Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Seattle Opera's Pop-up Blood Drive

The Opera Center building in Seattle Center
Donate blood, support community at Seattle Opera’s pop-up blood drive, a collaboration with Bloodworks Northwest: 9 a.m.–5 p.m., August 18, 20, 25 & 27 at The Opera Center: 363 Mercer St. 

As summer historically signals a dip in the blood supply, Seattle Opera is offering a blood drive to provide a lifeline for local patients. In partnership with Bloodworks Northwest, Seattle Opera will utilize its Tagney Jones Hall at the Opera Center to host a pop-up center for donating blood this August 2020.

During the global pandemic, social distancing recommendations have put a strain on opportunities for people to donate blood. In the temporary absence of traditional blood drives and bloodmobiles, Seattle Opera, along with other arts groups such as Seattle Rep, are providing short-term donation locations for Bloodworks Northwest. The larger space allows for a higher level of safety for donors and staff.

“Seattle Opera is honored and happy to join others from the arts community in hosting a donation site for Bloodworks Northwest,” says Seattle Opera General Director Christina Scheppelmann. “Partnerships with community organizations are a key part of our vision for the Opera Center, the civic home that we share with KING FM. As we all actively work together to fight the global pandemic, giving blood is an important and crucial way to take care of our community and contribute to healthcare readiness.”

In addition to saving lives, donors at the Opera Center will receive tickets to a future event at either the Opera Center or McCaw Hall—or enjoy a free video stream through December of 2021. Donors will also receive a Dick’s Drive-In gift certificate.

Donors of all blood types are still needed every day to make an appointment to give blood in support of cancer patients, trauma victims, premature babies, or to treat severely ill COVID-19 patients, among others.

“A strong blood supply is vital to critically ill and injured patients in our community,” said Bloodworks Northwest President and CEO Curt Bailey. “Blood donations are down at a time when the need has never been greater. Seattle Opera is turning that around by graciously opening its doors to allow an ovation worthy 365 community members to save lives in August.”

First-time and repeat donors are urged to make their one-hour donation appointment today as a safe and essential action to support local patients. In accordance with current social distancing guidelines, only scheduled appointments will be allowed. No walk-ins, guests, or people under age 16 are permitted on site. Donors are asked to bring a mask/face covering to their donation. All blood types are urgently needed, but Type O is especially in demand.

For more information and to sign up, go to


Thursday, July 23, 2020

Mary Elizabeth Williams to perform in 'Songs of Summer'

Mary Elizabeth Williams (Abigaille). Philip Newton photo 
Seattle Opera announces upcoming KING FM broadcasts and online recitals 

Seattle Opera is announcing the final singers to perform in its online recital series, Songs of Summer. Artists include beloved soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams—star of Tosca, Nabucco, and Mary Stuart. The “vocal phenomenon and immense actress” ( performed at McCaw Hall most recently as Serena in Porgy and Bess (’18), when she sang the show-stopping rendition of “My Man’s Gone Now.” For Williams’ portrayal of Elizabeth I in Mary Stuart, The Seattle Times wrote: “Feisty and mighty, Williams’ soprano was equally impressive when she lightened it in moments of highly effective refinement. She knows how to command the stage and how to establish the power of her personality through gesture and movement, as well as with her voice.”

Scheduled to stream on Seattle Opera’s Facebook, YouTube, and website on August 27, Williams’ program includes three new-to-her arias that she’s always dreamed of debuting.

“Despite the fear and uncertainty of this moment, creating this recital has helped me focus and remember why I dedicated my life to music,” Williams said. “What better time is there than this very moment to look forward to the future? To be brave and reinvent myself as an artist? Share this journey with me—digitally for now, and hopefully in person in the very near future."

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Seattle Opera launches Supply Drive

Soprano Tess Altiveros and Elisabeth Ellis will perform for Seattle Opera's inagural Community Serenade at Plymouth Place.
UPDATE 7/17/20: Due to Gov. Jay Inslee's recent live entertainment ban to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the Community Serenades performances are postponed until further notice. The Seattle Opera Supply Drive planned for July 21-22 will continue, however. Information on how to donate can be found below.  

