The Saint of Bleecker Street

Composed in 1954, Gian Carlo Menotti's work is both a throwback to the sacred themes of early opera and a precursor to the post-modern scores that followed it. There is no other opera that explores spirituality more personally and viscerally, yet is so comfortable with the everyday dramas of contemporary life. This unusual reach goes a long ways toward overcoming the predominant, stark recitative vocal patterns, where English is spoken or intoned over musical atmospherics that stress mood over melody.

Christina Martos as Annina and witnesses (Members of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program)
Christina Martos as Annina
and witnesses (Members of the Bonfils-
Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program)
Photo: Mark Kiryluk
Annina, the Saint of the title, is a physically frail young woman from New York's Little Italy who finds her raison d'être in the Passion of Jesus. Her experience of his suffering and the Crucifixion is so complete, she manifests stigmata. This stirs the belief of local parishioners, resulting in a number of healing "miracles."

Her older brother, Michele, a handsome rebel, puts no stock in Annina's trance states and is particularly hostile to the neighborhood fanatics who, despite the girl's heart condition, are willing to kidnap her for their procession.

Christina Martos as Annina and Derek Taylor as Michele
Christina Martos as Annina
and Derek Taylor as Michele
Photo: Mark Kiryluk
Christina Martos is fully absorbed in Annina's devotion, providing a admirable portrait of saintliness, while Derek Taylor is equally compelling as the dark, doubting Michele. In-between the two is the priest, Don Marco, who cautions Michele that he is competing with G-d. Here, Philip Cokorinos' resonant vocals are both commanding and foreboding.

While Menotti is on record as saying, "I'm Michele but I envy Annina," the composer clearly wants to believe, employing various contrivances and leaving loose ends, while focusing on the saintly indications of Annina's life and the glory of her Catholic vision. In the end, this dramatic imbalance undermines what had been a persuasive undertaking, as if transcendental consciousness needed spin doctors to convince us of its existence.

Christina Martos as Annina and Philip Cokorinos as Don Marco
Christina Martos as Annina and
Philip Cokorinos as Don Marco
Photo: Mark Kiryluk
atherine Malfitano's direction and staging is both economic and elegant, consistently focusing on key themes in each scene while never losing sight the overall arc. Her mix of conceptual imagery in the church and vibrant realism in the procession, the restaurant, and the subway is striking. Hal France and the festival orchestra smoothly navigate both avant-garde and traditional waters.

Central City Opera's production of Gian Carlo Menotti's The Saint of Bleeker Street runs in repertory with Jules Massenet's Cinderella and Guiseppe Verdi's La Traviata through August 18th. 303-292-6700, 1-800-851-8175, or

Bob Bows


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