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Chamber Opera Presents Pergolesi

Laura A. Hobson
Posted: Feb 5, 2016 - 4:34:56 PM in news_2016


Interested in a unique opera held in a church venue?

Take advantage of Cincinnati Chamber Opera’s production of La Serva Padrona and Stabat Mater, a double bill written by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, an 18th century composer. Both works will be presented on February 12 and 13 at 7:30 p.m. in the parish hall at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Terrace Park.

Composed in the final weeks of Pergolesi’s life, Stabat Mater is scored for soprano and alto soloists in addition to strings and continuo. After his death, the public viewed with acclaim Stabat Mater, divided into twelve movements.

In 1733, Pergolesi was commissioned to write an opera for the celebration of the birthday of the Empress of Austria. Performed in the same year, the opera – Il Prigioner Superbo – contained a two-act intermezzo, La Serva Padrona.  Eventually, Padrona became a separate work.

According to Pergolesi’s biography by Zoran Minderoic, La Serva Padrona is an opera buffa with libretto by Gennaro Antonio Federico, after the play by Jacopo Angello Nelli. Only 45 minutes long, Padrona is based on a story about a witty servant girl who plots to marry her elderly master. Its premiere was September 5, 1773.

Stage director John Fitzwater said, “Co-founders and artistic directors Autumn West and Shawn Mlynek asked me to direct Pergolesi’s double bill.” They had seen him perform in CCO’s production of Handel’s Ariodante last year.

Now a small business owner of a home remodeling company, Fitzwater received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from Northwestern University. He decided he needed to support his family, and his career path took a different direction from music. However, Fitzwater has been soloist and section leader of Church of the Ascension and Holy Trinity for fifteen years.

West and Mlynek picked the 2015 - 2016 CCO season with the mission to do small operas in a variety of places accessible to the general public.

Fitzwater said that Pergolesi was an influential composer. “He is considered the bridge between Baroque and Classical music,” he said. Representing the veneration of Mary at the foot of the cross. Stabat Mater has text in Latin and is written for the church.

Mezzo-soprano Lauren McAllister said, “Some of my friends participated in earlier shows.  I liked the kind of shows that CCO performs.” She auditioned and received the role of a mother in Stabat Mater. “I had not heard the piece before. I like the steps to show these works.”

McAllister recognizes everyone’s busy schedule; people don’t have time go to a four-hour show.  “The music is beautiful and complicated,” she said.  “The staging is simple; it allows us to focus on musical preparation.” According to McAllister, Stabat Mater is rarely performed in the US, but more often in Europe.

Cast of La Serva Padrona:

   Serpina:  Megan Ann Slack

   Uberto:  Will Tvrdik

Cast of Stabat Mater:

    Soprano:  Jackie Stevens

    Mezzo-soprano:  Lauren McAllister

Stage director: John Fitzwater

Music Director: Yael Front

Repetiteur:  Stephen Variames

Photos by Laura  A. Hobson

Founded in 2012 by soprano Autumn West and tenor Shawn Mylnek, Cincinnati Chamber Opera presents intimate chamber opera sung by emerging artists in a variety of venues.