Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Praise for Hansel & Gretel

Sasha Cooke as Hansel and Ashley Emerson as Gretel. Philip Newton photo
"Seattle Opera's innovative and highly recommendable production of Hansel and Gretel features a hauntingly gorgeous forest filled with garbage, which was designed by Keith Nagy. The clear-cut trees in the woods resemble prison bars, and at the end of the show, the children escape the witch but they load up their grocery basket with candy to take home, suggesting that they're still caught in the endless cycle of overconsumption." - The Stranger 

"Colorful, lively, pertinent, fun and well sung." - The SunBreak

"General Director Aidan Lang decided to bring the Humperdinck evergreen back to Seattle Opera ...It turns out to have been a smart choice... and another clue to Lang's theatrical aesthetic since he's taken over the reins in Seattle. - Bachtrack 

"The woods resemble those at the end of The Lorax—a bleak landscape of denuded truffula trees after the Once-ler got through with them—while Hansel and Gretel’s forest hut is cunningly recast as a giant tattered corrugated-cardboard box." - The Seattle Weekly

Amanda Opuszynski as the Dew Fairy. Philip Newton photo
"Amanda Opuszynski made a strikingly graceful appearance as both the Sandman and the Dew Fairy." - Bachtrack

"A marvelously witty shadow-play film clip between acts introduces the Witch in silhouette as she vainly kick-starts a series of misbehaving brooms, finally picking out her ideal vehicle and zooming all over the screen."- The Seattle Times

"If an operatic fairy-tale frosted with social commentary sounds like the recipe for a nightmare of 'Regie' pretension, not to worry: Pelly's approach not only avoids any hint of annoying preachiness but admirably and artfully layers in generous dollops of touching sentiment and outrageous humour." - Bachtrack 

Sasha Cooke (Hansel) and Ashley Emerson (Gretel). Philip Newton photo
"Cooke has a big, supple sound; Emerson’s lighter and beautifully produced soprano was an ideal counterpart to Cooke’s boyish portrayal. Their acting was realistic and detailed, constantly in motion — just as real kids are." - The Seattle Times 

"The role of the Witch, cast as a character tenor and clad in a suit and wig of ghastly pink (the costumes are also designed by Pelly), allowed John Easterlin ample opportunity to mine comic gesture and rhythm. His Mime-like affectations made him weirdly endearing and brought to mind the fairy-tale origins of Siegfried, as well as its scherzoish banter." - Bachtrack

"John Easterlin’s Witch was attired in a wonderfully hideous bright-pink suit, soon opened to display even more startling underpinnings. He employed a wide repertoire of cackles and shrieks, along with some fine singing, in creating a memorable character. On Sunday, Peter Marsh (similarly attired) took over the broomstick with equally impressive results, putting his own spin on witchy menace and vocal alacrity."- The Seattle Times

John Easterlin (The Witch) returns to Seattle Opera Oct. 15, 22, 26, & 29.  Jacob Lucas photo
"...and best of all the Seattle Symphony, with decades of applicable Wagner experience, makes Humperdinck’s music all it can be under conductor Sebastian Lang-Lessing." - Seattle Weekly 

"Anya Matanovic was a vocally assured and charming Gretel; Sarah Larsen was a convincing and beautifully sung Hansel." - The Seattle Times

"As the parents, Marcy Stonikas and Mark Walters are exceptionally good, able to present conflicting emotions while still caring about their children’s welfare. Both have first-rate voices that illuminate their characters." - The Seattle Times

Sarah Larsen (Hansel) and Anya Matanovic (Gretel). Philip Newton photo

"... marvelously memorable sets and lighting design are the work of Barbara de Limburg and Joël Adam, respectively." - Bachtrack

The orchestra, led by Sebastian Lang-Lessing, was really the star of the production, performing Humperdinck’s opulent neo-Wagnerian score with lyricism and accuracy. Lang-Lessing never overwhelmed the cast or let the pace flag." - The Seattle Times

"The excellent children’s chorus, prepared by chorusmaster Beth Kirchhoff, is surprisingly affecting as they emerge in a stupor from the Witch’s candied domain — giving opera fans a truly heartwarming finale." - The Seattle Times

"Too often, Humperdinck is glossed over as 'Wagner-lite', yet Lang-Lessing takes this music seriously on its own terms, with glorious results. The score's beautifully orchestrated textures were allowed to bloom and cast their enthralling spell and, in the final scene, joie de vivre." - Bachtrack 

Peter Marsh (The Witch). Jacob Lucas photo

Friday, October 21, 2016

Come trick-or-treat at the Opera!

