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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Two Women, Made Famous by Sophia Loren, Comes to SF Opera

Posted By on Thu, Jun 4, 2015 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge Nicola Luisotti, Marco Tutino, Francesca Zambello, David Gockley. - SCOTT WALL/SAN FRANCISCO OPERA
  • Scott Wall/San Francisco Opera
  • Nicola Luisotti, Marco Tutino, Francesca Zambello, David Gockley.

Vittorio De Sica made Alberto Moravia’s anti-fascist novel Two Women (La Ciociara) into a film with Sophia Loren in the role that won her an Academy Award in 1962 and made her a star. When acclaimed Italian composer Marco Tutino came up with the idea of an opera based on the piece, he knew exactly who he wanted to play the role of Cesira, the widow who flees Rome with her daughter in World War II, trying to find safety in the mountains – Anna Caterina Antonacci.

“She is unique. You can’t have two Anna Caterinas,” he said. “She is so particular for her voice, but above all for her personality.”

click to enlarge Anna Caterina Antonacci as Cesira - CORY WEAVER/ SAN FRANCISCO OPERA
  • Cory Weaver/ San Francisco Opera
  • Anna Caterina Antonacci as Cesira
The Italian soprano, who has appeared before at the San Francisco Opera in Ermione and Norma, is happy to do the role, the one that Loren embodied on screen.

“I’m a fan of Loren and De Sica,” Antonacci said. “The movie is a big part of our culture.”

The world premiere of Two Women at the San Francisco opera this summer will have some changes, Tutino said at a press conference about the opera. His friend, Luca Rossi, who adapted the script, added new characters, including a villain, Giovanni, who doesn’t appear in the novel or movie.

“Can you imagine an opera with a tenor who loves a soprano without a baritone trying to prevent this?” Tutino asked.

San Francisco Opera director David Gockley, who hears the influence of Verdi and Puccini influences in Tutino’s music, was enthusiastic about an Italian opera telling a story of World War II, which he says speaks to audiences. The Teatro Regio di Torino is a co-producer and co-presenter in spite of some fears it would be too retro.

“I said, ‘Come on, be heroic – go against the grain,’” Gockley said.

Music director and conductor Nicola Luisotti expresses nothing but admiration for Tutino and his work.

“Marco did a great job,” he said. “This third version, I don’t want to say perfect, but it’s perfect.”

Director Francesca Zambello says for a tragedy, she and the others working on Two Women are having a lot of fun.

“You have to keep reviving the art form,” she said. “There are only so many times you can do another Rigoletto. Audiences crave something new.”

History makes great drama, Zambello adds, and that dark time in Italian history resonates with the present, as it looks at what women go through during a war as well as the destruction of their culture.

Two Women, June 13-30, at the San Francisco Opera, 301 Van Ness Ave, 415-864-3330, $25-370. 

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Emily Wilson


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