Thursday, April 18, 2019

Decolonizing Allure: Women Artists of Color in Conversation

Seattle Opera's upcoming panel subverts Carmen’s white, patriarchal narrative at 7 p.m., Friday April 26. Panelists include: Michelle Habell-Pallán (top left), Naomi André (bottom left), Aramis O. Hamer (center), Perri Rhoden (top, right) and Sara Porkalob (bottom, right). 
At one point in time, a Seattle Opera ticket offered a relatively predictable experience: an enchanted night out, a grand presentation, and often a familiar telling of a popular work. But in the past few years, Seattle Opera has been inviting audiences to explore this art form from a different perspective. This is why, prior to the company’s May performance of Carmen, it plans to hold a free panel discussion that will flip the opera’s depiction of the exotic “Other” on its head. On April 26, the company presents “Decolonizing Allure: Women Artists of Color in Conversation.”

Who is Carmen, the leading lady of Bizet’s opera? Is she a dangerous seductress, a feminist martyr, or a complex Roma woman making her way in the world as an outsider? Or perhaps Carmen is merely a hurtful “gypsy” stereotype, a reflection of the fragilities and insecurities of the 19th-century French society that created her.

“The western arts industry has often been a space in which men—usually white men—have shaped the characters and narratives of Women of Color, depicting them as hypersexualized, exoticized, and ill-fated,” said Alejandra Valarino Boyer, Director of Programs and Partnerships. “Carmen inspires us to examine how women artists of color respond to these tropes and their legacy, be it rejecting them, subverting them, or reclaiming them. These artists take back power by creating art in their own image.”

Panelists include award-winning performer/activist Sara Porkalob; two visual artists Aramis O. Hamer (creator of the iconic purple goddess at KEXP’s building on the Seattle Center campus), and Perri Rhoden, who celebrates her Black identity on canvas. Additionally, two university professors will speak: Naomi André author of Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement from the University of Michigan; and Michelle Habell-Pallán, author of Loca Motion: The Travels of Chicana and Latina Popular Culture (2005) from the University of Washington.

“Through this panel discussion, and all our community conversations in recent years, we’re creating space for voices who have not had an opportunity to be shared in opera,” said General Director Aidan Lang. “It’s time for a new power structure where diverse people, stories, and perspectives are inherently woven into the fabric of our art.”


One of Dr. André's books: Black Opera. 
Naomi André is Associate Professor in Women’s Studies and the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on opera and issues surrounding gender, voice, and race, and she recently published Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement (2018), a work on staging race and history in opera today. Her books, Voicing Gender: Castrati, Travesti, and the Second Woman in Early Nineteenth-Century Italian Opera (2006) and Blackness in Opera (2012) explore constructions of gender, race and identity in opera

One of Dr. Habell-Pallán's book projects, Latino/a Popular Culture.
Michelle Habell-Pallán is Professor of Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies and an adjunct in Communication and the School of Music at the University of Washington. Her innovative research on gender, popular music, and culture has garnered awards from the Rockefeller and Woodrow Wilson Foundations. She co-founded UW Libraries’ Women Who Rock: Making Scenes, Building Communities Oral History Archive, a collaborative exploration of the role of women and popular music in the creation of cultural scenes and social justice movements. Her work Loca Motion: The Travels of Chicana and Latina Popular Culture (2005) received an MLA book prize honorable mention, and she is a co-author of American Sabor: U.S. Latinos in Popular Music (2017).

Aramis O. Hamer is the creator of KEXP's iconic purple goddess.

Aramis O. Hamer
is a visual artist and muralist living in Seattle. Her subject matter is inspired by the cosmos, music, nature, divine femininity, and the complexities throughout the Black culture. With the supportive art community in the Pacific Northwest, Aramis has exhibited her colorful creations throughout the greater Seattle area, including the EMP Museum, Paramount Theater, Martyr Sauce Gallery, Columbia City Gallery, and more. Aramis created the iconic purple goddess in 2016 for KEXP at Seattle Center, which became a catalyst to her art career. You can find her designs all over the city, including Jimi Hendrix Park.

