Monday, June 1, 2020

Dear Seattle Opera community

Tomorrow, June 2, 2020, Seattle Opera will be joining others across the music industry in observing Black Out Tuesday, also called #TheShowMustBePaused. This is a day for the music industry to pause and reflect on recent events and what we can do to become anti-racist individuals and organizations. As we mourn the losses of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, Seattle Opera stands in solidarity with our Black artists, audience members, staff, donors, subscribers, and community. We are committed to justice for Black Americans, and for all People of Color. We will continue to prioritize our own anti-racism work and growth, make amends where we have caused harm, amplify the work of Black opera artists and creatives—and through dialogue and listening—create change for a more diverse and inclusive opera/classical music industry. It is our goal to create a future where Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color are an integral part of the creation of operas on and off stage.

Tomorrow, we will not post on social media and our Opera Talk will be rescheduled to another time. We will be educating ourselves and reflecting deeply on how we can create positive change in our community, and in American society. Here are some ideas for what Seattle Opera staff, Board members, and audiences can do to get involved:
  • - Participate in the Seattle Arts march for Racial Justice and Equity which starts at 11 am.

  • - If you are looking to learn more about Black American perspectives in opera, watch two of our recent community conversations which are available online:

  • - Breaking Glass with panelist Naomi André, our Scholar in Residence - The forum discussed how art can stimulate discussion surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion in opera; how art is produced in an increasingly diversified America; who has the right to tell whose story; and what roles social justice plays within the artistic mission of an opera company.

  • - Black Representation in the Arts - This community conversation from February explored questions like: How does the storytelling change when Black creators and artistic leaders are the ones making decisions behind the scenes? How can companies help to undo harm, create a more diverse pipeline of talent, implement more race-affirming performance practices, and ultimately, enable the decolonization of these historically white-dominated art forms?

  • - Listen to a podcast with our Scholar in Residence and author of the book Blackness in Opera, Naomi André 

  • - Check out these ways to stand against racism in Seattle that The Stranger put together today including events to attend, Black businesses to support, and more reading resources. 

Thank you for your support.


Christina Scheppelmann

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Staff picks: Asian American quarantine comforts with Gabrielle Nomura Gainor

Gabrielle and daughter Mika. 
Gabrielle Nomura Gainor is the Communications & Community Engagement Manager at Seattle Opera. A former journalist, she's written many company blog posts, lobby displays, and even created a BuzzFeed series with operas retold by cats! In addition to showing opera's more playful side, Gabrielle is passionate about representation for People of Color in the arts. She's helped Seattle Opera to build more meaningful relationships with the Asian Pacific Islander community during Madame Butterfly and An American Dream. This lover of pop culture, intersectional feminism, and Beyoncé is proud to share some of the wonderful things getting her through the global pandemic. 

Many of you may have first known Chanel Miller through the name Emily Doe. I remember questioning my choice to read a book that deals with assault during an already challenging time. But when I started listening to Miller's booknarrated by the author herself on AudibleI felt embarrassed for having approached Know My Name as simply a "victim's narrative." With courage, resilience, and so much ferocity, Miller's reclamation of her own experience, including her growing-up years, is an engrossing and inspiring piece of literary art. The book is a reminder to all, but particularly to victims, women, and even People of Color, that we are multidimensional beings with the right to tell our own stories. Know My Name might just be the fire you need to get you through this tough time.    

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

La bohème: How a Movement Got its Name

Adolfo Hohenstein's 1895 poster for Puccini's La Bohème. Public domain.
By T.J. Callahan 

Though the global pandemic forced us to cancel our May La bohème at McCaw Hall, we continue to celebrate the opera’s legacy as one of our art form's most treasured works. This series of blog posts explores the historical context and modern relevance of Puccini’s enduring classic.

“Bohemianism” is an evocative term that today calls to mind images of artists like Puccini’s Rodolfo and Marcello, living for their art in a Parisian garret. Countless painters, poets, and other artists have taken up the bohemian lifestyle, and its romantic perception has inspired dozens of stories, including La bohème. But the story behind the “bohemian” label is fascinating all on its own—and one that spans hundreds of years.

Monday, May 18, 2020

The Drunken Tenor: Quarantini Edition

Robert McPherson (The Drunken Tenor). Photo courtesy of Robert McPherson. 
Come sip on opera with The Drunken Tenor: Quarantini Edition. A Grammy-winning singer and regular at Metropolitan Opera, Robert McPherson delivers comedy and top-notch singing in an online recital. Tune in at 7 p.m. PST, June 12. You can watch one of three places: Seattle Opera's Facebook, YouTube, or website. 

What happens when the world’s most irresponsible tenor performs the world’s most beautiful music? Find out on June 12 during The Drunken Tenor: Quarantini Edition! In this special online concert, Robert McPherson reprises his hilarious act (described as “Jack Black meets Pavarotti”) on Seattle Opera’s Facebook, YouTube, and website. Also featuring the talents of pianist David McDade and soprano Jennifer Bromagen, the concert will be available online for two weeks after its post date.

