Tuesday, November 15, 2016

As One stories: Mitchell C Hunter

Mitchell C. Hunter, a transman activist, is a Community Participant in As One.

Transman activist Mitchell C Hunter shares his story

Seattle Opera's latest production, As One, centers around a single transgender protagonist whose journey unfolds through two voices: baritone and mezzo-soprano. The company is proud to be partnering with members of the transgender and LGBTQ communities in its presentation of this bold, beautiful work. In fact, two individuals will be sharing their personal stories at the top of each show.

One of these community participants is Mitchell C “Mitch” Hunter. A gay man in his fifties, Mitch came to manhood late in life when he began his transition at 42. He has since taken active leadership roles in the Transgender and LGBQ communities. Serving for almost four years on the Seattle LGBT Commission, he helped create and implement Seattle’s single-use, all-gender restroom law.

Mitch has worked with corporations, small businesses, faith communities, institutions and organizations to further transgender inclusivity and visibility. Featured in the Seattle Police Department’s transgender training video, Mitch helped write the SPD’s model policy on working with the transgender community. As a consultant and trainer, he has presented to and collaborated on programs for the Washington State Department of Corrections, DSHS, Sound Generations, Kitsap County Council for Human Rights, UW Medical Center Transgender Health Course and numerous college/university classes and conferences.

Mitch attributes the solid community support he’s received for the great strides he’s made. Grateful thanks to the members and leadership of the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Chorus; GALA Choruses organization; SeattleMen’s and Seattle Women’s Choruses; Out In Front Leadership Institute; his faith community, Seattle Unity; his loving dogs; and most importantly, his partner of 21 years, Amy.

You're a transman activist, leader, and spokesman in the transgender community. What keeps you engaged in this work?
With the recent election results, honestly, I wonder. Now, it's even more important to serve the transgender community; to put a face to the word. Three out of four people say they know someone who is gay, lesbian or bisexual. Only one in 10 can say they know a transgender person. But with an estimated 1.4 million adults in the US alone, or .3 percent of the population in general, we all know that perception can be different than realitysometimes people don’t know what they don’t know. It is a privilege to be out as a transman, one I don’t take for granted. We, transgender people have legal protections both in Washington State and in Seattle. Currently, there are 26 states trying to legislate away or repeal any protections/basic human rights for trans people. Taking a page from the marriage equality playbook, it is imperative that we tell our stories to reveal we are neighbors, friends, sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, business owners, co-workers, fellow employees, church congregants, athletes, and artists. There are so many who can’t or don’t want to be out as transgender for fear of their safety, violence, or death. I am grateful to serve the trans community in whatever way I can. Burnout is a hazard for most of us out in front. We all have to find ways to commit to self-care along with the work we do.

Tell me a bit about the story you share before the downbeat in As One.
I’m actually painting a picture with a series of snapshots: self-selected “firsts.” Transition, for me, is a lifelong process deciding when and whether to come out as a transman. I introduce myself as who I am based on the childhood of an avowed tomboy. I just grew into it (being a boy) rather than out of it. There is still a very thin line between my feeling like an imposter—just inhabiting this man-body verses living fully as a man. The really interesting part for me is how some of these universal themes are echoed in the opera. Self-doubts and questionable aspirations are not unique to transgender people. Some of the "firsts" I share include:
- The story of when I was first fitted for a suit;
- The first time I met with clients in my first professional, grown-up, “daddy” job. (A legit professional job that daddies had when I was growing up.);
- The first time I realize the psychological and sociological consequences of being male—or more specifically the conflict felt in being a feminist male;
- The first time I got to be “just one of the guys” and not a “poster boy” for all trans guys.

You've worked hard for social justice, including gender justice, in your work with the City of Seattle, as well as in your own professional and personal life. What are some accomplishments that you're especially proud of?
The first is when I was one of 3 transmen commissioners in 2012 who made the very first attempts to find a way to get gender-neutral bathrooms in all city buildings. I was part of the process of researching and continuing to shepherd the idea through the system through the years: meeting with City Council members, people at the Mayor’s Office (McGinn first, then Murray), writing draft ordinances with the help of the Office for Civil Rights. As more and more folks joined in and recommendations were presented, it morphed and became the single-use, all-gender restroom signage required for all places of public accommodation in Seattle.

