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Teatro Nuovo announces 2023 Bel Canto Season

March 22, 2023 | By Unison Media
Jonathan Yap

Teatro Nuovo announces 2023 Bel Canto Season


Donizetti’s Poliuto at Rose Theater (Jazz at Lincoln Center) on July 19 and Kasser Theater (Montclair State University) on July 15

Ricci brothers’ Crispino e la Comare at Rose Theater (Jazz at Lincoln Center) on July 20 and Kasser Theater (Montclair State University) on July 16

Teatro Nuovo’s singular period instrument orchestra and
unique performance style illuminate two Bel Canto rarities

A Celebration of Maria Callas planned for her 100th birthday in December

March 22, 2023 -  New York City - Teatro Nuovo, the innovative young company that has been transforming Bel Canto performance with its unique period-instrument orchestra and free-wheeling historical style, today announced its 2023 summer season. Poliuto, Gaetano Donizetti’s heroic drama of early Christian martyrdom, will be followed by a gem of dark comedy, Crispino e la Comare, by the brothers Federico and Luigi Ricci. The pair of operas will be performed July 15 and 16 at Montclair State University (New Jersey) and July 19 and 20 at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater.  Also announced were plans for a celebration of the great Maria Callas, born 100 years ago this December.

“Both our 2023 operas, though rare today, were beloved repertory pieces for decades,”  said the company’s director Will Crutchfield, “and we are excited to show why they held the stage for so many years.”



The Donizetti opera was composed in 1838, but banned at the last moment by Neapolitan censors who forbade the depiction of a Christian saint in a love story. It was allowed only a decade later, shortly after the composer’s death, and then quickly heard throughout Italy and beyond. Violinist-conductor Jakob Lehmann, who will lead the company’s period-instrument orchestra for the performances, called it “one of Donizetti’s strongest works, with a gripping plot, gorgeous melodies, peerless orchestral writing, and all the surprises and tautness of the composer’s late style.” Poliuto also marks a three-year renewal of Lehmann’s contract as Associate Artistic Director of Teatro Nuovo

Poliuto was the last opera sung by Francesco Tamagno, Verdi’s original Otello, and also the last new score undertaken by Maria Callas. Legendary 20th-century tenors including Beniamino Gigli, Giacomo Lauri-Volpi, and Aureliano Pertile performed the title role, and Franco Corelli sang it alongside Callas at La Scala in 1960. It tells the story of St. Polyeuctus, a Roman general who was converted to Christianity during the conquest of present-day Armenia in the third century, and died at the hands of his countrymen rather than obey the decree to worship their idols.

Argentinian tenor Santiago Ballerini returns to Teatro Nuovo as Poliuto, after his heartrending Argirio in the company’s debut production of Tancredi. Opposite him are two fast-rising American artists in their TN debuts, soprano Chelsea Lehnea as Paolina and baritone Ricardo José Rivera as Severo. Hans Tashjian, who charmed New York’s first post-pandemic opera public as Figaro in TN’s Barber of Seville, completes the cast as the priest Callistene.


Crispino e la Comare

The companion opera dates from 1850, with a libretto by Verdi’s constant colleague Francesco Maria Piave and music by the Ricci brothers–two composers who separately produced 45 operas and worked together on the scores of four more, including Crispino. “The subtitle,” said Crutchfield, “should be When Your Fairy Godmother Sends You to Hell!

This comare is not your Disney fairy sprinkling good cheer. Instead she chooses a drunken, belligerent cobbler (Crispino) to teach a lesson to all the fraudulent doctors in 17th-century Venice. She sets him up as a physician and magically tells him whether a patient will live or die. In the first case Crispino can “cure” him with cheap wine; in the second, his diagnosis will be proved infallibly superior to all rivals. But when he becomes too arrogant in his unearned success, she drags him down to the underworld to witness his own funeral. (Spoiler: he repents, and is allowed to escape with a happy ending.)

Crispino has starring parts for a genial basso buffo as the cobbler and a saucy coloratura soprano as his wife. The latter was a favorite role for Adelina Patti and Luisa Tetrazzini, and the Metropolitan Opera revived the piece in 1919 for Frieda Hempel and Antonio Scotti. Teatro Nuovo’s cast is headed by returning soprano Teresa Castillo (previously Creusa in Medea in Corinto and Amina in the Sonnambula postponed by the pandemic) and Italian bass-baritone Mattia Venni, with contralto Liz Culpepper as the fantastical Comare. An  assortment of doctors and townsfolk caught up in the drama are led by returning artists Dorian McCall, Toby Bradford, and Vincent Graña. Jonathan Brandani, the newly appointed Artistic Director of Calgary Opera, returns to lead the orchestra.

