Thursday, September 3, 2020

Watch Crescendo for Racial Justice In Opera

From left: Alejandra Valarino Boyer, Naomi André, Matthew Ozawa, Kazem Abdullah, and J'Nai Bridges.

Black Lives Matter! And right now, amid COVID-19 shutdowns, the opera world has an opportunity to make systemic changes toward justice. In Seattle Opera’s August 2020 Community Conversation, Black and PoC opera professionals reflected on this pivotal moment in history. How can opera reemerge as a space of belonging, healing, and liberation for communities of color? Watch the discussion to learn more.  

Many thanks to all who tuned in to our Crescendo for Racial Justice in Opera panel. The video is now available to view at seattleopera.org/crescendo. Moderated by Seattle Opera’s own Alejandra Valarino Boyer, Director of Programs & Partnerships (Moderator), we were honored to be joined by Naomi André (professor at the University of Michigan and Seattle Opera Scholar in Residence), Matthew Ozawa (Opera Stage Director), Kazem Abdullah, (Conductor), and J'Nai Bridges (Mezzo-Soprano). 




Below, check out some of the answers to questions we weren’t able to get to during the discussion. Questions were submitted by different viewers via Zoom during the live, online event. Answers are based on the broader discussion, as synthesized by Alejandra Valarino Boyer. (Outside of her work with Seattle Opera, Valarino Boyer is also the creator of BIPOC Arts, a database which highlights Black, Indigenous, and PoC opera professionals).

If you have further comments or questions, email gabrielle.gainor@seattleopera.org.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Seattle Opera Unveils Virtual Fall Season

Ariadne auf Naxos ('15). Elise Bakketun photo

Everyone can enjoy opera with free online recitals, classes, and programming 

Like all arts and cultural groups this year, Seattle Opera has faced the pain of cancelled performances and setbacks due to COVID-19. And yet, the company is ramping up efforts to make the arts more accessible, finding new opportunities to bring music, storytelling, and performance for all during the global pandemic. As Songs of Summer, a free, 15-performance recital series concludes this week, Seattle Opera unveils its Fall Season. With a variety of free performances and programming to enjoy at home, the Fall Season was created with both artistic innovation—and public safety—in mind, said General Director Christina Scheppelmann.

“We hope to entertain you, bring you quality singing and music to lift your spirits,” Scheppelmann said. “It’s disappointing that we cannot offer productions the way we had promised in January. However, ceasing to present opera was not an option. Seattle Opera deeply values creating and sharing art that heals and entertains. So, we’re not closing our doors; we’re producing new musical experiences for you that employ artists safely.”

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Seattle Opera presents Creation Lab

Sean Airhart photo

Seattle Opera cultivates musical storytelling in Washington State; Creation Lab brings diverse new stories to opera 

Seattle Opera is announcing a new initiative to help cultivate and develop the next generation of opera composers and librettists in Washington State. Creation Lab seeks 16 emerging composers and writers of all genres to give way to the creation of short operatic pieces, which will be performed during the 2020/21 Season.

General Director Christina Scheppelmann says new operas are crucial to amplifying Seattle Opera’s impact locally and nationally.

“Creation Lab will help to bring diverse stories and perspectives to our art form, and to the operatic repertoire at large,” Scheppelmann said. “We’re looking for young musical artists in our region who want to gain experience in creating compelling, resonant narratives told through music and singing. A specific opera background is not required.”

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Crescendo for Racial Justice in Opera

Mary Elizabeth Williams (Tosca). Elise Bakketun photo

Seattle Opera presents online discussion ‘Crescendo for Racial Justice in Opera’ from noon-1:30 p.m. August 19, 2020. Online webinar via Zoom 

The global pandemic has created a setback for arts groups across the Pacific Northwest. But despite challenges, Seattle Opera is using this moment as an opportunity to create equity in their art form through its next Community Conversation: Crescendo for Racial Justice in Opera. Black, Asian, and Latinx opera professionals will come together to reflect on this moment in time, and envision a future for this 400-year-old art form which—while beloved all over the world—often contains dated or racist stereotypes. Can great works of the operatic canon like Madame Butterfly, Tosca, and Aida be vessels of liberation and representation for People of Color? How should opera change in the wake of COVID-19 shutdowns and the Black Lives Matter protests? Speakers will explore these question and more on August 19.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Seattle Opera's Pop-up Blood Drive

The Opera Center building in Seattle Center
The Opera Center. Photo by Sean Airhart

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 seattleopera.org/bloodworks.

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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” (classiquenews.com) 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.