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Spoleto Festival USA 2015; Veremonda L'Amazzone di Aragona

Spoleto Festival USA 2015; Veremonda L’Amazzone di Aragona

A lost opera by Francesco Cavalli has been recovered 350 years after its last performance, and it comes to Charleston, commissioned by Spoleto Festival USA for the American Premiere. Opera is not my jam, now matter how many times I’ve tried, but how could I resist seeing it, this piece of history being created on the stage of our own Dock Street Theatre? I simply could not miss this opportunity.

I’ve tried to like opera. Time and again. Monkey was overwhelming and exhausting. I left at intermission of The Magic Flute. There was some French or Italian opera that I didn’t hate a while back, but I can’t even remember its name off the top of my head either. I liked Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Medium, due in large part to its brevity and incredible set design. I couldn’t bring myself to see Paradise Interrupted, despite the incredible aritsts involved. No matter, I was determined to give opera another go. After all, it’s kind of my job, right?


Zeriffo and Delio depart to the Moorish fort on Gibraltar

Delio and Zelemina

Delio and Zelemina

Veremonda, l’amazzone di Aragona is something truly special, and I can now confidently say that I enjoy insane Italian Baroque Opera. I love a harpsichord, and the singing was tremendously lovely. The story was hysterical. Warring factions are being thwarted by young love. Everyone seems quite self-centered or self-serving, and whining about their status in life–from the servant all the way up to the King–and yet they’re too bullish or self-involved to see how a little compromise might get them everything they want in life.

The only pure hearted soul seems to be Zelemina, Queen of the Moors, whose own fort of Gibraltar is under siege by the ambitious Spaniards. By the ambitious Spaniards, that is not to mean the poet king, who’s more interested in studying astrology than his own lovely but fiery wife, Veremonda. He calls his queen “a devotee of war, while I of the arts.” It is clear that he’s more interested in the stars and the planets of the night sky than his own kingdom…or his bride for that matter. No, Alfonso is not what we might call a strong, virile king. He’s certainly no Ned Stark/Jon Snow/Rob Stark/etc.

Veremonda coerces secrets from Vespina

Veremonda coerces secrets from Vespina

Delio, “the dandy general,” is caught between two queens; one he seems to truly love, and one he has sworn to serve, but he also bears a long-standing grudge…the old King of Spain made well-known untoward advances to Delio’s late mother, and we all know how pretty boys can be about their mothers.

As the saying goes, “loose lips sink ships,” when Delio’s confidante and oarsman Zeriffo lets it slip that Delio is having nightly dalliances with the enemy. Veremonda finds out, and the “l’amazzone di Aragona” sets out with a fiery determination to take Delio down and claim the fort for her king and country. Veremonda is the kind of lady you would not want to cross in any alley, light or dark.


Delio and Veremonda depart for the battlefront and on a simultaneous battle of the wits, attempting to fool one another in a dizzying seesaw of vengeful coercion and amorous overtures. As they seek to undo one another, the hilariousness of all the cast members like the lovely yet ineffective Amazon soldiers, Vespina and her suitor Zeriffo, Zelemina and her Nurse, the poet king Alfonso and the court jester, all serve to provide a little levity or commentary on the flaws of the others. Everyone seeks to manipulate the others, from which no one is safe–not even poor, sweet Queen Zelemina. Ultimately defeated, the Queen and King of Aragon show civility to the humbled Zelemina, and she does get her man at least. There is hope, ladies.


Veremonda spies on the lovers Zelemina and Delio

The New York Baroque Incorporated provided the music, played from below in the orchestra pit, and it was just lovely. Composer Aaron Carpene didn’t have much to go on, since music of the time was largely improvised, but the score was excellently crafted and expertly played.


The Dance of the Amazons

The set was a wild thing, created by Italian artist Ugo Nespolo, who is the first artist ever commissioned to create this year’s Spoleto poster. His set was active and colorful, perfectly Nespolo. The vibrant colors, splatters, and whimsical depictions seemed to jest along with much of the action, with the exception of the woods, which seemed more realistic and therefore the danger in those woods seemed just a little more real.

Veremonda is billed as 2 1/2 hrs, but it was more like 3+ hrs, so plan accordingly. The final performance is Friday, June 5 at 8pm, at the Dock Street Theatre. Tickets

words: Stacy Huggins
images courtesy Spoleto Festival USA

Posted on June 3, 2015 by admin.

Categories: Performing Arts, Review

Tags: Aaron Carpene, Cavalli, Francesco Cavalli, New York Baroque Incorporated, Opera, SFUSA2015, Spoleto, Spoleto Festival Usa, Ugo Nespolo, Veremonda, Veremonda L'amazzone Di Aragona, Vivica Genaux

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