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:

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


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)


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.


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:

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:

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


In this downloadable podcast stage director and Rossini specialist Lindy Hume discusses Rossini's beloved Barber of Seville with General Director Aidan Lang. Listen to Aidan, who’s British, and Lindy, who’s Australian, share their enthusiasm for this delightful and outrageous comedy, coming to Seattle October 2017 in a colorful new production from Lindy's home company, Opera Brisbane.

Photo of Lindy in rehearsal with Lawrence Brownlee by Genevieve Hathaway.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The 'Sorrow' girls bring joy to Seattle Opera

Twins Scarlett (left) and Hazel (right) Del Rosario pose backstage with soprano Yasko Sato (Cio-Cio-San). The 7-year-old sisters alternated as Sorrow, Butterfly's child. Photo by Renee Rapier. 

By Lauren Brigolin 
Those who saw Madame Butterfly twice may have had the opportunity to experience dramatic performances by two sets of sopranos and tenors. But there was another another character who was double-cast—the child of Cio-Cio-San and Pinkerton’s doomed romance. In Seattle Opera’s recent production, this role of “Sorrow” was played by 7-year-old fraternal twins: Scarlett and Hazel del Rosario. The sisters shared the same black wig for their performances, which allowed them to transform into Butterfly’s little boy. 

The twins getting a fitting for the wig they shared for the role of Sorrow. Photo by Liesl Gatcheco. 
While the girls had performed in school plays, Butterfly was the first professional production they’ve been in together. The experience has clearly been one to remember; the girls practically explode with energy and excitement in describing their summer with the opera.

“It was amazing,” says Scarlett, who performed with soprano Lianna Haroutounian. Hazel, whose favorite part was being spun in the air by “mom” Yasko Sato adds: “So fun! Once I got off the stage I screamed, ‘fun!’”

The girls’ father, DJ del Rosario, says each twin had their own take on the role—much of the blocking onstage came from their own impulses. For example, the girls got to choose whether they wanted to hug Pinkerton or Sharpless.
Scarlett in costume as Sorrow with her sister, Hazel, backstage. 
It helped to have a cast and creative team who were so welcoming.

“Maestro (Carlo Montanaro) gave the girls an an opportunity to bow, something we didn't expect and have really been touched by. This is definitely their professional debut," DJ says.

Of course, learning the ropes of performing in an opera took some getting used to. Speaking about the rehearsal process, Hazel says, “I was trying to pretend there was an audience there. It was kind of scary.”

Hazel del Rosario (Sorrow) and Yasko Sato (Cio-Cio-San). Philip Newton photo
Scarlett also says she felt nervous backstage, not always being sure what to do. But then she discovered there was always someone on the cast or crew who was there to help her. After going through the entire process, it was clear that the girls are naturals—devotedly clinging to an anguished Cio-Cio-San, sweetly looking upon their caretaker, Suzuki.

“My favorite part has been to watch their confidence grow. To watch them feel the energy of McCaw filled. To watch them really perform and be in the moment,” DJ says.

Of course, having one’s children commit to being in Madame Butterfly was no small matter. With numerous rehearsals and eight performances, it represented a commitment for the entire family.

And yet, according to DJ: "It’s really worth the time. We rearranged a lot of our lives for this and we’re really happy we did it."
Lianna Haroutounian (Cio-Cio-San) and Scarlett del Rosario (Sorrow). Philip Newton photo

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Praise for Madame Butterfly

Alexey Dogov (Pinkerton) and Lianna Haroutounian (Cio-Cio-San). Philip Newton photo
"A magical production filled with eye candy and, most importantly, stunning vocal performances.” – LA Opus

"Every so often a performance – and a performer – have the capacity to completely transport us to a different dimension, emotionally, psychologically and physically. That is the case with Seattle Opera’s new (to Seattle) production of Madame Butterfly." - Seattle P.I.

Lianna Haroutounian (Cio-Cio-San). Philip Newton photo
"The brilliant Lianna Haroutounian, who commanded the stage all evening with an all-out, full-voiced, big-hearted performance that brought out the bravos (and the handkerchiefs).” – The Seattle Times

“The sets are gorgeous—Kabuki meets Miyazaki. The music is deservedly beloved—soaring melodies, rich and complex orchestrations, and gongs!” – The Stranger
Jonathan Silvia (Imperial Commissioner). Philip Newton photo
"The changes it has inspired, audiences may experience this Madame Butterfly in ways never envisioned by its creators.” – The Seattle Times

"So much more than an aural and visual delight." - UW Daily 
Photos above and below: Yasko Sato (Cio-Cio-San) and Dominick Chenes (Pinkerton). Philip Newton photos
"Weston Hurt was an empathetic and noble Sharpless; Renée Rapier a dignified, compelling Suzuki; and Rodell Rosel a wily and adept Goro. In a bit of “luxury casting,” Daniel Sumegi proved an unusually powerful Bonze; Ryan Bede was the hapless Yamadori, and Sarah Mattox gave unexpected and lovely depth to the small but pivotal role of Kate Pinkerton."

