Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Genius of French Opera

La Marseillaise (Jean Béraud, 1880)

In honor of Seattle Opera's upcoming premiere of Beatrice and Benedict, today we celebrate French opera! (We're singing B&B in English, since our production kicks off Seattle Celebrates Shakespeare; but it's a very French opera.)

Ever since opera first came to France from Italy in the seventeenth century, the French have had their own wonderful way of blending the arts to create the hybrid which is opera. French opera has always been a balancing act: balancing poetry with music, musical delights with visual spectacle, dance with stasis, public with private, sorrow with high spirits, and above all balancing—and sometimes encouraging the tug-of-war between—passion and reason.

The following survey of French opera history features moments from some of our favorite French operas as performed at Seattle Opera. CLICK HERE to listen to a full playlist without interruption.

GLUCK TAKES REFORM OPERA TO FRANCE

Orphée Leads Eurydice from the Underworld (Corot, 1861)

Opera is fundamentally a fusion of music and drama, words and notes.

Monday, February 5, 2018

AIDAN LANG INTRODUCES BEATRICE & BENEDICT

Listen to or read this downloadable podcast by General Director Aidan Lang. To kick off Seattle Celebrates Shakespeare, we're proud to offer our first-ever opera by Hector Berlioz: Beatrice and Benedict, an operatic amplification of Much Ado About Nothing. Conducted by Seattle Symphony's Ludovic Morlot and directed by ACT Theatre's John Langs, this one-of-a-kind, all-new and all-Seattle production plays for only seven performances, February 24-March 10.

Hello, everyone, it's Aidan Lang here, and this time I'm here to talk about Berlioz's Beatrice and Benedict.

AN OPERA AND COMPOSER NEW TO US


We do like to give our audiences in every season one opera they've never seen before. This is the first time not only that Seattle Opera will be performing Beatrice, but also an opera by Berlioz.

Monday, January 29, 2018

What is Beatrice and Benedict?

Philip Newton Photo
Dozens of opera composers have drawn inspiration from Shakespeare over the years. Here at Seattle Opera we’ve often presented Verdi’s great operas based on Shakespeare, but never before have our audiences heard Beatrice and Benedict, French composer Hector Berlioz’s ravishingly beautiful operatic riff on Much Ado About Nothing. This production marks the first time Berlioz will be performed at Seattle Opera. His most stageworthy opera, Beatrice and Benedict builds upon the solid dramatic foundation laid by England’s greatest playwright. Berlioz’s music adds fascinating new emotional and lyrical dimensions to Shakespeare’s brilliant play of wit and intrigue.

For this unique production, ACT Theatre’s Artistic Director, John Langs, will make his Seattle Opera debut directing Beatrice and Benedict, while Ludovic Morlot, Music Director of the Seattle Symphony, conducts for his first time at Seattle Opera. The ensemble includes singers beloved by Seattle Opera audiences as well as non-singing actors cast by John Langs, including several actors from ACT Theatre’s 2018 Core Company. Returning singers from our just closed Cosi fan tutte include Hanna Hipp, Craig Verm, Laura Tatulescu and Kevin Burdette. The Seattle-based design team– including Robert Dahlstrom, Deborah Trout, Matthew Smucker, and Connie Yun–conjures a sunny Sicilian setting sure to brighten up your winter.

Philip Newton Photo
Berlioz translated the original Shakespeare text into French when he made Much Ado About Nothing into an opéra comique, a popular French form of light opera with lots of dialogue. Berlioz included much of the original play text in the spoken dialogue, translating it into the language of his audience (originally, French, but later German as well). Seattle Opera is presenting Beatrice and Benedict in English, so our audiences can enjoy the genius of one of our own language’s greatest writers directly, from lips to ear. We figured you’d prefer this approach to reading a Shakespeare play on the supertitle screen while it’s being spoken in French! We’re using the English singing translation developed by the opera librettist Amanda Holden for English National Opera. Amplified dialogue plus supertitles for the sung text will guarantee you don’t miss a word.

