenes in this production presented by the only grand opera company in Bergen County.


Verismo Opera pays tribute in its 24th season to the Year of Italian Culture in the United States with the double bill of Giacomo Puccini’s sentimental tragedy Suor Angelica (Sister Angelica) and Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana (Rustic Chivalry).  Under Artistic Director Lucine Amara, one of the Metropolitan Opera’s luminary performers, the company presents each opera with a full cast at the bergenPAC, located at 30 North Van Brunt Street, in Englewood.  The bergenPAC is handicapped accessible.  Hearing assist systems are available upon request at the bergenPAC to the house manager in the lobby.


In Suor Angelica, directed by General Manger/Canadian soprano Evelyn La Quaif, a heroine’s tragic plight harrows the emotions as hauntingly as Puccini’s other great work, Madama Butterfly.  Then, four people’s roller-coaster lives unravel in the one-act melodrama of rustic chivalry, Cavalleria Rusticana, directed by Giovanni Simone of Fort Lee.  Love, adultery, jealousy, and bitterness unfold with honor and revenge on Easter in a Sicilian village, ultimately leading to death.  


Both operas will be presented with the cast in costumes created by Catherine Mirabella of Hillsdale and Barbara Konig from Dumont, a live orchestra under Maestro Anthony Morss, and the Verismo Opera Chorus, drawing singers throughout Bergen County, directed by Mara Waldman.  Brooke Feldman from Leonia will join the company as the stage manager for the 2013-2014 season.

The operas will be sung in Italian with English supertitles following Gioachino Forzano’s libretto of Suor Angelica and Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti’s and Giudo Menasci’s libretto of Cavalleria Rusticana.  The production will be performed with traditional staging and sets.


Suor Angelica

Canadian soprano La Quaif, who performs the lead role of Suor (Sister) Angelica, has acquired a repertoire of more than 30 roles, including La Boheme, Tosca, babeau, Madama Butterfly, I Pagliacci, La Traviata, Faust, and Lucia di Lammermoor.  She has appeared at various concert halls, such as Weill Recital, Carnegie, and Alice Tully in New York, as well as Vienna and Palermo and most major Canadian houses.


Debuting with Verismo Opera, mezzo-soprano Leslie Middlebrook performs La Zia Principessa, a role she has performed with Opera Company of Brooklyn, Henry St. Opera, and the Des Moines Metro Opera.  She has appeared in opera, concert, operetta and oratorio from Carnegie Hall to San Francisco and throughout Europe performing in Peter Grimes, Aida, and several others.


Singers returning to the Verismo Opera stage to appear in Suor Angelica are soprano StacyLyn Bennett (cover Suor Angelica), mezzo-soprano Silvana Chu (La Badessa), soprano Jennifer Hoffmann (Sister Genovieffa), and mezzo-soprano Marie Anello.  Bennett and Chu performed the memorable roles of Cio-Cio-San and Suzuki, respectively, in Verismo Opera’s acclaimed Madama Butterfly in 2012.  In April, Hoffmann and Anello appeared in Verismo Opera’s debut of Gianni Schicchi.


Cast members debuting with Verismo Opera in performing roles are soprano Heather Antonissen (Monitor), mezzo-soprano Rachel Selan (Mistress of the Novices), soprano Elizabeth Sanders (Sister Osmina), soprano Eleanor Pearl (Sister Dolcina), mezzo-soprano Erika Bourque from Teaneck (Nursing Sister), soprano Jill Burstein (Alms Collector), soprano Allison Davy (Alms Collector), soprano Brenda Belohoubek of Wyckoff (Novice), mezzo-soprano Heather Jones (Lay Sister), and soprano Dorothy Smith Jacobs (Lay Sister).


Cavalleria Rusticana

Fort Lee Director Giovanni Simone, Verismo Opera co-founder and Technical Director, has been involved with many companies in the tri-state area, including as Principal Stage Director and Set Designer with Regina Opera in Brooklyn.  He is also a member of the Verismo Opera Chorus.


Tenor Edgar Jaramillo from Hackensack debuts with the company in the lead role of Turiddu.  Previously, Jaramillo performed supporting roles with Family Opera, Henry Street Settlement and the Amato Opera.  He is joined by mezzo-soprano Galina Ivannikova in the role of Santuzza.  Ivannikova performed previously in Verismo Opera’s productions of Il Trovatore and Aida


Verismo Opera welcomes baritone Robert Garner as Alfio.  Garner sings with The Metropolitan Opera Associate Chorus, performing in a range of repertoire such as Aida, Boris Godunov, La Damnation de Faust, and Turandot.


Mezzo-soprano Rachel Arky, a finalist in the New Jersey Association of Verismo Opera’s 2012 Annual International Vocal Competition, appears as Lola.  Arky was recently seen as Maddalena in Rigoletto and Hattie in Kiss Me Kate at the Natchez Festival of Music.  Leslie Middlebrook rounds out the cast as Mamma Lucia, having performed this role previously with the Brooklyn Repertory Opera.


Covers are mezzo-soprano Natasha Novitskaia (Santuzza), who debuted with Verismo Opera last April in Gianni Schicchi; tenor Hamid Rodríguez (Turiddu); baritone Gustavo Morales (Alfio); and soprano Heather Antonissen (Lola).


Adult, teenage and child actors from various towns in Bergen County will perform the roles of supernumeraries (supers), important non-singing parts akin to extra roles in a movie.  They will appear as villagers throughout the opera.


Special Ticket Rates

Verismo Opera is providing the public with a special 30% off on $55 and $45 tickets only on October 10, 11 and 12 (Code CS3).  Discount ticket rates for senior citizens, ages 65 and over, and children, ages 12 and under accompanied by a ticket-holding adult, are available now through October 20 to see Suor Angelica and Cavalleria Rusticana.   Senior citizens, ages 65 and over, purchasing regular-priced tickets on non-sale dates are entitled to a 10% discount.  Tickets may be purchased online at www.verismopera.org, at the bergenPAC box office, and by calling (201) 227-1030 or toll-free at 1-888-PACSHOW

For special rates for group discounts available only on $55 and $45 tickets with a purchase of a minimum of 50 tickets, call (201) 224-2809.  This rate is not available online.


The 2013 season is made possible, in part, with funds provided by the New Jersey Council on the Arts/Department of State, through grand funds administered by the Bergen County Department of Parks, Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs. 

For more information about Verismo Opera, visit its web site, follow the company on Facebook or Twitter @NJVerismoOpera, or call (201) 886-0561.




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