Bill Mohn photo

"Family Day" at the Oct. 30 performance of Hansel & Gretel 

Start Halloween early by joining Seattle Opera for its Family Day presentation of Hansel and Gretel! This Oct. 30 performance of Engelbert Humperdinck’s masterpiece offers students age 18 and under $15 tickets for almost any seat.* During intermission, activities will include a costume dress-up station, crafts, interactions with costumed characters, and even trick-or-treating (just in time for Halloween!). Sunday, Oct. 30 will also offer an audio-described option for visually-impaired patrons (for more information, click here).

In this 21st century tale of temptation and excess, Hansel and Gretel live in a giant cardboard box set against a toxic sky, and when they go searching for their family, they get lost in a forest of dead trees and litter. After being captured, they must go head-to-head with a Witch, the one who presides over a free-for-all supermarket packed with high-sugar treats. There’s a happy outcome for all, save for the one intent on fattening up little children!

Bachtrack praised Hansel and Gretel as a production that “admirably and artfully layers in generous dollops of touching sentiment and outrageous humor.”

*Family Day information: Please note valid student ID or proof of age is required for entry at the student Family-Day rate. At least one full price adult ticket must be purchased with EVERY student ticket order. Limit four $15 student tickets for each full price adult ticket purchased. Student tickets are not available in the Dress Circle, Orchestra Center Aisle, and $25 Second Tier seating sections.

Tickets & info:

Thursday, September 29, 2016


Listen to or read this downloadable podcast by General Director Aidan Lang. Hansel & Gretel comes to Seattle this fall in a compelling, whimsical, provocative production which should delight your eyes and ears and stimulate your imagination. French director Laurent Pelly’s contemporary interpretation of this famous German opera premiered at England’s Glyndebourne Festival in 2008, and has been a hit in a number of countries.

Hi, everyone, welcome to the podcast, this is Aidan Lang. Of course Hansel & Gretel is our opera up at the moment, so I’m going to be sharing some thoughts about this piece, a piece which I think has a lot more below than the surface than I think maybe we think from a cursory glance.

Monday, September 26, 2016

A trans story told through opera

As One offers music, story, and dialogue Nov. 11 – 19, 2016 at Washington Hall 

This fall, Seattleites can hear opera in a Central-District venue that once housed performances by Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. But the location isn’t the only new thing about Seattle Opera’s As One, which will be presented in the historic Washington Hall. As One, a chamber opera with only two singers, tells the story of Hannah, a transwoman, and her journey to self-understanding. The opera is meant to be both an experience, and a vehicle for meaningful conversation.

Based in part on true events, As One offers a narrative that’s both specific, as well as universal.

“This beautiful, brave opera is about becoming whole – becoming true to one’s self,” said stage director L. Zane Jones, Artistic Director of Seattle's Civic Rep. “It is one woman’s journey to becoming her authentic self; a love story—an adventure—and finally, a celebration."

The newly-renovated Washington Hall. The hall has served as a popular performing arts venue, hosting musicians and speakers such as Marian Anderson, Mahalia Jackson, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Jimi Hendrix, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, and Joe Louis. Many of these events were held at Washington Hall because it was the only venue of significant capacity in Seattle that would allow people of color to perform.
Seattle has never experienced opera in quite this way before. In As One, the grandeur of the company’s mainstage performances are stripped away in favor of a vulnerable, immediate approach. With a string quartet and singers performing in-the-round, the production puts the audience right in the heart of the action.

Award winning filmmaker and librettist Kimberly Reed (Prodigal Sons), and award winning librettist Mark Campbell (Silent Night) created the powerful story for As One. Laura Kaminsky, a former chair of the music department at Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts, composed the piece, which premiered in 2014 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. In this 90-minute opera, the single protagonist, Hannah, is portrayed by two singers—a baritone and a mezzo-soprano. Hannah before is sung by Jorell Williams, praised by The New York Times as “magnificent” and “rich toned.” Hannah after will be sung by Taylor Raven, a rising star currently in residency with Pittsburgh Opera.

