Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Telling Rigoletto's story

Lester Lynch (left) and Giuseppe Altomare (right) alternate as the title character in Rigoletto. Sunny Martini photo
Seattle Opera sat down with our two star baritones who alternate as the title character in Rigoletto. Lester Lynch, an American, has recently sung Crown in Porgy and Bess ('18), and Di Luna in Il trovatore ('19), and Giuseppe Altomare, an Italian, makes his company debut. The two artists shared why this character means so much to them, the differences in contemporary versus traditionally productions of Rigoletto, and the political implications of this masterpiece in 2019.  

Is Rigoletto the ultimate baritone role—why?
“He’s top five, for sure. I would also include Iago, Wotan and Dutchman in that list. And of course, we can’t forget our dear friend, Scarpia…”
—Lester Lynch 

Why do you love this character? 
“I love that this character is challenging. In order to perform well, I must fully inhabit Rigoletto’s psychology. Your voice has to serve the music while showing the character’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions. To play Rigoletto, I must change the colors of my voice, depending on what’s happening in the story.

I think in the past, I would sometimes allow myself to feel a little too much. At one point, I took a break from singing Rigoletto for a while. Now when I perform this opera, I keep more of a distance from his pain. This distance allows me to take care of myself, and bring my best to the role.”
—Giuseppe Altomare 

Monday, August 19, 2019

Feminist Storytelling in the #MeToo Age

From left: Stage director Kelly Kitchens, moderator Judy Tsou, and theater artist Kathy Hsieh.  
In place of the normal Rigoletto pre-performance lecture this Friday evening, Aug. 23, join Seattle Opera for "Feminist Storytelling in the #MeToo Age," part of our free Community Conversations series. Led by Judy Tsou, a musicologist who studies the intersection of race and gender in opera, the dialogue will include perspectives from two Seattle theater artists, Kelly Kitchens and Kathy Hsieh. What role do the arts play in changing a culture of gender-based violence, and how can storytelling change this paradigm? What role do audiences play in changing the culture? What are the limits and opportunities of works of art like Rigoletto, and how do we engage with these works today?

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Christina Scheppelmann answers your questions

Christina Scheppelmann, General Director of Seattle Opera. Photo by Philip Newton

Last week was Christina Scheppelmann’s first week on the job as General Director of Seattle Opera. We asked our fans on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to leave a comment with your questions for Christina. This week, she answers—below! 

Many audience members have expressed a desire to see more Wagner and the Ring! What are your thoughts on this?

C.S.: I, too, am a great fan of both Wagner and the Ring. Wagner, in some form or another, will be a part of Seattle Opera’s future. To do any Ring cycle at the level that Seattle audiences are accustomed requires a great deal of generosity and philanthropy from our community in advance. I would only offer a Ring cycle if I felt confident that it could be world-class. We have to be financially responsible when embarking on a Ring cycle; we owe this to our supporters, audiences, and our staff. We will do a Ring when there’s no danger of it taking us off-course financially. As our nonprofit organization continues to move toward long-term sustainability, I will gain a better sense of what is feasible, and when.

What are your thoughts on commissioning local and regional composers?

C.S.: Developing and hiring local artists has always been important to me. At Washington National Opera, for example, I created the American Opera Initiative, which provides opportunities and mentorship opportunities for young composers and librettists. I would love to continue nurturing the next generation of opera composers and librettists at Seattle Opera. Our Tagney Jones Hall in the Opera Center is the perfect venue for presenting first works by Washingtonians. Just give me a little time to start this.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Praise for Rigoletto

Madison Leonard (Gilda) and Lester Lynch (Rigoletto). Sunny Martini photo
"Compelling and provocative staging."

"The perfect opera for those that have never attended one before."
Eclectic Arts

"OMG! Last night was marvelous. I can hardly wait to see what Madison Leonard does next. Awesome soprano!" 
—Marilyn S. via Facebook

"... more real and emotionally impactful than any production of Rigoletto I’ve witnessed."

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Destructive parents, toxic masculinity, and bad decisions

Rigoletto, Opera Queensland, 2014 © Stephanie Do Rozario

Rigoletto is an opera where a lot of things are frequently seen to be either black or white. The Duke’s court is evil and vicious. Gilda is innocent and pure. Rigoletto is an overprotective father. Bad triumphs over good. It's true—this is an opera with a tragic ending where so many things go wrong. Yet this is also a reductive view of the opera that says very little about its essence, the depth of the characters’ humanity, and what keeps drawing us back.

