We had a great time this weekend opening Seattle Opera's production of The Marriage of Figaro, directed by Aidan Lang and conducted by Gary Thor Wedow. Over at SoundCloud, we've just posted audio highlights from the first two performances. Enjoy! There are six remaining performances of Mozart's masterpiece, this week and next.
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
|Nuccia Focile (Susanna) and Shenyang (Figaro) in Seattle Opera's The Marriage of Figaro. Philip Newton photo|
"It's a delightfully engaging take on familiar Figaro: crisp, vividly paced, spiced with youthful charm, visually handsome and original – and culminating in a luminously staged ensemble that does justice to Mozart's vision of reconciliation." - Bachtrack
|Karin Mushegain (Cherubino). Philip Newton photo|
"Vocally, no performance surpasses Bernarda Bobro’s captivating 'Dove sono.' The Countess’ Act 3 lament presents a notorious test that even the loftiest divas approach with trepidation. (A few years back, at her Benaroya Hall recital, soprano Renée Fleming solicited audience suggestions for encores; when someone called out 'Dove sono!', she responded, with a wry half-smile, 'You sing it.') Frighteningly difficult in its simplicity, it’s a tune so clear and pure it exposes the slightest imperfection. Of which there were none thanks to Bobro’s soprano, silvery and fluent—think liquid mercury." - Seattle Weekly
|The Seattle Opera Chorus in The Marriage of Figaro. Philip Newton photo|
"All the cast looked great in Elizabeth Whiting’s imaginative clothes, which combined frock coats and denim with high-tops." - The Seattle Times
|Caitlin Lynch (Countess Almaviva), Laura Tatulescu (Susanna) and Elizabeth Pojanowski (Cherubino). Philip Newton photo|
"Jonathan Dean’s translated captions, wittily updated, added an extra punch to the dialogue. The chorus, whisked on and off the stage for brief vignettes, sang with spirit." - The Seattle Times
"Among the minor roles, Steven Cole as Basilio, an intriguer, makes the biggest impact, bringing him a brilliant character voice, a delicious nasality somewhere between an oboe and Paul Lynde." - Seattle Weekly
|Steven Cole (Don Basilio). Photo by Philip Newton|
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
|Philip Newton photos|
8 fun facts about Seattle Opera's 2016/17 Season:
1. This is the first season planned entirely by General Director Aidan Lang. Opera companies are constantly working several years in advance, so even though 2014 was Lang's first year at Seattle Opera, the 2014/15 and 2015/16 seasons were collaborations between Lang and former General Director Speight Jenkins.
2. More than 40 artists, including singers, conductors and creative teams will make their debuts at Seattle Opera.
|Philip Newton photo|
8. Any Zandra Rhodes (The Pearl Fishers, Princess Diana's wardrobe) fans in the house? The magenta-haired Dame and fashion icon returns in May; she created the whimsical costumes for The Magic Flute.
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
No other art form has anything quite like the ensemble. By nature it’s a little bit surreal, which may explain why it arose in comic opera, where playing around with the laws of reality adds extra fun. Mozart’s operas taught later composers how to create both kinds of ensembles: those of mounting confusion and hilarity, which always form the climax of great comic scenes, and those exploring complicated characters in serious conflict, which became one of the delights of nineteenth century opera.
Monday, December 14, 2015
|Seattle Opera presents Mary Stuart. Philip Newton photo|
Mary Stuart tells the story of a fictional confrontation between Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots.
Saturday, December 12, 2015
5 things happening in the opera world...Larry Brownlee is doing awesome things
If you're an opera lover, (or even if you're not), you probably know that the great bel canto tenor Lawrence Brownlee is one-of-a-kind. He sang his "highflying arias with an ease, purity and polish that could hardly be bettered" as the lovestruck Tonio in our 2013 Daughter of the Regiment, for example. (Off the stage, he's also a wonderful friend, husband and father)
Next up for Mr. Brownlee -- he'll be performing in Rossini’s La donna del Lago at The Met with Grammy Award Winner Joyce DiDonato. In addition to being two of the world's finest singers, these two are also totally buddies. He's referred to her as his "sister of the opera business," which we think is pretty darn cute.
Luckily, Seattleites don't have to buy a plane ticket to hear these two opera buddies sing next. Tune in to KING FM on 12/19 to listen to a broadcast of the matinee performance.
But wait -- there's more! In addition to starring at The Met, Brownlee recently gave a concert in Harlem in the crypt of the Church of the Intercession. With pianist Damien Sneed, Brownlee performed some of the traditional spirituals (in Sneed’s arrangements) released on his 2013 album. The crypt performance was one of a new series known as The Crypt Sessions. (A little spooky, yet very cool!).