Kimberly Reed is a filmmaker/librettist, whose personal journey of going from male to female served as inspiration for the opera "As One." Reed and Mark Campbell wrote the libretto for As One, which was composed by Laura Kaminsky.
Throughout the course of 15 songs, the audience will experience Hannah’s challenges growing up in a small town on the West coast, her quest for knowledge and understanding, and her discovery of the trans community. The opera embraces humor and heartbreaking realities within this personal narrative. While Hannah before is faced with violence, Hannah after names those who did not survive similar attacks. At the end of the opera, the protagonist finds peace, as well as her own self-acceptance and love, in rural Norway.

Prior to the performance, attendees can grab a drink from the in-house bar to enjoy during the performance. Afterward, audience members are invited to participate in a discussion on topics affecting the LGBTQ community.

Hannah before will be sung by baritone Jorell Williams, and Hannah after will be portrayed by Taylor Raven. 
Supported in part by The Wallace Foundation and Pride Foundation, As One reflects Seattle Opera’s commitment to creating a safe and welcoming space within the arts. Moving forward, the company’s work will reflect the diverse communities of the Pacific Northwest in terms of age, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and cultural/multicultural background. Seattle Opera is working to reduce barriers that have historically made the art form inaccessible to certain groups.

As One premieres Friday, Nov. 11, and runs through Saturday, Nov. 19. 

Tickets & info:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Opera’s Greatest Witches

Witches—be they sopranos, mezzos, contraltos, or (coming up in this fall’s Hansel & Gretel at Seattle Opera) tenors—bring intense drama and spectacular music to any number of great operas. Enjoy these memories of great witchy performances at Seattle Opera! If you’d like to listen to them all in one go, open our Witch Album over at SoundCloud and simply press play.

MACBETH: A Stage Full of Witches
Something wicked this way comes! When he set about transforming Shakespeare’s Macbeth into an Italian opera, Giuseppe Verdi multiplied Shakespeare’s three witches into a whole bevy of them, and then wrote them some spectacularly creepy music. The scene in the witches’ cavern becomes a huge production number as the witches brew their hell-broth and await the evil king. Seattle Opera’s 2006 production of Macbeth was conducted by Nicola Luisotti.

LOHENGRIN: Ortrud Invokes the Ancient Gods
In Wagner’s Lohengrin, wicked witch Ortrud transforms the young Christian prince Gottfried von Brabant into a swan with all the powers of hell.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Top 4 Most Impressive Sets

Whether they're realistic or fanciful, literal or abstract, naturalistic or architectural, sets are an important element in creating the world of a particular opera. Here are just a few of our favorite scenic designs from recent productions:

#1: Natural beauty in the Ring

Top Photo © Elise Bakketun | Left Photo © Elise Bakketun | Right Photo © Alan Abastro

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Top 4 Costumes

Opera transports the audience to worlds far away from the everyday, and costumes play a big role in creating that on-stage magic. Here are just a few of our favorite outfits from recent productions:

#1: The glam rock-inspired noblemen from Count Ory

© Jacob Lucas

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Praise for Count Ory

Seattle Opera presents The Wicked Adventures of Count Ory. Jacob Lucas photo
THE SEATTLE TIMES - Melinda Bargreen
Read: Count Ory bubbles with vibrant visuals, sensational singing

“Fast-paced and fun!”

“Frothy, fast-paced, and irresistibly funny: Count Ory may go down in history as Seattle Opera’s most uproarious season-opener ever. The opening weekend had opera patrons asking each other, ‘Why don’t companies produce this work more often?’”

“…[presented] with a tongue-in-cheek storybook ambiance that was met with wild enthusiasm in the audience.”

Sarah Coburn (Countess Adèle), Hanna Hipp (Isolier) and Lawrence Brownlee (Count Ory). Philip Newton photo

“Australian stage director Lindy Hume kept the action continually on the boil, while Dan Potra’s ingenious designs provided an ever-changing set with elements that revolve, slide, open, and close constantly into new forms, all beautifully lighted by Duane Schuler…much to the delight of operagoers."

“The over-the-top costumes (which, like the set, were built by Seattle Opera) seem to draw inspiration from Liberace or Elton John, with a side of Monty Python: there are wild colors, frills and spangles, as well as codpieces in remarkable dimensions."

Patrick Carfizzi (The Tutor) with members of the Seattle Opera Chorus. Philip Newton photo
“All the entertaining visuals are the backdrop to some spectacular singing.”

