Puttin on the Fritz

In 1890, Italian composer Pietro Mascagni turned the opera world on its head with Cavalleria Rusticana, a one-act opera so violently frenetic and emotionally overstated that critics had to develop a new term for it: “verismo.” As if to acknowledge his frenzied approach was too ahead of its time, he followed it up, a year later, with a vanilla romantic comedy, L’amico Fritz. So instead of the adultery, dueling, ear-biting, and murdering of Cavalleria, L’amico Fritz gave its Roman audiences biblical discussions, lovely springtime duets while characters picked cherries, and a familiar stage archetype: the obstinate bachelor who refuses to marry until his perfect match inevitably saunters into his life. Minor deceptions ensue, but it ends the way you want it to; Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing rings a bell of influence. Giuseppe Verdi, who was known to write a decent opera or two, dismissed Fritz as “silly, action-less, and characterless,” but time has ultimately respected this bucolic comfit almost as much as its intense predecessor. It has been said to contain the most beautiful music of Mascagni’s career, to which Miami Lyric Opera will hope to bring justice in a rare production this weekend. L’amico Fritz runs at 8 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday at the Colony Theatre (1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach). Tickets cost $36. Call 305-434-7091 or visit miamilyricopera.org.
March 15-16, 4 & 8 p.m., 2014
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John Thomason