A valuable New York institution, Duane Printz’s Teatro Grattacielo (“Skyscraper Theatre”) specializes in concert readings of obscure verisimo operas, such as those blood-and-thunder “realistic” scores that poured out of Italy after the wild success of Pietro Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana” in 1890. Many of these full-blooded works faded from view by the Second World War or were kept alive only by “keeper of the flame” divas like Magda Olivero and the late Marcella Pobbe; but many contain interesting plots, strong orchestration and a soaring aria or duet well worth encountering.
Printz spends a year readying each show and this year she brings to Alice Tully one of Masacgni’s later works. Based on a Heinrich Heine text set among the warring clans of Scotland, “Guglielmo Ratcliff” premiered at Milan’s La Scala in 1895. (If you want to arrive prepared to impress and enlighten your date, there’s a cheapie Opera d’Oro CD issue of a 1963 RAI performance with Pier Miranda Ferraro.)
Seasoned Italian tenor Lando Bartolini returns to New York as the rip-roaring William Ratcliff, with Carol Ann Manzi as his beloved Mary McGregor, Met stalwarts Brian Davis as her fiancé and Philip Cokorinos as her father, and Eugenie Grunewald, an internationally known gutsy dramatic mezzo too little heard in her native city, as her nurse. Veteran maestro Alfredo Silipigni, who’s worked with such great verista divas as Olivero and Diana Soviero, will conduct.