"Sato is a lyrical singer and an affecting actress; she can convey vivid emotion in a single gesture or expression, and watching her hopes slowly decline in Cio-Cio-San’s long vigil was heartbreaking.” – The Seattle Times

“Puccini's opera itself gets something of a dusting-off in this production.” - Bachtrack

Philip Newton photo
"The production was one of the most attractive this reviewer has seen, and this was due in large part to the inventiveness of an Australian triumvirate” – "LA Opus

“The design is both simple and beautiful. Set designer Christina Smith created a house cleverly defined by movable screens, imaginatively lighted by Matt Scott with glowing lanterns that illuminated the Act I love duet.” – The Seattle Times

Renée Rapier (Suzuki), Lianna Haroutounian (Cio-Cio-San) and Scarlett Del Rosario (Trouble). Philip Newton photo

"Prepare to weep for Madame Butterfly.” – Equality 365

"This production is rich with unforgettable moments. I am haunted by the heart-rending vision of Cio-Cio San standing outside her home like a statue, waiting hopefully all night for Pinkerton until all of the lanterns are extinguished and darkness is supplanted by day — and still no Pinkerton is in sight." - Queen Anne News 

Philip Newton photo

Madame Butterfly plays now until Aug. 19 at McCaw Hall.
Tickets & info:

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

'Embrace what makes you unique' - Weston Hurt lives by example

Baritone Weston Hurt is a frequent singer at Seattle Opera, including in roles such as Nabucco, Germont, Talbot and most recently, Sharpless. 

By Lauren Brigolin 

Behind the blue door of Practice Room #1 at Seattle Opera, it might have been easy to miss the soft plunk of piano keys without listening carefully. But what the soundproof walls couldn’t contain after the modest hum of the piano were the rich tones of an accomplished baritone—Weston Hurt

​In addition to appearing as Sharpless in Madame Butterfly this August with Seattle Opera, Hurt just finished teaching a master class at the newly-created Seattle Opera Academy—a three-week voice and performance training program for young adults in Bellingham, Wash. This combination of teaching and performing is his dream. Being a role model to young singers, encouraging them to embrace who they are, is a job he takes seriously.

“What I wish I would have known as a young person is, you are your own product and that your uniqueness is everything,” he says.

As a singer born without a right hand, Hurt’s road to singing in great opera houses across the United States was no walk in the park. And the challenges he faced often had nothing to do with his skill as an artist. ​ 

Weston Hurt, center, as Sharpless with Lianna Haroutounian (Cio-Cio-San) and Renée Rapier (Suzuki). Philip Newton photo
When Hurt was only 6-months old, his parents put him into a program so that he could learn to live with a prosthesis. At age 4, he decided he didn’t want to use the artificial body part anymore. He tried to wear one again at 11 and came to the same conclusion—it simply wasn’t comfortable. In the years that followed, the myoelectric prosthesis arrived. The battery-operated limb allowed the hand to open and close through electrical tension generated every time a person’s muscle contracts. Hurt decided to try one. Of course, this was 1991 and the battery lasted all of about eight minutes.

"And then I was like, 'Forget this.' I’m not going down this path. I am who I am,” says the baritone, who fell in love with opera during his freshman year of college after landing the title role in The Marriage of Figaro at Southwestern University.

Hazel Del Rosario (Sorrow) and Weston Hurt (Sharpless) in Madame Butterfly. Philip Newton photo

After completing his music education and successfully making his way through a number of prestigious young artist training programs, Hurt embarked on a myriad of house auditions. Each time he sang for a company, he’d wear a suit and pin or sew the sleeve of the right arm up. While consistently told he sounded fantastic, he was frequently overlooked.

It wasn’t until he sang at the New York International Opera Auditions that he was finally offered a season-long contract with a company who made their conditions clear. In order to perform, Hurt had to have a prosthesis. ​This company wasn’t the only one who felt this way.

Soon after acquiring a cosmetic prosthesis, he began auditioning and “Boom! I started getting gigs and gigs and gigs."

Weston Hurt teaching a master class at the Seattle Opera Academy. Photos by Rachel Bayne 

During a production of Madame Butterfly earlier in his career, the stage director suggested he perform Sharpless without the artificial limb. This presented the opportunity for Hurt to dive into a character study: His Sharpless became truly human—a man who carries deep emotional wounds after surviving a war; someone who understands loss. After his performance, a confusing review came out in a national opera publication. It said that his voice was amazing even though he only had one hand.

The review had a ripple effect.

​"I had to wear my prosthesis for everything. I felt like I had to fit some mold that administrative people, artistic people, or the audience wanted me to be. I got trapped."

Weston Hurt and his daughter. 
In the last few years, Hurt has done away with his prosthesis unless the character or the director’s vision truly calls for it. He began asking himself, if it makes sense for the character to have one hand, why wouldn’t he portray that? Hurt has created backstories for opera characters who have lost their hand in wars, battles, and developed stories for them in a way only he can. When he wore a prosthesis in the beginning it wasn’t for the character, it was so he could fit that mold. 

“I had lost my own uniqueness and my own individuality,” Hurt says.

Being a singer with one hand has led to spectacular theatrical possibilities. He’ll never forget the audible gasps he received each night during one production where he actually got to remove his prosthesis onstage.

Hurt backstage during Madame Butterfly at Seattle Opera. Genevieve Hathaway photo 
Director of Artistic Administration and Planning Aren Der Hacopian says Hurt having one hand is a non-issue as far as casting is concerned. Echoing the artist’s feeling, Der Hacopian says, “Who’s to say these characters have two hands in the first place?” Instead, Der Hacopian says that Seattle Opera embraces Hurt as a person with one hand because it’s part of the incredible package of personality, experience, artistry, and human being that makes Hurt who he is. 

Seattle audiences can now enjoy Hurt in the role of Sharpless, the American consul and friend to the lead tenor, for Madame Butterfly performances on Aug. 9, 12, 13, 16, 18, & 19, 2017. Tickets & info: