Tarquin and Lucretia by Titian (detail)

Phénix Opera Company‘s founder and artistic director, Osvaldo de Leon came across the one-act tragic opera Lucrezia by Ottorino Respighi when he was looking for a good pairing to go with Puccini’s comic opera Gianni Schicchi. It was written in the mid -1930s, but didn’t have its U.S. premiere until 1979. It appears the upcoming performances at Pacifica’s Spindrift School of Performing Arts is only the second run it’s had in the U.S.

There’s more information at the Phénix Opera Company’s website.

Osvaldo de Leon not only accompanies the performances on the piano, but is stage director for the productions. “I am originally from Mexico, and back home I was involved with the opera company over there. My piano teacher was actually an orchestra conductor for opera as well. And so, since I was 17, I was just involved with opera, and I did everything you can think of in that company.” After he finished a Masters program at San Francisco State University, he decided he wanted to form a company of his own. “The way that I work with people, it’s always very collaborative. So even though I have a very clear vision, and a very clear direction of what I want, and how I want to achieve it, I enjoy collaborating with these artists.” The “black box” theater is conducive to focus on shorter, and less grandiose repertoire. “I really fell in love with the experience of doing opera in a smaller scale. I realized that you can do very interesting repertoire, that it can be very experimental, the way that you work with the singers can be also a little bit different, because they don’t have the pressure of doing this big, recognizable role.” He says they’re looking forward to introducing the Respighi to a wider audience. “It’s Respighi’s last opera, It’s a remarkable piece of work. It’s very concise, it’s 50 minutes. It is the same story that we have known from the Rape of Lucretia by Britten, based on the Shakespeare poem. So it’s the same story, it’s just much more concise.”