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Opera off the record

Ruminskitrov I had a fun putting together today's story about Nickel City Opera, Buffalo's still-new opera company. They were holding rehearsals out at St. James' School in Depew and it was such a treat, to be able to hang out there instead of at my desk. The windows were open, the summer breeze was blowing in, and a couple of hours passed as I watched the cast of "Il Trovatore" work through a couple of delightfully violent scenes.

The picture at left shows NCO Creative Director Valerian Ruminski, left, who sings Ferrando; and John Packard, who sings the tormented and jealous Count di Luna.

It is fascinating to observe the camaraderie the singers share. They see each other here and there, at different opera companies, and they have worked together, and a lot of jokes fly back and forth. "I don't trust him. I've been married to him," Victoria Livengood joked about Valerian Ruminski. "On stage, of course," she added.

In opera, anything is possible!

My only trouble was, I had to cut more than I wanted. Why can't I have all the room I need? I want the entirety of The Buffalo News turned over to Verdi ...


... and Puccini!


Well, that is why we have The Gusto Blog. Here are a few things I had to leave out that I wished I could have fit.

Victoria Livengood, who is a mezzo soprano, made me laugh when she explained the mezzo soprano repertoire. "Witches, bitches and boys," she said. "It's the truth."

But Victoria sees the human side of her character in "Il Trovatore," who -- well, Valerian summed her up as "an old witch." Victoria told of a time she was on stage singing with Eduardo Villa, who plays the man who thinks he is her son (long story).

"You had tears in your eyes," she said to Eduardo, who nodded, remembering. "How could any performer, or any mother, not react to that?"

Eduardo said of his role: "This is the 112th, 113th time I've sung it. But each time must be like the first time." He is especially struck by the moment in the opera when he realizes he is not the son of the gypsy woman played by Victoria. In reality, he is her enemy's son. (This is opera, remember?) He imagines his character's panicked thought: "If I'm not her son ... then who the hell am I?"

The opera is bold and it's gritty. Something like Nickel City Opera itself. NCO makes great copy, as we say in the newspaper business, because of all its colorful ideas.

With which, one more thing I had to leave out: I got a hold of Dan Hart, the executive director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, at the last minute to ask him about Ruminski's embryonic plans to stage "I Pagliacci" in a circus tent in the parking lot of Kleinhans Music Hall.

"It's crazy," Hart said. "But you know what? It's so crazy that it might work."

Nickel City Opera presents "Il Trovatore" at the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda, 8 p.m. Friday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman



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