Friday, January 18, 2019

Seattle Opera offers free tickets to federal workers


Jacob Lucas photo
Seattle Opera is pleased to offer tickets to furloughed federal governments workers. Workers can receive two free tickets to the company’s performances of Il trovatore at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 19 and 23, and at 2 p.m. on Jan. 20. To redeem, simply present your federal government ID at the McCaw Hall box office before the performance. The box office opens two hours prior to performances; 5:30 p.m. for evening performances and noon for the matinee.

“We at Seattle Opera are grateful for all that our federal workers do, and wish to show our solidarity and thanks by inviting them to enjoy a night of beautiful music at McCaw Hall,” said General Director Aidan Lang.

Seattle Opera’s Il trovatore runs now through Jan. 26 at McCaw Hall.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Praise for Il trovatore


Lester Lynch (Di Luna). Philip Newton photo
"The new production of Verdi's Il Trovatore at Seattle Opera packs such a thrilling punch that even my 80-year-old body pumped teenaged adrenalin again and again at Saturday's opening night performance." - Seattle Gay News

"This SO production had the requisite grandeur and musical talent, yet remained fresh." - Oregon Arts Watch

"On Saturday, the opening-night audience heard the resplendent soprano Leah Crocetto (last heard here in the title role of 'Aida') as Leonora, offering some thrilling high notes and a performance that combined power and easy facility. Her Manrico was Arnold Rawls, a dashing actor whose tenor took a while to warm up but rose to the challenge of 'Di quella pira' in fine style." - The Seattle Times

"I am more of a theatre person than an opera person, so when I went to the Seattle Opera on Sunday, I was not looking forward to sitting through the almost 3-hour production of Verdi’s 'Il Trovatore' on a sunny day . . . Then I was blown away! The story of 'Il Trovatore' is difficult, with events happening a generation ago and the entire first scene is one long song just telling us what happened 20 years ago. Snore, right? But no! – the direction and the singers were AMAZING, and that made all the difference. In fact, the singer playing Leonora was so amazing, I think I am now a fan of her. Her name is Angela Meade and when she started to sing, I got chills. She did something I have never heard. It’s called pianississimo, which means 'more than very soft.' She sang the highest notes in the world in the quietest voice I possible, and the effect was mesmerizing. Really. After one aria she got the longest applause with BRAVAs that I’ve ever seen. Also, she is from Centralia, WA, so singing at the Seattle Opera is coming home for her! The opera also dealt with women’s issues interestingly – there is a substantial plot line about witchcraft and burning at the stake. Go SO!" - M.J. McDermott, Q13 News 

Lester Lynch (Di Luna), Leah Crocetto (Leonora), and Arnold Rawls (Manrico). Jacob Lucas photo
"Opening night’s cast featured tenor Arnold Rawls in the title troubadour role, Manrico ... Rawls was in solid form for his big moment at the end of Act 3, unleashing the stirring and prolonged high C that every Trovatore fan anticipates. Rawls played well off powerful mezzo-soprano Elena Gabouri as his mother, the vengeance-crazed Azucena; his Manrico was also a bit unhinged, clearly his mother’s son. His rival, romantically and politically, is the Count di Luna, sounding properly villainous, rough and gruff, as played by Lester Lynch." - Seattle Weekly

"Overall my first venture into McCaw Hall for a performance from the Seattle Opera was highly pleasurable. If you're going for the first time, read up on the show beforehand, allow plenty of time the day or night of the performance, and then go in to the hall with an open mind. I think you'll leave as I did - satisfied." - Eclectic Arts

"Despite its story, Il Trovatore (is a) masterpiece ...It’s a work of genius. And I mean that literally. Sometimes there are works of art (Gone With the Wind and Hamlet come to mind) whose story is so poor, whose source material is so meager that it’s entirely by the pure talent of their creator that they rise to the highest level of art. Il Trovatore is such a piece. And if you have any doubt about that go see the Seattle Opera’s current excellent production of Il Trovatore and it will put your mind at rest on this point." - Andy Nicastro

Elena Gabouri (Azucena). Philip Newton photo
"As the gypsy Azucena, Elena Gabouri (last heard here as Amneris in 'Aida') was a powerful singer and actor who performed with all-out intensity. Baritone Lester Lynch, heard earlier this season as Crown in 'Porgy and Bess,' displayed a wide interpretive range as the villainous Count di Luna: commandingly evil, yet capable of warm subtlety in his aria 'Il balen.'" - The Seattle Times

"Politicians talk about values,when they only care about money. Operas have plots, but the real substance is the music. Il Trovatore inspires a bit of cognitive dissonance. The story is grotesque, but the songs are upbeat and memorable. The vocals are among the most challenging in the world, yet the melodies invite you hum. It’s easy to imagine people waving their mugs in the air as they sing the choruses from Il Trovatore together in the bar a week after seeing the opera."  - Gemma Alexander

"The top performance, by a long shot, was that of soprano Angela Meade. The sheer beauty of her singing had me in tears more than once. Her tone was gorgeous from top to bottom of her considerable range. Her trill shimmered, and her soft high notes floated above the orchestra to perfection. Her acting was fine, but I would probably have enjoyed her performance just as much with my eyes closed." - Seattle Gay News
Angela Meade (Leonora). Philip Newton photo
"In Sunday’s alternate cast, the standout was the thrilling Leonora of Angela Meade, a soprano from Centralia who has won 57 competition prizes and who debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in 2008. Her beautiful tone quality and her interpretive artistry were capped with an amazing crescendo on the high A-flat at the end of 'D’amor sull’ali rosee' — which met with a showstopping ovation of cheers and whistles." - The Seattle Times

"There were two stars in this show. The first was the orchestra under conductor Carlo Montanaro (I’ll get to the second one in a moment). They were magnificent. You’re not likely to hear a better performance from the pit for Il Trovatore. Montanaro and his musicians seemed to treat Verdi score as if it were a symphony. Every nuance, every subtlety of orchestration was given its due. It was like hearing the music afresh. In many performances of Verdi’s operas the orchestra takes second place to the singers, but not in this one." - Andy Nicastro

"Leah Crocetto sang Leonora, the noblewoman over whom the two clash. Her soprano is uncommonly lovely at low volume—soft and warm, she sounds like cashmere feels—but she can also uncover it to loose easy, airborne high notes. Particularly memorable was her Act 4 aria 'D’amor sull’ali rosee,' miraculously dreamy." - Seattle Weekly

