In February 1943 a group of music lovers, led by Walter L. Loubat (1885-1945), drew up a charter creating the New Orleans Opera House Association. Amelio Colantoni served as artistic director; former Metropolitan Opera conductor Louis Hasselmans was recruited from nearby Louisiana State University’s faculty; and Lelia Haller, a New Orleanian who had danced with the Paris Opéra Ballet, began the training of a resident corps de ballet.
The inaugural summer season of open-air performances, billed as “Opera under the Stars”, was planned for City Park stadium. The first production, a double bill Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci was performed on June 11 and 12, 1943. It was followed by three other works that summer. The initial season scored a success, but the ever-present threat of evening showers in semi-tropical New Orleans prompted a move indoors to the Municipal Auditorium that autumn. The concert hall of the Auditorium remained home for the Opera Association until the inauguration of the Mahalia Jackson Theatre of Performing Arts in 1973.
Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci
In the spirit and in the honor of that first historic performance, we are staging new productions of opera’s most famous double bill. Two gripping tragedies pulled from the headlines made into the Reality TV of the day, verismo opera. Mascagni’s Sicilian small town tragedy will feature the powerhouse lyric tenor Dominick Chenes in the role of Turiddu, the returning tragic soldier. Playing the part of his fallen ex-lover Santuzza, the rich and beautiful voice of Dana Beth Miller, and as the cuckold Alfio, bass-baritone Wayne Tigges (“the villain you love to hate”).
Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci notches up the drama with a clown driven to madness and murder. Playing the infamously betrayed Canio is Internationally recognized and adored spinto tenor Frank Porretta and as Nedda, his cheating pretty wife, is the engaging and warm Italianate voice of Jessica Rose Cambio. Wayne Tigges also voices the jealous and vile Tonio in this stunning tale as thrilling as the day it premiered. >Metropolitan Opera Synopsis