Berlioz’s fantastic love music in Beatrice and Benedict focuses on the playful bickering and irresistible attraction of the title characters. But Seattle Opera is also restoring the intense drama of Shakespeare’s dark subplot, in which Don John tries to ruin Claudio’s faith in the innocent Hero (greatly abridged in Berlioz’s opera). In Seattle Opera’s Beatrice and Benedict, music taken from other Berlioz works will contribute beauty, passion, and color to the villainy of Don John and the jealousy and remorse of Claudio. Turns out, Shakespeare knew what he was doing! The subplot not only adds depth and contrast; it forces Beatrice and Benedict to grow up and embrace their full humanity.

Given Maestro Morlot’s expertise with Berlioz, and director Langs’ rich experience with Shakespeare and Much Ado About Nothing, all the pieces are in place and the stage is set for a once-in-a-lifetime game of words vs. music, women vs. men, and love vs. hate. Light as a soufflé yet rich and deep as a fine wine, Beatrice and Benedict is sure to charm your ears and enchant your heart.


Beatrice and Benedict plays February 24-March 10 at McCaw Hall, and is part of the Seattle Shakespeare Festival. Tickets and more information at seattleopera.org/Beatrice

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Men and Women, Music and Words


From left: Ginger Costa-Jackson (Dorabella), Craig Verm (Guglielmo), Laura Tatulescu (Despina), Marina Costa-Jackson (Fiordiligi), and Tuomas Katajala (Ferrando), Seattle Opera, Cosi fan tutte 2018 © Philip Newton
By Lucy Caplan
Women cannot be trusted, Don Alfonso tells his impressionable young companions, and your lovers are no exception. Just watch me prove it, he huffsand so the story of Così fan tutte begins. At this moment, settled comfortably in my seat as an audience member, I begin to feel conflicted. I have already been delighted by Mozart’s effervescent music, which has captivated me from the first notes of the overture. But now I am also exasperated by Alfonso’s broadbrush dismissal of all women as inherently untrustworthy, and by Guglielmo and Ferrando’s willingness to deceive the women they love. 

It doesn’t feel right simply to ignore Alfonso’s brazenly sexist sentiments. It also doesn’t feel right to let that frustration negate my enjoyment of the opera’s beauty and charm. So, as the story and the music continue to pull me in different directions, I can’t help but wonder: Is this a misogynistic work of art? If it is, and I love it regardless, what does that say about me? 

I am not the first operagoer to have qualms about Cosi’s portrayals of women, though the reasons behind the criticisms have changed over time. After a moderately successful premiere in Vienna in 1790, the opera only lingered on the margins of the standard repertoire for more than a century. One reason for its infrequent performance was that it scandalized nineteenth-century audiences with its frank depiction of women’s sexuality, particularly Fiordiligi and Dorabella’s infidelity. In response to this criticism, some productions tweaked Cosi’s plot to make it more socially acceptable—transforming Don Alfonso into a sorcerer and Despina into a sprite, for instance, so as to transport the opera into the realm of fantasy. One version abandoned Da Ponte’s libretto entirely, replacing it with a French translation of Love’s Labour’s Lost. These revisions strived for a neat separation between story and sound, which would minimize the women’s “immoral” behavior while preserving the musical beauty. 

In the twentieth century, Cosi finally entered the canon—including in the United States, where it received a longoverdue premiere in 1922. Ironically, the women’s rights movement may have helped make its success possible: the opera’s rise in popularity corresponded with the ascent of first-wave feminism and newly progressive social mores regarding women’s behavior on and off the stage. Today, it is among the world’s most popular operas. 

Ginger Costa-Jackson (Dorabella) and Marina Costa-Jackson (Fiordiligi), Seattle Opera, Così fan tutte 2018, © Philip Newton
As a twenty-first-century listener, I don’t find the opera’s content especially risqué. What disturbs me is how Cosi seems to make light of the male characters’ attitudes toward the women. Guglielmo and Ferrando’s scheme to test their lovers’ fidelity is as cynical as it is absurd. They take pleasure in setting the women up for failure, deceiving the people they claim to love. The women succumb to temptation, seeming to confirm the sexist claim that “all women are like that”; that is, devious and fickle. But nobody onstage ever asks if “all men are like that,” or whether the guys are acting in a devious manner themselves. 

As this all unfolds, a striking mismatch emerges between the libretto and the score, which is heartfelt and tender throughout. Opera is always artificial to some extent—we don’t generally communicate through song or punctuate our daily lives with arias—but Cosi is exceptional in this regard, combining a darkly implausible plot with deeply sincere music. 