Like Larry Brownlee, The Royal Opera's director Kasper Bech Holten is also a devoted dad. This is why he's stepping down from his position in 2017. Holten said that when he joined the Royal Opera he and his partner had no children. “Now we do, and after much soul searching we have decided that we want to be closer to our families and inevitably that means we make Copenhagen our home, where the children will grow up and go to school.”
Many of you in the music and theater world know how difficult it is to balance your art with family.
|Kasper Bech Holton has been Director of the ROH since 2011.|
A treasured diva stars in Rigoletto
The opera-goers of Warsaw, Poland are in for a treat: Rigoletto opens tonight at Teatr Wielki, starring the great Aleksandra Kurzak. When Kurzak starred in our Lucia di Lammermoor in 2010, we asked her:
People in our audiences and on our website have been comparing Callas and Sutherland and Sills, among other Lucias. Do you have strong feelings about any of those performances? Did any of them influence yours?
The singer replied:
"I've heard all of them, but I don't like to compare myself with anybody. I always like to find my own character, and it was like that this time, as well."
Clearly, this approach paid off -- as her performance is still legend among Seattle Opera staff, Board members, audience members and critics. The Seattle Times for one wrote, "...But it was Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak, making her company and role debut as Lucia, that set the theater alight both vocally and dramatically. She made me believe she really was Lucia."
|Polish opera singer Aleksandra Kurzak.|
Also, in the Rigoletto production, Kurzak will be singing under the baton of Carlo Montanaro, music director at the Polish National Opera. Montanaro conducted a fantastic Nabucco for us last summer and returns in February for Mary Stuart.
We wish a Amahl a Merry Christmas!
It’s that time of year, isn’t it? Just swing by McCaw Hall, where PNB’s new production of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker is pleasing Seattle’s arts lovers.
|Snow scene from PNB's new Nutcracker.|
The story is: One night in Judea, a disabled shepherd boy-turned-beggar and his mother are visited by three strangers. They are the Three Kings, and they are on their way to Bethlehem to visit the Christ Child, who has just been born.
|Amahl and the Night Visitors.|
Do you and your family have a favorite holiday performance tradition?
Thursday, December 10, 2015
Seattle Opera will be ringing in the new year with wedding bells — The Marriage of Figaro, to be precise! Mozart's most popular opera is headed to McCaw Hall Jan. 16-30, 2016. Beloved Maestro Gary Thor Wedow is at the podium for General Director Aidan Lang's directorial debut at Seattle Opera. While Aidan doesn't plan to direct on a regular basis, it's not surprising he's made an exception for this particular production, which audiences fell in love with when it premiered at New Zealand Opera.
“The Marriage of Figaro has something for everyone," Aidan says. "This is the story of one madcap day; a day where people’s follies are exposed for all to see and laugh at, but one which concludes with one of opera’s greatest scenes of forgiveness and reconciliation. While these characters are highly flawed, they’re also drawn with a warm humanity we can all relate to.”
In addition to opening night, Jan. 16 marks Seattle Opera’s 3rd Annual Opera Ball. With the purchase of an additional ticket, you can enjoy live music, dancing, hors d’oeuvres, signature cocktails and the opportunity to meet members of the cast after the performance. This is a great opportunity to help benefit our learning and engagement programs (and party like you're at Figaro and Susanna's actual wedding reception!).
P.S. Whether you love opera or not, we bet you've heard this Figaro tune before!
|The New Zealand Opera in The Marriage of Figaro. Neil Mackenzie photo|
It’s the night before Figaro and Susanna’s marriage when the curtain rises, and Count Almaviva’s wandering eye has landed on the bride-to-be. Servant and master must go head-to-head on a day of chaos, planning and missed chances that will result in a wedding—or two! Thankfully, with a little unintentional help from the page Cherubino, three very different couples will ultimately walk away a little wiser and with true love in hand. From its toe-tapping overture to joyous ending, The Marriage of Figaro offers fun for opera goers of all ages—as well as newcomers to opera, too. [ Full story in our Spotlight Guide ].
|Figaro and Susanna couples: Shenyang & Nuccia Focile | Aubrey Alicock & Laura Tatulescu.|
Making his Seattle Opera debut as Figaro is Chinese bass-baritone Shenyang—an internationally celebrated singer who’s been profiled on National Public Radio. Aubrey Allicock, who recently made headlines playing boxer Emilie Griffith in an all-jazz opera, shares the title role.
Sicilian soprano Nuccia Focile returns in the role of Figaro’s beautiful bride, Susanna. Focile, a regular star on the McCaw Hall stage, has previously been praised in various leading roles at Seattle Opera, including La Voix humanie (2013), a one-woman show. Focile shares the role of Figaro’s beloved with Romanian-American soprano Laura Tatulescu, who makes both her role and company debut.