The second was getting to work with a team of 10-15 transgender leaders from the area to help craft the Seattle Police Department’s (SPD) policy on working with transgender people. James Ritter, the LGBTQ liaison for SPD, the same man in charge of the SAFE PLACE campaign, had worked with me while I was on the commission. He offered me the opportunity to be a part of working on this policy. It took us several months (which in policy-making is really a short period of time) to come up with something that was meaningful and satisfactory for the trans community as well as impactful for the police department. As soon as the policy was accepted by the DOJ and all the appropriate people up and down the policy line, Jim started to put together a training video with interviews from local transgender people that would accompany the new transgender training modules developed by the education team. I am a part of the training video that has been released publicly for use by any law enforcement organization. The video is already being used by various Department of Correction facilities around the state. The video we worked on preceded by several months the DOJ training released for use throughout the country

In regards to social justice for transgender people, what's one thing that makes you feel hopeful for the future?
Organizations and people are learning the power of banding together to get legislation and public policy written and passed. Many in the transgender community supported marriage equality work as did many communities: unions, Native American/First Nations groups, people of faith, educators, people with disabilities…Now, the transgender community is more politically mature; we have built ties to a number of allied and aligned communities, corporations and businesses. We’ve had the benefit of learning from tested strategies in other states.

We are creating strong, effective organizations to do the work necessary to educate our state about the need for safety, rights, and concerns of transgender people. I’m heartened by the number of allies and aligned, supportive businesses signing onto “Washington Won’t Discriminate.” The work, lobbying, educating and strategy work of Washington S.A.F.E alliance is inspiring. TransForm Washington, a fairly new organization launched earlier this year, collecting and doing the work necessary to tell stories of transgender people—put faces out in the world to show we are youth, young adults, middle-aged people, couples and seniors.

Anything else you’d like to share?
It is challenging that finances play such a huge part in supporting and legislating rights and protections for transgender people. Big money and out-of-state political and issue-oriented organizations have so much money. We are often the most marginalized of communities, especially the transgender people of color. Even with our best efforts, incredible strategy, unique voices, engaging stories, tight collaborations and coalition, at some point, it comes down to our allies standing with us. We must find ways to collect and focus boat-loads of money toward all these campaigns to simply procure the same civil and human rights, rights to healthcare and rights to personal safety and a world free from violence and hatred.

As One remaining performance: Nov. 17, 18, & 19
Tickets are $25 & $40

Friday, November 11, 2016

As One stories: Breanna Anderson

Breanna Anderson. Photo by Lou Daprile

LGBTQ activist Breanna Anderson shares her story 

Seattle Opera's latest production, As One, centers around a single transgender protagonist whose journey unfolds through two voices: baritone and mezzo-soprano. The company is proud to be partnering with members of the transgender and LGBTQ communities in its presentation of this bold, beautiful work. In fact, two individuals will be sharing their personal stories at the top of each show.

One of these community participants is 59-year-old Breanna Anderson who identifies as a transgender, queer woman. Anderson came out in 1990 at the age of 32 after 10 years of marriage and with three young children. By early 1992 she had transitioned to living her authentic identity with loving support of her family and with help from what was then a small-but-active transgender community in Seattle. In her professional life as a software engineer and entrepreneur, she has worked to promote improved corporate diversity policies and greater visibility for transgender employees. She is co-developer of Ingersoll Gender Center's “Seattle Trans Economic Empowerment Project” (STEEP) providing direct support and employment counseling for transgender and gender-diverse people. 

Over the years, Breanna has been in leadership roles of a range of LGBTQ organizations including the Seattle Pride March, LGBTQ Community Center and Ingersoll Gender Center. She speaks regularly on transgender identity and rights at colleges and community organizations. She lives in the Seattle suburbs with her partners Ryan and Maggie. 