As I listen, I wonder if I should let music and plot remain comfortably separate. The loveliness of Mozart’s music makes complacency tempting; it would be easy not to think too much about the piece’s implications in the world outside the opera house. Oriented only by beauty, my moral compass wavers. Maybe yours does, too. Listening to one delightful melody after another puts me at ease; the artistry conceals the ugliness of sexism. But is there something amiss when we admire the opera’s beauty, regardless of what it cloaks? Can we meaningfully separate our listening selves from our broader ideals and beliefs? 

Hanna Hipp (Dorabella) and Marjukka Tepponen (Fiordiligi), Seattle Opera, Così fan tutte 2018, © Philip Newton
These questions are not unique to Cosi. Related issues arise across the standard opera repertoire, from Madame Butterfly’s Orientalism to Otello’s racism to Don Giovanni’s sexual violence. Each work prompts the question of what to do when the world an opera depicts is out of sync with contemporary values. But the music and story intermingle in complicated ways. With Cosi, the contrast between a superficial storyline and musical depth actually heightens the potential for complexity. Mozart’s music invites me to come closer, to listen more intently. When I do that, I find that I grapple with this opera’s sexism—beyond simply noting its presence—and I see new nuances in the characters and new relationships between the opera and our own time. 

Take the relationship between Fiordiligi and Ferrando, for instance. When Fiordiligi sings the majestic aria “Come scoglio,” her expansive vocal range conveys the depth of her convictions; no one could mistake this music as insincere. Another way to say this might be that while the male characters are having fun at the expense of the women, the music is not. Later, she reluctantly capitulates to Ferrando’s advances (“Yield, my dearest!”…“Cruel man, you’ve won! Do with me what you will”). The moment feels eerily resonant with the stories that have dominated the news lately—accounts of powerful men, from actors to politicians, who take advantage of vulnerable women. Against this contemporary backdrop, my response isn’t to tsk-tsk Fiordiligi for her unfaithfulness. I’m infuriated by Ferrando’s cruelty and Fiordiligi’s inability to escape it. Listening in this way makes me wonder if the claim “Così fan tutte” is anything more than a cynical provocation. When Alfonso, Ferrando, and Guglielmo sing it near the opera’s end, enclosed in boldly stated chords, they certainly try to make it sound definitive, but I don’t have to accept it as such. 
Modern stagings and interpretations, like this one, bring all sorts of creative possibilities to the fore. They allow the opera itself to try on disguises, as it were, to experiment with different facets of its identity. This production, set in contemporary Seattle, embraces Cosi’s obsession with creativity and costumes; comical touches show us how even the men who think they’re all-powerful end up looking a bit ridiculous. 

Ultimately, one of Cosi’s signature revelations is that what seem like fundamental splits—between men and women, music and words, art and audience, the world outside the opera house and the world within it—are never as absolute as they appear. Art and artifice may distance us temporarily from outside realities, but they don’t make those realities disappear. So I want to resist both the temptation to excuse Cosi’s sexism in the name of art and the temptation to let that sexism ruin an opera that I otherwise love. Instead, I’ll embrace the opera’s ability to do what all great works of art do: to bridge the divide between its world and our own, revealing something profound in the process. 

Lucy Caplan is a Ph.D. candidate at Yale University, where she is writing a dissertation on African American opera in the early twentieth century. She is the recipient of the 2016 Rubin Prize for Music Criticism. 

Così fan tutte plays at McCaw Hall through January 27. Tickets and information at seattleopera.org/cosi

Friday, January 19, 2018

Praise for Così fan tutte

From left: Ginger Costa-Jackson (Dorabella), Craig Verm (Guglielmo), Laura Tatulescu (Despina), Marina Costa-Jackson (Fiordiligi), and Tuomas Katajala (Ferrando). Philip Newton photo.
"Local and current references make Miller’s boisterous rendition funnier and more relatable to contemporary viewers. Cell phones are everywhere, with characters texting and snapping selfies throughout. Television cameras film Guglielmo and Ferrando heading off to war. Characters mic drop, hair flip and play air guitar. The Dothraki language from HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” is among the clever present-day references in the supertitles by Seattle Opera’s Jonathan Dean."-Queen Anne News

"Cosi is an ensemble opera in which all six principals have delightful stage business and beautiful music to sing; the finest productions, like this one, feature a well-rounded cast with the acting and singing chops to make us laugh and cry along with them."-Seattle P.I.