Morgan Smith returns to Seattle Opera after this summer’s An American Dream (2015) to play the philandering Count Almaviva, opposite Bernarda Bobro as the Countess in her company debut. John Moore will also sing Count Almaviva in his company debut opposite Caitlin Lynch.
|The Counts and Countesses: Morgan Smith, Bernarda Bobro, John Moore and Caitlyn Lynch.|
American mezzo-soprano Karin Mushegain will don trousers to sing the “pants role” of Cherubino, the cheeky adolescent page boy. Elizabeth Pojanowski will make her company debut in Figaro, also singing Cherubino.
|The two Cherubinos: Karin Musegain and Elizabeth Pojanowski.|
Additionally, this performance sees the return of Margaret Gawrysiak (Marcellina), Arthur Woodley (Dr. Bartolo), Steven Cole (Don Basilio), Alasdair Elliot (Don Curzio), Amanda Opuszynski (Barbarina) and the debut performance of Charles Robert Austin (Antonio).
Along with General Director Aidan Lang, Robin Rawstone (Sets) and Elizabeth Williams (Costumes) make their company debuts bringing this sleek production— which includes period costumes fashioned out of denim—to life.
Tickets & info: seattleopera.org/figaro.
Production Sponsors: Ann P. Wyckoff and Microsoft
Friday, December 4, 2015
5 things happening in the opera world...
Monday night, December 7, will be a big night at Lyric Opera of Chicago: it’s the world premiere of Bel Canto, the new opera by Jimmy López (above), with a libretto by Nilo Cruz based on the popular novel by Ann Patchett. The high-powered cast features Seattle Opera’s beloved Andrew Stenson as the young translator, Gen, held hostage in a palace in Lima, Peru (home of William Burden, who plays the Peruvian vice-president) with a Japanese mogul, the American opera singer he loves, and a band of guerrillas (among them countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, our Oberon in Midsummer Night’s Dream a few years ago). Fond wishes for a great opening to Director Kevin Newbury, who makes his Seattle Opera debut in February with Mary Stuart, and Lighting Designer Duane Schuler, who comes home to Seattle to light The Marriage of Figaro in a few weeks.
Meanwhile, in Zurich, soprano Serena Farnocchia, who makes her Seattle Opera debut as Mary Stuart in February, opens her run of performances of Rossini’s curious opera Il viaggio a Reims on Sunday. Rossini wrote this opera for a once-in-a-lifetime occasion in 1825 starring fourteen of the world’s greatest singers. Anticipating that it would never be performed again, he adapted much of the music to his delightful French comedy of 1828, Le comte Ory. Here she is (above) singing in a rather interesting looking Butterfly.
|Colin, center, in Opera Atelier's Armide. Bruce Zinger photo.|
Meanwhile, Canadian tenor Colin Ainsworth—coming to Seattle next May to sing the Steersman in The Flying Dutchman—just had a remarkable experience singing Renaud, the hero of Lully’s Armide, at the Château de Versailles. This rarely-performed tragédie lyrique is about as far as you can get from Wagner; Mr. Ainsworth is a versatile singer and cut a dashing figure as the chivalric hero Renaud (see above).
Elsewhere in Swizterland, the Grand Théâtre de Genève has just closed their first-ever production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which left critics reaching for superlatives. Slovenian soprano Bernarda Bobro, who makes her Seattle debut as Countess Almaviva in our upcoming Marriage of Figaro, earned raves as the Fairy Queen Tytania; among the mortals who got trapped in her enchanted forest was Mary Feminear (Helena), who sang Semele at Seattle Opera last spring. Get a taste of the show with this trailer.
|Russell Thomas and Jamie Barton in LA Opera's Norma (left) and then in Seattle Opera's Nabucco.|
Closer to home, there’s only a couple more performances of Norma at Los Angeles Opera, with a set designed by Neil Patel, who makes his Seattle Opera debut in Feburary with Mary Stuart. (The tireless Duane Schuler lit the production.) The illicit lovers of LA Opera’s Norma are Russell Thomas and Jamie Barton, who most recently romanced each other in Seattle as Ismaele and Fenena in Nabucco. (Before that, they played mother and son in Cincinnati’s Il trovatore!)
Thursday, December 3, 2015
Seattle Opera’s General Director Aidan Lang is about to make his Seattle Opera debut as an artist! Lang, who worked as a freelance stage director for many years before becoming an administrator, brings his own New Zealand Opera production of one of his favorite works to Seattle in January. Listen to or read this downloadable podcast to find what Lang thinks about this extraordinary masterpiece and its beloved characters.For a refresher/overview of The Marriage of Figaro, look at our Seattle Opera Spotlight.
