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 >


A Snapshot of Seattle Opera's Racial Equity Plan

Seattle Opera staff at the Arts March for Racial Justice and Equity organized by the Seattle Symphony Players' Organization June 2, 2020. The march was organized in solidarity with the Black community following the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. 

“The opera stage is becoming a space of liberation for Black voices.” —Naomi André, Seattle Opera Scholar in Residence

We are not custodians of the old order. We are not curators of establishment art. We must be oriented towards the future. It is our business to improve the quality of life. We had better become positive and not just stand by.” —Glynn Ross, Founding General Director of Seattle Opera

This past year in 2019, Seattle Opera has been working to create a comprehensive Racial Equity and Social Impact Plan. While the company faces a challenging road ahead due to COVID-19, we will continue to integrate racial justice holistically into all aspects of our work, even if we're not entirely sure what opera performances will look like in the months ahead. Whether we're performing for audiences in-person, or onstage, here's a few excerpts from our plan to move toward racial justice (full plan will also be available on Seattle Opera's website):

- Formalize and implement racial equity practices and policies across all departments of the company. Commit to intentional institutional restructuring based upon anti-racist analysis and identity.

- Increase the percentage of Seattle Opera stakeholders (i.e. staff, volunteers, board members, etc.) who understand and participate in racial equity and social impact work. Create buy-in for a shared vision of overcoming systemic racism and all other forms of oppression.

- Increase the company’s racial and ethnic diversity among staff, artists, creative team members, board and more to reflect the diversity of the Puget Sound region (multicultural diversity becomes an institutionalized asset). Members across all identity groups are full participants in decisions that shape the institution.

Next week, we'll be sharing more about our racial equity plan on the Seattle Opera blog through an interview with Dominica Myers—the driving force behind these equity initiatives, and the company's Associate Director of Administration. 

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.