Kevin Burdette (Don Alfonso) and Laura Tatulescu (Despina). Philip Newton photo.
"As Despina, Laura Tatulescu was both versatile and clever. Kevin Burdette gave a detailed and suave portrayal of the wily Don Alfonso, who sets the plot into motion by proposing that the boyfriends test their girls’ fidelity by wooing each other’s girl in disguise."-Seattle Times

"Kevin Burdette (Don Alfonso at all shows) was a suave, supercilious conspirator while Laura Tatulescu’s Despina (again, at all shows) was the perfect bored foil for the flighty sisters."-Seattle P.I.

"Kevin Burdette was a natural as the instigator of the opera’s action, the suavely manipulative Alfonso. He could command a scene with a mere gesture or his richly polished bass. As Despina, the sisters’ personal assistant who first appears bringing lattes to her employers, Laura Tatulescu was delightful in her insubordination and her impersonations of a lawyer and a doctor — plus she rocked her high notes."-Queen Anne News

Marina Costa-Jackson (Fiorgiligi) and Ginger Costa-Jackson (Dorabella). Philip Newton photo.
“One reason Saturday’s opening-night cast was such a success was the “sister act” of two real-life sisters — Marina Costa-Jackson as Fiordiligi and Ginger Costa-Jackson as Dorabella. Both have rich, beautifully produced voices of considerable agility (Marina’s “Come scoglio” was a showstopping standout).”-Seattle Times

"Amusing and affecting as the embattled Fiordiligi rigorously defending her honor, soprano Marina Costa-Jackson displayed a thrilling vocalism that blazed through the prodigious leaps in her arias, generating the longest applause for an individual singer. Ginger Costa-Jackson was a wonder as Dorabella, Fiordiligi’s flirtatious sister, with a dark-hued, vibrant mezzo."-Queen Anne News

From left: Laura Tatulescu (Despina), Hanna Hipp (Dorabella), and Marjukka Tepponen (Fiordiligi). Tuffer photo.
"There’s a bit more steel and a lot of great technique in Marjukka Tepponen’s Fiordiligi (she has a glorious laugh), and much to admire in Hanna Hipp’s more yielding, lyrical Dorabella."-Seattle Times

“Conductor Paul Daniel kept the musical pace humming along … [and] also supported the singers admirably with his continuo playing (on a particularly fine fortepiano), with cellist Meeka Quan DiLorenzo.”-Seattle Times

"Fiordiligi is the most challenging role in this opera, because it demands the ability to jump to the extremes of a huge vocal range. Most sopranos who attempt this role end up sounding harsh and unpleasant, but Tepponen maintained her lustrous tone in every part of her range. She delivered the goods, both vocally and emotionally."-Seattle Gay News

Tuomas Katajala (Ferrando) and Craig Verm (Guglielmo). Tuffer photo.
"Katajala’s lyricism and Verm’s warm baritone were a pleasure to hear. Harry Fehr, who staged the revival, had them dashing about the stage, doing push-ups, posturing and in more or less constant motion."-Seattle Times

"Although Tuomas Katajala has a warm caramel tenor that was especially lovely in his paean to his love, Un’ aura amorosa, his voice also showed a steely backbone when his Ferrando was enraged. Craig Verm’s honeyed baritone coupled with his Guglielmo’s confident sexuality when disguised left no doubt he could seduce one of the sisters."-Queen Anne News 

From left: Kevin Burdette (Don Alfonso), Ben Bliss (Ferrando), and Michael Adams (Guglielmo). Tuffer photo.
"Ben Bliss brought a bright, beautifully produced tone to Ferrando, and Michael Adams was a smoothly sonorous Guglielmo."-Seattle Times

"All of the cast members looked great in Cynthia Savage’s contemporary costumes, from the high-style glamour of the sisters’ outfits to the hilarious “biker dudes” get-up assumed by their boyfriends in disguise. Since Miller, the original production director, believes that we become different people when we wear disguises, the costumes really count in this show."-Seattle Times