Hello, everyone! So I’m going to be quite busy for about three or four weeks over Christmas, directing The Marriage of Figaro and continuing as General Director of Seattle Opera. But this isn’t the first time I’ve done that; I did it with The Marriage of Figaro in New Zealand when we first did this production in 2010. It’s not something I’m going to replicate in the future. We in the administration get a bit detached from what we’re creating, and so it’s quite salutory, being General Director, to be on the rehearsal floor once again, just to as it were recharge my batteries and to remind us that the art we create is our raison d’être.
How did they like this production of The Marriage of Figaro at its premiere?
I’m glad to say this production went down exceedingly well in New Zealand.
Friday, November 13, 2015
What's up in the opera world? This week, the world is paying attention to an exciting opening:
Philip Glass Revises Appomatox to Consider Voting Rights
Washington National Opera will present its first Philip Glass opera beginning tomorrow: a revised version of Appomatox, first heard in San Francisco in 2007. As Glass explained to Michael Cooper in a recent New York Times article, the original version focused more on Lee’s surrender, which ended the Civil War at Appomatox in 1865. The revised opera opens with Frederick Douglass telling Lincoln he would like to see “voting rights for all free men of color,” and continues by dramatizing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1965 visit to the White House to press President Lyndon B. Johnson on the Voting Rights Act. WNO’s production stars Seattle favorite Richard Paul Fink as Ulysses S. Grant and Nicholas Katzenbach; rising star Solomon Howard plays both Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr; and the great Donald Eastman designed the set.
And here’s the latest on some singers who will be coming to Seattle soon:
Karin Mushegain Doing Back-To-Back Cherubinos
When Seattle Opera presents The Marriage of Figaro in January, American mezzo Karin Mushegain will return as everyone’s favorite oversexed teenage androgyne. But first, this gorgeous young singer sings Cherubino down at Opera San José; tomorrow night is the first of her six performances. Ms. Mushegain made a strong Seattle Opera debut as Rossini’s Cenerentola in 2013. Karin Mushegain as Cinderella implores the prince to let kindness prevail in Rossini’s La Cenerentola, with Brett Polegato (Dandini), Dana Pundt (Clorinda), Sarah Larsen (Tisbe), René Barbera (Ramiro), and Valerian Ruminski (Don Magnifico) and the orchestra of Seattle Opera conducted by Giacomo Sagripanti.
Andrew Owens Opens Barber of Seville in Miami
When Seattle Opera presents our first Mary Stuart starting in February, our audiences will have their first chance to hear the exciting young American lyric tenor Andrew Owens in the role of the conflicted Leicester, beloved by Queen Elizabeth but in love with Mary Stuart. Owens is currently in Miami, singing Count Almaviva in the Florida Grand Opera production of The Barber of Seville, which opens tomorrow night.
David Danholt Stars in The Passenger in Detroit
Seattle Wagner-lovers remember David Danholt’s thrilling triumph in our 2014 International Wagner Competition. David Danholt sings the conclusion to "Parsifal," with the orchestra of Seattle Opera conducted by Sebastian Lang-Lessing.
The Danish tenor returns to Seattle to sing Erik in our Flying Dutchman in May. But starting tomorrow, he’s starring in Michigan Opera Theater’s production of The Passenger, a 1959 opera by Soviet composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg that wasn’t performed until 2010, but since then has been presented all over the world. Danholt plays a West German diplomat who had no idea that his wife once served as an SS officer in Auschwitz; a chance encounter on a trans-Atlantic crossing opens a world of guilt, denial, fear, courage, and love, in a searingly powerful drama. A video is available of The Passenger’s world premiere, in Bregenz.
Seattle Opera Staff Wowed by Munich Mefistofele
Meanwhile, Aren Der Hacopian, Seattle Opera’s Artistic Administrator, is off running around Europe hearing and auditioning singers. He wrote me from Munich, where the Bayerische Staatsoper’s strong performance of Rigoletto and Boito’s Mefistofele (starring Rene Pape and Joseph Calleja) made a big impression:
“How may I explain how truly jaw-dropping this performance of Mefistofele was? Simply awesome! At the end, I turned around to see an older gentleman just hypnotized, his slightly teary eyes in disbelief. He looked at me and said, ‘Wonderful, just wonderful!!!’”
“The videos, such as a live-feed camera went under the stage to reveal all hundreds of suffering angels that Mefistofele has devastated, were fantastic. And imagine the finale of Act 2 - the stage filled with what seemed like 200 choristers, soloists, dancers, and actors moving, singing and performing their hearts out to phenomenal music of Mefistofele’s wild orgy as the entire stage divided into three separate sections and moved up and down, as if the stage itself was hopping up and down and dancing amidst huge fiery bursts.”