Nora Sourouzian (Azucena). Jacob Lucas photo

"Nora Sourouzian’s Azucena grew steadily in strength and finesse as Sunday’s show went on, and baritone Michael Mayes made a vital, vivid di Luna. John Marzano and Nerys Jones were commendable in their supporting roles as Ruiz and Inez." - The Seattle Times

"The second star of the evening—and really the main one—was Leah Crocetto in the role of Leonora. The night belonged to her. From the moment of her entrance she dominated the show. She has a voice of unique beauty, warmth, and fullness. It easily reached the back rows (where I was sitting) and in its quieter moments it takes on a gentleness and expressiveness which one doesn’t normally get from a singer with that kind of power." - Andy Nicastro

"The always excellent Seattle Opera chorus outdid itself. Not only did it sound terrific, but the choristers threw themselves into physical performance to an extent I've rarely seen. Their challenging slow-motion and stop-action moments were dramatically powerful and showed an amazing level of physical discipline. Kudos to choreographer Kathryn Van Meter and Fight Director Geoffrey Alm for creating those arresting scenes." - Seattle Gay News

"Keeping all their interactions clear and impactful in a notoriously complex story was the laudable achievement of stage director Dan Wallace Miller and supertitle writer Jonathan Dean — though I would be curious to ask someone who doesn’t know the opera how well they grasped it all. Pretty well, I imagine." - Seattle Weekly

Arnold Rawls (Manrico) and members of Seattle Opera's Il trovatore cast. Jacob Lucas photo
"Lester Lynch also shone as the Count di Luna. The Count is a dreary fellow and hard to like, but Lynch made him human and understandable, which is a greater accomplishment than making him likeable. He also brought a sense of vulnerability to the role. At one point he softly sings Leonora’s name with such longing and tenderness it’ll break your heart."  - Andy Nicastro

"Seattle stage director Dan Wallace Miller made his company mainstage debut with this production, presenting an original, effective approach to an opera that requires a great deal of dashing about — duels, battles, deaths, amorous clinches, treachery, avowals of hatred and love, and renunciations. In one key scene, he reduced a chaotic battle to a slow-motion background for the lovers’ crucial real-time interchange: chancy but effective. Miller also made vivid use of 'shadow plays,' backlighted episodes with actors dramatizing the narrative." - The Seattle Times

"Verdi’s Il trovatore has something for everyone: drama, a ridiculous plot, vengeance, battles, and hours of complex melodious music. Beloved by audiences, together they don’t always form a compelling whole. The opera can be difficult to pull off in the theater without both an eye and an ear to how everything should fit together. During its current run with Seattle Opera, an effective aesthetic — combined with an excellent quartet of singers in the main roles — helped to make the best case possible for this complex work." - Seen and Heard International 

Verdi's Il trovatore plays now through Jan. 26 at McCaw Hall. 


Saturday, January 12, 2019

A Q&A with Il trovatore's costume designer

Costume Designer Candace Frank 
In high school, Il trovatore's costume designer Candace Frank learned how to sew the clothes she couldn't find on the rack. Fast forward some years, Frank has created a successful career designing costumes for theatre, opera, circus, and burlesque. Her creations utilize an advanced knowledge of fit, mixed with a flair for the theatrical. Frank previously designed at Seattle Opera for Don Giovanni (Young Artists Program), and for The Combat (chamber opera). She has previously led the costume shops at Seattle University, Intiman Theatre, and ACT Theatre. You may have also seen her work onstage with Vespertine Opera, Sound Theatre Company, and Lucia Neare's Theatrical Wonders.

What’s the time period for this opera?
There is no exact time period; it’s open to your imagination. In the costumes, we reference pre-Renaissance era, some Tudor, and different courtly silhouettes. None of the looks live 100 percent in any time period (there’s even modern camo print for some of the soldiers). Some of the chorus members have jeans on. Some wear newsboy caps. Some have old-fashioned farmer hats. For the peasant class in this opera, it’s really a 200-year span of what working-class people have worn throughout the years. Also, the soldiers wear modern camo print.

For this show, there’s both an Original Set and Costume Designer (John Conklin), and a Costume Designer (you!). Can you tell me about how the costumes came together?

Seattle Opera approached (Stage Director Dan Wallace Miller) to see if he’d direct this opera using an existing production. But Dan likes to reimagine things. He’s not a status quo director, he likes to ask hard questions underlying in the work. In this case, we’re looking at social status. Traditionally, Il trovatore has these “gypsy” characters, which, in our show are simply depicted as peasants instead of Romani people. Working with Dan, I used the existing designs to tell a story with more danger, risk, and humanity


Michael Mayes (Di Luna), Nora Sourouzian (Azucena), and members of the Seattle Opera Chorus. Philip Newton photo

For example, I made the character Di Luna more tough and dangerous-looking. It was also important to me to show the soft romance of Manrico through the costuming. Both the peasants and the soldiers were somewhat clean in this show’s original iteration, so Dan and I decided to add some realness, some distressing, dirtying, and beating to their armor and war garb. This reflects the long war in the story, which both sides lose.

Basically, the original designs provided a launching point. It’s like when someone asks you to create a painting with a specific color palette. It was a fun creative challenge.

You're not exactly a status quo costume designer either, right? 
I usually do the more out-there shows. I hardly ever do the five-white-people-talking-in-a-living-room shows. I love imaginative work such as Lucia Neare's Theatrical Wonders (which has included characters like giant mice, will have giant musical numbers, and all sorts of crazy stuff). Alternatively, I also design plus-size clothing for my brand, Bawdy Love.

Photo courtesy of Lucia Neare's Theatrical Wonders. 

It also sounds like you and Director Dan Wallace Miller have a fruitful creative partnership. 
Absolutely. Every time I work with Dan, it’s a very collaborative process. Dan, Christopher Mumaw (Associate Set Designer), and I love taking on a show like this, and then the three of us work together to realize a world. It’s not very often you have the chance to create something like that. And it’s one thing that makes opera such an exciting art form to be a part of.

I think Leonora’s Tudor-inspired gowns are going to be crowd-pleasers. Can you talk about her different looks?
She starts off in a beautiful blue gown made of changeable silk. Changeable silk is a fabric that, when they weave it, there’s blue threads going one way, and pink threads going the other. So the color is really dimensional, and while blue, it has a pink and purple sheen to it.

Il trovatore is a story of the haves, and have-nots. And Leonora is part of the class of people that’s oppressing the peasant class. The world of the “haves” is cold, austere, metallic. And Leonora’s second dress is a reflection of that with a black and gray classic Tudor print. The cut of her two gowns are actually identical

What’s your favorite costume in the show, and why?
My favorite costume is Di Luna’s: He wears a floor-length leather cloak made out of three giant cow hides. Each hide was larger than a single work table in our costume shop. It’s got all these beautiful back-seams, and Tudor-style lines to it.

