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'Cavalleria Rusticana' will stir emotions in Sarasota

Sarasota Festival of the Vocal Arts comes to Palm Aire Country Club.

Robyn Rocklein headlines the Sarasota Festival of the Vocal Arts performances at Palm Aire Country Club.
Robyn Rocklein headlines the Sarasota Festival of the Vocal Arts performances at Palm Aire Country Club.
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Robyn Rocklein wasn't sure how she would react when performing her starring role as Santuzza in the opera "Cavalleria Rusticana" that headlines the Sarasota Festival of the Vocal Arts on Saturday, March 30 at Palm Aire Country Club.

"Cavalleria Rusticana" is considered a verismo opera, which involves characters drawn from everyday life, quite a departure from what some would consider mainstream opera.

Rocklein, a former Tara resident who now lives in Venice, said this will be her first verismo opera and she had heard about how melodramatic and emotional the performances could be.

"The music is extremely emotional the way it's written," said Rocklein, who has performed internationally. "I was singing through the score (in rehearsal), and I started feeling those emotions."

She had to rely on some mental tricks of the trade to stop her emotions from taking over.

"If you are enraged, everything locks up," she said. "This music was written to the emotions start pouring out of you."

Since Palm Aire Country Club will be such an intimate setting for "Cavalleria Rusticana," Rocklein expects the audience to experience those emotions as well.

"No way they wouldn't," she said. "Especially being so close, they definitely will experience what we are feeling."

The audience will experience the music, which includes favorites from Mozart and Verdi, and a glass of wine, for $25. Event founders Carol Sparrow, Randy Locke and Thomas Pasatieri have kept the price low to present performances that highlight Florida-based talent and to provide performances at an affordable price for anyone to attend.

"We are not doing the amazing costumes and lights," said Sparrow, an international performer who is playing the role of Mama Lucia. "But we do have comfortable seats in a theater setting, a glass of wine, and the ability to talk and visit with the performers."

Sparrow said "Cavalleria Rusticana" is like a soap opera on stage and it "speaks to the values and ethics of a small town."

The wine reception begins at 6:30 p.m. and the music begins at 7:30 p.m.

Other starring roles will be played by Johanna Fincher, who sings Mozart and will appear as Lola, Samuel Hall as Turiddu, Joseph Ryan as Alfio​ and Melinda Balla, who appears as Violetta in La Traviata "E strano...Sempre libera!"​

Rocklein called Santuzza a dream role that bridges soprano and mezzo-soprano.

"It takes strength, endurance and high notes to sing this," she said. "This is about normal people going through tragic things. It is exhausting mentally and physically. When I sing it full out, my back and neck hurt afterward."

She was emphatic when talking about the value of the performance.

"This is a one-of-a-kind experience and it kind of goes back to the roots of opera, in a community atmosphere," she said. "People in this area don't have anything like this locally and now there is a show in their own backyard. My colleagues who are performing all sing internationally. People are going to hear some serious music. They would be nuts not to want to be there.

"You get a glass of wine, too. I want to be an audience member."


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