Sara Porkalob performs in her own work, Dragon Lady.
Sara Porkalob is an award-winning storyteller and activist. She’s featured in Seattle Magazine’s “Most Influential People of 2018” and City Arts Magazine's 2017 "Futures List." Her musical Dragon Lady is a three-time 2018 Gregory Awards recipient for Outstanding Sound/Music Design, Outstanding Actress in a Musical, and Outstanding Musical Production. This year, she’s collaborating with the City of Seattle and their new Creative Strategies Initiative (CSI), a new City effort that uses arts- and culture-based approaches to build racial equity in non-arts policy areas like the environment, housing, workforce and community development.

Art work created by Perri Rhoden. 
Perri Rhoden is a visual artist who was born in Tacoma and raised in Seattle. While attending Howard University, she fell in love with figurative painting and celebrating her identity as Black Woman on canvas. Perri’s artistic process involves merging music, emotion, and visual references into various abstractions on canvas or paper. She is inspired by live music and concerts in the genres of hip-hop, soul, and trap EDM. She is actively involved in the city’s arts sector, participating in community-led art markets and events, teaching art classes, and assisting with the Seattle Arts Leadership Team in the Office of Arts and Culture. 

Decolonizing Allure: Women Artists of Color in Conversation takes place at 7 p.m., on Friday, April 26 at The Opera Center (363 Mercer St.). Free event. RSVP & more:

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Carmen on the Couch: Analyzing Bizet's Bold Heroine

Denyce Graves as Carmen, at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Metropolitan Opera Archives

By Tom Huizenga 
Article via NPR

Every opera season the perennial favorite, Carmen, by Georges Bizet, takes the stage at opera houses in places like New York, London and Vienna (And Seattle!).

Carmen owes its longevity, in part, to Bizet's sparkling music, and to its fearless, flirtatious title character. But for all her sexual charisma, Carmen's own fate, in Bizet's opera, says something about how society views strong women.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Carmen in Pop Culture

Carmen is often described as the most popular opera of all time, so it should come as no surprise that its music has been referenced by everything from the Muppets to Major League Baseball. Here we’ve compiled some of our favorite nods to Bizet’s masterpiece.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Incoming General Director Q&A

Photo by Christian Machio
Meet Seattle Opera’s future General Director—Christina Scheppelmann. Beginning in summer 2019, Scheppelmann will become the company’s fourth leader in 56 years. She replaces Aidan Lang, who departs for Welsh National Opera at the end of the 2018/19 season. Born in Germany and fluent in five languages, Scheppelmann is currently the artistic leader of Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona’s 172-year-old company that annually produces more than 130 performances in opera, classical music concerts, and dance. 

What are some of your proudest artistic achievements? 
For one, creating Washington National Opera’s American Opera Initiative. Now going on its eighth season, the program offers young composers and librettists a developmental forum in which to bridge the gap between conservatory training and full-length commissions. I think it’s a useful contribution to the future of opera.

Meet the next leader of Seattle Opera

Christian Machio
Christina Scheppelmann
will become Seattle Opera’s fourth General Director in the company’s 56-year history. Beginning in August 2019, she replaces Aidan Lang, who will become General Director of Welsh National Opera following the end of the 2018/19 season.

“When we reached out to luminaries in the opera world, Christina Scheppelmann’s name kept coming up from all angles as being someone we needed to talk to,” said John Nesholm, Chairman of the Seattle Opera Board and Co-Chair of the Search Committee. “She brings incredible experience and knowledge of singers, directors, and productions from three continents.”

Monday, March 11, 2019

The voice of Seattle Opera's podcast: Jonathan Dean

Genevieve Hathaway photo
Meet the voice behind Seattle Opera's new podcast—the company's Dramaturg, Jonathan Dean! Dean, a charismatic, multilingual opera fanatic, wears a lot of hats around the office. (For example, he often creates the English supertitles you see projected over the stage for each performance). In fall 2018, he led the relaunch of Seattle Opera's new and exciting podcast. As the host, Jon Dean makes learning about opera fun and engaging, even if this historic art form isn't really "your thing." Episodes feature a variety of fun Opera 101 content, as well as behind-the-scenes interviews for each production. Listen to the podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud, or on

 By Philippa Kiraly
What is a dramaturg? The word comes from the Greek: drama + ourgos=work, and its meaning for Seattle Opera covers everything Jonathan Dean has worked on since his hiring in 1995, when he got his start in the Education department undertaking a variety of assignments, then was named director of Public Programs and Media in 2010 and in 2015, Dramaturg.