Then he’s got two big armor pauldrons over his shoulders. He’s ready for battle; always ready to kill.

You’ve talked to me about the “haves.” What were your color and texture inspirations for the “have-nots”?
The peasants wear a soft, warm, color palette. We’ve done lots of painting and distressing. The clothes need to look they are heirlooms, handed down through generations, and like the wearer needs every little piece to survive.

Il trovatore costume design by Candace Frank.
Is designing for opera different than with other art forms?
It’s grander, larger. Everything needs to be scaled up because of the theaters that the work is performed in, and also because of the grandness of the stories. In opera, there’s also much greater body diversity than in theater or dance. In opera, it all comes down to what the singers need.

You told me recently that opera is one of the most body-positive art forms. Why is body positivity crucial to costume design and fashion?
Because these stories are meant to be representative of all kinds of people, including people of all colors and sizes. Art, especially opera, represents the real world that we all come from.

Anything else?
The Seattle Opera costume shop is by far the best costume shop I’ve ever worked in. When I recently designed here for The Combat, I was amazed by how quickly after I would draw something it would be actualized in real-life with incredible care and detail. The work they do is incredible art in itself.

Seattle Opera's Il tlrovatore runs Jan. 12-26 at McCaw Hall. 
Tickets & info: seattleopera.org/trovatore

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Seattle Opera unveils 2019/20 Season

Hero photography by Philip Newton
With a mix of new and traditional takes on opera, Seattle Opera unveils a 2019/20 Season that offers something for everyone. Audiences will experience new-to-Seattle productions of Rigoletto, Cinderella, and Eugene Onegin; the company premiere of Charlie Parker’s Yardbird; and the return of a beloved classic, La bohème

“Seattle Opera is committed to work that resonates with people in the Pacific Northwest,” said General Director Aidan Lang. “In addition to creating transcendent music and theater, we’re excited to have conversations with our community about abuse of power, misogyny, representation in art and entertainment, and more themes illuminated in our upcoming works.”

The 2019/20 Season will also include People of Color in a number of prominent principal roles. The company is being more intentional in seeking a racially diverse talent pool. Racial equity aside, Seattle Opera has earned a reputation for its casting, and its ability to identify some of the industry’s next big stars.

One such rising-star is Angel Blue, who returns in 2020 to sing Mimì in La bohème. Seattleites may recognize the American soprano from last summer’s Porgy and Bess, a performance (as Bess) which earned her a feature in The Stranger’s “Best Performances of 2018” article. Blue, a former Miss America Organization titleholder, also starred in a viral social-media video called “Kids Meet An Opera Singer.” To date, the six-minute video produced by The Cut has garnered more than 11 million views on Facebook.

Lester Lynch, another star of Porgy and Bess and Il trovatore, helps kick off the company’s 2019/20 Season as the title character in Verdi’s action-packed melodrama, Rigoletto (August 10-28, 2019). Even people who have never attended an opera have likely heard Rigoletto’s most popular aria “La donna è mobile” from playing Grand Theft Auto, watching Alvin and the Chipmunks, or that Doritos Super Bowl ad where a baby is slingshotted to steal his brother’s chips. Since its 1851 debut, Rigoletto has been reimagined over and over again. And now, through the vision of Director Lindy Hume, the violence against women in Rigoletto will offer unflinching comparisons to newsmakers of today.

Hume has created thoughtful and entertaining productions for Seattle audiences in the past, including The Wicked Adventures of Count Ory and The Barber of Seville. Following Rigoletto, she’ll return to Seattle yet again to direct Rossini’s Cinderella, Oct. 19–Nov. 1, 2019. With costumes and dances reminiscent of a Tim Burton film, multi-level sets, and a dash of stage magic, this fairy-tale opera includes performances by famous singing siblings Ginger Costa-Jackson (Cinderella) and Miriam Costa-Jackson (Clorinda).

A third sister, Marina Costa-Jackson (Fiordiligi, Così fan tutte) joins her kin for a special, one-night-only Three Singing Sisters concert on Nov. 2 after Cinderella closes. The mixed-genre program will include opera arias, Broadway melodies, popular music, and Neapolitan songs, the sisters’ specialty.

Fast-forward to the New Year: Seattle Opera will present Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin (Jan. 11–25, 2020) for the first time in nearly 20 years. The legendary Nutcracker composer returns to McCaw Hall with an elegant Russian romance based on Alexander Pushkin’s novel. Starring John Moore (Steve Jobs, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs) and Michael Adams (Guglielmo, Così fan tutte) alternating in the title role, Seattle Opera’s traditional production brings opulent nineteenth-century Russia to life.

From a story about 1820s St. Petersburg, Seattle Opera moves to 1950s New York with the company premiere of Charlie Parker’s Yardbird Feb. 22–March, 2020. Still a work of classical music, the opera pulses with jazz-infused melodies created by saxophonist/composer Daniel Schnyder, who tells the story of the legendary tormented jazz and bebop innovator. Finding himself in a sort of purgatory, the ghost of Charlie “Yardbird” Parker (sung by alternating tenors Joshua Stewart and Frederick Ballentine) struggles to complete one last masterpiece. In a series of freeform flashbacks, he revisits the demons, inspirations, and women who have fueled and hindered his creative genius. This intimate portrait of the legendary saxophonist was hailed by audiences and critics alike at its 2015 East Coast premieres.

Finally, the 2019/20 Season concludes with opera’s quintessential love story, La bohème, on May 2–16, 2020. When Rodolfo, a penniless poet, meets Mimì, a seamstress, they fall instantly in love. But their happiness is threatened when Rodolfo learns that Mimì is gravely ill. Puccini’s romantic depiction of bohemian Paris, with wonderful music and a love story drawn from everyday life, has captivated audiences around the world. La bohème includes the return of Will Liverman (Figaro, The Barber of Seville), Brandie Sutton (Clara, Porgy and Bess) and Ginger Costa-Jackson (following her performance as the title character in Cinderella).

Tickets and more info:

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

New home | Seattle Opera staff shares our joy

Seattle Opera's new civic home, the Opera Center, kicks off with a Grand Opening on Dec. 15.

At long last, Seattle Opera's dream is being realized: the company will soon move into its new civic home on the Seattle Center campus.  

"Our new building is beautiful, magical, welcoming, larger-than-life, and world-classjust like what Seattle Opera aspires to be," said Dominica Myers, Associate Director of Administration. "Our new workplace will now reflect our company and art form."