“The ensemble work was terrific."

Giacomo Sagripanti’s conducting kept the fast-paced score galloping along, while attentively supporting the singers. A hearty ‘Bravi’ to his fleet-fingered orchestra.”

SEATTLE WEEKLY – Gavin Borchert
Read: Seattle Opera’s Spicy Comedy Is Second to Nun

“Dan Potra’s ingenious set design [is] full of smart visual play."

Sarah Coburn (Countess Adèle) with Hanna Hipp (Isolier) and members of the Seattle Opera chorus. Philip Newton photo
THE STRANGER – Rebecca Brown
Read: Giacomo Rossini’s Gender Fluid Count Ory Explores Lust and Sex at Seattle Opera

“Seattle Opera’s new production of Rossini’s final comic opera is about the fluidity of gender, how we often don’t look like who we are, the vicissitudes of lust, and the lengths people go to get in the sack with someone.”

“The sets and costumes make this production."

Barry Banks and members of the Seattle Opera Chorus. Jacob Lucas photo
“…terrific soprano Sarah Coburn…”

“Seattle Opera favorite tenor Lawrence Brownlee is hilarious as the Count, the hermit, and the female Ory disguises himself as in Act II.”

“In this world, where time can slip forward and back through the centuries and gender is only as fixed as the clothes you wear, everyone ends up in harmony together."

Hanna Hipp (Isolier) with sets by Dan Potra. Philip Newton photo
A Rollicking Night at the Opera

“At its best, opera should be total theater, not just first-rate singing and music but also top-notch acting, staging, and movement. By this or any other standard, Count Ory is a winner. From the opening moments to the rollicking closing scene, Ory is a nonstop hoot.”

“…so much frivolity and fun!”

“…the entire cast was in terrific voice.”

“Conductor Giacomo Sagripanti kept the orchestra going at sometimes-breakneck speed while everyone, onstage and off, seemed to be having the time of their lives."

Lawrence Brownlee (Count Ory), center; Rodion Pogossov (left) and members of the Seattle Opera Chorus. Philip Newton photo

The Wicked Adventures of Count Ory
Aug. 6, 7, 10, 13, 17, 19, & 20, 2016
Tickets & info:

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Count Ory: History of a Dirty Joke

Some Rossini comedies are G-rated. The Barber of Seville, La Cenerentola, and The Italian Girl in Algiers are great operas for little kids. (Enjoy music from our productions of these shows on SOUNDCLOUD.) Not only are those three full of zany humor; their music is extremely accessible to young people, full of catchy tunes, dazzling pyrotechnics, and—most importantly for young listeners—propulsive rhythms. These three operas also teach important lessons. The stories reward characters who display loyalty, perseverance, humility, and quick thinking, whereas characters who are bossy, cruel, selfish, or vain get punished by the great scourge of comedy: laughter. And in Rossini’s Italian comedies, all the characters—even the villains—always live happily ever after.

Count Ory marches to a different drumbeat. Written in French, this sex-obsessed opera really isn’t for little kids.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Creating costumes for Count Ory

This August, Seattle Opera presents The Wicked Adventures of Count Ory—a brand-new production that packs the punch of a Broadway musical with a nod to the humor and visual style of Monty Python. Australian Stage Director Lindy Hume and Production Designer Dan Potra have let their imaginations run wild in creating a mashup of medieval France and psychedelic, ‘70s flower power. You can see this zany combination in Potra's costume designs currently in progress below.

Photos by Genevieve Hathaway 
Costume Assistant Sophy Wong puts one of Dan Potra's designs on a mannequin. 
Two of Count Ory's looks -- the first as a nobleman with inspiration from 70s glam rock; the second , which  takes inspiration from new religious movements of the same time period, is his disguise as a love guru.  
Countess Adèle Act 1 and Act 2; Ragonde and Alice costumes.
Hume and Potra meditated on the similarities between medieval peasants and hippies. Thus, the show combines various cultural phenomenons of the 70s  (think Yellow Submarine, hippies, rock n' roll) with the French medieval setting envisioned by Rossini.
Two of Ory's minions: Isolier, the androgynous page (a trouser role played by a woman); and Raimbaud, Ory's crony. 
The knights and Tutor. 
Costumes for The Tutor, Isolier, and two looks for Raimbaud.
Waist details. 
Raimbaud details. 
Studs, leather, ruffles.