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

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

AIDAN LANG and LINDY HUME Introduce THE BARBER OF SEVILLE

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: seattleopera.org/butterfly


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: seattleopera.org/butterfly



Thursday, July 20, 2017

Our Kate Pinkerton tells a story of Japanese American injustice

Sarah Mattox. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway 


Mezzo-soprano Sarah Mattox plays Kate Pinkerton in Seattle Opera's upcoming Madame Butterfly Aug. 5-19. But she's also a composer and co-librettist of Heart Mountain, the opera, based on the journal of the late Kara Kondo recently directed by Dan Wallace Miller and conducted by Stephen Stubbs
By Lauren Brigolin 

When mezzo-soprano Sarah Mattox takes the stage in Madame Butterfly this August it will be in the role of Kate Pinkerton—wife of the good-for-nothing B.F. Pinkerton who sees his own American culture as superior to Puccini’s Japanese heroine.

“My first thought is, ‘Oh no, I end up with Pinkerton? What a horrible person!’ I’ve always really, really liked the singers who play Pinkerton but, wow the character,” Mattox says.

While offering some of the most beloved music in all of opera, Madame Butterfly tells a harsh tale: A young Japanese woman Cio-Cio-San thinks she’s marrying the man of her dreams—and meanwhile, he (Pinkerton) is toasting to the day he marries “a real American bride.”

Butterfly is a work of fiction. But the fact that westerners hurt people of Japanese ancestry through cultural imperialism, for example, is real. Anti-Japanese attitudes in the early 20th century had devastating consequences—including the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. Years later, the U.S. Government would deem this forced removal of 120,000 people as the result of “racism, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”

It’s this very injustice that’s motivated Mattox. Ironically, her character is married to an oppressor of Japanese people in Butterfly. But in her work outside of Seattle Opera, the opera singer (also a composer and librettist) has used her artistic medium to elevate one Japanese American woman’s story.

Kara Kondo
Kara Kondo (1916 - 2005)Photo: Gordon King from Yakima Herald Republic file.


FINDING INSPIRATION
On June 6, 1942, Kara Matsushita Kondo was removed from her long-time home along with 1,300 other Japanese Americans who lived in Yakima Valley. Kondo kept a journal during her time living behind barbed wire, and it was her words that would inspire Mattox’s opera.

In 2012, the chamber music ensemble that Mattox performs with, TangleTown Trio, was hired by Yakima Valley Museum for a special performance. Prior to the event, the trio worked with event coordinators to decide on programming. The coordinators hired the group based on Mattox's song cycle, “Rumpelstiltskin and the Falcon King” but it was only half an hour, when they wanted a 45-minute concert.

Sarah Mattox's opera "Heart Mountain" show poster
Show poster for "Heart Mountain" from the Vespertine Opera Theater.
“I said, ‘well, you are a history museum. Can I write something on your local history?’”

The people at the museum loved the idea. To help her get started, they sent the opera artist information from museum displays, including material from the “Land of Joy and Sorrow: Japanese Pioneers in the Yakima Valley.” This exhibit chronicled the forced relocation of Japanese families to Heart Mountain, Wyoming in 1942, and their re-emergence as a community in the Yakima Valley after World War II.

Out of everything that the museum had sent, Mattox realized that the words that were inspiring her all came from the same source.

"There are just certain lines that speak in a poetic way that leap on your face and won’t let go,” she says. “I kept reading them and all the ones that leapt out and grabbed me said, ‘from the journal of Kara Kondo.’”

A JAPANESE AMERICAN STORY 
Mattox had a clear mission: obtain a copy of that journal.

Kondo passed away in 2005 at the age of 89. But the museum was able to help Mattox contact her daughter, Elaine Kondo-McEwan. McEwan had just finished typing up her mom’s journal as a Christmas gift for her family and was able to provide Mattox with a PDF version.

“It was two in the afternoon when I opened it up and I started reading and it got dark without me even noticing. It was just absorbing,” Mattox says.

The journal included various scenes from Kondo’s life she had written down, as well as some poetry, which Mattox incorporated into the libretto.

While she had originally only needed to compose 15 minutes of music, it soon became clear that Kondo's journal represented a much longer, more involved project. Mattox premiered two arias at the museum to an audience that included those who had known and loved the late Kondo. Several scenes were premiered at the 2014 John Duffy Composers Institute, where Mattox was selected as a Composition Fellow.