Dominica's words echo the feeling in our hearts at Seattle Opera. We, members of the staff, wanted to share why this building matters so much to us. We invite you to come explore it for yourself on Dec. 15 at our Grand Opening


A joyous photo from the Groundbreaking Ceremony for our new building: Head of Coach Accompanists David McDade gets in on the ceremonial shoveling with cheers from members of the Seattle Opera Chorus. June 21, 2017. Jacob Lucas photo
"This new building gives us a ‘physical’ presence. When our offices were located in South Lake Union, much of the public wasn't aware of where our day-to-day operations were happening. So I think this new space will bring stronger ties to the community and to our performance space. Also, I think the physical closeness of the building to McCaw Hall will impact the administrative staff; getting to witness the process of putting on a show will be more accessible and bring a stronger sense of purpose to our daily work, which at times feels removed from the art."
- Erika Norris, Web Producer

"The transparency and inviting nature of our new home will bring the public closer to understanding opera more than ever before. The viewing garden and windows into the operations of our organization will allow the curtain to be lifted from the tremendous work that is done at every stage of our organization. We all have known what it takes to put on productions of this scale, and now everyone can get a glimpse into that daily life."
- Greg Schell, Ticket Operations Manager

Tagney Jones Hall, a glass box performance space for educational and community events that seats 200. Sean Airhart photo

"We’ll have space to invite the public into our home to host everything from lectures on sixteenth-century operas to forums that address where opera fits into the larger landscape of racial equity and social justice in the arts. We’ll have lots of windows to see outside of ourselves, to find contentment in a simple ray of sunshine, a bit of seasonal rain, or a stranger on the street. And more importantly, that stranger on the street will be able to see us. And maybe when they do, they won’t feel quite so much a stranger when they are able to look in and see what it is that we do, and who we are. I’m most excited to shift the narrative about who we are as a company, and about what opera can mean to a city like ours. I think our new building is a true game changer in making that dream possible." - Dominica Myers, Associate Director of Administration


"Long story short: My personal/special tie to the new building is my dad used to play hockey in the old Mercer Arena and was one of my biggest supporters as I studied opera. With his passing coming up on a year and half, it feels like he is passing the baton off to me as a force for good in the community. My dad sought to bring people together through team sports. I hope to help bring people together through opera."
-  Debra McKinney, Group Sales Coordinator

Seattle Opera's new civic home will amplify its visibility in the community, and the work of community programs and partnerships, an example being this collaboration with Gallery Onyx during Porgy and Bess. Pictured: Jermaine Smith (Sportin' Life) and Kevin Short (Porgy) with General Director Aidan Lang. Sunni Martini photo
"I am personally excited for better bike facilities, and more window light in the office spaces. Everything about the new space will do a better job of supporting the well-being of staff, which might reduce some stress ... Finally, I can’t wait for a welcoming, safe, accessible and well-equipped space to do more performances, in addition to the mainstage shows. That will contribute so much to what Lower Queen Anne has to offer, which is already a center of gravity for the arts in Seattle."
Lindsey O'Connor, Accounts Payable/Accounts Receivable Associate  

"I am excited about moving to the Seattle Center campus to have a location that showcases the operatic art form to the public every day, in every phase of an opera’s production, not just the practiced and polished parts seen at McCaw Hall ... Our potential audience members need more entry points, more inspiring and captivating engagement opportunities. In an era where it is ever-easier to access arts and entertainment via your living room, we must give people reasons to join the opera family."
- Jane Repensek, Chief Operating Officer/Chief Financial Officer 


Seattle Opera's new civic home can also serve as a spot for events similar to "API Arts Leaders Respond to Madame Butterfly" which addressed issues of yellowface, cultural appropriation, and whitewashing in art and entertainment or Breaking Glass, which centered Black perspectives on racial justice and opera. Pictured: Dancer Angel Alviar-Langley. Jacob Lucas photo 
"In our South Lake Union offices, my library was split into three musty locations. As the company's librarian, I have been Macgyvering my way through floods, weird binding glues, and busted hard drives for four years ... I had no idea how I was going to turn chewed-up paper boxes and VHS tapes into a working resource center. And yet. I amassed an army of interns and cataloged almost everything, made circulation possible (but not extremely frequent, due to the aforementioned three musty locations), digitized, preserved, described, and grew Seattle Opera's archives from a shelf of VHSs to incorporate images, sound, and documents, as well. I did this all because when we moved into our mythical new building, I wanted the collection to be worthy of it ...

Both passersby and people walking around inside the first floor will have a birds-eye view of Seattle Opera's celebrated costume shop. Sean Airhart photo.  
...In the beautiful new space, I hope to build a more equitable collection—to actively collect more books about race and gender in opera and theater. And by doing so, to make sure that when people come into my library no matter what they think about opera, they leave having read the voices of people who genuinely believe that this art form matters and can be a force for social justice as well as artistic.

THIS HAS BEEN MY VERY SELFISH STORY OF WHY I AM EXCITED ABOUT THE NEW BUILDING."

- Emily Cabaniss, Music Assistant/Company Librarian

Seattle Opera librarian Emily Cabaniss works among music scores and books — and every six weeks, oils the company’s Wagner tubas. “I feel like opera stories get away with stuff that television could never get away with,” Cabaniss says of her love for the art form. Steve Ringman photo, The Seattle Times
"Some reasons why I'm excited to move into our new Civic Home:
-  Fully joining the Seattle Center Resident Organization Familyright now with our part-time tenancy at McCaw Hall, we feel more like extended family or first cousins. It will be nice to be a part of Seattle Center all the time.

- Being in a neighborhood known for culture, vibrancy, communal gathering, and character.

- Having more than one toilet.

- Having an office floor plan more conducive to walking/activity/fitness.

- Having an easier time telling vendors and customers how to find us.

- Having an ADA box office and front entry.

- An integrated operations center will bring together the entire company (i.e. employees from all departments). Working more closely together as a holistic group will allow everyone at every level to take more ownership/pride in everything we do."