Seattle Opera is launching a new performance series meant to bring joy to vulnerable community members. Community Serenades will bring an opera singer and pianist to perform in various settings for seniors and people experiencing homelessness. The artists will maintain a recommended distance and practice safety protocols, while residents listen from the safety of their homes/rooms or in large outdoor spaces.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Songs Of Summer Continues With Tess Altiveros

Tess Altiveros photo by Pinehurst Photography
Seattle Opera's recital seriesSongs of Summercontinues with Tess Altiveros. Equally at home in repertoire ranging from the 17th century to the 21st, the American soprano is best known to Seattle Opera audiences for her bold and affecting work in our three groundbreaking chamber productions: The Combat (2017), O+E (2018), and The Falling and the Rising (2019). A native Seattleite, her “pure gold” (Opera Magazine) voice has charmed audiences from the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts to Carnegie Hall. Framing her recital with selections from Poulenc’s Tel jour telle nuit song cycle, Altiveros and pianist Elisabeth Ellis take us from morning to evening with pieces that trace daily thoughts and rituals. Highlights include three shorts songs from Emerson Eads’s “Love Is” cycle using poetry by children responding to the question is “What is love?”

What’s been helping you to get through this very challenging time for all of us? 
There are a number of comforts I've leaned on recently: Zoom reunions. Wine. Trying to keep my comparatively low-key quarantine problems in perspective. Unexpected opportunities to create beauty with others are high up on that list, but the most significant comfort is my daughter. In "normal times" I am on the road often, so I have been relishing all the time we now spend together. I've learned so much about this little 9-year-old these past weeks, and I am just in awe of her resilience and maturity despite the sadness of missing friends and grandparents and teachers and her regular activities. I often feel that she is far more adept at finding acceptance and peace than her mother, and that strength surprises and inspires me every day.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Songs of Summer continues with Margaret Gawrysiak

Margaret Gawrysiak 

Seattle Opera's Songs of Summer series continues at 7 p.m. June 30 with American mezzo-soprano Margaret Gawrysiak. Familiar to Seattle Opera for scene-stealing turns as Berta in The Barber of Seville (2017) and Marcellina in The Marriage of Figaro (2016), Gawrysiak made her McCaw Hall debut in The Consul (2014), and was featured most recently as Madame Larina in Eugene Onegin (2020). Gawrysiak was also a proud member of our Young Artist Program from 2007 to 2009. Gawrysiak fills her program Quarantine Cabaret with great music (by Francis Poulenc, Vaughan Williams, Kurt Weill, Lori Laitman, Errolyn Wallen, and Stephen Sondheim) and plenty of personality.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Jamie Barton: A Queer Opera Icon

Jamie Barton. Photo by BreeAnne Clowdus
Get to know the woman dubbed "Opera's Nose-Studded Rock Star" by The New York Times. Jamie Barton performs in Seattle Opera's Songs of Summer series at 7 p.m., June 18 with pianist Jonathan Easter. To watch, head to Seattle Opera's Facebook, YouTube, or website; the video will be available to view for two weeks after the premiere date.  

Critically acclaimed by virtually every major outlet covering classical music, American opera singer Jamie Barton is increasingly recognized for how she uses her powerful instrument offstage—lifting up women, queer people, and other marginalized communities. Her lively social media presence on Instagram and Twitter serves as a hub for conversations about body positivity, diet culture, LGBTQ+ rights, and other social justice issues.

Following the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, Barton took to her Instagram to record a video, where she said: "My white fragility can take a backseat right now, and so can all of my little cute posts. We owe it to the Black people in this country, to Indigenous people, to so many people who are not white, to pay attention, to have the conversation. This has to happen. Remember: Black Lives Matter."

Jamie has recently brought her perspective to The Guilty Feminist, Slate, Studio 360, Front Row Live, The Times, Observer | The Guardian, San Francisco Chronicle, and cover stories in Classical Music Magazine and BBC Music Magazine. She was named 2020 Personality of the Year at the BBC Music Magazine Awards.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Black Lives Matter in Opera

Opera singer Lauren Michelle
This second week of June, Seattle Opera will continue to postpone our Songs of Summer recitals. This is because here in Puget Sound, across the United States, and beyond, we continue to grapple with not one, but two emergencies—COVID-19 and the systemic oppression and racism that threatens the health and safety of Black people in various ways. 

Systemic inequities do not simply exist in law enforcement or government, rather, they permeate all areas of life. Including arts and culture. Including opera. 