You've worked hard for social justice, including gender justice, in your many years as an activist. Is there an accomplishment that you’re especially proud of? 
I’m particularly gratified to have helped Ingersoll Gender Center come through a tough patch around 2004, when it looked like it was going to expire. We weren't sure if changes in community attitudes and identities (not to mention, the Internet) had made the traditional role of education and peer support passé. We made some substantial changes and reorganized, and I’m thrilled at what an amazing resource it has become since then. Ingersoll is now entering its 40th year of service and every single week without fail for those 40 years, we have come together to be a vital community for those coming out or for the many who come here because it’s a relatively safe place. Every week, 50 or so people gather for mutual support. Ingersoll’s professional consult group helps to cultivate and educate healthcare and mental-health professionals across the region; it also provides fast referrals, and collaborative troubleshooting of a wide range of healthcare and insurance-related issues.

Tell me the story (or parts of it) that you will be sharing during As One. 
I call this story “Be Discrete.” When I was 12, my father caught me doing what I call “manifesting” my feminine identity, what some call “cross-dressing.” In the community, we just call it “dressing” en femme. I thought I was going to get the thrashing of my life or public humiliation or both. But instead he just told me to “be discrete” and left me to sweat. As a child, I totally didn’t get the subtext, but I got the message in spades. 

The story is about how we are implicitly and explicitly taught shame and secrecy about being different; that’s a universal message if there ever was one. I think we all have ways that we are suppressed and marginalized and told to hide. Sometimes, what we're told to hide is a part of ourselves that might be really essential to who we are. But to please others or to get along in socity, we have to push it down. Hopefully in time we can break through that shell and let ourselves shine through.

In regards to social justice for transgender people, what's one thing that makes you feel hopeful for the future?
I think that we are winning the battle for hearts and minds with cultural visibility that we could have only dreamed of 10 years ago. Legal protections and policy advances have been amazing in the last few years and healthcare parity is almost there. The idea that our healthcare concerns and needs are respected as legitimate and essential is kind of mind-blowing for folks of my generation.

And of course, the success of education and awareness is allowing young gender-diverse people, children, to be seen. Their expression is recognized as authentic; not dismissed as just a phase or a shameful thing to be hidden, eradicated or "repaired." For a child to be given safety and space to express their authentic identity is amazing and a challenge for parents, educators, and medical professionals. While support for gender-diverse is quickly growing, inevitably this support is also at the forefront of cultural and legal conflict. I think that a lot of us are waiting with baited breath to see how this new generation grows up, what their attitudes will be, and how they will change our culture and how we look at ourselves.

Anything else you’d like to share?
I’m extremely impressed with the care, attention, and investment that Seattle Opera has put into the production of As One. I was initially wary about another instance of trans stories being presented by people who are not transgender. It’s become a touchy point of late within the transgender community. Opera is a very technically demanding art-form and this is a very demanding piece. I wish we had transgender mezzo-sopranos to bring forward but I don’t think that’s the case right now. The story, written in collaboration with a transgender woman, rings true to me as authentic. The director and performers are really doing their homework to understand what lies beneath, and have that inform the performances. That transgender people are involved before, during, and after the opera to contextualize the piece helps a lot. In the end, I’m happy the story is being told in a new medium and, I trust, to an audience who is ready and interested to hear it and understand this human message. 

As One plays at Washington Hall Nov. 11-19. 
Tickets are $25 & $40 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Chorus Spotlight: Lucy Weber

Lucy Weber, a longtime member of the Seattle Opera Chorus currently performing in Medea with Seattle Shakespeare Company. 
The Seattle Opera Chorus is made up of extraordinarily talented individuals. Under the leadership of Chorus Master John Keene, they can make us laugh as one of many zany characters in Count Ory, or tug at our hearts through the powerful "Va, pensiero" in Nabucco. Today, we talk to one of these accomplished singers. Lucy Weber has performed in mainstage productions such as Mary Stuart and Madame Butterfly, as well as at schools all over Washington State in Our Earth. But Weber, a lover of theater as well as music, doesn't limit her gifts to simply McCaw Hall. Currently, she is performing in Medea with Seattle Shakespeare Company. 

What’s your favorite thing about being a performing artist in Seattle?
I love the richness of talent here; many performers I have met literally go from job to job and stay employed fairly regularly. There was an article about how Seattle theaters try very hard to hire local talent. On the other hand, with so many talented people, it's also a highly competitive place. I feel very fortunate that I am able to perform semi-regularly with the Seattle Opera Chorus. I also love singing for the company's Education & Community Engagement Department; that keeps me pretty busy throughout the year.

