Monday, September 18, 2023

Alcina’s Gender Jumble

By Joshua D. Gailey

The homoerotic undertones highlighted by Alcina’s cross-dressing plot has made the opera a favorite among queer opera fans. © James Glossop / Opera North.

On Alcina’s magic island, nothing is certain; feelings are fickle, ex-lovers are transformed into beasts, and the island itself is but an illusion. Even gender is unstable: the opera’s intricate story features a woman disguising herself as a man to rescue her fiancé—a role that was written for a castrato, commonly performed by a mezzo-soprano, and played in our production by a countertenor. To top it all off, our production gender-swaps a character, Melissa, to match her gender in the source text, Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando furioso. Although cross-dressing was a common attribute of 17th- and 18th-century opera seria, the level of gender play in Alcina is nonetheless striking for modern audiences, and has even led some viewers to regard Handel as the “queerest of opera composers.”

Friday, September 1, 2023

Racial Equity and Social Impact Plan: Progress Report—Year Two

Last season, Seattle Opera presented the world premiere of A Thousand Splendid Suns, an opera based on the bestselling novel by Khaled Hosseini. © Philip Newton

In 2019, Seattle Opera embarked on a plan to address institutional racism and to engage the community in ways that centers People of Color within the art form and beyond. Soon afterwards, the company launched its Racial Equity Social Impact (RESI) plan. The plan established goals and initiatives designed to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion at Seattle Opera, the opera industry, and our community in general.

As we enter the third year of the plan, it’s our privilege to report the company’s progress. This report highlights new and ongoing initiatives, such as the Seattle Arts Fellows, Sensory Friendly and Relaxed Performances and Building for Equity. These and other projects reflect Seattle Opera’s commitment to all human difference and social identities, to fair and just practices, and to openness and belonging.

Monday, August 21, 2023

A Conversation with the Creators of X

During a talkback session after a performance of X:The Life and Times of Malcolm X at Detroit Opera, the Davises discuss the genesis of the opera with a group of students from Michigan State University.
© Detroit Opera/Austin Richey

During a break in their busy schedules, Seattle Opera brought together composer Anthony Davis, librettist Thulani Davis, and story writer Christopher Davis to discuss the genesis of X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X. It was a lively conversation, much like a family reunion, because the Davises are related. As they reminisced on the many milestones that marked the developments of the opera, Anthony, Thulani, and Christopher recalled the people and circumstances that shaped the opera.

Monday, August 7, 2023

Seattle Opera announces new Resident Artist positions

Camille Ortiz and Michael J. Hawk selected for inaugural cohort beginning in July 2023

General Director Christina Scheppelmann has announced Seattle Opera’s Resident Artist positions, new paid roles for emerging artists. The Resident Artist role gives opera singers salaried, full-season experience with Seattle Opera, where they will receive professional development, performance, and mentorship opportunities along with the stability of a long-term partnership.

Friday, August 4, 2023


Our new podcast features musical examples from recordings of Das Rheingold ranging from 1904 to 2015. In case you’d like to look while listening, here are photos of some of the singers featured in this podcast.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Retired Horn Player Remembers Seattle Opera’s First Wagner Tubas

The Wagner Tuba was commissioned by the composer in 1874. The first tubas were built by Georg Ottensteiner in Munich, Germany.

Back in the mid-1970s, there weren’t many places to experience Der Ring des Nibelungen in its entirety. Fortunately for us, Seattle was the only place in the US to showcase Richard Wagner’s masterwork at that time. Our first Ring cycle was in 1975 under the stage direction of George London and baton of Henry Holt. That production featured nearly 200 artists, including Walter Cole, one of four Wagner tuba players.

“Those first Ring cycles were some great times,” Cole said, “especially for us—the horn players.” In addition to the music, Cole and his three colleagues were eager to play the four new Wagner tubas that the opera had acquired especially for the performance. “I’ve been a musician all my life, but that is one of my proudest moments,” said the 92-year-old retiree.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Tasveer and Seattle Opera announce new partnership

The South Asian film and arts nonprofit will host annual Film Summit in Tagney Jones Hall

Tasveer staff members Rita Meher, Anterpreet Bains, Uzma Khan, and Khenrab Palden. © David Jaewon Oh.

The South Asian film and arts nonprofit Tasveer has moved its administrative staff into the Opera Center, where they will share facilities and event space with Seattle Opera staff. In addition to access to workspace, storage, and technical support, Tasveer will host its annual Film Summit in Tagney Jones Hall, Seattle Opera’s 200-seat theater.

Monday, July 10, 2023

A Conversation With Denyce Graves

© Devon Cass

Considered as one of the preeminent mezzo-sopranos of her generation, Denyce Graves has performed in many of the world’s most important opera houses, sharing the stage with many distinguished opera stars. Widely acclaimed for her signature title roles in Carmen and Samson and Delilah, Graves has appeared on Sesame Street and Between the Lions and featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes. She’s performed during the 55th Presidential Inauguration of Vice President Dick Cheney and George W. Bush. She’s sang “America the Beautiful” and “The Lord’s Prayer” at Washington National Cathedral during the memorial service for the victims of 9/11. And most recently, Graves has sung at the US Capital as her friend Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s casket was lying in state. In this conversation with Seattle Opera, Graves talks about her mother’s influence, performing with Elmo, her passion helping the next generation of classical performers, and more.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Seattle Opera General Director Christina Scheppelmann to depart Seattle for Brussels’ La Monnaie/De Munt in 2025

© Philip Newton

Seattle Opera announced today that General Director Christina Scheppelmann has accepted a position as General Director of La Monnaie/De Munt in Brussels, Belgium, which she will begin at the conclusion of her five-year contract with Seattle Opera.

Read Christina’s letter to the community.

The fourth General Director of Seattle Opera, Scheppelmann will complete her tenure after Seattle Opera’s 2023/24 season. Under Scheppelmann’s leadership, the company produced a world premiere, launched cornerstone programs, expanded its community partnerships, and brought over 100 new artists to Seattle for company debuts, with nearly 50 coming from abroad.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Creation Lab 2023: Final Projects

Creation Lab rehearsal © David Jaewon Oh

Hello World is set in the not too-distant future. Fives, a broken-down service robot, and Vista, a sophisticated android, find refuge in a dark basement. While taking shelter from an indifferent world that sees them as disposable machines, the artificial lifeforms consider sacrificing everything in a desperate bid for freedom. Hello World is one of six short operas recently showcased at the 2023 Jane Lang Davis Creation Lab Performances in the Opera Center.

Launched two years ago, Creation Lab cultivates the next generation of opera storytellers, focusing on Washington State composers and librettists ages 18-30 through a months-long development process that includes table readings, music workshops, and mentoring and coaching from established opera professionals, like librettist Kelley Rourke and composer Damien Geter.