"Kevin Burdette and Laura Tatulescu (who sing these roles in all performances) nearly stole the show. Tatulescu was perfect as the spunky, resentful servant who also turns up disguised as a doctor and a notary. Burdette was a marvel: suave, graceful, and charming, he almost made the audience like the deplorable Don Alfonso, thereby adding another layer of discomfort and complexity. I look forward to Tatulescu's and Burdette's performances in Beatrice and Benedict, the next Seattle Opera offering."-Seattle Gay News

Seattle Opera's Così fan tutte plays through January 27, 2018 at McCaw Hall.
Tickets & info: seattleopera.org/cosi

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

AIDAN LANG INTRODUCES COSÌ FAN TUTTE

Listen to or read this downloadable podcast by General Director Aidan Lang. Così fan tutte, the ultimate operatic mash-up of buffa & seria, thought vs. feeling, Mozart's heartfelt music and Da Ponte's cynical words, returns to Seattle this winter (seven performances, January 13-27). Aidan introduces this fascinating opera and the ever-contemporary production which now returns, updated for 2018, to our city.

Hello, everyone, it's Aidan Lang here, and today I'm here to talk about Così fan tutte, our next opera!

Così fan tutte is always classified as a comedy, but as always with comedy, the old adage that it's the most serious art form was never truer than it is with this piece. It's a piece which delves very deeply into our psyche and into human behavior. Built into it are ideas and topics which are very germane to the lives we lead today and the society we have today.

This production is a revival of the production which was mounted here back in 2006 by the acclaimed director, Dr. Jonathan Miller. Jonathan said that "Così fan tutte is not about fidelity. It's about identity, and what happens when you put on a disguise." And I think there's an awful lot of truth in that.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Seattle Opera's Wagner and More Group Takes Chicago by Storm

Signs outside Lyric Opera of Chicago, advertising upcoming performances.

Wagner and More, Seattle Opera’s social group for opera lovers, recently took a trip to Chicago to take in some great opera, theater, music, and art. The group also went on a behind-the-scenes tour of Chicago Lyric’s Die Walküre set, caught a Chicago Symphony Orchestra performance of Schubert, and more. This WAM group really knows how to pack in the artistic and theatrical fun (while also leaving enough time to catch the Seahawks game).

Check out their itinerary below, and consider joining up! WAM has plenty of local events (about 16 per year), and their next trip is gearing up for the Ring Cycle at San Francisco Opera in June.

WAM Members Rachael Schneider, Marilyn and Jean Schweitzer, Bill Etnyre, Megan Pursell and Stephen Sprenger enjoying the mild Chicago winter.


Friday began with a brilliant lecture by Sue Elliott (Seattle Opera’s former Director of Education), followed by a backstage tour at Chicago Lyric. Later in the day, Chicago Lyric’s General Director, Anthony Freud, an old friend of Seattle Opera General Director Aidan Lang’s, greeted the group before a lovely dinner in the exclusive Pederson Room at the Lyric Opera house.

The crown jewel of the trip, Die Walküre, featured Christine Goerke as Brünnhilde and Brandon Jovanovich, a former Seattle Opera young artist and mainstage performer, as Sigmund.  This was a new production, following last year’s Das Rheingold. The setting was Wagner’s time—late-nineteenth century.    

Wigs from Die Walküre from the backstage tour at Lyric Opera Chicago.


Saturday the group had some free time, then went to the famous Steppenwolf Theatre for The Minutes, a compelling play by Tracy Letts, that starts off as a small-town comedy, and then morphs into a magical-realism tragedy.  

That evening they basked in the music of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, doing Schubert.

Maestro Manfred Honeck conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Schubert’s 9th Symphony.


On Sunday, after navigating the Bears-Packers traffic, the group attended a docent’s tour of the Field Museum, then to Chicago Opera Theater, for The Consul by Gian Carlo Menotti, which was done at Seattle Opera a few years ago. This production featured Patricia Racette as Magda (she performed Seattle Opera’s Cio-Cio-San six years ago), and Victoria Livengood as the mother (she was the mother in Katya last year). (One of the WAM members got a chance to chat with her at the airport the next day.)  The group was hosted in their Donor Lounge by the president of their Board, Susan Irion. 

The Minutes by Tracy Letts at Steppenwolf Theatre.


For the grand finale, they dined at the elegant Coco Pazzo, where they were joined by two musicians from the Lyric orchestra.  They returned to Seattle on Monday, tired from the whirlwind tour, but also happy and inspired.