The final, two-hour opera focuses on Kondo, her sisters, and the profound effect that living behind barbed wire had on their lives. During her creative process, Mattox also reached out to the Seattle chapter of the Japanese American Citizen League and other local Japanese American organizations because, she says, “it’s their story.” Additionally, two soloists featured in Mattox's production were granddaughters of Heart Mountain incarcerees.



THE ROAD TO HEART MOUNTAIN 
Operas are known for being long. But if one could see an opera written down, he or she might think they’re short. (It can take many seconds to sustain a single note with the drama, flair and skill of a professional opera singer!).

“The most important part of writing an effective libretto is in cutting it down to its barest essentials. So it can work in an uncluttered way onstage,” Mattox says.

Heart Mountain went through multiple rounds of edits. Mattox continued to refine the piece following two staged performances directed by Dan Wallace Miller and conducted by Stephen Stubbs for Vespertine Opera Theater in partnership with the Yakima Valley Museum. Seeing audience members moved by Kondo’s story made Mattox happy.

It can be difficult to wrap one's brain around the injustice of 120,000 people being wrongfully imprisoned by the United States Government. But Kondo (whom Mattox credits as the co-librettist of the opera) has a way of making this painful topic accessible to everyone.

"The power of Kara Kondo’s writing lies in her ability to share this overwhelming story in small, intimate scenes ... It’s a rare talent, and she used it beautifully, inviting the listener to become a part of her story.”

Heart Mountain Relocation Center Plaque
Heart Mountain Relocation Center Memorial Park plaque in  Park County, Wyoming.
BACK TO BUTTERFLY 
Mattox is still working on re-writes of Heart Mountain and hopes to mount a larger performance after a few tweaks. But before her work takes the stage again, the mezzo-soprano is looking forward to performing at McCaw Hall. While she will sing the role of Kate Pinkerton this time, Mattox has more frequently performed as Suzuki, Butterfly’s faithful servant (and in fact, she's covering the role for this upcoming production).  

Suzuki is a character who truly gets what’s going on, even while Cio-Cio-San fails to realize that Pinkerton doesn’t intend on staying committed to her. Getting to play Suzuki has made Mattox more empathetic and aware of marginalized people—because through Pinkerton, one sees how ugly and hurtful American cultural dominance can be. Butterfly offers a lot to think about in that way, she says.

“I hope people can come to a better understanding of multiculturalism. I hope each audience member can embrace that other cultures are just as deserving of respect as their own.”

Heart Mountain, the 124-acre Japanese Internment Camp that was used in 1942.



Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Top 8 Reasons to attend Summer Fest

By Lauren Brigolin

Seattle Opera’s Summer Fest not only kicks off a new season of fantastic performances, it's a celebration for kids of all ages. With live music, amazing costumes to see up-close, loads of activities, (and a remote-controlled swan?!), don't resist the charm of Seattle Opera's free event. Give in to the fun. Here are 8 reasons to add Summer Fest (noon - 3 p.m. on July 15, McCaw Hall) to your calendar!   

1. FREE event! 
Need I say more?
Young guests at Seattle Opera's Summer Fest
Young visitors to Seattle Opera’s Summer Fest enjoy the remote-controlled swan from Lohengrin. Photo by Philip Newton. 
2. Summer Fest is for everyone
Kids. Parents. Grandparents, it’s a day of play! Plus, parking is super close.

3. Perfect setting to give opera an "adventure bite." 
Never seen an opera? Not sure if you'll like it? That's the beauty of Summer Fest. You get to hear excerpts from Seattle Opera’s entire season! Live! And trust me, there's something supremely magical about experiencing opera up close that you just can't get during a formal performance.

Soprano Serena Edujee
Soprano Serena Eduljee gets ready to sing at last year’s Summer Fest. Photo by Philip Newton.
4. You can still sleep in that morning. 
Yes, July 15 is a Saturday. However, festivities start at noon and go until 3 p.m. so no worries about hitting the snooze button first. (Also, you can come and go as you please) 

5. You get to do stuff.  
Besides making opera's acquaintance, you can make masks, learn how to fold origami, and learn some street art techniques from Mike Wagner.

