Vashon Opera’s 12th season arrives, with ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’

Vashon Opera will present “Cavalleria Rusticana,” having postponed the event more than once.

Opera lovers, rejoice: Vashon’s very own opera company will at last present Pietro Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana,” after having postponed the event more than once during the past 18 months.

Performances will take place at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 5, and 2:30 p.m Sunday, Nov. 7, at Vashon Center for the Arts.

Known for its exquisitely beautiful orchestral intermezzo, Mascagni’s symphonic mastery will be performed by Vashon Opera’s acclaimed orchestra, led by conductor James Brown, playing at stage level amidst the story’s characters and chorus.

According to program notes for the opera, written by Eugene Carlson, “Cavalleria Rusticana” marked the start of a new opera genre, with gritty, real-life musical storytelling that came to be called verismo, from the Italian vero, “truth.”

The plot of the opera involves a small, 19th-century village gone bad — complete with what Eugene Carlson has described as “crude, lascivious behavior leading to a violent death on Christianity’s holiest day, carried out in the shadow of the village church in Sicily.”

As a prelude to “Cavalleria Rusticana,” Vashon Opera will treat audiences to a presentation of famous operatic selections encompassing the best of hundreds of years of opera.

The production will mark the return of tenor Limmie Pulliam, last seen on Vashon in “I Pagliacci.”

Pullman — a fast-rising dramatic tenor in the world of opera — has just completed a successful run of the role of Manrico in “Il Trovatore” at LA Opera, and will sing the aria from that role for audiences on Vashon, before performing the principal role of Turiddu in “Cavalleria Rusticana.”

Other local, regional and national luminaries performing both as soloists in the first half of the presentation and in principal roles in “Cavalleria Rusticana” include Marie Master Webb, seen in “Albert Herring;” Soon Cho, seen in “La Traviata;” Melissa Plagemann, seen in “Madama Butterfly;” and Andrew Krikawa, seen in “The Magic Flute.” Guest Artist Clayton Brainerd, who is new to the Vashon Opera mainstage, will sing an excerpt from “Das Rheingold.” Hugh Davis, a dedicated young baritone who grew on Vashon and has sung many times with his hometown opera company, is also in the program as a soloist.

Also taking the stage as a soloist is someone who is sure to be greeted by the audience with one of the night’s warmest ovations — Jennifer Krikawa, the determined co-founder of Vashon Opera.

Jennifer, a full-throated soprano, moved to Vashon in 2004 with her husband Andrew, an accomplished baritone. At the time, the couple was intent on leaving their opera careers, which demanded constant travel, behind. Andrew, they had decided, would work a regular job, and Jennifer would become a full-time mother to the couple’s two small children.

But both Krikawas had sung at many prestigious venues, including the New York City Opera, and it didn’t take long for word to get around on Vashon about their vocal prowess.

In 2008, the Krikawas launched Vashon Opera with assistance from approximately two dozen founding supporters — an influential group that included Jo Ann and Tom Bardeen, Rick and Molly Reed, Beth and John de Groen, Conni and Doug Clarke, Ray and Edith Aspiri, Karen Baer and Rick Wallace.

The company has now performed 11 memorable seasons on Vashon, using their trademark mix of professional stars in principal roles joined onstage by local singers in the chorus. Vashon Opera’s last production on Vashon, “La Traviata,” took place in September 2019, months before the long pandemic pause began for the performing arts.

In May 2022, Vashon Opera’s season will continue with Franz Lehár’s effervescent and comic operetta, “The Merry Widow.”

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