So as you read more about racial equity efforts from arts groups such as ours, we hope you will also seek out perspectives of Black Americans in opera, dance, theater, and more, including the perspective of singer Lauren Michelle, pictured above, who shared on Facebook: "Showing up to make art everyday as one of the only Black people in the room since elementary school IS my protest. A lifelong protest that says, 'I belong. WE belong.'"

From Stage to Computer Screen: The Veterans Choir Sings On

Left: The veterans choir performing alongside professional opera singers in The Falling and the Rising in November 2019, and right, a still from the veterans chorus during a recent Zoom rehearsal. 

In November 2019, The Falling and the Rising brought one of Seattle Opera's most memorable finales to the stage: performing together with the professional opera singers was a chorus made up of U.S. veterans. "I give my life. This is my vow. I’ll die for you. We rise and fall. We fall and rise as one," they sang together. 

Most in the veterans chorus had never participated in any organized singing or performing. Some of them were recovering from homelessness, addiction, or other trauma. Through a special partnership between Seattle Opera and Path with Art, these former service members were able to make their operatic debuts. 

The curtain has since come down on The Falling and the Rising. However, the veterans choirand a fruitful partnership between two nonprofit arts organizationsremains. Every Friday, the 14-member choir continues to meet and practice via Zoom. They receive a video of a voice lesson that they can do at home, along with recordings of their parts for a choral piece they’re working on. Together, they vocalize, sing through the music, troubleshoot problems from their own practicing, and get to be in community with one another as veterans.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

With Show Cancellations and Layoffs, a Painful Day for Seattle Opera

A quiet, largely unoccupied Opera Center lit up blue in April 2020 in support of healthcare workers and first responders in the COVID-19 era.  

Seattle Opera cancels Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci, resulting in loss of income for more than 220 artists and crew. Additionally, the company has furloughed 55 percent of administrative staff.

Amid a global pandemic and protests for racial justice happening across the country, Seattle Opera—like all other arts groups at one point or another this year—has reached a moment of reckoning. This week the company officially cancels its first opera of the 2020/21 season: Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci. The cancellation represents a loss of work for more than 220 singers, crew, and musicians. In addition, with the end of funding from the Paycheck Protection Act looming in the next two weeks, Seattle Opera has furloughed 55 percent of its administrative staff.

“It is a deeply painful moment for us as a company, region, and world,” said General Director Christina Scheppelmann. “Considering King County and Washington State are not yet open for large gatherings, COVID-19 has forced us to remain closed for safety as a means of protecting all artists, musicians, and our audiences. In addition, we have had to make difficult decisions to ensure Seattle Opera’s future. While inevitable, these decisions have been devastating to the livelihoods of our artists and administrative staff.”

The double-bill of Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci would have opened on Saturday, August 8 at McCaw Hall. Ticketholders to Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci will have their tickets transferred to August 2021, when the company is planning to present La bohème.

In addition to canceling Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci, Seattle Opera’s $2.3 million loan from the federal government’s Payroll Protection Program, which ensured payroll for many staff and production members, will end after eight weeks on June 16. Therefore, the company will reduce its administrative staff: 46 employees have been furloughed; seven have been put on part-time hours, and the remaining 31 are operating on salaries reduced by 15-50 percent. (Remaining full-time workers who make $50,000 or less will be unaffected).

As many people dream of a day when arts and culture can resume as usual, Seattle Opera remains committed to exploring and finding creative new ways to serve audiences during the global pandemic.

“Our mission is to draw our community together through opera, a unique blend of music and drama that speaks to the mind and spirit—especially in difficult times like these,” Scheppelmann said.

Seattle Opera is now providing free audio and video content through its website, Facebook, and YouTube channels. Additional offerings include Seattle Opera Mornings on KING FM, featuring broadcasts of previous Seattle Opera performances; Songs of Summer, a recital series featuring many beloved opera stars; and The Drunken Tenor: Quarantini Edition starring the hilarious GRAMMY-winning singer Robert McPherson. Information on each of these programs can be found at

Ticketholders to Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci will receive an email within the next few days with instructions on what to do with their tickets to the production. Customers can also call the company’s Audience Services department Monday through Friday 10 AM – 6 PM at 206.389.7676 or 800.426-1619.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Staff Picks: Anti-Racism Resources from our Equity Team

In light of the recent movements for racial justice, we asked Seattle Opera's Equity Team to share anti-racism resources that they recommend. We hope some of these are helpful to you now, and moving forward into the future. Learn more about Seattle Opera's commitment to equity >