WAM president Dick Gemperle with wife Marybeth, Jean and Marilyn Schweitzer, Jana Hollingsworth, Margaret Ohashi, Cathryn Brite and Bill Etnyre at Die Walküre  at Lyric Opera of Chicago.


WAM attendees: Cathy Brite, Bill Etnyre, Gail Gazda, Dick and Mary Beth Gemperle, Janet Graeber, Jana Hollingsworth, Margaret Ohashi, Megan Purcell, Rachel Schneider, Jean Stark, Jean Schweitzer, Stephen Sprenger, and Moya Vazquez. Seattle Opera staff: General Director Aidan Lang, Director of Development Lisa Bury, and Senior Individual Giving Officer Tracy Reich.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Give music and joy this holiday season!

Seattle Opera has everything you need to make the holidays merry! Here are just a few gift ideas to fit any budget and please everyone on your list:

(To purchase, simply follow the link for each item or call us: 206.389.7676 for tickets and gift certificates, 206.774.4990 for Amusements gift shop)

ANY PRICE:

Jacob Lucas photo
Seattle Opera Gift Certificates are a flexible way to share the magic of opera. Your recipient can redeem the certificates for tickets to any opera on a date that works with their schedule.* Available in any amount.

UNDER $10:

Robin Hood—A Youth Opera for Families. Join us on February 2 or 3 at Cornish Playhouse for this fresh take on a a timeless classic. This opera for all ages features the Youth Opera Project performers, ages 7–18, with chamber orchestra. Tickets: $5 (all ages).

UNDER $30:

Image Courtesy of Amusements Gift Shop
Check out Amusements, our gift shop, for an assortment of great opera-related stocking stuffers, including t-shirts, mugs, ornaments, and more. Coffee mug pictured: $13.95.

Philip Newton photo
Tickets for Beatrice and Benedict may be more affordable than you think! Give a taste of opera with this lively adaptation of Shakespeare's comedy Much Ado About Nothing. Beatrice and Benedict runs February 24–March 10. Tickets start at just $25.

UNDER $50:

Image Courtesy of Amusements Gift Shop
Show off your Seattle Opera pride in style with either a luxurious scarf in a variety of colors, or a 100% silk Tie or Bow Tie. Either item: $49.95.

UNDER $150:

Philip Newton photo
Season tickets are the ultimate gift for any opera lover! Along with tickets to Così fan tutte, Beatrice & Benedict, and Aida, subscriptions include unmatched benefits such as flexible ticket exchanges, seating upgrades, and much more. Three-opera packages start at just $136.


LOOKING FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT?

Genevieve Hathaway photo

Give the gift of creativity this holiday season with our popular program, Opera in the Making. Adults can step away from the chaos of daily life through an 8-session class where they will learn to write their own libretto. Enrollment: $425.

*Gift certificates are valid for three years and may be applied towards tickets for any opera performed prior to the stated expatriation date, which appears on the certificate. Gift certificates are redeemable online, by phone or in person. They are not redeemable for Amusements gift shop items or other McCaw Hall amenities. Gift certificates have no cash value an may not be applied to previously purchased tickets. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Praise for The Barber of Seville

From left: Daniel Sumegi (Don Basilio), Kevin Glavin (Dr. Bartolo), Marc Kenison (Ambrogio), Margaret Gawrysiak (Berta), Will Liverman (Figaro), Andrew Owens (Almaviva) and Sofia Fomina (Rosina). Jacob Lucas photo
"...A crazy bright hilarious production."- The Stranger

"Go, go, go to Seattle Opera’s production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville!"- City Arts 

"If Prince and Jim Morrison had a secret love child it would be John Moore playing Figaro in the opening night of Seattle Opera’s The Barber of Seville. He swings his long, curly, bad-boy rockstar hair around and preens. He brags about how everybody—guys and girls, young and old—wants him. He acts like he’s smarter than everyone else. But in the case of this opera, he actually is."- The Stranger

John Moore (Figaro). Philip Newton photo
"Musically it’s up there with (Seattle Opera's) best, with both singers and orchestra shining under maestro Giacomo Sagripanti; add to that the acting, the staging, the sets, costumes and lighting—they are marvelous."- City Arts 

"Fomina displayed a stellar array of coloratura flights and high notes, along with plenty of charm; Liverman’s warm, agile baritone was enhanced by a suave and savvy stage presence." - The Seattle Times  

"... Even if you think you don’t anything about opera, you do: You know this music." - The Stranger

Sofia Fomina (Rosina), Will Liverman (Figaro) and Andrew Owens (Almaviva). Philip Newton photo
"The main characters are all studies in perpetual motion, but it’s the servants Ambrogio (a non-singing role easily handled by Marc Kenison, aka Waxie Moon) and Berta (Margaret Gawrysiak) who almost steal the show, appearing in almost every scene dusting, sweeping and generally straightening up." - Seattle P.I. 

