From Cavalleria to Botswana

Steve Grabe as Turridu, and Lindsay Feldmeth as Santuzza, in a scene from Cavalleria Rusticana.

San Pedro Opera, the newest opera company in the Greater LA area, is named after the home town of its founder, Lindsay Feldmeth.  Its first production, Cavalleria Rusticana, by Pietro Mascagni, played March 16 in San Pedro and March 23 in Claremont. It featured Steve Grabe as Turiddu, Lindsay Feldmuth as Santuzza, Nandani Sinha as Lola, Luvi Avendano as Alfio, Danielle Marcelle Bond as Mamma Lucia and Brian Farrell on the piano.

The theatre for the Claremont performance was a spacious hall in the center of the Claremont School of Theology, the Seeley Mudd Theatre. Large enough to hold 250+ in the audience, it afforded a clear view of the stage for every patron, with nicely banked theatre seating and good acoustics. A grand piano was placed onstage at stage right, a great spot from which Brian Farrell could accompany the action and also perform the piano solos for the Prelude to Scene I and the Intermezzo. A concert pianist, he showed an elegant touch on the keys and exquisite phrasing that evoked the instruments of the orchestra in all his accompaniments, supporting the singers as if he were of one mind with them.

The set, staging and costumes were minimal, just enough to help the audience suspend reality and participate in the drama of the music. The opera was performed without a chorus.

All the singers were well prepared and in good voice. Ms. Feldmuth sang with a beautiful purity of tone and powerful projection, showing excellent resonance through the middle and lower parts of her voice. She played Santuzza with passion and intensity, suffering with every emotional blow Turiddu delivered. Mr. Grabe’s cavalier betrayal of her love, as Turiddu, was well acted and gorgeously sung, with an easy and consistent tone and a heroic sound. His challenge to Alfio was sudden and violent, as he seized him and bit his ear in the traditional demand for a duel. He used the stage confidently, engaging the audience and demonstrating the gradual transformation of his character from thoughtless cad to penitent, responsible son.

Lola, sung by Ms. Sinha, sashayed onstage with sassy attitude and steamy sexuality in a Marilyn Monroe red dress with deep decolletage and a flared skirt that swished and swayed with every move she made. Oh yes, she also sang effortlessy, with a lovely, clear tone and excellent vocal styling, leaving us free to admire her onstage persona and the sparks that flew whenever she showed up with her long black hair and red lipstick. As Alfio, Mr. Avendano’s chesty baritone declaimed youthful virility and optimism at the outset of the story, shifting to jealous suspicion and fury when he discovered his wife in the company of Turiddu.

Ms. Bond, in the role of Mamma Lucia, transformed herself into the older woman with muted costume and makeup colors, taking her character from barely concealed hostility toward Santuzza to a slightly kinder, more empathetic posture, and finally to shared grief at the death of Turiddu. Her warm, strong mezzo carried authority and experience, with rich color and a clear core tone, balancing the other dramatic voices. The entire performance was full of beautiful music and intense passions, a great production for a company that is just getting started.

San Pedro Opera is not only producing its first season. It is also sending a small group of musicians and a documentary filmmaker to Botswana, Africa in a few short days, to launch the #1 Ladies’ Opera Festival at the #1 Ladies’ Opera House, offering workshops and coachings for local singers, a music camp for a local orphan village, and concert performances in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. The opera, Cavalleria Rusticana, was presented as a publicity event for the upcoming trip and to  help raise funds. For more information about the trip and to contribute, go to this website:

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