Composer: Francesco Cilea
Librettist: Arturo Colautti
Conductor: Israel Gursky
Kerri Marcinko: Gloria
Wesley Morgan: Lionetto de Ricci
John Robert Green: Bardo
Mikhail Svetlov: Aquilante
Chorus: Cantori New York
The Teatro Grattacielo Orchestra
Just as my 2018-2019 music season is slowly but nicely warming up, Teatro Grattacielo, the feisty little opera company that shall not be denied, managed to dig out another barely-known and yet worth-knowing work in Francesco Cilea’s little verismo jewel Gloria, and presented its New York premiere last Saturday night. While the plot, which revolves around a doomed love story à la Romeo and Juliet in 16th century Siena, is not terribly imaginative (who needs another pair of star-crossed lovers?), it still had the potential to yield plenty of good drama and good music.
Since I like to think of myself as a staunch supporter of out-of-the-box endeavors, I decided to put aside my physical and mental exhaustion after a long day of labor with a stubborn cold, not to mention my general disdain of going out on a Saturday night, and headed down to the Gerald Lynch Theater to check out this mysterious Gloria in concert last weekend, on what was an appropriately glorious fall evening.
There’s little doubt that Teatro Grattacielo operates with very limited means, but that does not stop them for coming through for their audience. Therefore, if there were no surtitles over the stage, a complete bilingual libretto was provided inside the program. And if a staged production was out of reach, some pretty impressive talents had been booked for that one and only performance regardless.
As the female protagonist torn between her brother and her lover, soprano Kerri Marcinko was an endearing Gloria, whose naturally beautiful voice helped her expertly turn from sweet young girl to fiercely passionate woman who does not hesitate to make the ultimate sacrifice to be reunited with the man she cannot live without. This Gloria constantly had a lot on her mind, but she stayed true to herself until the very end.
Her Lionetto was more than capably impersonated by tenor Wesley Morgan, who did not let his almost non-existent rehearsal time get in the way of delivering a solid and engaging performance. Lionetto may not be the perfect son-in-law (That kind of went out of the window when he abducted the daughter of one of the town's noblemen), but his genuine love for Gloria, as well as his sincerity and courage, are to be commended, and Morgan made sure that those laudable traits came through.
Every love story needs a villain, who will try by any means necessary to keep the two lovers apart, and on Saturday night baritone John Robert Green did a wonderful job at being the bad guy who will stop at nothing to get his revenge. Among many highlights, his extended volcanic duet with his sister in the second act certainly brought out the best of them. As his father Aquilante, bass Mikhail Svetlov made a lasting impression in his smaller part.
The expanded Cantori New York choir had a swell time creating a lively crowd of busybodies right from the start as they opened the opera with a bright celebration of the joys of spring and the symbolic nature of the fountain, giving the story context, depth and energy.
In true verismo tradition, Cilea's Gloria boasts a richly colorful, intensely lyrical score, complete with quite a few attractive arias, and the large orchestra, including a harp and a harmonium, gave it their all under the attentive baton of maestro Gursky. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday night after all.