Yale Baroque Opera Project Brings Back a 17th-Century Hit

The Yale Baroque Opera Project (YBOP) will present a fully staged production of the 17th-century Italian opera “La finta pazza” (“the make-believe madwoman”) by Francesco Sacrati (1605–1650) in two performances, on April 23 at 8 p.m. and April 24 at 5 p.m., at the University Theater, 222 York St.

Admission for both performances is free, and no tickets are needed. The work will be sung in Italian with English supertitles.

The sixth semi-annual fully staged opera presented by YBOB, this production of “La finta pazza” is the New World premiere of one of the most successful operas of the 17th century. Sacreti’s opera, with a libretto by Giulio Strozzi (1583–1652) premiered in Venice in 1641 and was performed up and down the Italian peninsula in the following decade. Following its popular run, however, the work was lost for centuries, and it wasn’t until 1984, when a manuscript was rediscovered in the collection of Prince Borromeo on Isola Bella—an island in Italy’s Lago Maggiore—that the opera re-found its voice. “La finta pazza” made its modern debut in Venice in 1987. The Yale production is based on an edition of the music by Lorenzo Bianconi and Luciano Sgrizzi with permission of the Borromeo family.

The director of “La finta pazza” is Toni Dorfman, a faculty member in Yale’s Theater Studies Program. Dorfman’s production of YBOP’s “Giasone” in 2009 “came off beautifully,” according to a review by Alex Ross in The New Yorker. The performers are undergraduates enrolled in the course “The Performance of Early Opera,” taught by Yale faculty members Richard Lalli and Grant Herreid. Robert Mealy, who teaches both in Yale’s Department of Music and School of Music, leads the ensemble of baroque strings.

Ellen Rosand, one of the world’s foremost scholars on 17th- and 18th-century Italian music, especially opera, and the George A. Saden Professor of Music, created the Yale Baroque Opera Project in 2007 with generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Distinguished Achievement Award. Since its inception, YBOP has presented two operatic productions each year: in the fall, a theatrical construction based on the works of an individual composer (so far, Monteverdi, Cavalli, and Handel); and in the spring, a full-length opera.

In addition to presenting fully staged performances with undergraduate casts, YBOP sponsors many academic activities at Yale that aim to expand students’ appreciation for the multidisciplinary art of baroque opera. These include courses in the history of opera and the performance practice of vocal and instrumental music of the 17th and 18th-centuries, visiting scholars and practitioners in the field, and annual scholarly conferences.

Media Contact

Dorie Baker: dorie.baker@yale.edu, 203-432-1345