- Ed Hawkins, Marketing Manager/Copywriter


Sean Airhart photo.
"In many ways, the Seattle we have today is not the weird, artistic, grungy Seattle where I grew up. Some changes have taken our community in completely new directions. But I believe this particular new construction will preserve and enrich the city's culture. Here on the Seattle Center campus, where I spent summers as a rebellious teenager at Bumbershoot, winters being filled with wonder at PNB's Nutcracker and where, as a young kid, my creativity was sparked by Seattle Children's Theater and Seattle Children's Museum, (special places I now take my toddler), I can still feel the heart and soul of the same Seattle that made me. For this reason, and reasons my colleagues have eloquently expressed, I am going to enjoy working here so much. But the bottom line is, opera, like these different treasures on the Seattle Center campus, exists for all of us. The new building embodies that spirit of love and welcome."
- Gabrielle Nomura Gainor, Communications & Public Engagement Manager 


In the future, Seattle Opera's new civic home could serve as a theater location for chamber operas, which, in the past have included As One, a transgender story, (above) and O+E, which depicts the classic Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice through an all-women creative team and principal singers. Top: Taylor Raven and Jorell Williams as Hannah before and Hannah after, respectively. Rozarii Lynch photo. Bottom: Magda-Sophia Gartner (O) and Tess Altiveros (E). Philip Newton photo 

"Our new building symbolizes who we are NOW. Much has changed since an ambitious but tight-fisted 'scrappy underdog' arts organization rented an old warehouse in a less-than-glamorous neighborhood. The role opera plays in our community has evolved. Seattle Opera used to be a status symbol for a municipality that had aspirations to be a major world city, but wasn’t quite there yet; the idea was, if people associated Seattle with ‘world-class opera’ (whatever that may be), movers and shakers from other cities would start to take Seattle seriously.

Today, Seattle is one of the world’s most important cities, and we certainly don’t need a fancy opera company to prove that point. What we need is an arts sector dedicated to bringing together people who might otherwise never meet, giving us all opportunities to LISTEN, and to celebrate our shared humanity. The new building will make that a palpable reality."

- Jonathan Dean, Dramaturg

Photo of a Seattle Opera SummerFest event by Philip Newton. 


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Praise for The Turn of the Screw

Elizabeth Caballero (The Governess) and Soraya Mafi (Flora). Jacob Lucas photo

"Plan on being exhilaratingly chilled and disoriented."

"Benjamin Britten’s music is unfailingly delicious, and Seattle Opera’s never utilized more potent scenic effects: two reasons to go see The Turn of the Screw before it closes Saturday."

Seen and Heard International:
"One other ‘character’ deserves mention. Britten’s orchestra is a small but mighty 13 players. His evocative motifs and manipulation of a primary theme, which he takes through 12 variations, are a backbone for the overall tone. The composer uses every instrument of the ensemble, from bass to celesta, to create a haunting musical atmosphere."

The Seattle Times:
"But for those who can’t get enough of gothic horror at this time of year, it could make a welcome addition to the usual haunted-house horror-movie Halloween fare."

“'Turn of the Screw' asks deep questions, many ultimately unanswered: What is real, and what is perception? When do we disobey orders if we think they’re wrong? And what makes a child “go bad,” if there’s even really such a thing? And why have so many people died on that country estate?"

"On opening night, Rafi Bellamy Plaice’s angelic choirboy treble made all the more stark the contrast with the wickedness enveloping him."

Ben Bliss as Peter Quint and Marcy Stonikas as Miss Jessel. Jacob Lucas photo
"One of the most effective things about Seattle Opera’s production is the set, a mix of traditional staging elements and digital projection. Video projection can make or break an atmosphere, and in this case it makes it, turning the mansion into a haunted house full of staring portraits and foreboding hallways. The shifts in perception here are real, as the set reflects the alternating clarity and confusion in the governess’ mind."

"It’s hard to imagine anyone better suited to play Peter Quint than Ben Bliss, whose presence lends a sense of menace about to pounce. As one target of his abuse, Miss Jessel (Marcy Stonikas) displays a different kind of malice — that of a miserable creature who wants someone to suffer along with her."
"It’s one of the most memorable productions the opera has done, in that every detail is equally strong, equally riveting, the story gripping."

Forrest Wu (Miles). Jacob Lucas photo
"Stage director Peter Kazaras has masterminded a brilliant conception and production."

"The projected scenery, designed by Adam Larsen and enhanced by Connie Yun’s lighting, sets the mood as well as the setting, starting with the governess’ journey to the house. The images—train and station, swaying trees, the house itself—are all intentionally a little dreamlike, a little fuzzy around the edges."

"A fine young actor, Forrest Wu sang Miles Sunday afternoon with sureness and aplomb, his voice ringing true on every note, absolutely clear and carrying through McCaw Hall without difficulty."

"(Soraya Mafi) moved and looked every bit about age 10, and was chilling in her own right as she showed Flora’s feelings through her big rag doll. Are they her feelings? Or what Miss Jessel is wanting her to think?"

Soraya Mafi (Flora), Rafi Bellamy Plaice (Miles) and Elizabeth Caballero (The Governess). Jacob Lucas photo

"Britten’s superbly designed score for a small orchestra of 13 musicians has its own eeriness adding to the atmosphere and supporting the singers. It was superbly played by Seattle Symphony musicians and conducted in his Seattle Opera debut by Constantin Trinks."

The Seattle Gay News:

Saturday night review:
"October, with its long, spooky path into Halloween, is the perfect moment to see The Turn of the Screw."

"Henry James' psychological thriller has translated perfectly to the operatic medium (pun intended)."

"No, it's not your fevered imagination that reads sex into the title - it's actually, really there. And the sexual anxiety that throbs through this opera is made all the more scary because children may be involved - though we're not sure - it could all be in the Governess' fevered imagination."

"Opening Night audiences heard the wonderful Rafi Bellamy Plaice ... His voice is amazingly mature and consistent through all registers - and how a young teenager can project into an opera house is a mystery to me. He handled the very sensitive role of Miles with a perfect combination of innocence as an actor and sophistication as a singer ... I'm sure I join everyone who loves treble voices in hoping that this marvelous singer, when he comes through puberty, will possess a voice as compelling in his adulthood as it is in his youth."

Soraya Mafi (Flora) and Rafi Bellamy Plaice (Miles). Jacob Lucas photo
"My favorite ghost was performed by Ben Bliss, who was both the narrator - the neglectful Lord who tells the young Governess never to disturb him with letters - and the ghost of the evil Peter Quint. His role is essential to make the audience understand why the Governess is frozen in her resolve to take action that might save the children. Bliss is as scary as a ghost as he is devastatingly handsome and mesmerizing as the narrator."

"Adding to the Halloween quality of the evening is a setting made primarily of projections by Adam Larsen that melt and transform from the train station, to the train, the countryside, and finally the mansion where optimism collapses into terror."

"Constantin Trinks, from Germany, made his debut as a conductor for Seattle Opera, and we can only hope to see him again. He handled his small forces with all the dynamism and drama the complex music required, while guiding his young singers with a sure hand."