How did you get into singing/opera?
I always had a passion for singing, but actually came to opera through theater and musical theater. Acting was a huge passion of mine in junior high and high school. After graduating, I considered making that my main focus, but ended up studying English and Journalism and pursuing theater on the side. When I was 25, I became interested in singing again, which is around the time most opera singers are beginning their careers. I had a voice teacher who felt I could do it, even if I was kind of late in the game. I feel like I am just finding my voice now; The Seattle Opera Chorus has helped me grow and develop.

Ausrine Stundyte (Cio-Cio San), Emily Clubb, and Lucy Weber. Elise Bakketun photo 
Proudest moment as an artist?
I have several, but one was particularly unexpected: I was asked to cover Sarah Larsen when she performed Suzuki in Madama Butterfly (2012). I was so humbled and honored, and it was a great opportunity for me as a singer. She is the most wonderful person; warm, generous, positive. I learned so much from watching her work and approach her role.

Most humbling moment as an artist? 
Being an artist in general is pretty humbling. However, being in Medea and working with these actors has been extremely humbling. The seriously talented women in this show work regularly in theater and musical theater in Seattle. They, as well as director Kelly Kitchens, have been nothing but supportive and welcoming.

Cast members of Seattle Shakespeare's Medea. Lucy Weber, Chelsea LeValley, Kathryn Van Meter, Dedra D. Woods, Maya Burton, Sunam Ellis. Photo by John Ulman
Talk about the single most challenging moment in your career as an artist.
Being both a mom and a performer is challenging. I feel so fortunate to be a working artist with a supportive family. But the reality is, I am often gone for soccer games, birthday parties, trick-or-treating...I've talked to other working mothers in this play and we talk about what it's like to juggle it all. We also ask a lot of our spouses; they take on the main parenting responsibilities when we are in rehearsals and performances. Finding that balance is really important.

What’s the biggest misconception about opera singers?
Singers are asked to do a lot more than sing; we have to be both musicians and actors, and this is actually very physical work. In opera, all our emotions are written for us, but we have to tell the story in an honest way that seems organic and spontaneous. I don't know if people understand how hard singers are working to tell the story that the audience is wanting to see and hear. I'm always in awe of the volume that the human body can create.

What keeps you going? 
Music and theater are so central to who I am. I can't imagine my life without them, but my family is what inspires me to work hard, to get up, and to stay focused.

Serena Eduljee, Lucy Weber, Melissa Plagemann, Cheryse McLeod-Lewis, YeonSoo Kim Lee. Jacob Lucas photo

Thursday, November 3, 2016

As One Teen Night

Final Dress Rehearsal
Thursday, November 10 at Washington Hall.
Philip Newton photo
Calling all teens! You are cordially invited to join us for the final dress rehearsal of As One on Thursday, November 10 at the iconic Washington Hall. This intimate chamber opera As One, is a contemporary exploration of a transgender protagonist’s journey told through two voices. With empathy and humor, we experience Hannah’s youthful challenges in a small town on the West coast, her quest for knowledge and understanding, her discovery of the larger trans community, and her inspiring journey to be true to herself. As One is performed by a baritone and a mezzo-soprano with string quartet.

Teen Night: Thursday, November 10
Doors open at 6:00 PM. Performance begins at 7:00 PM.
$8 per person for full-time students and their chaperones.
Presented by Seattle Opera at Washington Hall, 153 14th Ave, Seattle.

Recommended for middle school and up.

Seattle Opera wants to be sure that teens have a chance to see this powerful show. All public performances* of As One are age 21+, so Teen Night is the perfect opportunity for middle, high, and college students. (Teachers and parents: this would also be great for your students or children!).

*Public performances will include a cash bar and will be open to individuals 21+ only.

To sign up: email education@seattleopera.org

OPERA Timeless & Timely

This blog post is based on a lecture Jonathan Dean gave as part of Seattle Opera’s adult education series at Seattle University on October 18, 2016. Next up in the series: on Tuesday, November 8 at 7:00 PM, Aidan Lang hosts a panel discussion with the cast and creative team of As One: composer Laura Kaminsky, co-librettist Mark Campbell, co-librettist Kimberly Reed via Skype, director L. Zane Jones, and conductor John Keene. Mezzo-soprano Taylor Raven and baritone Jorell Williams will also join in the conversation and perform excerpts from As One.

