Alessio Borraggine sings during Juneau Lyric Opera’s rehearsal of Composer Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center on Monday, Aug. 12, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Alessio Borraggine sings during Juneau Lyric Opera’s rehearsal of Composer Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center on Monday, Aug. 12, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

‘Powder keg’ opera to play in Juneau

Show includes big emotions and a chorus to match

Juneau Lyric Opera’s newest production is a choice that may appeal to folks who have never before seen an opera.

“Cavalleria Rusticana” — with music by composer Pietro Mascagni and libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci — tells a story of infidelity, jealousy and passion, and it doesn’t take a long time to do it.

It’s a one-act opera associated with the “verismo” movement, which focused on telling less fantastical stories in favor of more grounded ones. Giacomo Puccini is another famous composer often associated with the style.

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“The shorter format makes it a really great first opera,” said JLO Executive Director Sarah Radke Brown, who plays Santuzza in the show, in an interview. “If you love Puccini, you’ll love Mascagni.”

Plus, David Miller, who plays Alfio in two — Wednesday and Saturday — of the opera’s three performances, said the show’s music is “extremely accessible.”

Members of the Juneau Lyric Opera rehearse Composer Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center on Monday, Aug. 12, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Members of the Juneau Lyric Opera rehearse Composer Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center on Monday, Aug. 12, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

“This is, I think, just a perfect opera for Juneau,” Miller said.

The show will also feature English supertitles — translations of of what is being sung projected above performers — in order to make the opera’s action easier to follow, Miller said.

Plus, there will be a no-host wine bar at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center, and it will open 45 minutes before the opera’s 7 p.m. start time.

Miller was particularly pleased about that because he said the number, “Viva Il Vino Spumeggiante,” is “one of the greatest drinking songs in opera.”

“The music is tremendous,” agreed Josè Rubio, a visiting singer from Portland who will fill in as Alfio on Friday.

Rubio previously performed in the Orpheus Project’s “Princess Sophia” opera.

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“I’m glad to be back,” Rubio said. “It’s going to be amazing. It’s an opera about real people dealing with real issues.”

Principal performers said the opera packs a lot of emotion into its single act, and that makes it a demanding show for some singers.

Dancers take to the stage as the Juneau Lyric Opera rehearses Composer Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center on Monday, Aug. 12, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Dancers take to the stage as the Juneau Lyric Opera rehearses Composer Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center on Monday, Aug. 12, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

“This is some of the most difficult music I’ve ever sung,” Brown said of her role that requires nearly a half hour of emotional singing, “It’s a powder keg.”

Miller also noted the heightened emotions in the opera and said it makes Alfio is a fun role to fill.

“I get to scream the entire time I’m on stage basically,” Miller said. “I don’t want to get into any spoilers, but I have every reason to be very upset with the tenor.”

“Cavalleria Rusticana” features a small group of principal performers — Juneuite Ariana Orford as Mamma Lucia, Alessio Borraggine of Rome as Turiddu and Sandra Hormozi as Lola join Brown and Miller or Rubio as the main cast.

However, the show will feature more than 60 people since there is a chorus of about 34, a 24-piece orchestra conducted by William Todd Hunt hat will provide the accompanying music, lighting and stage design by Brian Bembridge and choreography by Juneau Dance Theatre’s Catherine Fowle and people working behind the scenes.

Members of the Juneau Lyric Opera rehearse Composer Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center on Monday, Aug. 12, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Members of the Juneau Lyric Opera rehearse Composer Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center on Monday, Aug. 12, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Orford said she’s glad they’ve come together to perform “Cavalleria Rusticana” in the capital city.

“It’s something the community wouldn’t get otherwise,” she said.

Know & Go

What: “Cavalleria Rusticana”

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 14, Friday, Aug. 16 and Saturday, Aug. 17. A no-host bar opens at 6:15 p.m.

Where: Juneau Arts & Culture Center, 350 Whittier St.

Admission: Wednesday’s show is pay-as-you-can at the door. Admission costs between $15 and $35. Tickets can be purchased at Hearthside Books, the JACC or online through Juneau Lyric Opera’s website or jahc.org.


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.:


Stage and Lighting Designer Brian Bembridge, left, and Musical Director William Todd Hunt of the Juneau Lyric Opera rehearse Composer Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center on Monday, Aug. 12, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Stage and Lighting Designer Brian Bembridge, left, and Musical Director William Todd Hunt of the Juneau Lyric Opera rehearse Composer Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center on Monday, Aug. 12, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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