Sunday matinee review:
"Although The Turn of the Screw is a chamber opera, with a six-singer cast and a thirteen-musician orchestra, it succeeds brilliantly on the Seattle Opera mainstage."

Forrest Wu as Miles. Philip Newton photo
"Boy soprano Forrest Wu as Miles sang beautifully and acted with conviction; he made the audience feel the character's confusion and suffering. As the Governess, soprano Elizabeth Caballero gave a fearless, highly emotional performance. Tenor Benjamin Bliss, who played the ghost of the deceased valet Peter Quint, was equally impressive; his calling out to Miles in a quiet high voice made me shiver."

"...conductor Constantin Trinks led a flawless performance of Britten's gorgeous, eerie score. It was a special treat to see all 13 musicians, holding their instruments, come onstage during curtain calls." 

"Sets designed by Robert Dahlstrom for Seattle Opera's 2014 production of Don Giovanni were skillfully repurposed to become the haunted mansion, with many doors and moving parts. Projections designed by Adam Larsen and lighting designed by Connie Yun were marvelously effective and evocative. Deborah Trout's costumes perfectly placed the opera in mid-20th-century England."

Rafi Bellamy Plaice (Miles) and Ben Bliss (Peter Quint). Philip Newton photo
Creatively Clo:
"The set design is inventive and unusual."

"It’s deceptive and ambiguous, like the story it’s based on ... It may leave some viewers frustrated that all details are not fully explained, but I would argue there is palpable tension and dread due to this unresolved nature to the story."

"Elizabeth Caballero is fantastic as the governess, as is Soraya Mafi, who, despite being an adult, is utterly convincing in her role as a child."

Atmospheric, brooding, and mysterious, it’s unlike any opera I’ve seen before. If you’re uninterested in opera as an art form it may not convince you otherwise, but anybody unfamiliar and willing to give it a try, this production is a wonderful one to see. Plus, it’s the right time of year for some scares.It’s the music and the performers that are the draw here. Young Rafi Bellamy Plaice stands out with a beautiful voice as the young boy Miles. He handles the material exceptionally, a particular highlight being the first act song “Malo.” This role is double casted and Forrest Wu, takes on the role for three nights."

Elizabeth Caballero (The Governess) and Maria Zifchak (Mrs. Grose). Philip Newton photo
Social media:

On Instagram: 
"Really, really disturbing but also AMAZING." - @talktodavidjames

"I'm a fan of Britten and this did not disappoint." - @ladyhawker

"Spooky, orphan filled, haunted house, opera, adapted from the classic gothic novel: YES PLEASE!" - @miss.sarahjean

On Twitter:  
"...moody and atmospheric." - @spinsterofutica

"Perfect ghost story opera. Wonderfully disorienting set and music." - @wblackwood

Soraya Mafi (Flora). Philip Newton photo
On Facebook: 
"If you’re in Seattle go see this! Perfect thriller for the Halloween season!" - Rosemary D.

"Whoa, that was dark! Malevolent ghosts, weirdo servants, innuendo, possession, sexual repression, death and creepy kids singing creepy songs. I don't quite know what happened, and I think I need to clear my browser history. But I think you need to see this." - Vern H.

"So wonderfully creepy. Had me at the edge of my seat. It seemed like everybody in the audience was holding their breath during the last scene." - Ursula Stomsvik

"Great performance. Complex and terrifying in so many small and psychological ways. LOVED the lighting. Thanks, wonderful singers."- Kate W.

The Turn of the Screw plays now through Oct. 27
#SOTurnOfTheScrew

Elizabeth Caballero (The Governess) and Rafi Bellamy Plaice (Miles). Philip Newton photo

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Upcoming auditions for singers and dancers

Marketing photo for Seattle Opera's "Cinderella in Spain." Philip Newton photo
In early November, Seattle Opera is holding auditions for dancers and singers. Male and female dancers are needed for the spring mainstage production of Carmen, and singers of all voice types are needed for Cinderella en España, a touring bilingual children's opera. People of Color are encouraged to audition. More details below.

Dancer auditions:
Carmen 
By Georges Bizet
Choreographed by Seth Hoff

Seattle Opera is looking for four dancers (a combination of men and women that will be determined following the audition). Dancers should have a strong jazz, ballet, and/or musical theatre background, and bring a current headshot and resume. Positions are paid (AGMA contract).

The audition will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, November 5, 2018
Show begins rehearsing Apr. 8, 2019
Show dates: May 4, 5*, 8, 11, 12*, 15, 17, 18, 19*, 2019
* matinee performance
Daytime availability for rehearsals required

Please call 206-676-5812 or email dance@seattleopera.org for more info and to sign up.

Singer auditions:
Cinderella en España
A bilingual children's opera for grades K-6
Libretto by Kate Pogue 
Music by Mary Carol Warwick.

Seattle Opera is seeking energetic singers of all voice types for the 2018–19 School Opera Tour production. Inspired by global re-tellings of the rags-to-riches tale, Cinderella en España provides a lively, modern-day bilingual backdrop to a story about the beauty of kindness and the ugliness of mistreating others. Seattle Opera presents School Opera Tours to students in grades K-6 in schools and community venues throughout Washington. This 50-minute opera is presented in a fully staged and costumed production, and performed with five singers and piano. Performances end with a post-opera discussion to deepen the student’s engagement.

The auditions will be held from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. on November 5 & 7 2018 

The following roles will be cast:
Cinderella/Cenicienta (soprano) 
The Stepmother/La Madrastra and The Fairy Godmother/La Madrina (Mezzo Soprano) Stepsister/Margarita and Guillermo/The Town Crier (Tenor) 
Prince Paul/Prince Paulo (Baritone) 
Stepsister/Isabella and The King/El Rey (Bass)

Rehearsals: Music and staging rehearsals begin February 4-March 1, 2019 
Performances: The School Opera Tour performances are scheduled from March – May 2019. 
Exact dates to be determined. 

Artists must be 18 or older and have classical vocal training and stage performance experience. Travel to and/or housing in Seattle will not be covered. 

Please send a resume and headshot to auditions@seattleopera.org for more info and to sign up.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Miles Files

Rafi Bellamy Plaice of England and Forrest Wu, a Seattle native, alternate in the role of Miles in Seattle Opera's The Turn of the Screw. Philip Newton photo
By Samantha Newland

When a storyteller adds a plot twist to create tension, this can be referred to as a “turn of the screw.” In the case of tonight’s opera, the piece is already eerie by virtue of being a ghost story. But two ghosts? A turn of the screw. And they torment children? A turn of the screw. And the audience must witness an innocent boy embody this story? Tighter, and tighter the screw turns—eliciting our fears and anxieties; creating nightmares for us to contend with long after we leave the theater.