“If you’re white collar or no-collar, artisan or non-partisan, a workaholic or a 9-to-5-er—this show has something for you,” says McPherson, who will perform “The Flower Song” from Carmen, “Sempre Libera” from La traviata, a new translation of a Schubert song, operatic treatments of pop, and an attempt at crossover. “Don’t worry; no composers were harmed in the making of this evening!”

STAFF PICKS: In the Garden with Hong Chhuor

Photo Credit: Jonathan Vanderweit © 
Hong Chhuor is our Associate Director of Development. He first experienced opera in high school, while attending a Seattle Opera production of La bohème. In college, Hong pursued an internship under Perry Lorenzo in the company's education department. One of his favorite memories from that time was running the supertitles for the Young Artist Program production of… La bohème!

Hong loves growing edible and ornamental plants, and is passionate about tending to his backyard chickens. A silver lining to this challenging time has meant getting to spend more time in the garden, eating vegetables as soon as they're ready, or putting flowers in vases to enjoy inside. See below for tips, resources, and a recipe—happy gardening and eating!

  • - Mid-May is an exciting time of year for gardeners in our region because it is when we usually start planting hot-season crops like tomatoes, basil, corn and squash—but our springs can be unpredictable, so you have to pay attention to your young plants if you want them to thrive. If you’re just getting started with growing food or are new to edible gardening in the Pacific Northwest, Tilth Alliance’s Maritime Northwest Garden Guide is indispensable.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

A Center for opera—and for fighting COVID-19

Left: Susan Davis, Costume Director; photo by Alan Alabastro. In the Seattle Opera Costume Shop, Shanna Sincell, Laura Girardot, and Kate Hartman have assisted with the 100 Million Masks challenge.  

While the global pandemic has shuttered much of Seattle as we know it, a few people have still been hard at work in the Opera Center this spring. Rather than an opera destined for the McCaw Hall stage, these Seattle Opera staff members created masks to protect against COVID-19.

“Amid the stress that all of us are feeling, I am so glad that the opera could contribute in this tangible way,” said Seattle Opera Costume Director Susan Davis, who supervised an operation for Providence St. Joseph out of the Costume Shop. In less than four weeks—and working at least 6 feet away from one another—Davis’s team members produced 10,877 masks.

During the global pandemic, demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) has created a severe shortage across the world. While waiting for regular distribution channels to ramp up, Providence created the 100 Million Masks challenge to help in the interim.


In this series of podcasts, Seattle Opera Dramaturg Jonathan Dean gives listeners a taste of nine different types of traditional opera. Operetta is a delightful kind of entertainment resembling opera, but different; whereas in opera the music tells the story, in operetta the music decorates a story which is usually little more than a joke—a story that nobody could possibly take seriously. Operetta developed, in the late nineteenth century, just as opera began taking itself perhaps too seriously. Operettas from traditions in Paris (Orphée aux enfers), London (The Pirates of Penzance), Vienna (Die Fledermaus) and New York City (Rose-Marie) typify the genre. And although many operettas remained popular for decades, the golden era of creating operetta turned to silver, then iron and finally steel as the twentieth century turned its energy toward making movies and wars.

Musical examples on the podcast include:
  • •Can-Can from Orphée aux enfers, orchestra of l’Opéra National de Lyon conducted by Mark Minkowski (EMI 1997)
  • •Entrance of Public Opinion, from Orphée aux enfers, Ewa Podles and orchestra of l’Opéra National de Lyon conducted by Mark Minkowski (EMI 1997)
  • •Duet from Orphée aux enfers, Natalie Dessay, Laurent Naouri and orchestra of l’Opéra National de Lyon conducted by Mark Minkowski (EMI 1997)
  • •Galop Infernal from Orphée aux enfers soloists and orchestra of l’Opéra National de Lyon conducted by Mark Minkowski (EMI 1997)
  • •Pirate King’s Song from The Pirates of Penzance, James Milligan, Glyndebourne Festival Chorus, and Pro Arte Orchestra conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent (EMI 1961)
  • •“A British Tar” from H.M.S. Pinafore , soloists, Glyndebourne Festival Chorus, and Pro Arte Orchestra conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent (EMI 1961)
  • •Nightmare Song from Iolanthe, George Baker and Pro Arte Orchestra conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent (EMI 1961)
  • •Merry Widow Waltz from Die lustige Witwe, Felicity Lott, Thomas Hampson, and London Philharmonic conducted by Franz Welser-Möst (EMI Classics)
  • •Waltz from Die Fledermaus; Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Herbert von Karajan (Decca 1960)
  • •“In Feuerstrom der Reben” from Die Fledermaus; Waldemar Kmentt, Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Herbert von Karajan (Decca 1960)
  • •Mounties’ Song from Rose-Marie, Nelson Eddy with chorus and orchestra conducted by Nathaniel Shilkret from “Oscar Hammerstein—the Legacy” (Pearl)
  • •Indian Love Call from Rose-Marie, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy with orchestra conducted by Nathaniel Shilkret from “Oscar Hammerstein—the Legacy” (Pearl)
  • •“O, what a beautiful mornin’” from Oklahoma sung by Gordon MacRae (original 1955 film soundtrack album)
That's it for now, in terms of genres of traditional operas!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

STAFF PICKS: Improvisational Comedy with Erica McIntyre

Photo Credit: Jonathan Vanderweit © 
Erica McIntyre is the Development Operations Manager at Seattle Opera. You may recognize her from McCaw Hall when she greeted you as a Hall Ambassador or from the Allen Room Donor Lounge.

