Our excellent partners Opera Carolina will be showing a Puccini opera that is rarely staged around here: La Fanciulla del West.

This opera that is notable for its exquisite written-through score and was Puccini’s own favorite is inaugurating an important step for Opera Carolina: its first international cooperation, with the Teatro di Giglio in Puccini’s hometown of Lucca, Italy, the Teatro Lirico in Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia, and the New York City Opera.

Charlotte will have the privilege of counting on world-class major star Marcello Giordani in the leading male role, and acclaimed Italian stage director Ivan Stefanutti. Sets and digital projections were built by Opera Carolina. New costumes are by Atelier Nicolao, Venice, Italy. Maestro Meena conducts.

So, dear readers, we’ve been treated to great productions by Opera Carolina before but this is likely to achieve an even higher level of quality. The “not to be missed” cliché is looking to be very true indeed!

Unfortunately Opera Lively will only be able to attend the third and last run of the show but we will be publishing our review when that time comes. We are working on interviewing the three principal singers (Marcello Giordani as Dick Johnson, Kristin Sampson in the title role, and Aleksey Bogdanov as Jack Rance); stay tuned to this space for the interviews.

Click here for more information and tickets from the company’s web site.

Sunday April 23rd at 2 PM is the first show; the second one is on Thursday April 27th at 7:30 PM, and the run ends on Saturday April 29th at 8 PM, at the Blumenthal Performance Arts Center in Charlotte, NC.

Here is our first mini-interview, with Russian-American baritone Aleksey Bodganov in the role of Jack Rance; his answers are to the point and interesting! Learn more about this singer who has had a rather impressive career, by clicking here to consult the artist’s website.

Luiz Gazzola for Opera Lively – I believe that Jack Rance is a beautiful role to sing. For example, I like the opportunities for a lot of dramatic color in the first act, starting with “Minnie, dalla mia casa son partito” – many of his lines are recitative-like instead of lyrical but with a lot of emotion. Please tell us about the challenges in singing this character.

Aleksey Bogdanov – Jack Rance is a beautiful and complex role, but there are a few challenges when casting it. Mainly, you need a lot of projection top to bottom to cut through the rich orchestration and a really strong dramatic presence that enriches the voice. He has some glorious vocal moments, but it’s the dramatic aspect and personality of this character that makes him so memorable.

OL – Maybe a pitfall when interpreting this role is that psychologically he doesn’t change much – always the spiteful and jealous type – so I imagine that the singer must be careful to avoid a mono-dimensional acting problem. How do you see your character’s psychological arc?

AB – Well, to start with he’s a cop. He feels entitled to Minnie’s heart, and he is the law of the land. He’s also a gambler and a drunk. As far as I’m concerned, Puccini gave him not only the vocal line, but the entire opera to create a real human character. Though he may act like the villain, Rance is more of a weird hardened loner type than an evil person, and as the Sheriff he’s an outsider anyway.

OL – He does show integrity when he respects his deal with Minnie in the second act. In this sense he seems better as a human being than other Puccini antagonists like Scarpia. How do you compare this role with other, shall we say, evil Puccini roles?

AB – Interesting question, but I would say that just like comedy actors don’t think they’re being funny, villains don’t think they’re so bad. In fact, both Scarpia and Rance are just trying to do their jobs!

OL – This is a very important production for Opera Carolina, in co-production with companies from Italy and New York. What can our public expect from this show?

AB – The cast for this production sounds fantastic! We move into the theater tonight for tech and I can’t wait to see the set. Our costumes were handmade in Venice and they are divine! Expect to see a Spaghetti Western come to life before your very eyes with a peel-the-paint orchestra and glorious voices.

OL – You immigrated to the United States from Russia at about the age of 9. Given the strong Russian tradition in opera, did your background play a role in your career choice? Are there musicians in your nuclear and/or extended family? Still on the Russian theme, having had your training in the United States, how special was for you the day when you interpreted Eugene Onegin?

AB – My mom went to a conservatory for singing and piano in Odessa and my dad sang in the army choir, and I have an uncle who used to play in many orchestras. My parents never pushed me one way or the other with a career choice, they just wanted me to be happy. I think the instability of a career in the arts worries many parents, and that’s ok. We immigrated to San Francisco in 1992 when I was a kid, and I would say it has worked out immensely for my family. I think of that before starting Rance’s aria about leaving his home that’s across another ocean.

Speaking of Onegin , my parents actually flew to Edmonton in 2013 to see my last minute debut as Eugene Onegin, and that’s where I worked with Maestro Meena for the first time!

OL – Tell us a little bit about you, please. What are some of your personality traits, and your hobbies and extra-musical interests?

AB – I’m a big fan of Major League Baseball. I fell in love with the game when I moved to the United States and later pitched on my high school team. I threw a mean 45mph heater.

I have played guitar in many bands and have toured with a few bands across the country. I can assure you that opera pays better than beer, pizza, and a couch!

Read the interview on Opera Lively’s website.