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N.O. Opera pairs ‘Pagliacci,’ ‘Carmina Burana’

While thousands of visitors to the city may be looking to hear the sounds of traditional and contemporary jazz, rock, blues or gospel in the tents of the annual Jazz Fest, there is a dedicated coterie of opera fans who will be heading this weekend to the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts.  They will be taking in the mounting of an opera and a special production of a major choral work set to ballet.

Ruggiero Leoncavallo’s iconic verismo one-act opera “Pagliacci,” will kick off the first of two presentations by the New Orleans Opera Association on Friday night, April 27 and Sunday afternoon, April 29. Tenor Clifton Forbis will portray Canio, the clown who suspects his wife Nedda of infidelity. Soprano Inna Dukach will sing the role of Nedda, while her lover Silvio will be played by baritone David Adam Moore. Loyola University vocal graduate Mark Rucker will reprise his role of Tonio, a rejected suitor to Nedda, who sets into motion the tragedy that unfolds. Rucker, a baritone, first performed the role with the New Orleans Opera Association following his graduation 20 years ago. Matthew DiBattista, a tenor, will portray the role of Beppe.

At the conclusion of the opera, members of the New Orleans Ballet Theatre (NOBT) troupe will join forces with the New Orleans Opera Chorus,  members of the New Orleans Vocal Arts Chorale (NOVA Chorale) and the Loyola University Chorus to present Carl Orff’s most celebrated work “Carmina Burana.” Dukach, Moore and DiBattista will have starring roles in the collaborative ballet work being choreographed by NOBT artistic director Gregory Schramel and NOBT associate artistic director Marjorie Hardwick Schramel.

Maestro and artistic director Mrobert Lyall

Maestro and artistic director Robert Lyall conducts "Pagliacci" and the "Carmina Burana" this weekend (©NOOA)

Both productions will be under the baton of maestro and New Orleans Opera Association artistic director Robert Lyall as he conducts members of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra during both performances. The New Orleans Opera Chorus is under the direction of Carol Rausch, while both the NOVA Chorale and the Loyola University Chorus, is under the direction of Meg Hulley Frazier.

Orff’s famous work is based on midieval manuscripts from German Benedictine monks dated at having been written in the early 13th Century and discovered in 1803. They were written in Latin and German and are largely poetic pagan works, but also deal with some religious references. Orff premiered “Carmina Burana’ in 1936; it is part of the triptych titled “Trionfi” comprised of it and two other works: “Catulli Carmina” and “Trionfi di Afrodite.” “Carmina Burana” is commonly presented either as a choral work by opera companies or as a ballet work by ballet companies. It has achieved notable success when it was used as part of the soundtrack for major motion pictures like “The Omen” and “Excalibur.”

Performances take place at 8:00 p.m. on Friday evening and at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. Tickets are available online by clicking here or by calling 504.529.3000 or toll free outside of New Orleans at 800.881.4459.