"The action never stops. Flashing colored lights, doors and windows snapping open and slamming shut; singers leaping and bounding out of the wings and onto the stage, and streamers cascading downward in the grand finale."- The Seattle Times  

Marc Kenison (Ambrogio) and Margaret Gawrysiak (Berta). Philip Newton photo
"The music is funny too: excruciatingly quick sixteenth notes sung at breakneck speed by solos, duets, trios, and ensembles, and maddeningly fiddled by the orchestra, then borrowed by artists ranging from Bugs Bunny in 'The Rabbit of Seville' to the Beatles when they are trying to cut off Ringo’s ring in 'Help!' This opera is also where that 'Figaro! Figaro! Figaro!' thing comes from that Spongebob, Tom and Jerry, more Bugs Bunny, and doubtless other cartoons and parodies use."- The Stranger

"Kevin Glavin (Dr. Bartolo) and Daniel Sumegi (Don Basilio) provided some of the finest singing of the evening." - Seattle P.I. 

Daniel Sumegi (Don Basilio). Philip Newton photo
"Highlights include: dorky white-guy dancing; Seattle boy-lesque performer Waxie Moon (in the non-singing part of servant Ambrogio) in cumulus-cloud muttonchops, who is at one point suspended upside down from a chandelier ... the set as mash-up of Pee Wee’s Playhouse, Laugh-In, and a slow-motion bad dream of a disco ball; the force of nature that is Daniel Sumegi’s (Don Basilio) bass; red streamers." - The Stranger

"Guitarist Michael Partington, who appeared on the stage to accompany key arias, gave the performances both musical expertise and genuine period flavor." -  The Seattle Times  

Kevin Glavin (Dr. Bartolo). Philip Newton photo
"Jonathan Dean’s supertitles echo the sassy nature of the production and the whole experience is sheer delight." - City Arts 

"Saturday’s Rosina, fine Spanish soprano Sabina Puértolas making her Seattle Opera debut, is vivacious and spunky, easily a girl to catch the eye of the ardent Count Almaviva, high tenor Matthew Grills. The two singers flirt while engaging with ease in vocal acrobatics, nailing their bel canto arias. (Though Perhaps Grills’ most memorable moment is when, disguised as a fake music master, he gives a hilarious performance as accompanist on the harpsichord.)." - City Arts  

Sabina Puértolas (Rosina). Philip Newton photo
"Daniel Pelzig’s Spanish-accented choreography and Matthew Marshall’s imaginative lighting enhanced the look of the show. The chorus, prepared by John Keene, looked snappy, and appeared to be having a terrific time. And so, judging from the applause levels, did the audiences." - The Seattle Times  

"That’s one reason this would be a great show for a first-time opera-goer to try. But actually, anyone who likes spectacle will be wowed by this co-production between Seattle Opera, Opera Queensland, and New Zealand Opera. (Thank you, Aiden Lang, for connecting Seattle Opera with Down Under.)" - The Stranger 

Seattle Opera presents The Barber of Seville. Philip Newton photo
"The music is glorious, arguably the most familiar and accessible in the entire opera canon; the story is as silly – and outdated – as they come but in the midst of such merriment and energy, not to mention the beautiful voices, who cares?"

Seattle Opera's The Barber of Seville plays through Oct. 28, 2017 at McCaw Hall. 
Tickets & info: seattleopera.org/barber


Friday, October 13, 2017

Rosina Heard 'Round the World

Sabina Puértolas is one of the sopranos interpreting the role of Rosina in Seattle Opera's The Barber of Seville.
 By Jessica Murphy Moo
Perhaps the first moment when we see that Rosina isn’t merely a helpless damsel in distress is in her first aria “Una voce poco fa.” She acknowledges that she is in love with Lindoro (who we know is the Count in disguise), and she sets her mind to winning him. “I’m gentle, I’m respectful, I’m obedient, sweet, loving,” she says, “but”—and this “but” is where we see her strength—“I’m a viper and I’ll set a hundred traps before giving up. I’ll make them fall.” Not a wallflower, our Rosina.