“It’s a central position in which I perform a lot of tasks which have accumulated over all these years,” he says, his latest energies being directed towards podcasts about upcoming opera productions, discussions about various voice types with illustrations, discussions with performing artists, and discussions about the inner meanings behind such ambiguous operas as Britten’s The Turn of the Screw.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

TeenTix Editors weigh in on Steve Jobs

The TeenTix Editorial Staff includes Huma Ali, Hannah Schoettmer, Joshua Fernandes, and Lily Williamson.
Seattle Opera was honored that the TeenTix Editorial Staff chose to attend the opening night of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs. The editorial staff is made up of five teens who edit and curate the content for the review section of the TeenTix blog, and lead a newsroom of young-adult writers. "As teens, we feel that art is often made inaccessible for our demographic. We are working to fix that by giving teens a voice in the adult-dominated world of arts criticism." 

What did you think of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs?
Joshua: I thought it was the most entertaining opera I’ve ever seen since becoming a conscious 17-year-old who actually knows what he’s looking at when it comes to opera. I view this performance through the lens of someone who is more familiar with musicals. With that said, the set design—made up of a series of moving boxes that changed configuration—was excellent. I loved the contrast between the contemporary subject matter, and the historic tradition of this art form. You take a little bit of old with the new—that to me seems to be the very concept of a Steve Jobs opera.

Lily: This is a gateway opera: It’s accessible, quite short comparatively at 90 minutes, and it’s fast-moving. I agree; this opera was reminiscent of a musical. It felt like everything was whizzing around. The story deals with contemporary issues; it feels timely and relevant for 2019.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Praise for The (R)evolution

Seattle Opera presents The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs. Jacob Lucas photo
’s sonic and visual surface—what Jobs might call a user interface—is expertly and thrillingly presented." - Seattle Weekly

"John Moore, the baritone who portrays Jobs, deserves special mention. Moore is present in nearly every scene and is terrific throughout, expansively encompassing Jobs’s complex personality, hopes, desires, and fears. Also strong are Adam Lau as spiritual advisor Kobun, and Garrett Sorenson as Woz ... Emily Fons masterfully balances Jobs’s intensity as his wife Laurene. Chrisann, Jobs’s girlfriend in his youth, is performed sympathetically by Madison Leonard." - Seen and Heard International

"I love it when big institutions take real artistic risks. Even better when they pay off. Case in point: (R)evolution of Steve Jobs @SeattleOpera. I might have to go back and watch it again." - @gemmadeetweet, Twitter

"But it isn’t just Bates’ music which makes this opera so compelling, it’s the shape of the libretto fashioned by Mark Campbell (people may remember him as the librettist of As One, the chamber opera coming-of-age story about a transgender woman mounted by Seattle Opera in 2016)." - The Sybaritic Singer

"You shouldn’t expect to glean startup tips from “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs,” the one-act opera staged by the Seattle Opera this week and next ...  But you can expect to see and hear the tangled tale of Apple’s enigmatic co-founder, told on a literally operatic scale." - GeekWire

"Opening night was INCREDIBLE! I laughed, I cried, I had fun, I felt pain and sadness... True art!." – Nicole S., Facebook 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Tech has changed Seattle. Now what?

Seattle Opera's The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs. Jacob Lucas photo

The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs is spurring important conversations. This Saturday, March 2, join Seattle Opera for a panel discussion at the intersection of technology, the arts, and the future of Seattle. For better or worse, the technology industry has forever changed Puget Sound. As industry and the population expand, how can all of us—from Seattle's longtime residents to its newcomers—help secure the legacy of arts, culture, and civic engagement in our community? Seattle Opera and KUOW's Prime(d) podcast are joining forces on a special event in conjunction with (R)evolution, which illuminates one man’s evolution from a countercultural outsider to a corporate culture icon.

