Carmina uses traditional operas from the main repertoire to discuss hot issues within the queer community. Acknowledging that they could simply change a character’s sex or gender and stop there, they feel an obligation to address issues within the queer community – and they do this while also giving young singers the opportunity to sing principal roles that bigger companies would not cast them in.
Carmina brings their LGBTQIA+ Puccini Trittico to King's Head Theatre on Sunday 13th November, and ahead of opening we sat down to find out more about the company and announce the cast fully below.
Katherine Cooper explains, "It's been a huge pleasure and challenge bring the three very disparate mezzo roles of Il Trittico to life - not least because as a singer who's recently said goodbye to the youthful Rossini and Mozart heroines, it's such a gift to discover a trio of older women who are so richly drawn. Although the three characters aren't interconnected (and are frequently portrayed by different singers), there's a kinship of sorts between La Zia Principessa (Suor Angelica) and Zita in Schicchi - the two formidable, manipulative aunts whose fixations on family respectability plays out in their controlling relationships with their respective nephews, albeit with very different results... The outlier is Frugola in Il Tabarro, the only one of the three for whom it's easy to feel immediate affection: garrulous, generous and pragmatic, she leaps off the page in full colour as she rattles off her trials, tribulations and hopes and dreams at breakneck speed, packing an entire life-story into just a few pages of music. The gear-shift from Frugola's warmth and chattiness to La Zia Principessa's chilly economy of expression is a sharp one. Vocally, the two roles sit in quite different registers and require quite different colours, and as well as a rapid costume-change there's also the issue of settling into a new physicality - if Frugola is all manic energy, the Princess is all about icy stillness and impassivity. The transition from Zia to Zita is more organic on several levels, though of course there's the transition from tragedy to comedy to consider. And unlike the other two women, Zita is on stage for the entire opera and is a real ensemble-role, revealing herself through constant interjections rather than in a single conversation: perhaps the least emotionally intense assignment of the three, she's the one who's occupied most of my headspace in terms of simply getting her music into the brain and body!"
Robert Felstead continues, "Luigi is the 'other man' in the opera having fallen in love and started an affair with George, his boss Michele's partner. Luigi is driven by passion to the extent he is willing to risk everything to sneak onto Michele's boat to have this affair. He is also deeply jealous of Michele and wishes to free George from a loveless relationship. These scenarios lead to intense situations and extreme emotions. As Puccini's music is so well tailored to these emotions it assists both the actor and the audience in expressing and feeling them. For me there was no particular challenge in a gay Luigi as his behaviour or his emotions are inspired by the same universal feelings of love, passion and jealousy."
Alistair Sutherland shares their experience; "Wow! Where to start? These are two quite different and iconic baritone roles. Hearing the great interpretations from recordings over the last 70 years can be somewhat daunting, and leaves you asking why do it at all. I guess the real challenge is to find a reason to offer an interpretation that is genuine and personal. I love playing comedy, and I’ve performed Gianni Schicchi before, so in a sense I feel in a good place about this character. However, I don’t exactly have a dark and brooding personality, so delving into Michele is taking a bit more work. Empathising with his sense of profound loss, nostalgia for better times, and ultimately understanding how his jealousy turns him into a murderer is going to be quite the journey! The great thing about fringe theatre is it’s a place to take a risk. I’m really looking forward to the fresh interpretation of this production to discover something new!"
Calvin Wells suggests, "From a vocal point of view these two characters are quite different, but from a dramatic point of view they are very similar though time, age and status divides them in Puccini’s original. The original Giorgetta (George) was sung by the celebrated Claudia Muzio. George sits much more centrally, as a spinto, in the centre of the voice and range and only moves upwards, or indeed downwards, in extreme emotional moments. The role is evenly spread over the opera with opportunity to “rest”. Angelica, on the other hand, as a lyric role, first performed by the glamourous Geraldine Ferrar, has very little to sing at the beginning of the opera. This changes after the interview with the aunt half-way through the opera, and the vocal line suddenly, and relentlessly ascends into the stratosphere to portray her desperation. Both George and Angelica are caught in frustrating situations against their will. George has no money of his own and is therefore financially dependent on Michele. Moreover, their love has dried up, but having found comfort in the arms of a much younger and more virile man, George is also fully aware of the risks this liaison brings. Although the loss of their Bimbo has played a role in them moving apart, there is a sense of sexual excitement that George feels he has regained from the much younger Luigi. Angelica on the other hand would have lived a life of ignorant seclusion had it not been for the visit of the aunt. The intensity of which Angelica’s love burns with the same intensity as that of George. Like George, though his life is controlled by others, Angelica is willing to sacrifice everything for love."
PETER COLEMAN (Baritone)
Stevedore II (Tabarro), Chorus (Suor Angelica), Marco, Spineloccio, Amantio (Gianni Schicchi)
KATHERINE COOPER (Mezzo-soprano)
Frugola (Tabarro), Zia Principess (Suor Angelica), Zita (Gianni Schicchi)
RICHARD DECKER (Countertenor)
Zelatrice, Badessa (Suor Angelica), La Ciesca (Gianni Schicchi)
JOSHUA ELMORE (Countertenor)
Maestra delle Novizie (Suor Angelica), Gherardino, (Gianni Schicchi), Betto (Cover) (Gianni Schicchi)
ROBERT FELSTEAD (Tenor)
Luigi (Tabarro), Chorus (Suor Angelica), Rinuccio (Gianni Schicchi)
MICHAEL MARIO GEORGIOU (Baritone)
Stivadore, (Tabarro), Talpa (Cover) (Tabarro), Chorus (Suor Angelica), Simone (Gianni Schicchi)
KARLENE MORENO-HAYWORTH (Soprano)
Midinette, Amante (Cover George)(Tabarro), Genovieffa, (Cover Suor Angelica) (Suor Angelica), Nella, (Gianni Schicchi),(Cover Lauretta) (Gianni Schicchi)
GREGORY SPENCER PRITCHARD (Male Soprano)
Dolcina (Suor Angelica), Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi)
ALISTAIR SUTHERLAND (Baritone)
Michele (Tabarro), Ragazzo (Suor Angelica), Gianni Schicchi)
CALVIN WELLS (Male Soprano)
Giorgetta (Tabarro), Suor Angelica, Artistic Director for Carmina Priapea)
Tinca, Stivadore, Venditore, Amante (Tabarro), Chorus (Suor Angelica), Gherardo (Gianni Schicchi)