“One of our secret missions at Teatro Nuovo,” added Crutchfield, “is to revive the truly marvelous generation of buffo composers who worked in the shadow of the great Verdi. Most people today have never heard an Italian comedy composed between Don Pasquale and Falstaff. At the time, there were dozens every year filling the theaters with laughter.”


La Callas

Also previewed in Teatro Nuovo’s announcement were plans for a celebration of the centennial of soprano Maria Callas in December, with multiple seminars and panel discussions capped by a gala concert.

“Everyone in the world of Bel Canto,” said Crutchfield, “owes a debt to Callas we can never repay. She is the one who showed the modern world that old-fashioned opera was filled with dramatic truth, at a time when some had lost the ability to understand that. She has touched us all with her guidance and with her genius. So there is a lot to celebrate on her hundredth birthday.” Details will be announced later at TeatroNuovo.org.


Singers and Orchestra

The company will also resume its renowned training program, giving an immersive course in Bel Canto style and technique to 24 elite young singers who will serve as the understudies and chorus of the two operas. As before, the performances will be accompanied by Teatro Nuovo’s own hand-picked orchestra of period-instrument players, with its groundbreaking restoration of the performance setup used in the Bel Canto era.

Audiences and critics have been quick to recognize what a difference this makes. At Teatro Nuovo’s debut in 2018 Heidi Waleson reported in The Wall Street Journal that “the effect is transformative.” The following year she returned to observe “an unusually flexible sense of pacing…remarkably different from conventional performances of these operas.”

In 2019 James Jorden in The Observer called it “revelatory…the orchestra seemed to beat with a single heart.” In 2021 Anthony Tommasini in The New York Times wrote of “a fresh, lively performance full of ideas and rich in subtleties” by performers emboldened “to start from scratch and think for themselves.” And in 2022 George Loomis in Musical America added accolades for the “felicities of its splendid period orchestra,” the “impressively robust” onstage military band, the “consistently stylish” vocal performance and “the respect and inquisitive spirit Teatro Nuovo brings” to its renewal of the Bel Canto repertory.

Tickets will go on sale early in April.


Listing Information 2023


Gaetano Donizetti - Poliuto

July 15, 2023 at 7:30pm
Kasser Theater - Montclair State University

July 19, 2023 at 7:30pm
Rose Theater - Jazz at Lincoln Center


A Christian
Another Christian

        Santiago Ballerini
        Chelsea Lehnea
        Ricardo José Rivera
        Hans Tashjian
        Krishna Raman
        Robert Kleinertz
        James Danner
        Louise Floyd

Teatro Nuovo Orchestra and Chorus
Jakob Lehmann, primo violino e direttore dell’opera


Federico Ricci and Luigi Ricci - Crispino e la Comare

July 16, 2023 at 3:00pm
Kasser Theater - Montclair State University

July 20, 2023 at 7:30pm
Rose Theater - Jazz at Lincoln Center


Crispino Tachetto
La Comare
Contino del Fiore
Don Asdrubale 

        Mattia Venni
        Teresa Castillo
        Liz Culpepper
        Dorian McCall
        Toby Bradford
        Vincent Graña
        Scott Clark
        Jeremy Luis Lopez
        Abigail Lysinger

The Teatro Nuovo Chorus and Orchestra
Jonathan Brandani, maestro al cembalo e direttore 

Relevant Links

Teatro Nuovo Website
Teatro Nuovo Facebook Teatro Nuovo Facebook
Teatro Nuovo Twitter
Teatro Nuovo Instagram

About Teatro Nuovo


Teatro Nuovo is a new American opera company specializing in Italian opera of the Romantic or “Bel Canto” period. Launched in 2018 with performances of Tancredi and Medea in Corinto, it was quickly hailed as “the way it should be done” (The Financial Times) and “stupendous” (Opera News) for its innovative restoration of period performing style. Its second season saw a move to the ideally suited Rose Theater for Bellini’s La straniera and Rossini’s La gazza ladra. After losing 2020 to the pandemic shutdown, Teatro Nuovo restored opera to New York City with performances of The Barber of Seville at Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park, rapturously welcomed as “fresh, lively, full of ideas and rich in subtleties” (New York Times). For complete information and further press coverage: teatronuovo.org/about-teatro-nuovo and teatronuovo.org/press



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