Sofia Fomina is one of the sopranos interpreting the role of Rosina in Seattle Opera's The Barber of Seville.
Still, she is stuck, and this situation, intensified by Rossini’s music, is where all the tension and frustration and—let’s face it—hilarity springs forth.

Sopranos Sabina Puértolas and Sofia Fomina are here making their Seattle Opera debuts in a role they both love. Puértolas, who is from Spain, describes Rosina as “very young, very Spanish” with a personality that is sunny and “like champagne.” Fomina, who is originally from Russia, calls the character clever, innocent, flirtatious, and “like fire.”
Costume design by Tracy Grant Lord
They also both think of Rosina as very young, and that her youth is perhaps both her shield and her strength. Her actions aren’t quite as premeditated as someone with a deeper understanding of the consequences ahead of her if she doesn’t escape from Bartolo and seize control of her own destiny. (Compare her to Gilda in Rigoletto, who is also held captive but has no escape.) Rosina knows what she wants and she goes for it, and she has a little fun at the expense of Bartolo along the way.

Puértolas is right at home playing the young girl in Spain because the role brings her back to an earlier carefree phase in her life. “My life is very normal, with my son and my husband, my cat, my dog,” she says. “With Rosina, I feel young again. I’m not Sabina, married with a son.” And despite Rossini’s Italian sensibilities, she feels that the opera evokes a wonderful sense of Spain’s character.
“We are very luminosos; we are very bright,” with a personality that she compares to a breath of fresh air. (An interesting tidbit about this production is that the creative team has decided to play up the opera’s “Spanish-ness.” We will see flamenco dancers and the crumbling aristocracy of Seville and other elements of Spain.)
Costume design by Tracy Grant Lord
Fomina is at home in this opera too, perhaps less because of the cultural elements and more because she loves singing bel canto roles. At Royal Opera Covent Garden, Fomina recently performed the pants role of Jemmy, in Rossini’s final opera William Tell. So Fomina has run the gamut with Rossini, and she’s hoping to take on more of those big bel canto roles and some lyric roles (Lucia, Violetta) as her voice and career continue to evolve.

These performances mark not only Fomina’s Seattle Opera debut, but also her US debut. In Russia, she says it is not uncommon to spend one’s entire career at a single house, but she realized early on that she wanted to follow a different path. She spent about eight years singing full-time with two companies in Germany, and she has recently changed to a freelance career where she is traveling the international stages. In some ways, she can identify with Rosina’s core desire to be free.
Costume design by Tracy Grant Lord
Puértolas began her career singing Spanish folk music in the north of Spain, and eventually went to a conservatory and narrowed her focus. She seems to have struck the work/life balance many can only hope to achieve. “My family pushes me to continue with my career. They are behind me. They help me. In my life, if I am happy, they are happy. It’s very important to me.” She admits that she is a positive person, and she is relieved to have the advantages of technology to bring her home and connections with her wherever she goes.

Fomina grew up in a musical family: her mother is a violinist and her father was a violinist and conductor from a small city outside of Moscow. And when she first went for her residency at Saarbrücken, she didn’t speak any languages other than Russian. She learned English and German, “and the world started opening up to me.” The director there introduced her to the director at the Royal Opera House, and the opportunities to perform on world stages continued from there.
Two of the costumes for Rosina. Costume design by Tracy Grant Lord
Puértolas loves to sing at the theaters that make her feel at home. For her that is Royal Opera Covent Garden, Teatro Real, and Bruxelles. After Seattle, she will return home to Spain to sing in Barcelona and Madrid, and then on to Toulouse. Fomina comes to us from Toulouse where she performed Berthe in Meyerbeer’s Le prophète, and then heads to Royal Opera Covent Garden. But for now, their home is Seattle, and we look forward to delighting in the antics and the coloratura of their sunny and fiery Rosinas.

Seattle Opera's The Barber of Seville plays through Oct. 28, 2017 at McCaw Hall.
Tickets & info: seattleopera.org/barber