One of the most significant compositions by the mature Mercadante, Il bravo, ossia La Veneziana ("The Assassin, or The Venetian Woman") is an opera in three acts by Saverio Mercadante to an Italian-language libretto by Gaetano Rossi and Marco Marcello. Their libretto was based on the play La Vénétienne by Auguste Anicet-Bourgeois, which was in turn based on James Fennimore Cooper's novel The Bravo. The opera premiered on 9 March 1839 at La Scala, Milan and subsequently played throughout Italy and abroad.
Set in 16th-century Venice, the Bravo of the title is a tormented character who long ago killed his wife in a fit of jealousy; unjustly accused of plotting against the state, he has been forced by the Council of Ten to become their secret hired assassin, while his father is held hostage to compel his obedience. The story also involves Pisani, a young man under sentence of banishment, in love with a girl whom he believes to be immured in Venice; Violetta, the girl in question, who has been under the protection of the Bravo since the murder of her guardian by a would-be abductor; and Teodora, a wealthy foreigner living in Venice, who turns out to be not only Violetta’s mother but also the Bravo’s wife, whom he had not killed after all. To compound these complications the Bravo, moved by Pisani’s predicament, allows him to borrow the mask and dagger of his office and impersonate the official assassin for two days. In this capacity, Teodora employs him to rescue her daughter from the stranger who has apparently abducted her (that is, the Bravo himself). At the end of Act 2 Teodora, in the middle of a brilliant ball, sets fire to her own palace; the last act is largely concerned with the revealing of identities and the unravelling of family knots and, although Violetta and Pisani escape to freedom, Teodora is convicted of arson, and her death at her own hand cheats the Bravo of his last hope of happiness.
Il bravo is one of Mercadante’s most interesting and successful operas. The musical structures show a real attempt to fuse the varied elements of early 19th-century Italian opera into a more continuous dramatic texture. It had a prodigious success at La Scala at the time when the young Verdi had just arrived in Milan, and anyone interested in Mercadante’s influence on his great successor can hardly miss the overtones of Sparafucile, and indeed Rigoletto, in the chief character.
There aren't many solo arias in this piece but plenty of duets and ensembles; in addition to the soprano duet mentioned previously there is a wonderful tenor duet in Act 1, which first exploits a cantilena melody Verdi might have been proud of and then moves into a dramatic confrontation. Mercadante was a gifted melodist and a scrupulous composer who insisted that his performers adhere closely to his score in order to ensure that the pacing and effects he had devised came off; he was a real craftsman even if he hadn't Verdi's dramatic instincts.
Previous Wexford performances of operas by Mercadante:
Elisa et Claudio, 1988 / Elena da Feltre, 1997 / Il giuramento, 2002 / La vestale, 2004 / Virginia, 2010
27 October performance sponsored by Terry and Marjorie Neill
Previous engagements: Conductor (Madama Butterfly, Puccini, Daegu Opera House; Il mondo della luna, Haydn, Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, Valencia; Don Pasquale, Donizetti, Deutsche Oper am Rhein).
Forthcoming engagements: Conductor (La bohème, Puccini, Daegu Opera House; Il cappello di paglia di Firenze, Nino Rota, Minnesota Opera), Music Director of the Young Artists Academy of Daegu Opera House.
Set and Costume Designer
Renaud Doucet André Barbe
France / Canada
Previously at WFO: Creative Team (Si j’étais roi, Adam, 2000; Pénélope, Fauré, 2005; Thérèse/La Navarraise, Massenet, 2013).
Previous engagements: Creative Team (La Belle Hélène, Offenbach, Hamburg Staatsoper; La bohème, Puccini, Scottish Opera / Theatre St Gallen; Il matrimonio segreto, Cimarosa, Innsbruck festwochen der alten musik / Oper Köln).
Forthcoming engagements: Creative Team (Don Pasquale, Donizetti, Teatro Carlo Felice – Genova; La Grande Duchesse de Gerolstein, Offenbach, Oper Köln; Die Zauberflöte, Mozart, Glyndebourne Festival).
Previous engagements: Lighting Designer (Carmen, Bizet, Opera Philadelphia; The Golden Cockerel, Rimsky-Korsakov, Santa Fe Opera; Tosca, Puccini, Boston Lyric Opera).
Forthcoming engagements: Lighting Designer (Così fan tutte, Mozart, Lyric Opera of Kansas City; Carmen, Bizet, Seattle Opera; Carmen, Bizet, Irish National Opera).