Outside of her workday, Erica performs improv comedy as a Pro Player at CSz Seattle, produces and performs in the monthly comedy show Ten Percent Luck at Northwest Film Forum, and teaches and coaches improv comedy. She also tells horrible jokes to her cat, boyfriend, and whoever is stuck as the checker for her groceries.

Here’s some of Erica's favorite comedy picks to share with you this week:

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Seattle Opera launches ‘Songs of Summer’

From left: Angel Blue, Jamie Barton, and John Moore. Photos by Michelle Dudley, Faye Fox, and Sunny Martini.  

For Seattle Opera, the show must go on—online, that is! This summer, Jamie Barton, Angel Blue, John Moore and others will perform in a brand-new recital series available on social media and Seattle Opera's website. 

Not even a global pandemic can shut down the power of music. In the face of COVID-19, Seattle Opera and other arts groups are finding creative new ways to perform. This week, Seattle Opera announced its new recital series, Songs of Summer, which will bring beloved singers to a new stage—your phone, tablet, or computer screen. Beginning weekly on May 28, recitals will be available to stream on Seattle Opera’s website, Facebook, and YouTube.

“Opera companies need to be flexible, adaptive and of course very creative if we’re going to get through this uncertain time,” said General Director Christina Scheppelmann. “At some point we will return to McCaw Hall. In the meantime, opera can still bring us joy, comfort, and touching moments of humanity—even though we cannot be together to enjoy these moments.”

The concert series kicks off on May 28 with international star Angel Blue, who performs a mix of opera and spirituals in a 30-minute program with pianist Jay Rozendaal. Many will recognize Blue from the viral HiHo Kids video, “Kids Meet an Opera Singer.” Prior to the cancellation of Seattle Opera’s May La bohème, the American soprano had been scheduled to sing Mimì.

OPERAWISE: Singspiel

In this series of podcasts, Seattle Opera Dramaturg Jonathan Dean gives listeners a taste of nine different types of traditional opera. Singspiel (that’s German for SongPlay) mixes songs, dialogues, choruses, and marvelous orchestral writing with fun and fantasy for a lowbrow, family friendly art form—the ancestor of today’s Star Wars movies. Mozart’s ever-popular Magic Flute is the perfect introduction to Singspiel, as well as one of the most beloved operas ever written. Another wonderful Singspiel, Weber’s Der Freischütz, demonstrates the power of this form to send a wonderfully creepy chill down your spine.

Musical examples on the podcast include:
  • •Celebratory chorus from Hans Heiling, Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Ewald Körner (Marco Polo 1992)
  • •“Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja” from Die Zauberflöte; John Moore and Seattle Opera orchestra conducted by Julia Jones, 2017
  • •Hunters’ Chorus from Der Freischütz; Seattle Opera chorus and orchestra conducted by Gerard Schwarz, 1999
  • •Melodrama from Fidelio, Jane Eaglen and Kevin Langan, Seattle Opera orchestra conducted by Gerard Schwarz, 2003
  • •A line of Papageno’s from Die Zauberflöte, John Moore and Seattle Opera orchestra conducted by Julia Jones, 2017
  • •Act 1 Finale from Die Zauberflöte, Andrew Stenson and Seattle Opera orchestra conducted by Julia Jones, 2017
  • •Act 2 Finale from Die Zauberflöte , Seattle Opera orchestra conducted by Julia Jones, 2017
  • •“Der Hölle Rache” from Die Zauberflöte, Christina Poulitsi and Seattle Opera orchestra conducted by Julia Jones, 2017
  • •“O Isis” Chorus from Die Zauberflöte Seattle Opera chorus and orchestra conducted by Julia Jones, 2017
  • •Opening duet from Fidelio, Lucia Popp, Adolf Dallapozza, and Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein (Deutsche Gramophon, 1978)
  • •“O namenlose Freude” from Fidelio, Gundula Janowitz, René Kollo, and Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein (Deutsche Gramophon, 1978)
  • •Cat duet from Der Stein der Weisen, Jane Giering-De Haan, Kevin Deas, and Boston Baroque conducted by Martin Pearlman (Telarc, 1999)
  • •Wolf’s Glen Scene from Der Freischütz, Harry Peters, Gabor Andrasy, and the chorus and orchestra of Seattle Opera conducted by Gerard Schwarz, 1999
  • •Overture from Der fliegende Holländer, orchestra of Seattle Opera conducted by Sebastian Lang-Lessing, 2016
  • •Dance of the Apprentices from Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg , forces of the Bavarian State Opera conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch (EMI Classics, 1993)
Stay tuned for one more podcast introducing another kind of opera next week!