Thursday, December 5, 2019

Who was Alexander Pushkin?

Pushkin, author of the original novel in verse Eugene Onegin, occupies a unique place in Russian literature. Russians don’t simply view him as their greatest poet; he is the symbol of Russian culture itself. 

A literary legacy 

Pushkin’s prose spans a remarkable range: from satires to epistolary tales, from light comedies to romantic adventures in the manner of Sir Walter Scott, from travel narratives to historical fiction. The haunting dream world of The Queen of Spades draws on his own experiences with high-stakes society gambling. The five short stories of The Tales of the Late Ivan Petrovich Belkin are deceptively light as they reveal astonishing human depths, and his short novel, The Captain’s Daughter, a love story set during the Cossack rebellion against Catherine the Great, has been called the most perfect book in Russian literature. Pushkin’s life and work have acquired mythic status. Deeply playful and experimental, the writer adopted a vast array of conflicting masks and personae. His writing is serious, then ironic—then ironic at his own irony—on moral and philosophical themes. A philosophical fox, Pushkin appreciated the limitations, as well as the virtues, of any set of ideas.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Listen now to our Eugene Onegin podcast

Production photo: Eugene Onegin, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, 2017. Photo by Cory Weaver.
Curious to learn more about Tchaikovsky's masterpiece, Eugene Onegin(FYI, this Russian last name is pronounced “oh-NYAY-ghin,” where the “G” is like “goose”). In this recent podcast by Seattle Opera, the company's in-house dramaturg Jonathan Dean says try focusing on the journey through romance and poetry, rather than on a happily-ever-after ending. 

"You don't have to understand Russian to understand the heartsick sigh of love's longing that opens this opera," Dean says. "That's what Eugene Onegin does so well: it delivers a story in this wonderfully tender and intimate way. The story gives us the real experience of love, translated into music: the excitement, the frustration, the bliss, the bitterness—all the passion. Love does not work out for the protagonists of this opera. But Eugene Onegin is not a tragedy; it's too close to life for that. And if you're wary of operas that are real or relatable, if you go to the opera to escape into a richer, more vivid world—fear not! Eugene Onegin is also a gloriously entertaining romantic opera on a grand scale.”

Monday, November 25, 2019

Native American Artists in Opera

A design created by Louie Gong, Seattle artist, educator and public speaker who was raised by his grandparents in the Nooksack tribal community. This unique butterfly—composed of two abstract eagles on either side of the Space Needle—is Louie's homage to a city undergoing rapid transformation. It stands as a reminder to both long-time Seattleites and recent transplants that the city's character is rooted in its rich history and communities, and an understanding of this history should lead our decision making as we plan for the future. Over the last few years, this design has also grown to symbolize Indigenous presence and unity. It was initially developed in 2010 as branding for the Seattle Indian Health Board’s Indigenous Cultures Day event. In 2015, a variation of this design was also adopted as the mark of Seattle’s successful movement to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day.
By Arryn Davis

Seattle Opera would like to acknowledge, today and every day, the territory we work and perform on includes the ancestral homelands of the Duwamish and other Coast Salish people. In honor of Native American Heritage month, and to mark Thanksgiving in 2019, Seattle Opera wanted to shine a spotlight on a few indigenous opera artists from throughout the years. From Zitkala-Ša—a Sioux librettist who wrote her own opera in 1910, to Holden Madagame—a tenor helping to pave the way for other transgender singers, Native American artists have crossed boundaries and broken barriers in opera for over 100 years.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Seattle Opera presents Eugene Onegin

Seattle Opera presents Eugene Onegin in January 2020. Philip Newton photo
Ring in the new year with a Russian romance; experience a journey through poetry and tormented love in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. January 11–25, 2020 at McCaw Hall. Tickets start at $35

Leave everyday life in Puget Sound behind this January and step into the splendor of 1800s Russia. Seattle Opera’s Eugene Onegin will offer audiences lush orchestrations by Tchaikovsky, elegant ballroom dances, grand sets, and period costumes worthy of The Last Czars on Netflix.

Tchaikovsky, famous Russian composer of Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, wasn’t a fan of grand opera when he wrote the opera Eugene Onegin (pronounced “oh-NYAY-ghin,” where the “G” is like “goose”) in 1877. He found works like Wagner’s Ring or Verdi’s Aida to be difficult for everyday people to relate to. Thus, he chose a ubiquitous work of Russian literature, Pushkin’s famous novel in verse Eugene Onegin, as the subject of his opera.

“Alexander Pushkin is to Russian what William Shakespeare is to English,” said Seattle Opera General Director Christina Scheppelmann. “Still today Russians read and study Pushkin's Eugene Onegin in school—a story without a happily-ever-after, but one that offers an incomparable journey through beauty, poetry, and romance.”

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Buzz for The Falling and the Rising

From left: Jorell Williams (Homecoming Soldier), Tess Altiveros (Soldier), Elizabeth Galafa (Toledo), Tim Janecke (Jumper). Philip Newton photo

See what the press is saying about Seattle Opera's next chamber work, The Falling and the Rising, which plays Nov. 15–24, 2019 at The Opera Center.