As Seattle Opera crafts this terrifying (and exhilarating!) tale on stage, it will be in a large part thanks to two 13-year-olds: Rafi Bellamy Plaice and Forrest Wu, boy sopranos who alternate as the haunted lad, Miles.

It’s rare to see leads this young in opera. Even the characters Hansel and Gretel are sung by adult singers, and the other child character in The Turn of the Screw, Miles’s sister Flora, is also typically sung by an adult—in the case of this production, soprano Soraya Mafi. Unlike in ballet or theater, in Seattle Opera's production opera singers in their 20s and 30s are still considered to be at the beginning of their careers. So it was unusual that composer Benjamin Britten created roles for significantly younger voices.

In many operas, such as Hansel and Gretel, children are portrayed by adult singers. Pictured: Sasha Cooke (Hansel), Peter Easterlin (The Witch) and Ashley Emerson (Gretel) in Seattle Opera's Hansel and Gretel, 2016. Philip Newton photo 
Born in Suffolk, England in 1913, Britten grew up immersed in Anglican culture with its rich tradition of youth choral groups. Inspired by the ethereal qualities of the adolescent voice, Britten's operas such as The Turn of the Screw, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and The Little Sweep gave children opportunities to sing just as much as their adult co-stars. Today, it’s a tradition that continues, thanks to Britten and others who nurture up-and coming artists. Aren Der Hacopian, Seattle Opera’s Director of Artistic Administration and Planning, is one of those people. Der Hacopian played a crucial role in the former Young Artist Program, and continues to bolster the next generation of singers through mainstage casting. Der Hacopian describes casting a child as similar to casting an adult. “Can they be expressive? Can they sing in a 3,000-seat house? Can they take direction?” 

In other ways, it’s different. Children process things differently than adults, Der Hacopian says. “Their parents need to be considered. And, oh yeah—there’s also something called school.” Another challenge to casting Miles, or the Three Spirits in The Magic Flute, is that it can be challenging to find gifted young singers. Prior to Seattle Opera’s The Turn of the Screw, the company sent out an international casting call for Miles. Performers from near and far responded, and the two young men selected were Rafi Bellamy Plaice of England and Forrest Wu of Seattle. Wu, along with many of the performers cast as the Three Spirits, had previously participated in Seattle Opera’s youth programs, another channel the company uses to discover young singers. 

For Plaice, son of mezzo-soprano Marcia Bellamy, classical music is genetic. As a baby, he matched his mother’s pitch with coos and squeaks as she sang to him in his crib. Now as a young teen, he recently won the BBC Radio 2 Young Chorister of the Year and released a debut album, Refiner’s Fire. Not bad for someone who’s not even old enough to drive. While Seattle Opera was gearing up for its production of Porgy and Bess, Plaice traveled to the United States, where he performed Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms with Boston Symphony Orchestra at the Tanglewood Festival. 

Rafi Bellamy Plaice of England sings Miles in The Turn of the Screw
Despite the responsibility of a burgeoning international career, the singer finds time to be 13. “I enjoy Legos and swimming and history. I love Egyptology. I think I would like to be an Egyptologist when I grow up,” Plaice said during a FaceTime call while his black cat, Lancelot, sat in his lap. “And I’m definitely a cat person.” 

In contrast, Forrest Wu’s path to performing was unexpected. For one, the teen was extremely shy as a young child. His mom, Gloria Chen, remembers a preschool event where the kids were supposed to sing together. “Forrest was too afraid to even utter one note,” she says.

Somehow, the timid boy got involved with Northwest Boychoir in first grade, and his confidence grew. Since then, he’s performed at Benaroya Hall with the Seattle Symphony and recorded for the soundtrack of “Golem,” an upcoming PlayStation 4 video game. Ironically, it’s his mom who now gets nervous before his shows.

The Turn of the Screw
marks the mainstage role debuts for both young men. However, Wu is actually no stranger to the McCaw Hall stage. During Seattle Opera’s 2017 The Magic Flute, the singer got his first taste of performing in an opera through his younger sister, Stella. As a supernumerary, she played a non-singing role as one of Papageno’s little chicks. Watching his sister from backstage, Wu noticed that some of the opera singers were children not much older than himself. “I saw the Three Spirits and I was like ‘Oh, that’s awesome.’ So then I auditioned to be a boy soldier in Aida, which was really fun because there were lots of other kids,” he said.

Forrest Wu of Seattle sings the role of Miles in The Turn of the Screw. Philip Newton photo

After Aida, Wu wasn’t looking for any big auditions. But then his family received an email about auditions for The Turn of the Screw. He tried out. Now, he’s doing something that usually only adults get to do—making a Seattle Opera debut. Miles is a big part in terms of stage time. But it also presents a significant challenge considering the opera’s disturbing themes. The plot and ending are intentionally ambiguous, so the audience has to imagine their own conclusion about the horrors that Miles and his sister experienced at the hands of their caretakers when they were alive.

“Miles is the primary battleground for the Governess verses the ghosts,” says Jonathan Dean, Seattle Opera Dramaturg. “He has a lot of center-stage moments, for example when he sings ‘Malo, malo' and you wonder, 'What happened to this child?'"

Peter Quint and Miles from the 1961 film The Innocents based on The Turn of the Screw. 

Both boys have found different ways of coping with Miles’s traumatic experiences. Plaice (who’s also sung the title role in Oliver) has connected with his character over their shared interest in Latin. And Wu looks at Miles through the lens of a fantasy connoisseur. “I find the storyline creepy and complex,” says Wu, an avid reader currently making his way through John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down. “You have to know all the background information about the characters in order to really understand what’s going on and act the part. If you are just watching the opera, it could be hard to understand him. But with the background, it all gets pieced together.” In this production, Miles is the only role that’s double-cast, a necessary move for the young performers’ schedules, and a necessary precaution considering the inherent risk in their voices changing. “Puberty waits for no one, not even opera singers. Boy sopranos have a very limited number of years in which they can perform,” says Der Hacopian, the opera’s Director of Artistic Administration and Planning. “Once they near puberty, it’s dangerous. At the same time, this also happens to be when their voices sound the best.” 