Our opera industry today is built upon a handful of paradoxes. Opera has always been a tug-of-war between sound and sense, between music and word; today, the auditory and visual sides of the opera experience are sometimes struggling partners. (Should we cast for voice or look?)

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Making of As One

Seattle Opera presents As One, a transgender story, at Washington Hall. In the role of a single protagonist are two singers: baritone Jorell Williams (Hannah before) and Taylor Raven (Hannah after). 

By Jessica Murphy Moo  

The concept for As One began with composer Laura Kaminsky. She wanted to explore universal questions of identity through a transgender protagonist. How do we become our true selves? What sacrifices must we make to get there? How to portray that internal dialogue—that journey—onstage? Her idea, to use two people to voice the inner thoughts of a single character, percolated for two years before she moved forward.

American Opera Projects pledged their support, and two singers who had previously worked with Kaminsky also signed on. During this time Kaminsky watched the documentary film Prodigal Sons, by transgender filmmaker Kimberly Reed. Kaminsky reached out to Reed to see if she would want to collaborate and create an original film for the work. What they still needed, however, was a story. So they brought librettist Mark Campbell on board.

During the creative team’s first meeting, Campbell turned to Reed and asked her if she would share any experiences in her life.

The creative team behind As One: Kimberly Reed (co-librettist), Mark Campbell (co-librettist), and Laura Kaminsky (composer). 
Reed remembered having a paper route. One time, she recalled, she did the route in a blouse she stole from a neighbor’s clothesline.

Campbell believed that story could turn into a song.

Campbell came up with the idea of creating an original story that would spring from some of Reed’s experiences and invited her to co-write the libretto. But many of the experiences of Hannah, the main character in the opera, are not Reed’s firsthand experiences. Campbell and Reed were more interested in abstracting that experience into a personal journey that could be both specific and universal.

Kaminsky wrote music for an intimate string quartet and for the voices of her original cast, baritone and mezzo-soprano. “Those voices don’t have a huge number of notes in common,” she says. “But I wanted there to be unison at critical moments in the story."

The original cast of As One included baritone Kelly Markgraf (Hannah before) and his wife, Sasha Cooke (Hannah after). Cooke most recently sang at Seattle Opera as Hansel in Hansel & Gretel. 
“We wanted to merge male and female voices,” says Campbell. “We didn’t want the boy to do only boy things and girl to do only girl things, but to prove that there is fluidity between genders.”

And they had to navigate around potential misperceptions. Two people onstage did not mean Hannah was two separate people. “The fact is that we all have this gender dialogue going on in us,” says Reed. You’ll hear in the music, for instance, that the story doesn’t start with only Hannah before. Hannah before and Hannah after are always present. “The transfolk I know have to figure out a way to incorporate that past expression of self with who we are now,” Reed says. “We all have to calibrate that. It’s an internal dialogue, whether we’re trans or not. So we are trying to depict that dialogue with two singers. It’s an abstract move. We’re speaking metaphorically."

Director L. Zane Jones in rehearsal with Taylor Raven (Hannah after) and Jorell Williams (Hannah before). Genevieve Hathaway photo
And the abstract, of course, is where music can shine. Consider, for instance, that Kaminsky chose the viola, the middle voice of the string quartet, to be the surrogate for Hannah’s soul. Prior to Seattle, As One has been produced five times, including in Berlin. Next year it will go to Pittsburgh, Denver, and Long Beach, CA, with more productions scheduled after that.

Why aren't the singers in this opera transgender? 
So far, all productions of As One have involved cisgender singers, meaning the singers identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. This casting raises an important question. If this opera is about the experiences of a transgender protagonist, why weren’t transgender singers cast in the work? One reason is availability of highly-trained professional opera singers. “There are not a lot of trans opera singers,” says co-librettist Kimberly Reed. With growing awareness comes a growing body of sound pedagogical practice and a growing number of classically trained transgender singers. But there is still work to be done. Reed hopes, for instance, that As One productions “can lead to that pipeline for training for trans opera singers.” To read a profile of a German transgender baritone (pictured below), Lucia Lucas, click here.

