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BLO's PAGLIACCI Rolls Into Boston's North End To Open 2019/20 Season

Boston Lyric Opera (BLO) opens the 2019/20 Season with its first production of Ruggero Leoncavallo's indelible and enduringly popular 1892 Italian opera, PAGLIACCI, running September 27 to October 6, 2019 and starring tenor Rafael Rojas (in BLO's Werther and La Traviata, 1998, and Madama Butterfly, 2000) as Canio, and soprano Lauren Michelle making her company debut as Nedda.

Also starring in the production are Tobias Greenhalgh as Nedda's lover Silvio, Michael Mayes (BLO's 2016 Carmen and 2014 Rigoletto) as Tonio, and BLO Emerging Artist alumnus Omar Najmi (2019's The Handmaid's Tale) who sings Beppe-Harlequin. Music Director David Angus conducts the BLO Orchestra and Brett Hodgdon directs the BLO Chorus.

David Lefkowich (BLO's 2010 Tosca) directs the opera and its pre-show experience-an immersive roadshow circus that mirrors the opera's play-within-a-play story of a traveling troupe whose onstage drama pales in comparison to its backstage love triangle. PAGLIACCI will be sung in English and Italian, using the 2018 translation by Bill Bankes-Jones.

Produced at the DCR Steriti Memorial Rink in Boston's North End - the site of BLO's acclaimed 2018 production of Leonard Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti/Arias & Barcarolles - BLO opens the facility 90 minutes before each show time, with food trucks and picnicking along the rink's Boston Harbor coast or inside the facility. One hour before showtime an indoor fairgrounds for ticketholders opens with circus performances, live music by local community choruses, carnival games, concessions, and more.

PAGLIACCI is the story of a tragic love triangle among a group of traveling theater commedia players (known as "pagliacci," or "clowns"). The group is led by Canio, a jealous and abusive husband. Nedda, his unhappy young starlet wife, has found love with the village peasant, Silvio. In their midst is the troupe's popular clown Tonio who, embittered by Nedda's rejections of his own advances, puts in motion the drama and its fatal outcome. Each of the actors has an onstage commedia alter ego, which keeps audiences guessing about what's real and what's "acting."

Lefkowich says in his production, some of the usual storytelling tropes are flipped. "For this Pagliacci, we're focusing less on creating traditional, operatic stereotypes," Lefkowich says, "and more on developing characters with real emotions in heightened circumstances relatable to today's audience. For one, ours is a modern interpretation of Tonio. He's usually played as the unwitting fool, but here, he's truly the ringmaster. He takes what he wants. And when he is rebuffed, he uses anger and violence to change the circumstances to his advantage." Lefkowich says Pagliacci is a perfect opera for the uninitiated and curious. "This is a fully immersive experience before, during and after the show," he says. "The audience is part of a community sharing joy, amazement and tragedy in an experience jammed full of action."

Rafael Rojas first came to BLO more than 20 years ago as the young, tortured, title-character poet in Jules Massenet's Werther. Born and educated in Mexico‚ he studied at the University of Guadalajara and subsequently joined the post-graduate opera course at Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. He completed his studies at the Royal Northern College of Music. Rojas came to prominence after winning the coveted Domingo Prize in the Plácido Domingo Competition and has sung across the country, and around the world, with extensive work in the U.K. and performances at many of Europe's top opera companies.

Lauren Michelle is a prizewinner of the BBC "Cardiff Singer of the World" competition. A Los Angeles native, Michelle attended Walnut Hill School in Natick, Mass., as well as UCLA, and The Juilliard School. She made her Covent Garden debut as Jessica in The Merchant of Venice and completed a season with Vienna State Opera. She won First Place in the Lotte Lenya Competition and the Marcello Giordani International Vocal Competition, and sang under the baton of Plácido Domingo at LA Opera. Michelle came to national prominence during her appearance as an opera singer in a pivotal episode of the hit TV series "Empire."

"PAGLIACCI is a highly effective masterpiece of music and theater, filled with such melodic passion and tragic power, that it never loses its punch," says Boston Lyric Opera's General and Artistic Director Esther Nelson, who marks her 10th year with the company this season. "Our singers will bring great chemistry and excitement to the stage for this production. BLO will also, once again, transcend a traditional performance approach, bringing together a wider community to celebrate the enduring power of music and theater."

PAGLIACCI runs for five performances at the Steriti Memorial Rink, 561 Commercial Street in Boston's North End. It can be seen: Fri., Sep. 27, Sat., Sep. 28, Wed., Oct. 2, and Fri., Oct. 4 at 7 pm (the fairgrounds pre-show experience opens for ticket holders at 7 pm; performance is at 8 pm); and Sun., Oct. 6 at 2:30 PM (fairgrounds opens for ticket holders at 2:30 pm; performance is at 3:30 pm). Specialty food trucks and free public picnic areas, inside and out, open 90 minutes before each performance time.

Tickets are $25-$182, and can be purchased online at, through BLO Audience Services at 617-542-6772 or

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