The “danger” of imminent voice-change has interrupted previous The Turn of the Screw productions at Seattle Opera. One year, a Miles’s voice began cracking a week before opening, and another young singer had to be brought in from Vancouver, B.C. This time, Seattle Opera isn’t able to have a cadre of Miles singers on standby (if Der Hacopian had his way, there would be six young men waiting in the wings, just in case). However, accomplished young artist Dominic Bennett, who sings in the Northwest Boychoir with Wu, has also been cast as Miles. Bennett will jump into today’s performance if either of the other two singers experience vocal cracking. Perhaps this is the final turn of the screw— the guessing game of working with a teenage-boy voice! Sit back, er, relax—and enjoy the wild ride ahead!

Forrest Wu (Miles) and Dominic Bennett (Miles Cover) in rehearsal for The Turn of the Screw. 
Seattle Opera's The Turn of the Screw
Oct. 13-27, 2018 at McCaw Hall
Tickets & info: seattleopera.org/turnscrew

Peter Kazaras turns Britten's Screw

By Jonathan Dean

After a recent Seattle performance of Porgy and Bess, soprano Angel Blue delighted local opera fans when she called Seattle Opera her “artistic home.” Another vital member of our Seattle Opera family is Peter Kazaras, who has called our stage home for over three decades. The artistic contributions Kazaras has made to Seattle Opera are many, ever since his 1985 debut as the handsome but worthless playboy Števa in Janáček’s Jenůfa.

In Seattle, Kazaras has sung everything from Faust to Tamino to Pierre in War and Peace to his definitive Loge in the Ring, and has directed both crowd-pleasers (The Marriage of Figaro and Madame Butterfly) and less familiar operas (including The Consul and the world premiere of An American Dream). As a teacher, he has trained an entire generation of opera artists, both in Seattle and in his other life as Director of Opera UCLA, where he directed Angel Blue in her first performance of Suor Angelica during her masters training.

The Seattle arts scene has also benefited from Kazaras’s affinity for the operas of Benjamin Britten. Not only was Kazaras unforgettable as the tormented Captain Vere in Billy Budd; he directed ingenious productions of several Britten works for Seattle Opera’s Young Artists Program, making the riches of these complicated and challenging operas available for both performers and audiences.

Seattle Opera has not presented Britten as often as some would like. Kazaras played the ghost of Peter Quint in our first Turn of the Screw, back in 1994, and he remembers how that intensely dramatic show inspired Seattle Opera’s tradition of post-show talk back. “Honestly, Speight [Jenkins, then General Director] figured the talk back would help people process this show. It’s not the kind of opera where you can just relax and let it wash over you. There’s no ‘transfiguration by love’ at the end! I think Speight hoped to save himself a lot of letter-writing by talking with patrons immediately after each performance.” But what makes The Turn of the Screw so challenging for the audience? Certainly the opera’s ambiguity can make people uncomfortable, particularly those who like everything spelled out and explained. People tend to read all sorts of horrors into the backstory of trauma and repression at the country estate of Bly, even though neither the original Henry James novella nor Britten’s operatic transformation ever explicitly answer the question of what happened there. James even makes a dig, in his preface, at readers frustrated by such a lack of explanation: “‘The story won’t tell...not in any literal, vulgar way.’”

Stage director of Seattle Opera's The Turn of the Screw, Peter Kazaras. 

Kazaras thinks Britten’s music actually intensifies this effect. “It’s the construction. This opera is not just tight; it’s obsessively, perfectly constructed. If you really listen to it, by the time you get to that final scene you are tormented by the clash of keys associated with the Governess and Quint. Britten leads you down the garden path of tonality in a musical analogue to what James meant by ‘turning the screw,’ which was actually a real-world torture device. People are able to withstand a certain amount of pressure; but if you take them to that level, and then intensify it, one little thing is enough to push you over the edge.”

According to Kazaras, “it is clear that neither Britten nor his librettist Myfanwy Piper intended a definitive answer to the question of whether the ghost ‘really’ exist. Merely creating singing characters was not an absolute answer to that question. Do the ghosts really exist? Good question! I like how Henry James answered that, with another question: ‘Do the ghosts exist? I don’t know, do you believe in ghosts?’ There are all sorts of ways to understand and/or explain the Governess and her fears,” Kazaras continued. “But even before all you get to that, here we have two kids who are orphaned and neglected. Their parents have died, as have the two other key figures in their life, and their guardian says, ‘Never contact me.’ Isn’t that horrible enough?”

Kazaras’s goal, as director, is to create a theater piece that makes your hair stand up on end. “When we did The Turn of the Screw in Bellevue, in 2006, I was very happy when a patron said to me, ‘I had stopped breathing by the end...how did you do that?’”

Rafi Bellamy Plaice (Miles) and Elizabeth Caballero (The Governess) in Seattle Opera's The Turn of the Screw. Philip Newton photo
Clearly, the opera tells the story of something that goes terribly, terribly wrong. But beyond that, Kazaras wants to leave room for everyone in the audience to complete the story. “A good production of this opera must preserve the ambiguity. If you depict the Governess as an inmate in a mental asylum, for instance, you spoil the opportunity for dramatic crescendo across the course of the opera. It should be slightly surreal, to knock people out of their comfort zone; but it should get more and more intense as the Governess feels she’s losing control, as the situation gets increasingly out of hand. Britten’s musical construction accomplishes this brilliantly. Follow his lead and you will get precisely where you need to get—to a place of utmost anxiety, and eventually to tragedy.”

And the audience must be seduced into dismantling their defenses and coming along for the ride, explains Kazaras. “It doesn’t work if they come in thinking they already know what’s going on. The essence of fear is the unknown. We hide our faces behind our fingers, not when we see something scary, but when we’re afraid we’ll see something scary. That’s what The Turn of the Screw is built on. The scariest monsters are the ones that live inside us. The scariest thoughts are the ones WE have. As Henry James put it: ‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough...and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy (with the children) and horror (of their false friends) will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.’”

So there’s the challenge for Kazaras and his creative team: to invite you to join them on this journey to the beautiful country house of Bly, and then give you room to supply your own terrors to fill in the gaps in the Governess’s story. “We start with a wall, upon which we can project both reality and dreams; quite literally, projections of what’s going on in the characters’ psyches. But it starts to shape-shift. You thought it was flat? Suddenly you realize it isn’t flat. Slowly it starts to morph, and to reveal things about itself. But nothing is certain. Ambiguity is the heart of The Turn of the Screw.

When fans of The Turn of the Screw asked author Henry James if the ghosts in his Gothic novella were real, James simply replied, "Do you believe in ghosts?" Moral ambiguity is at the heart of Seattle Opera's The Turn of the Screw. 

Seattle Opera's The Turn of the Screw 
Oct. 13-27, 2018 at McCaw Hall
Tickets & info: seattleopera.org/turnscrew