By Naomi André, PhD

Friday, August 2, 2019

Telling Gilda's story

Soraya Mafi (left) and Madison Leonard (right) alternate as Gilda in Seattle Opera's Rigoletto.

Seattle Opera sat down with sopranos Madison Leonard and Soraya Mafi, who alternate as Rigoletto's teen daughter Gilda. The two singers talk about what this character means to them beyond her "pure, virginal, and selfless," reputation in the opera world. In an era that's given us the #MeToo movement, what does it mean to tell the story of Gilda, a teenager who thinks she's in love with a powerful man? (This is a man, the Duke of Mantua, who condones her kidnapping, lies to her about his identity, and ultimately takes advantage of her). What hot-button issues was Verdi poking at when he composed Rigoletto, and what can we still learn from this opera and its sublime music today? Read on to learn more.  

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Seattle Opera unveils new rush program

Philip Newton photo

Rush tickets for $35 now available for nonprofit employees, civil servants, people with income-based need, and more

In the interest of making opera accessible for all, Seattle Opera has announced that the company is expanding its rush program in the 2019/20 season. While Seattle Opera has previously offered discounted, day-of-show tickets for students, seniors, and teens, it is broadening these offerings to meet the changing needs of its community, and to create an equitable experience for opera-goers of all financial means.

“Opera is an art form that can be enjoyed by everyone,” said Kristina Murti, the company’s Director of Marketing and Communications. “With our expanded rush program launching this season, we want to offer more opportunity to people from all walks of life to join us at McCaw Hall. We are honored to offer rush tickets to individuals in our community such as civil servants supporting the Pacific Northwest.”

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Listen now to the podcast: 'Rigoletto 101'

Various productions of Rigoletto, including center: Rigoletto, Opera Queensland, 2014 © Stephanie Do Rozario. Top, left: Dalibor Jenis as Rigoletto at the Sydney Opera House; Image by Prudence Upton. Bottom, left: Giuseppe Verdi, Rigoletto. Regia di John Turturro. Teatro Regio, Torino 2019. Top right: Quinn Kelsey (Rigoletto) and Nino Machaidze (Gilda) © Cory Weaver, San Francisco Opera. Bottom right: Fikile Mvinjelwa as Rigoletto and Noluvuyiso Mpofu as Gilda, photo Courtesy of Capetown Opera.
Curious to learn more about Verdi's masterpiece, Rigoletto? Here's an excerpt of a recent Seattle Opera podcast hosted by Dramaturg Jonathan Dean:

"Rigoletto is one of the greatest operas ever written. As a composition it's perfect. And it's so accessible that even little kids can find something compelling and meaningful in this opera. I'm living proof of that, because I first became completely obsessed with Rigoletto when I was 8 or 9. What first attracted me were the melodies...when I was a little kid, I was just socially sophisticated enough to understand that there was something dangerous, illicit and excruciatingly awkward and painfulbut also real and therefore, really importantabout the drama, the tragedy, at the center of Rigoletto.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Seattle Opera appoints Professor Naomi André as Scholar in Residence

Dr. Naomi André
Musicologist, writer, and opera-lover Naomi André has been appointed Seattle Opera’s inaugural Scholar in Residence. She is the author of Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement, which The New York Times describes as “A necessary exploration of how race has shaped the opera landscape in the United States and South Africa.” Additionally, André works as a professor at the University of Michigan, teaching Women’s Studies, Afroamerican/African Studies, and more.

“Professor André’s research and commentary places this art form in the middle of some of today’s most challenging social issues, like racial equity and gender representation,” said Alejandra Valarino Boyer, Seattle Opera Director of Programs and Partnerships. “We are honored to formalize our relationship with her. Naomi’s deep knowledge of the art form and social perspective will help us broaden our storytelling and create an inclusive space for diverse communities at the opera.”

Monday, July 1, 2019

Seattle Opera's Rigoletto confronts misogyny

Rigoletto, Opera Queensland, 2014 © Stephanie Do Rozario

Feminist director Lindy Hume offers no mercy for powerful men who abuse women and confronts newsmakers of today with her interpretation of Verdi's classic.  

For years, Lindy Hume, stage director of Seattle Opera’s August production of Rigoletto, has been frustrated by the way opera celebrates misogyny through its “bad boy” characters. In beloved works such as Don Giovanni, Carmen, and Tosca, sopranos must rehearse how to fall, how to be stabbed, brutalized, and thrown across the room, behaviors they would never accept in real life.

“In 2019, if opera aspires to be a future-focused art form, then it must evolve and be responsive to a changing society,” Hume says. “This history of telling stories about women being raped, murdered, and abused in opera is right there in front of us, either to explore, or to ignore.”