Assistant Stage Director
Previous engagements: Director (La traviata, Verdi, Syracuse Opera); Assistant Director (Turandot, Puccini, Vancouver Opera); Production Stage Manager (La bohème, Puccini, Pittsburgh Festival Opera).
Forthcoming engagements: Assistant Director (Die Zauberflöte, Mozart, Glyndebourne Festival Opera).
Assistant Set Designer
Previously at WFO: Set Designer (La scala di seta ShortWork, Rossini, 2017).
Previous engagements: Assistant Set Designer (Thaïs, Massenet, Minnesota Opera; La bohème, Puccini, Scottish Opera).
Forthcoming engagements: Assistant set Designer (La Grande Duchesse de Gerolstein, Offenbach, Oper Köln), Set Supervisor (Il cappello di paglia di Firenze, Nino Rota, Minnesota Opera).
Previous engagements: Faust (Faust, Gounod, Festival de Opera de Amazonas), Ernesto (Don Pasquale, Donizetti, Croatian National Theater of Zagreb), Conte d’Almaviva (Il barbiere di Siviglia, Rossini, Theater Lübeck).
Forthcoming engagements: Conte d’Almaviva (Il barbiere di Siviglia, Rossini, Novosibirsk Opera), Arnold (Guillaume Tell, Rossini, Interlaken Tellspiele), Edgardo (Lucia di Lammermoor, Donizetti, Teatro Verdi di Pisa).
Previous engagements: Figaro (Il barbiere di Siviglia, Rossini, Teatro alla Scala Milan); Peter (Hänsel und Gretel, Humperdinck, Teatro alla Scala Milan).
Forthcoming engagements: Figaro (Il barbiere di Siviglia, Rossini, Tuscany tour); Sharpless (Madama Butterfly, Puccini, Tuscany tour); Thamar (Ali Babà e i 40 ladroni, Cherubini, Teatro alla Scala Milan).
Previous engagements: Yamadori (Madama Butterfly, Puccini, Glyndebourne Opera Festival), Fritz Kothner (Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg, Wagner, Poznan Opera), Evgeny Onegin (Evgeny Onegin, Tchaikovsky, Dortmund Opera).
Forthcoming engagements: Evgeny Onegin (Evgeny Onegin, Tchaikovsky, Opér de Toulon), Foka (Charodeyka, Tchaikovsky, Opéra de Lyon).
Previous engagements: Amelia (Un ballo in maschera, Verdi, Teatro Comunale Claudio Abbado); Elcìa (Mosè in Egitto, Rossini, Bregenzer Festspiele); Amelia (Simon Boccanegra, Verdi, Teatro Municipale Piacenza).
Forthcoming engagements: Amelia (Simon Boccanegra, Verdi, Teatro Dante Alighieri).
Previous engagements: Donna Anna (Don Giovanni, Mozart, Opera North); Adina (L’elisir d’amore, Donizetti, The Royal Opera); Erste Dame (Die Zauberflöte, Mozart, The Royal Opera).
Forthcoming engagements: Gretel (Hänsel und Gretel, Humperdinck, The Royal Opera).
José de Eça
Previous engagements: Don Curzio (Le nozze di Figaro, Mozart, Festival Internacional de Música de Gaia), Monostatos (Die Zauberflöte, Mozart, Festival Internacional de Música de Gaia).
Previously at WFO: Un Mujich (Risurrezione, Alfano, 2017), Sparafucile (Rigoletto ShortWork, Verdi, 2017).
Previous engagements: Sarastro (Die Zauberflöte, Mozart, Lyric opera studio Weimar), Claudio (Agrippina, Handel, Croatian National theatre).
Forthcoming engagements: Bass Soloist (Salut au Monde, Milko Kelemen, Music Biennale Zagreb).
Previously at WFO: Il Cancelliere di Rudenz (Maria de Rudenz, Donizetti, 2016).
Previous engagements: Chorus (Un ballo in maschera/Roméo et Juliette, Verdi/Gounod, Grange Park Opera), The Officer (Ariadne auf Naxos, Strauss, Scottish Opera), Rodolfo (La bohème, Puccini, Rye Arts Festival).
Previously at WFO: Fenitchka (Risurrezione, Alfano, 2017).
Previous engagements: Pamina (Die Zauberflöte, Mozart, Lismore Opera Festival), Vixen (The Cunning Little Vixen, Janáček, Royal Irish Academy of Music), Soprano soloist (Symphony No 4, Mahler, Hibernian Orchestra).