BWW Review: THE LOVE OF THREE KINGS at Sarasota Opera
The Italian opera, L'amore dei tre re, (The Love of Three Kings), written by Italo Montemezzi, premiered at LaScala over 100 years ago, but its message of unrequited love and passion still rings true today.
In The Love of Three Kings opera, we are introduced to King Archibaldo, (Kevin Short), who many years prior, conquered the kingdom of Altura. He is awaiting the triumphant return of his son, Manfredo, (Marco Nistico), from battle. Now blind, the King depends on his Alturan servant Flaminio, (Dane Suarez), to be his guide. Manfredo, who is frequently out to battle, is in a marriage arranged by his father, to Princess Fiora, (Elizabeth Tredent), a native of Altura. Manfredo is deeply in love with Princess Fiora and longs for her attention and affection. She, on the other hand, is in love with Avito, (Matthew Vickers), who is an Alturan Prince. The King senses Fiora is cheating on his son with Avito but his blindness prevents him from affirming his suspicions.
In the first two acts of this three act opera there are yearning duets between Avito and Fiora expressing their love for each other. Manfredo also sings out his love for Fiora in a heartbreaking plea for her affection. Archibaldo sternly voices his misgivings to Fiora and although this makes her want to break off her affair with Avito, the fervor between them proves too strong. The way Archibaldo touches Fiora and even appears jealous of Avito lends itself to our own suspicions that the King may be trying to suppress the secret desires he may have for her. By the end of the second act, in a fit of rage, or perhaps jealousy, Archibaldo strangles Fiona to death.
In the third and final somber act, Fiora is arranged in a state of repose for the people of Altura to mourn and pay their last respects. Archibaldo secretly places poison on Fiora's lips, in hopes that Avito will give her one last kiss goodbye, proving their affair and ending his life. In the final adieu to his love, Avito does indeed kiss Fiora on her venomous lips. As he dies from the poison, Manfredo approaches. Avito reveals to him their affair and warns Manfredo that his father poisoned Fiora's lips in order to catch him and prove their indiscretion. Manfredo is so distraught over her death; he surrenders his life, willfully partaking the toxin on her lips. When King Archibaldo enters, he is grieved to find his dying son. Although his clever plan worked and killed Avito, he is now responsible for the death of his own son.
The Love of Three Kings is not the most cheerful story you will see, but it is one of the most beautifully expressed, heart-wrenching exposés of agonizing love, especially when viewing the delicate and tender pleas of Manfredo to the woman he loves with such passion. He doesn't ask for much from her and although she knows he loves her and she is doing him wrong, Fiora cannot let go of the gripping devotion she feels for another man. Many times throughout the opera you want to suggest Fiora and Avito to get a room, as we become voyeurs to their many impassioned kissing scenes. You come to understand their passion for each other and find yourself torn if you had the opportunity to tell her to do the right thing or follow her heart.
Marco Nistico is intense yet sweetly compassionate as the loveless Prince thirsting for Fiora's affection. Kevin Short delivers one of the deepest bass notes you will ever encounter. He is also a trained wrestler who easily managed tossing Fiora's dead body over his shoulders to the amazement of the audience, who break their silence in awe. Matthew Vickers powerfully plays the object of Fiora's affection with devotion to the end. Dane Suarez offers a fine performance as the King's "eyes". Elizabeth Tredent is triumphant as the Princess who captures everyone's heart. Despite her indiscretion, she is not regarded as a harlot engrossed a cheap affair, but rather as a "Juliet" unhappily caught in a marriage not of her choosing. We feel for her. We feel for all of them. Under the gifted direction of Stephanie Sundine, the opera plays out reminiscent of one of Shakespeare's many tragedies that tug at your heart. The Sarasota Opera Orchestra is sublime under the prolific baton of conductor Victor DeRenzi, (also serving as surtitle translator). Worthy of mention are the stately set designs by David P. Gordon and elegant period costumes by Howard Tsvi Kaplan. Kudos to the Sarasota Opera Apprentice & Studio Artists who beautifully round out this accomplished cast.
The Love of Three Kings performances run on March 16, 19, 22 and 26. For more information visit www.sarasotaopera.org.