Il sogno di Scipione is seldom performed – for the simple reason that the author, a 16-year-old Mozart, was feeling his adolescent oats and loaded it with intricate, high-flying arias that would challenge the most skilled of singers, then or now. In fact, the piece was never even produced in this country until 2002, when the then brand-new (and apparently fearless) Gotham Chamber Opera gave it a boldly modernized debut, under the direction of Christopher Alden – who recently reconvened the original creative team to mount a spirited revival.
Have you ever seen an opera that opened with the sight of a messy bed with four bare feet – no, wait, make that six – poking out from the tangled sheets? That would be the Roman consul-elect Scipione Africanus (forceful, indefatigable Michele Angelini), transported to a dream realm where he must choose between the flighty, imperious goddess Fortuna (Susannah Biller) and her antithesis, Constanza (Marie-Ève Munger), here depicted as a down-to-earth yogini.
Various influential figures from Scipione’s past put in an appearance, along with a chorus of zomboid street people who ooze in through the window. Capping the show is a staggering coda sung by Licenza (ebullient Rachel Willis Sorenson), whose role is to heap praises on the patron(s) present. This delightful lagniappe represents, according to conductor Neal Goren, “to the best of my knowledge, the only instance of a commercial in an opera.”
A thrilling experience all in all, Il sogno di Scipione runs through April 21 at the intimate Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College in New York City; details at www.gothamchamberopera.com.
For those still exporing the foothills, with an eye toward such pinnacles, two sources of inspiration: vocal coach Dr. Meribeth Dayme’s’s pointers on confidence, posted by Operagasm (http://operagasm.com/2012/04/creating-confidence-in-singing/), and Joyce DiDonato’s free (!) video tutorial on expression (www.youtube.com/watch?v=o43myb5SMMM), in which the generous diva shares her insights while prepping for an ultra-challenging role. Maria Stuarda opens at the Houston Grand Opera April 21 (www.houstongrandopera.org/tickets/calendar/view.aspx?id=1687 ); next season, it’ll be a Met premiere, opening as a New Year’s Eve gala.