Thursday, September 19, 2019

Cinderella lights up the stage with vocal fireworks

Wallis Giunta as Cinderella. Photo courtesy of Opera Leipzig 
When stage director Lindy Hume last worked at Seattle Opera, her powerful Rigoletto sparked important #MeToo conversations with a story intended to be devoid of hope. Next up, she’s bringing something completely different to McCaw Hall—a sparkling fairy tale that families will fall in love with. 

“When Rossini composed his Cinderella (La Cenerentola), the alternative title was Goodness Triumphant,” Hume said. “Cinderella ends in a blaze of optimism, which is sorely needed in these times. This show is joyful, quirky, and led by a feisty heroine whose defining character is her goodness.”

Hume’s upcoming production stars audience favorite Ginger Costa-Jackson (Carmen in Seattle Opera’s 2019 Carmen) alternating with Canadian mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta (company debut) as the title character. Inspired by the whimsical worlds of Charles Dickens and Tim Burton, Hume sets the familiar classic in and around an emporium filled with multi-level sets, unexpected twists, and Victorian-era costumes, including two jewel-encrusted ball gowns for the heroine. But this fairytale isn’t Disney

Rossini’s original Cinderella

Gertrude Righetti Giorgi (1793-1896) was a contralto and the first to sing the heroine in Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentona). According to Alto: The Voice of Bel Canto by Dan H. Marek, her voice was “full, powerful, and of rare extension, rising from F below the staff to B-flat above it.” Righetti Giorgi had a short career, retiring in 1822 because of ill health, but she created the leading roles in two of the immortal masterpieces of the Italian lyric stage: Rosina in The Barber of Seville and the title role in Cinderella, which premiered on January 25, 1817.

Righetti Giorgi was a spirited advocate for Rossini, and in turn, Rossini appreciated her ideas and strength of character. Righetti Giorgi in fact convinced Rossini to convert an aria that had been written for Count Almaviva in The Barber of Seville into Cinderella’s famous celebration of forgiveness, “Non più mesta” (“No Longer Sad”).

Lindy Hume, Stage Director of Seattle Opera's upcoming Cinderella describes Rossini as a composer who was known to portray dimensional, interesting women:  

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Cinderella: Disney vs. Rossini

Left: Disney's Cinderella. Right: "Cinderella," San Diego Opera, 2016 © J. Katarzyna Woronowicz Johnson.
Rossini's opera Cinderella (which comes to Seattle Opera this fall), might be a little different than the one you're used to. The narrative familiar to many Americans comes from the 1950 Disney cartoon, which took its inspiration: fairy godmother, transformed pumpkin, glass slipper, midnight spell and all, from Charles Perrault’s 1967 Cendrillon (Rossini was also inspired by Perrault, however, conscious of his theater producer's budget, the composer avoided expensive magic and transformation scenes).⁣

Friday, September 13, 2019

New chamber shares true stories from U.S. military

Photo by Ziggy Mack

Working with military veterans, Seattle Opera brings service and sacrifice to the stage. In partnership with Path with Art, The Falling and the Rising features chorus of former soldiers 

Nov. 15, 17, 20, 22, & 24, 2019
The Opera Center: 363 Mercer St.
General admission: $45 | Military discount: $35

Tickets & info:

When Seattle Opera opened the doors to its new facility at Seattle Center last year, the company promised that the new, highly visible location would help more people find and experience opera. This fall, the company’s first chamber opera in the building is sure to do just that. The Falling and the Rising, a new American work, is based upon a series of interviews with returning soldiers at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, The Old Guard at Fort Myer, and Fort Meade, Maryland.

“Through our chamber operas, Seattle Opera has offered powerful narratives and important moments of representation: a transgender woman’s journey, one family impacted by Japanese American incarceration, a queer love story, and more,” said Alejandra Valarino Boyer, Seattle Opera Director of Programs and Partnerships. “This fall, we present a new chamber opera based on powerful testimonials from American soldiers whose stories often go untold.”

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Listen now to our Cinderella podcast

Photo courtesy of Oper Leipzig
Curious to learn more about Rossini's masterpiece, Cinderella (La Cenerentola)? Here's an excerpt of a recent Seattle Opera podcast hosted by Dramaturg Jonathan Dean:

"When introducing Rossini's opera Cinderella (La Cenerentola) it's almost easier to tell you what it's not than what it is. It's not the Cinderella you know from Walt Disney, with a fairy godmother, a pumpkin that turns into a magic carriage, a glass slipper, and an impossibly idealized female lead. This story is much more about human behavior.

Although musically, Rossini's Cinderella and The Barber of Seville are similar, the humor in Cinderella isn't nearly as anarchic or as juvenile as in The Barber of Seville. Unlike that opera, in this one, the hero and heroine actually get to sing a love duet. There's an adorable meet-cute scene for Cinderella and her princehe's disguised as a servant because he wants to find a woman who loves him for who himself and not for his money. It's love at first sight, Italian style where it's both super sexy and sweetly innocent. Imagine two young Italians discovering each other ... Rossini casts the prince, Don Ramiro, as a high tenor and Cinderella, a mezzo (technically at the first performance, a contralto), their voices almost overlap.

Monday, September 9, 2019

The journey here, the journey ahead

Seattle Opera General Director Christina Scheppelmann. Photo by Philip Newton.
By Christina Scheppelmann

I took the long road to Seattle. It began in Hamburg, Germany, weaving through far flung places like Barcelona, Washington D.C., and Muscat. As a woman, in an industry where decisions remain too often dominated by men, it took determination and strength and there were many obstacles along the path that brought me to this place and position. After a busy first month here I wanted now to briefly share how I intend to lead, lifting up, supporting and encouraging those still struggling down that same road.

Like many women in my generation, I felt enormous pressure to adapt in a man’s world.  When I was entering the workforce, I saw how men set the rules and doled out punishments for those who didn’t conform to their standards, in all industries, not just opera. Advancement only took place on their terms.  It was necessary to project toughness.  There are many parts of that experience that I hope today’s young professionals will never ever have to face.

I am now privileged enough to enjoy the chance to reflect and rededicate myself to what remains to be changed in our operatic system.  There is a lot we must do.  One of the reasons I wanted to come to Seattle, to this company, was out of a belief that this is a city with an enormous hunger and ability to catalyze that change. For example, through its racial equity work and programming to serve people of all backgrounds statewide, Seattle Opera is building a future that better represents us all. This is the kind of work—the kind of legacy—that matters to me as a leader, and as a human being. 

Friday, August 30, 2019

Come explore the Opera Center

Sean Airhart photo

Enjoy a family-friendly open house and get to know Seattle Opera’s new leader Christina Scheppelmann
2 –5 p.m. on Sept. 28
363 Mercer St.

Come one, come all: Bring the whole family to the Open House at the Opera Center from 2 –5 p.m. on Sept. 28. Admission is free! Attendees can spend the afternoon at the newest venue on the Seattle Center campus, the only space in the city dedicated to creating opera. The event will include performances by a Seattle Opera artist, a sing-along of popular opera choruses, and a peek into the world of costumes, makeup, and wig-making. Children’s activities will include crafts and costume try-on. 

The company’s new General Director Christina Scheppelmann will offer Q&A sessions throughout the day at 2:15 p.m., 3:15 p.m., and 4:15 p.m. as a way to get to know the operagoers of Seattle. 

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.