Thursday, May 13, 2021

Opera conductors unite for dialogue on race and gender

Maestros left from right: Judith Yan, Alondra de la Parra, Viswa Subbaraman, Kazem Abdullah. 

Free Seattle Opera panel discussion; noon – 1:30 p.m., Thursday, June 3. Online via Zoom; register at seattleopera.org/communityconversations  

Seattle Opera announces the next panel in its Community Conversations series: “The View from the Pit: Maestros on Race and Gender in Opera.” Panelists include Maestros Kazem Abdullah, Alondra de la Parra, Viswa Subbaraman, and Judith Yan with moderator Alejandra Valarino Boyer, Seattle Opera’s Director of Programs and Partnerships.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Meet the Artist: Sonia Dawkins

Choreographer Sonia Dawkins

There weren't any big dance numbers in Seattle Opera's April 2021 production of Flight. However, the story came alive in part thanks to the work of choreographer Sonia Dawkins. Dawkins helped to draw the viewer in and bring out the characters' unique traits through singers’ facial expressions, everyday gestures, and body movements. She also helped to create the love scenes in the opera, composed by Jonathan Dove with libretto by April De Angelis. While the performers had to be socially distanced, Dawkins’ work (coupled with some fancy editing) created an impression of intimacy—to quite a comic effect in one scene!

Based in both Seattle and New York, Dawkins is the founder and artistic director of SD|Prism Dance Theatre. She has served on faculty at Pacific Northwest Ballet (among many other schools, colleges, and institutions), and has performed extensively in the United States and the Caribbean. Audiences may have seen her choreography with Village Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Nevada Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre School, Seattle Theatre Group (Dance This), Northwest Tap Connection, Seattle Children’s Theater, Broadway Bound, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and more. Dawkins is a member of the Stage Directors and Chorographers Society and The International Dance Council.

Hello, welcome! What was it like making your Seattle Opera debut during a global pandemic?!
I was so honored to be a part of the artistic team, and to have a chance to witness how Seattle Opera has been reinventing its work; so amazing.

Seattle Opera was very proactive with us regarding COVID-19 health and safety. Seeing these talented artists, staff, crew, and creative team come together, all the components working together, was inspiring. The opera singers stepped into another realm of their art through the film medium. I would think a piece such as this Flight might help opera to stretch in exciting new directions, too.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

My Journey to Writing an Opera About Police Violence

Tazewell Thompson’s libretto for Blue tells the story of a Black family struck by tragedy. 

Tazewell Thompson, top, in Harlem. He wrote “Blue” from “an obsessive need and sense of responsibility” to tell an intimate story about police violence, behind the numbers. Credit: Gioncarlo Valentine for The New York Times

Beginning in February 2022, Seattle Opera presents Blue, the 2020 winner of Best New Opera by the Music Critics Association of North America. This portrait of contemporary African American life is the creation of librettist Tazewell Thompson (five NAACP Awards, plus two Emmy nominations) and composer Jeanine Tesori (Tony-winner known for Fun Home). A story of love, loss, church, and sisterhood, Blue depicts a young couple celebrating the joy of family with the birth of their son. Later they lean on close-knit community in the wake of their son’s death at the hands of a police officer. 

The piece was originally commissioned by the Glimmerglass Festival in 2015 to address contemporary issues surrounding race. After Tesori was asked to write the music, Thompson, a director of several productions at Glimmerglass, was asked to suggest a librettist. He proposed writing one himself, and was inspired by sources such as James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time, Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me, and Claude Brown's Manchild in the Promised Land

And of course, Thompson also drew from his own lived experience. 

In a June 2020 piece for The New York Times, the librettist wrote about why it was crucial for him to tell this story through opera. An excerpt of Tazewell Thompson's words are available below:

Seattle Opera announces 2021/22 season

A return to live, in-person performances

Photo courtesy of Opera Omaha

Seattle Opera presents La bohème, Orpheus and Eurydice, Blue, The Marriage of Figaro, plus a special recital by Lawrence Brownlee. Performances will take place at The Opera Center and McCaw Hall. For more information, go to seattleopera.org.

After more than a year without live, in-person performances due to COVID-19, Seattle Opera will officially return to the theater this fall with its 2021/22 Season. Offerings include immortal favorites (La bohème, The Marriage of Figaro), historic works with a modern twist (Orpheus and Eurydice), plus an award-winning piece speaking to racial injustice in America (Blue). It will take years for Seattle Opera—and the arts sector as a whole—to recover from the pandemic’s economic impact. Feeling the presence and excitement of live performance is one way that the healing can begin, said General Director Christina Scheppelmann.

“The theater, where music, storytelling, lights, performers, and audiences meet, is a space of magic and impact,” Scheppelmann said. “This past year has been difficult and challenging on so many levels. As we process all that we’ve been through, we can come here to enjoy ourselves. We can rediscover the positive moment and outlook we are seeking. Through opera, we can reconnect with our deepest emotions and our shared humanity."