"Perhaps the most gratifying thing about “The Falling and the Rising,” is what it indicates about the company’s priorities. The attention it’s been paying to new work — incisive, relatable, concerned with social issues and intent on bringing underrepresented voices to the opera stage — is no fluke, but a central focus of its mission." [Read more...]
—Gavin Borchert


"The open heart at the core of Seattle Opera’s production of The Falling and the Rising, an intermission-less, 70-minute chamber opera about America’s wounded warriors, had the power to leave numerous audience members and at least two singers in its small, all-veteran chorus in tears." [Read more...]
—Jason Serinus


"Alejandra Valarino Boyer, Seattle Opera's Director of Programs and Partnerships, believes The Falling and the Rising will connect with people who never imagined they’d come to an opera house. She hopes to see a significant presence of active duty service people and veterans in the audiences. 'I keep saying we’ll be really successful if the audience is 50/50, vets and active duty personnel as well as civilians,' she says." [Read more...]
—Marcie Sillman 

Friday, November 15, 2019

A soldier and opera lover shares his story

Left: Joshua Rodriguez today, with his wife Michelle at a Seattle Opera gala, and before, as a cadet. "My wife Michelle has experienced the best and the worst of the Army, where I learned some of the hardest lessons leadership can offer. She’s had to endure reports on CNN that cover stories explaining why my unit was suddenly blacked out on communications without knowing if I was alive or dead, all the while taking care of our kids, getting a Master’s degree, and working full time to maintain career progression for herself. No matter what I do in the future, I don’t know that I’d ever perform at the same level she has for 10 years now." 
By Gabrielle Nomura Gainor
Joshua Rodriguez will never forget bringing his fellow soldiers home alive after a particularly close call with the Taliban. It was nighttime at his remote observation post in Kunar, Afghanistan.

“We had nine U.S. Soldiers, one Latvian officer, and no more than 10 Afghan National Army Soldiers in defense,” Rodriguez says. “The enemy had approximately 80 fighters, all of whom were committed to ending our lives.” 

It took all but three of the 43 grenades they had on hand, plus numerous individual acts of bravery. But somehow, Rodriguez and his soldiers made it through the night with only minor injuries. 

“We left that mountain with two Bronze Stars for Valor, three Army Commendation Medals for Valor, and one hell of a story.”

Today, Rodriguez is an Army veteran, an officer in the Reserve, and leads an investment management team for Goldman Sachs. In his spare time, he 
serves on the Seattle Opera Board, where most recently, he's been helping to launch The Falling and the Rising as a member of the steering committee. Based on interviews with active-duty soldiers and veterans, this new American opera shines a light on the untold stories of American service members. Through a collaboration with Path with Art, the opera's chorus is composed entirely of veterans from the Puget Sound region.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Soldier stories that inspired an opera

Opera Memphis production of The Falling and the Rising. Photo by Ziggy Mack.
The Falling and the Rising is a new American opera. It explores the sacrifice, duty, and human connection experienced by members of the armed services and is based on interviews and true stories from dozens of Army veterans. The story is told by an unnamed female soldier. After being injured in a roadside attack, she is placed in an induced coma. In her dreamlike state she encounters fellow service members who share their stories with her.

Below, meet three of the real soldiers who helped inspire the opera. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Audition notice: Seattle Opera Seeks Dancers and Child Acrobats

Elise Bakketun photo
Seattle Opera is committed to racial equity and to dismantling historic barriers of oppression. People of Color are encouraged to apply and audition for all opportunities listed below.

Praise for Cinderella

Miriam Costa-Jackson (Clorinda), Peter Kalman (Don Magnifico), and Maya Gour (Tisbe). Philip Newton photo
"Two exciting casts, a solid score, and staging as speedy as a runaway train: Seattle Opera audiences had a rollicking good time this past weekend with Rossini’s Cinderella."
The Seattle Times

"The audience at Seattle Opera's Cinderella knew from the first note of the overture that this evening was going to be fun."
Seattle Gay News 

"A performance to relish in a production that produced continuous laughs."
Opera Wire

"It's a charming take on a classic tale. Seattle Opera's production of Cinderella brings toe-tapping tunes, bright ensembles, and colorful characters together for an enchanting evening. [The] ultimate rags-to-riches show."

"It’s the concept and imagination of stage director Lindy Hume which makes this production so delicious, ably abetted by production designer Dan Potra, lighting with some wonderful effects by Matthew Marshall and the choreography of associate stage director Dan Pelzig. Not least are the apt supertitles of Jonathan Dean which caught each nuance of the libretto, which might otherwise have been missed, and frequently gained laughs for themselves."

"Wow. Cinderella was phenomenal. Great show, @SeattleOpera. Beautiful performance and good for plenty of laughs too!"
@thybeardedbard via Twitter, opening night 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Cinderella: Director's notes

Wallis Giunta as Cinderella in the production directed by Lindy Hume. Photo courtesy of Giunta
By Lindy Hume, Stage Director of Seattle Opera's Upcoming Cinderella 

It’s nearly two hundred years after Rossini, a precociously brilliant 25-year-old celebrity, wrote Cinderella (La Cenerentola) in three weeks. He wrote it over Christmas, and it opened on January 20, 1817. Two centuries later, notwithstanding the speed with which it was written, and the worldwide fame of The Barber of Seville, for me Cinderella, or Goodness Triumphant (the full original title) is his most wonderful creation.

Rossini’s Cinderella not only has a unique place in the history of opera in Australia—my homeland—the story of Cinderella has embedded itself in the Australian psyche, as it has all over the world. The upcoming production you’ll see at Seattle Opera seeks to respect two centuries of this opera’s performance history, while referencing popular contemporary entertainment styles such as the rom-com, the sitcom, and music theater—vernacular styles that speak to today’s audiences.