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Tales of Combat at San Francisco's Opera

The Trojans and Two Women kick off a very violent vocal vendetta. 

The Trojans

The Trojans 

 

The San Francisco Opera presents two productions this month—The Trojans and Two Women—both dealing with the tragedies and triumphs of war. Why two operas with the same subject, you might ask? Dramaturge Kip Cranna sorts out their differences.
The Trojans runs June 7-July 1; Two Women runs June 13-30

The Story
The Trojans: An adaptation of The Aeneid, the very epic Latin poem about Aeneas, the Trojan who traveled to Italy and founded Rome.
Two Women: Based on a novel of the same name, this world premiere from Marco Tutino follows a mother and daughter who are scrambling to survive in Rome during World War II.


The Lovers
The Trojans: Aeneas stumbles upon the queen of Carthage in a temple, and a love affair begins. “Berlioz’s interpretation is very passionate and very, very French,” says Cranna. “There’s a lot of perfumed understatement.”
Two Women: This is the kind of “love story” that calls for a restraining order. Cranna explains: “A minor character from the book becomes a villain when he gets the hots for the heroine and starts stalking her.”

The Bloodshed
The Trojans: Expect city burning, epic battles, and graphic suicides. “Greek and Roman stories glorify war and revel in violence,” Cranna says. “It really is the sensibility of another time.”
Two Women: The story is less about the battlefield bloodshed and more about the fugitive experience: “When Americans talk about World War II, we never talk about Italy, but it’s such a powerful story: the bombing of Rome, fleeing into the countryside, people caught in the middle when the country switches sides.”

The Moral
The Trojans: Even though the titular Trojans have to flee the conquering Greeks, it’s all part of a bigger plan. “The thrust of this story is that these things were destined to happen—it was Aeneas’s fate to leave Troy so he could found Rome.”
Two Women: If the gods are paying any attention at all to these characters, they really seem to have it in for them. “This show is ordinary people grappling with harsh realities. It’s about how war turns even good people into conniving opportunists.”

 

Originally published in the June issue of San Francisco

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