Monday, May 10, 2021

Seattle Opera and Bloodworks Northwest host third pop-up blood drive

Sean Airhart photo

Seattle Opera and Bloodworks Northwest host third pop-up blood drive: 10 a.m.– 5 p.m. on May 18 ; 9 a.m.– 5 p.m. on May 20, 25 & 27 at The Opera Center: 363 Mercer St.


Seattle Opera and Bloodworks Northwest are teaming up to present a May blood drive at the Opera Center. Members of the public can donate blood on May 18, 20, 25 or 27. Appointments are required, and people can sign up at seattleopera.org/bloodworks or call 800-398-7888.

In the midst of a nationwide blood shortage, donating is more important than ever. In the Pacific Northwest, patient demand has increased 18 percent. With warmer weather causing some to skip their donation appointments—in addition to confusion surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine (there is no wait time for donating after receiving the vaccine)—blood supplies are reaching a crisis point: Most blood types are at emergency levels. It will take weeks or months to replenish supplies and return to operational levels.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Meet the Artist: Randall Scotting


Countertenor Randall Scotting returns to Seattle Opera as The Refugee in Flight following his debut in Semele ('15). Later this year, he performs the title role in Cavalli’s Eliogabalo with San Francisco’s West Edge Opera, and then he records a solo album of castrato arias with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in London. The Colorado native studied vocal performance at the Juilliard Opera Center and the University of Colorado. He was also awarded a PhD from London’s Royal College of Music for his thesis on 18th century Italian opera.

We last saw you here for your role as Athamas in Semele (‘15) with Stephanie Blythe, Brenda Rae, and Alek Shrader among others. This was also your SO debut. What was that experience like?
It was great! I love that piece, and what an amazing production and colleagues. My role in Semele was much smaller; by contrast, I get to sing quite a bit in Flight. It’s wonderful to be back in Seattle.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Flight takes wing in the press

Kyle Seago films Randall Scotting as 

"At a time when the pandemic has laid waste to innumerable travel plans, Jonathan Dove’s 1998 comic opera, Flight, is an inspired choice for a new streaming film by Seattle Opera ... Brian Staufenbiel directs a talented (and socially distanced) ensemble cast, and Viswa Subbaraman conducts a rousing performance."  — The New Yorker 

"The Seattle Opera has produced an amazing show in Flightand during a pandemic no less. Make your reservation for this destination soon." — Eclectic Arts

"A unique streaming treat for both AvGeeks and fans of opera." —The Runaway Girl Network 

"Before seeing this production, I was already of the view that Flight is a masterpiece. This film does the opera full justice: hats off to Seattle Opera for delivering it in such style. And if anyone thinks the plot is too fatuous and improbable, they should look up the name Mehran Karimi Nasseri, whose real-life story is at its heart – and in this case, truth is even stranger than fiction."—Bachtrack 

"We know we’re in for an acting treat when we see Sharleen Joynt’s overpoweringly supercilious, impeccably turned out Controller, prowling her control tower and pulling the strings; we see her arched eyebrows and penetrating stare in close-up as she delivers stratospheric coloratura." —Bachtrack

Monday, April 5, 2021

Meet the Artist: Maestro Viswa Subbaraman

Maestro Viswa Subbaraman 

Internationally acclaimed American conductor, Viswa Subbaraman makes his Seattle Opera debut conducting Flight. The West Texas native recently served as the Artistic Director/Music Director of the Skylight Music Theatre in Milwaukee. During his tenure at the Skylight, he has expanded the company’s repertoire and placed it at the forefront of the industry in producing contemporary opera and reimaging traditional works. Prior to Skylight, he was the Artistic Director/Founder of Opera Vista, Houston’s innovative contemporary opera company.

What most excites you about this upcoming production of Flight? What has the process been like?
Having the opportunity to create an opera film. We are not simply creating a stage production for camera. We’re envisioning this work as if you’d be seeing it at a movie theater rather than an opera house.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Your Flight is Now Boarding

with Director Brian Staufenbiel

Director Brian Staufenbiel (center). Philip Newton photo

Operas, like airports, are filled with stories.

Some are familiar, some violent, some funny. Like airports, they are crammed with messy human lives journeying to a final destination. To push the metaphor, operas can transport us all over the world and connect us to what is happening now. Indeed, today we’re seeing more and more new operatic stories that are relevant, inclusive, and speak to our modern world—even to the point of setting an opera about a true story that took place in an airport. Jonathan Dove’s Flight is a funny, poignant, and thought-provoking exploration of colliding souls, each of whom is looking for something better, searching for that elusive dream state we sometimes call happiness. At the heart of the show is a story inspired by that of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, an Iranian refugee who lived in the departure lounge of Terminal One in Charles de Gaulle Airport near Paris for almost eighteen years—from August 1988 until July 2006.

Notes from Composer Jonathan Dove

© Marshall Light Studio

I had written the opera I wanted to see, but I had no idea how an audience would react.

Unlike many operas, mine wasn’t based on a hit play or a best-selling novel or blockbuster movie (although six years later, the same true story would inspire Spielberg’s The Terminal)—and while I hoped people would relate to the experiences of a group of travelers stranded in an airport, I didn’t know if they would laugh at any of the jokes, or enjoy the music.