This panel is free, open to the public, and will last about 60 minutes. It takes the place of our usual pre-show talk. Attendees are welcome to purchase a ticket to attend the performance of the opera, which begins at 7:30 p.m. 

After the opera, this conversation will continue for audience members with moderators Carolyn Adolph, Joshua McNichols, panelist Cynthia Brothers of Vanishing Seattle, and Seattle Opera Dramaturg Jonathan Dean. 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Advance press for The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs

John Moore (Steve Jobs). Philip Newton photo

The Seattle Times

"It comes bringing much buzz, fresh off a Grammy Award for best opera recording, and a 2017 run at Santa Fe Opera that met with standing ovations and high ticket demand. Perhaps more importantly, in terms of drawing people who’ve never attended an opera performance, it has name familiarity. Usually, in opera, that means the composer: Mozart, Puccini, Verdi. In this case, though, it’s the title subject, a man whose name reverberates not just in tech towns like Seattle and San Francisco. 'Everybody is carrying a little bit of Steve Jobs in their pocket,' said Composer Mason Bates..."


"Still, creating a work of art for a form where longevity is measured in centuries, not smartphone upgrade cycles, did require librettist Mark Campbell to think hard about what to leave out.' We decided really early on not to mention any products by name,' he said. 'We talk about the iPhone in the first song — the first big number is a product launch — but we don’t say "the iPhone." We don’t talk about the Apple One computer or anything like that. That would kind of date the language.' Even Apple’s corporate nemesis gets the silent treatment. Microsoft is only referred to as 'Seattle' or 'the big M.'"

The Stranger 

"Even people who, like me, hate anything that makes capitalism appear to be anything but ugly can't avoid the fact that Jobs had about him the air of an exceptional person. There have been books and films made about him, but I believe that the proper medium for this type of life is opera. It will be interesting to see what The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs looks and sounds like in Seattle Opera's production ... With music by Mason Bates and a libretto by Mark Campbell, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs understands that no other medium than opera is appropriate to the life and times of a man many considered to be the last hero of capitalism."

John Moore (Steve Jobs) with Emily Fons (Laurene Powell Jobs). Philip Newton photo

Seattle Weekly 

"Scenes from the life of the tech visionary (his mentor, his colleague Steve Wozniak, his romances) are recounted in flashbacks in Mason Bates’ Grammy-winning opera The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs—both a showcase for electronic musical and visual affects and a warmly intimate portrait of a troubled genius."


"When you hear the name Steve Jobs, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Apple founder. Tech genius. Opera fodder? That last one seems less likely. But the reviews are in and The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs is a hit. It just won the Grammy for Best Opera Recording (by the Santa Fe Opera) and is about to make its West Coast debut at Seattle Opera."


"Final rehearsals are underway at Seattle’s McCaw Hall for a new show debuting this weekend for Seattle Opera. It's a revolutionary take on an art form that is steeped in tradition, but they hope it could catch the attention of a new audience. Seattle Opera's repertoire is known for an impressive selection of shows, but this week it's their final rehearsals on a new show. It’s a production that’s only been seen in a few cities, and it's quite unique.'It's going to be different than anything you've seen on stage before,' performer Sarah Mattox explained. The stage is filled with video screens, and the star wears jeans and a black mock turtleneck for the whole show."

Jacob Lucas photo

Gemma Alexander 

Seattle Opera has been fighting against opera’s reputation as a mummified art form for a long time with its progressive chamber operas and in the audience education programs around the regular season productions. With Steve Jobs, they are elevating the themes of contemporary opera to the main season stage, replacing misbehaving royals with a tech tycoon. Could anything be more relevant to 21st century Seattle than a story that examines the impact of technology on our community and even our minds?

The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs plays Feb. 23-March 9, 2019 at McCaw Hall. Learn more about this opera on our Spotlight Guide.