Arizona Opera Season Preview: Steamy Nightclubs, Cheating Lovers, and Bargains with the Devil

Arizona Opera
Arizona Opera's 41st season opens Oct. 7 with a double bill of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci.

It's been a dirty little secret for far too long that opera is not just for aging Little Lord Fauntleroys and ladies whose cats' names begin with "Mr." and "Mrs." 

Behind the rich sets, breathtaking arias, and storied history, a quick synopsis will reveal just how wild and silly even the most famous operas can be. And with the still somewhat scandalous transition to projected English surtitles, like the ones you'll see above the stage at Arizona Opera performances, the arias themselves take on new meanings: Take "Musetta's Waltz," the great aria from Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme that so inspires Mark in Rent

We may hear truth, love, and beauty with every note, but Musetta is really singing a flirty ode to men checking her out on the street - with a little complaining thrown in about her too-tight shoes.

Coming off a 40th anniversary of sold-out performances, Arizona Opera promises a new season teaming with all the passion, high stakes, beautiful music, lush backdrops, and, yes, that little element of the ridiculous, to charm both old opera fans and new.

Find out which operas will grace the stage this year after the jump.

The season opens Oct. 7 through 9 with a two-for-one performance of the one-act operas Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci

Set in 19th century Sicily, Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana follows four lovers whose antics could give the cast of "Jersey Shore" a run for their money: There's Turiddu, the slighted soldier who returns home to find his fiancée, Lola, has left him for a rich man; Alfio, the husband left fuming when Lola returns to Turiddu's bed; and Santuzza, Turiddu's poor little rebound girl

No doubt Abercrombie & Fitch would offer these characters money to not wear their clothing, too.

Ruggero Leoncavallo's Pagliacci follows another ragingly jealous husband, Canio the clown, as he discovers his wife Nedda's infidelity on the very same night when he must act the role of a similarly cheated husband. As Canio's temper boils, we see just who's laughing now.

Coming to the stage on Nov. 11 through 13 is Charles Gounod's Faust, a tale of the classic Faustian bargain made between the aging Dr. Faust and the devil over - what else? - a pretty young woman. 

When Satan transforms Faust into a dashing young suitor, he quickly seduces - then ditches - Marguerite. Brilliantly re-imagined, this production tosses aside the old village setting for a contemporary nightclub: Apparently "Satan" is a metaphor for roofies.

Arizona Opera
Madama Butterfly opens Jan. 27.

​Giacomo Puccini's much-beloved Madama Butterfly opens the new year on Jan. 27-29

This heartbreaking love story follows the original gorgeous geisha, Butterfly, as she awaits the return of her American sailor husband, Pinkerton. But when Pinkerton returns, three years later, with a new American wife, Butterfly is left in despair. Madama Butterfly features one of the most beautiful arias in all of opera, sung in this production by much-sought-after star Shu-Ying Li.

The first performance of Aida at Arizona Opera in more than 10 years takes the stage March 9-11. By Giuseppe Verdi, this opera follows the Ethiopian-princess-turned-Egyptian-slave Aida as she chooses between her loyalty to her country and her love of Egyptian commander Radames.

The season closes with Christoph Willibald Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice on April 13-15. A retelling of the classic Greek myth, Orfeo ed Euridice traces the journey of everyman Orfeo to Hell and back - literally - to rescue his wife, Euridice, from an untimely death. The first production of this opera ever by Arizona Opera, Orfeo ed Euridice promises incredible, ethereal sets by preeminent New York scenic designer John Conklin.

Individual tickets begin at $25; to order, or to find out more about season subscriptions and other discounts, click here or call the Arizona Opera Box Office at (602) 266-7464. Performances take place at 7:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2:00 p.m. Sundays at Phoenix Symphony Hall, 75 N. 2nd St., Phoenix.

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Amanda Kehrberg
Contact: Amanda Kehrberg