When opera buffs talk about a Verdi baritone, they mean a role like that of Francesco Foscari, the doge of Venice in I Due Foscari (The Two Foscari). He is torn between duty to his family and to his community, and the world-weary characterization by Marco Nistico is the highlight of Sarasota Opera's production of this infrequently performed work.
Jacopo, the doge's son (Benjamin Warschawski), has been charged with treason and murder, tortured and sentenced to exile by Venice's Council of Ten. The father's torment over his powerlessness in the face of the council's ruling, however corrupt and wrong it may be, supplies most of the opera's fitful interest. Stoically but lovingly, he tries to assuage the rage and grief of his daughter-in-law, Lucrezia (Reyna Carguill), in several sensational encounters. The doge's nuanced Act III arias were models of the noble Verdi baritone.
A week ago, Carguill had recovered from an ill-fated opening night (allergies caused her to drop out mid performance and be replaced by understudy Marianne Cope) to negotiate the high-wire coloratura with thrilling intensity, though her lower range was rough at times. Warschawski is a light tenor who came into his own in Jacopo's delirious prison scene. Bass Jeffrey Tucker had a delicious turn as villainous Foscari family foe Loredano.
I Due Foscari, directed by Martha Collins, is the latest installment of Sarasota's Verdi cycle, in which all 28 of his operas, good, bad and indifferent, will ultimately be staged. Dramatically, it never lifts off the ground in Piave's choppy libretto (three acts, eight scenes, two intermissions), but it has some memorable musical moments.
Conductor Victor DeRenzi and orchestra, who are settling nicely into the opera house's newly enlarged pit, gave a rousing account of the score. The chorus was tremendous in the council's chant Silenzio. Jeffrey W. Dean's set combined handsome looks with flexibility for the many scene changes.
Performances are Wednesday, Sunday and April 13. $25-$115. (941) 366-8450; www.sarasotaopera.org.
FLORIMEZZO: St. Petersburg composer Vernon Taranto Jr. wrote The Ragtime of Life for William Hough, the retired municipal bond magnate who has been a generous arts benefactor. The FloriMezzo Orchestra will premiere it as part of the Encore series at the Palladium Theater, St. Petersburg. The program, conducted by Mark Sforzini, also includes Thule Ultima by Stephen Montague, the St. Petersburg-raised composer who has plied his trade in London for many years; the original score (for 13 players) of Copland's Appalachian Spring; and soprano Jennifer Sanchez in Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915 and Glitter and Be Gay from the Bernstein musical Candide. 7:30 p.m. today. $20. (727) 823-3590; mypalladium.org.
PERLMAN: Violinist Itzhak Perlman makes his regular every-other-year appearance in the bay area this week. With longtime collaborator pianist Rohan de Silva, Perlman brings a traditional program of J.S. Bach (Sonata No. 3 for violin and keyboard), Richard Strauss (Op. 18 Sonata) and Schumann (Phantasiestucke). He and de Silva will also play works to be announced from onstage, which can often be quite spontaneous. At a recital several years ago, the violinist had a stack of sheet music with him that he browsed through and picked selections from on the spot. The concert is at 8 p.m. Saturday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. $45, $59. (727) 791-7400, toll-free 1-800-875-8682; www.rutheckerdhall.com.
John Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8716.