Cheryse McLeod Lewis, Seattle Opera's Summer Fest
Cheryse McLeod Lewis, member of the Seattle Opera Chorus, and family. Photo by Philip Newton.
6. It's not long. Or serious. 
After all, Jet City Improv will perform a version of the entire opera season in one performance, and that’s no laughing matter.
Seattle Opera's Summer Fest
Photo by Philip Newton.
7. It's not all about opera.
Experience the magic of seeing Seattle Kokon Taiko when they perform on their incredible Japanese drums. There's also award-winning guitarist Andre Feriante and flamenco dancing, too!

8. In addition to awesome music, you'll have lots to look at. 
Check out displays of Seattle Opera costumes and try your hand at costuming an opera character.

Seattle Opera's Summer Fest 2016
Monte Jacobson, Chloe, and other attendees enjoy Summer Fest 2016.  Photo by Philip Newton.

Crowd at Seattle Opera's Summer Fest
Photo by Philip Newton.


Girl playing a trumpet at Seattle Opera's Summer Fest
Photo by Philip Newton.

Stage at Seattle Opera's Summer Fest
Photo by Philip Newton.


Monday, June 19, 2017

AIDAN LANG INTRODUCES MADAME BUTTERFLY

Listen to or read this downloadable podcast by General Director Aidan Lang. Puccini’s powerful Madame Butterfly returns to Seattle this August (eight performances, August 5-19). Aidan considers Madame Butterfly Puccini’s greatest tragedy and, in this podcast, explains both its human story and its anti-imperialist indictment of the politics of colonialism.

Hello, everyone! This is Aidan Lang, and here I am again to talk about our summer opera, which is Puccini’s Madame Butterfly.

Madame Butterfly is, according to those lists of ‘most-performed operas,’ always in the top three most-performed operas in any given year around the world. That’s perfectly understandable: it has everything on the surface which an opera needs. It has romance, it has tragedy, it has incredibly beautiful music, and it’s normally depicted in a very attractive, visually appealing fashion.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Melanie Ross takes her final bow at Seattle Opera


Melanie Ross. Photo by Alan Alabastro
By Melanie Ross 
Director of Artistic Operations & Season Planning

At the end of this month I will retire from Seattle Opera as an employee.

When I told Aidan last fall this would be my last season with the company, I knew this next step in my life would be daunting. After all, I have worked here my entire adult life for three General Directors, including my father Glynn Ross, the founding General Director. I even met my husband, Tim Buck, here. So I will be setting aside a very large piece of myself—one that is familiar and comfortable.

Working at Seattle Opera wasn’t pre-planned. One day my dad asked me to come in to the office to help translate Italian scenery plans. When I had an hour or so to kill before Dad was ready to go home, the Administrative Director asked me to type some envelopes, but I couldn’t finish by the end of the day so I came back next day. A week later it was mimeographing, ugh. And so it continued. I was very aware of being the boss’s daughter and worked my tail off. Each day there was a job for me—at the front desk answering phones, helping to reconcile numbers, transporting miniature donkeys in my Ford Falcon (no joke!)—I was your basic go-to assistant. Eventually I settled in Production. 

Producing opera is an intense and joyous business, and certainly my passion is in this company along with much of my identity. The memories I’ve made show by show, success by success, with some conflict thrown in to keep us real, make it seem inconceivable to leave. But as I move on, forever embedded in my soul is the community of colleagues, performers, advisors, donors and audience members with whom I have worked and collaborated far and wide. Each and every one has taught me something, challenged me with a task, trusted me, offered me an opportunity and definitely shared in the triumphs and (the few) misadventures. Many have become lifelong friends.

This company, and every one of you, have given me a rich and exciting life. Thank you for your generosity of spirit, thank you for your support, thank you for a million things, for everything. You are too wonderful and I am forever grateful.

I know I will stay in touch with many of you or see you at future performances of the opera.

Gratefully and faithfully yours,

Melanie Ross

Melanie Ross with each of Seattle Opera's General Directors, beginning with her father. From right: Melanie's mother, Angelamaria “Gio” Solimene Ross, Glynn Ross, and Melanie. 
Melanie Ross and Former General Director Speight Jenkins. 
Melanie Ross and General Director Aidan Lang.