“Let’s play two!” was the catchphrase of Chicago Cubs shortstop Ernie Banks.
Opera occasionally schedules double-headers as well.
Opera Tampa is closing its season with two one-act operas: Puccini’s comedy Gianni Schicchi and Mascagni’s tragedy Cavalleria Rusticana.
Jean Carlos Rodriguez performs in both operas and he’s wondering how much time he’ll have to transition.
“We haven’t started the rehearsal process yet, so I’m not exactly sure how much time in between we’re going to have,” Rodriguez said in mid-March. “Are we going to have 30 minutes to get into the new character and then start the new opera? That in itself is a challenge.”
Rodriguez’s challenge illustrates the differing tones and stories of the two operas.
“The biggest challenge for me is going from a comedy playing Gianni Schicchi, where everything he does is to entertain and to get laughs from the audience, to playing Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana,” Rodriguez said. “I’m excited for the challenge. I think it’s going to be absolutely fantastic … but the change from comedy to tragedy is going to be the biggest challenge.”
There are musical challenges as well.
“They’re both baritone roles so that’s good,” Rodriguez said. “For Alfio, everything he sings is, for lack of a better word, beautiful. It’s supposed to be beautiful singing. And everyone in Cavalleria is going to be singing beautifully, whereas in — Gianni Schicchi — you’re going to hear a lot more sounds that you’re probably not used to hearing in an opera, like people singing very nasally. That’s considered ‘not correct singing’ but in this comedy it’s OK.
“Rhythmically, Schicchi is much more intricate than Cavalleria,” Rodriguez said. “Puccini at that time was experimenting with a lot of different rhythmic styles. And Cavalleria is just such a beautiful piece of music. But it’s just, musically they’re so different.”
The characters are quite different as well.
“Schicchi knows he’s the smartest guy in the room, and he really just cons everyone, It’s fantastic. That is gonna be so exciting,” Rodriguez said.
“Schicchi is more fun to play but Alfio is a bit more fun to sing,” Rodriguez said. “It’s all beautiful singing every single time. I don’t have to change or falsify my voice in order to create a character or bring a character to life. This is just me singing with my voice from the start of the opera to the end of the opera.”
Rodriguez said his favorite roles that he’s portrayed in his career include Marcello in La Boheme and Escamillo in Carmen. There may be a new favorite soon, though.
“Schicchi might take that spot after I perform it,” Rodriguez said. “I’m having such a blast learning it and kind of trying to bring the character to life. There is a chance if you were to ask me at the end of April which is my favorite role, I may not say Marcello anymore and I might say that it’s Schicchi.”
Opera Tampa will perform the comedy, Gianni Schicchi, first, ending the evening with the tragic Cavalleria Rusticana. “Because this is opera, after all,” Rodriguez says with a laugh.
You don’t want people going home too happy, right?
“Right!” Rodriguez said. “If you go home happy, we did something wrong!