Baritone Lucia Lucas says:“I came out to the opera community at a ball with my wife — she wore a trouser suit and I wore a dress. People didn’t recognize me at first — they recognized my wife, then looked at me and eventually they figured it out. Being able to see their genuine reactions was helpful; I came out the next week. I told the intendant that I liked my job and hoped I could continue to do it, but this was something I had to do for myself; it was something I’d been putting off forever. He said: ‘OK, how does this work?” I replied: “Well, nobody’s ever done it before.'” [ Photo by Alice Neale, Accent magazine ]

About the Venue: Washington Hall 
Washington Hall is a registered city and national landmark, a status it earned for its historic role as the nerve center of Central Seattle’s art, culture, and community. Since 1908, when the Danish Brotherhood opened the doors to Washington Hall, it has been a place where people could live and socialize and perform. It began as a boarding house for new Danish immigrants while doubling as a performance space for a Sephardic troupe and dance hall for Filipino American youth. Washington Hall opened its doors to iconic performers Duke Ellington, Billie Holliday, and Ella Fitzgerald, among many other jazz greats. Jimi Hendrix played here. Martin Luther King spoke here. For many years Washington Hall served as the home for the contemporary performance organization On the Boards. Historic Seattle acquired the building from the black Masonic group Sons of Haiti in 2009. Renovation.
An opera for our community 
As One reflects Seattle Opera’s commitment to creating a safe and welcoming space within the arts. Moving forward, the company’s work will reflect the diverse communities of the Pacific Northwest in terms of age, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and cultural/multicultural background. Seattle Opera is working to reduce barriers that have historically made the art form inaccessible to certain groups. Our version of this important new opera is meant to be both an experience, and a vehicle for meaningful conversation. The company is proud to partner with LGBTQ, transgender, and social justice organizations (full list below). Representatives from these organizations will be available to the audience in the lobby prior to the show, and will offer resources on how to become allies and activists for transgender rights.

Full list of As One Community Partners 

Tickets & Information:
Nov. 11, 13, 17, 18, & 19, 2016
Washington Hall
153 14th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122
Tickets: $25* & $40

Monday, October 31, 2016


Seattle Opera celebrates the life and artistry of beloved American bass John Del Carlo, who recently passed away at the all-too-early age of 65. Del Carlo's amazing voice and great sense of humor delighted Seattle audiences beginning in 1984 (when he debuted as Donner & Gunther in the RING) all the way up to 2015, when he sang Cadmus & Somnus in Semele. Backstage, he was beloved by all--a great colleague and friend, with an extraordinary ability to made any rehearsal or performance less stressful and more fun just by being in the room.

Says Speight Jenkins, "John had what could only be called an operatic personality. His sense of humor was balanced by his remarkable acting in both comedies and serious operas; he supported whatever cast he was in with his good humor, intensity, and incredible professionalism."

Read Bruce Duffie's interview with him from 2000, or our interview with him from last year.

John Del Carlo (right) as Gunther in Götterdämmerung, 1984, with Ed Sooter as Siegfried and John Macurdy as Hagen
Chris Bennion, photo

You can hear Del Carlo's wonderfully rich bass, and his facility with coloratura, in this passage from Seattle Opera's 1989 Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Hermann Michael conducted Del Carlo as the pedantic Kothner, who reads the strict rules of mastersinging in this little aria:

Del Carlo was a world-famous Dr. Bartolo, the crabby, scolding old grump of The Barber of Seville. Here, from his role debut (in Seattle in 1992, conducted by the late great Edoardo Mueller) you hear Del Carlo's ridiculously breakneck patter, as he sings the conclusion to Bartolo's aria "A un dottor":

John Del Carlo as Cadmus (left) and Somnus (right) in Semele, 2015
Elise Bakketun, photo

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Praise for Hansel & Gretel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Marsh (The Witch). Jacob Lucas photo

Friday, October 21, 2016

Come trick-or-treat at the Opera!

Bill Mohn photo

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

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

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

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

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

Tickets & info: http://bit.ly/2erG99h

Thursday, September 29, 2016


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

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