Central Jersey’s well-known professional opera presenter Boheme Opera NJ seeded its company in the Italian neighborhoods of Chambersburg, Trenton, in 1982. For seven years, before its debut as a main stage company, Boheme was an integral part of performances at the street celebration La Festa della Madonna Maria SS. Assunta in Cielo, Protettrice di Casandrino, also known as the Feast of Lights.
Featured at the Feast were Italian foods, trinkets, games, rides, folk dancers, and singers, and of course, Italian opera. During the Feast, Boheme performed outdoor and indoor opera concerts, as well as dinner opera at Chambersburg’s popular Roman Hall. From these Italian roots, the evolution of Boheme Opera NJ began until it opened its first season in 1989.
Now in its 29th consecutive season, Boheme Opera NJ has produced more than 50 main stage productions and countless concerts and outreach events that have introduced opera to audiences of all ages. A traditional producer mainly of Italian and French opera, Boheme will bring opera’s most famous double bill to Kendall Main Stage Theater at the College of New Jersey in Ewing on Friday, April 20, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 22, at 5:30 p.m.: the Italian duo of Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana” and Leoncavallo’s “I Pagliacci.” These are real stories of passion, jealousy, honor, and violence with characters born of the Italian heritage that came to Chambersburg in the early 1900s.
Based on a play by Giovanni Verga, “Cavalleria Rusticana” was written as a contest entry in 1890 and won first prize, receiving 60 curtain calls at its premiere in Rome. “I Pagliacci” was based on a case that the composer’s father, a judge, had tried, using a play-within-a-play concept to expose an illicit affair, with its premiere in Milan in 1892.
Boheme Opera’s staging will take place in the late 1940s after the close of World War II. With the stunning digital sets of J. Matthew Root, there will be glimpses of the real Chambersburg, with the flavor of Italian culture so indigenous to Italian-American families and their evolving community.
Boheme has assembled an impressive national cast of superb voices, eight making their Boheme Opera debuts. Headlined by Metropolitan Opera baritone Michael Corvino, 2017 George London Competition winner tenor Errin Brooks, RAI broadcast soprano Eudora Brown, and popular Greater Boston area soprano Natalie Polito, the casts will be joined by the Boheme Opera Orchestra and Chorus. BONJ Artistic Director Joseph Pucciatti is conductor and Kansas City’s Matthew Haney is stage director.
Tickets for Cavalleria Rusticana & I Pagliacci are now on sale via the TCNJ box office: Monday through Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. and Tuesday and Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., online 24/7 at bit.ly/BONJ-CavPag and by phone at 609-771-2775.
Ask about group sale discount for 10 or more in Premiere and Median sections. Student tickets are $15. Special needs shuttle will be available on campus. Sung in Italian with English supertitles. Pre-curtain talks one hour before performances. www.bohemeopera.com