Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Seattle Opera Digital Spring Season

Singers who will provide free recitals in 2021: Top, left: Sarah Larsen, Andrew Stenson and Jasmine Habersham. Bottom: Karen Vuong and Will Thomas.
Seattle Opera is excited to reveal our digital Spring Season today, which includes new streaming operas for subscribers and plenty of free opera fun for all. The company will build off the success of free content produced during the pandemic. Thus far, free recitals have garnered more than 20,000 views from around the world, and more than 150,000 listeners have tuned in to enjoy free broadcasts on Seattle Opera Mornings on KING FM

These broadcasts will continue, as well as free recitals: Sarah Larsen performs in “Ode to Beethoven,” as part of the city-wide digital Beethoven Festival on Dec. 16. Also in the winter, Andrew Stenson (from The Elixir of Love) performs on Jan. 29 and Jasmine Habersham and Will Thomas (Don Giovanni) offer a recital on Feb. 19. Karen Vuong (Flight) rounds out free recitals on May 7. Featured pianists will include David McDade (Jan. 29 and Feb. 19) and John Keene (Dec. 16 and Feb. 19). 

Another opportunity to enjoy free content will come during the Big Opera Show, the company’s virtual fundraising event, at 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 11. Special guests will be announced in early 2021.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Meet the Artist: Madison Leonard

Madison Leonard (Adina), Philip Newton photo

Rising soprano Madison Leonard returns to Seattle Opera as Adina in our streaming production of The Elixir of Love. The 2018 winner of the Metropolitan National Council Auditions made an impression on Seattle Opera audiences in 2019, when she not only made her company debut as Chrisann Brennan in The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, but returned to sing Frasquita in Carmen and then starred in Rigoletto as Gilda. The Coeur d'Alene native shares more about what it's like to be singing during the global pandemic and how this time has impacted her personally and professionally. 

You spent quite a bit of time at Seattle Opera last year. What's one of your favorite 2019 memories of singing here? 
On the opening night of Rigoletto last year, I was experiencing what any non-bungee-jumping person would consider an extreme adrenaline rush. Right after our high, fast-paced duet, the Duke ran off into the wings leaving me alone in the middle of a very sparse stage. As the applause quieted, Maestro Carlo Montanaro began leading, what I can only assume was the orchestra playing beautifully. But all I could hear was my own heartbeat thudding in my ears. We had a revolving stage for this production, so as I stood right at the exact center (in pink, fleece pajamasvery sophisticated), I watched the little lights from the wings, house, and rafters slowly spin around me. Fortunately, muscle memory helped me out with the first few lines of singing, and off we went. But for those few moments, I felt like I was floating weightless somewhere out in space. I'll never forget that one suspended moment in time.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

BIPOC: Apply now for The Seattle Arts Fellowship

Aramis O Hamer speaks during "Decolonizing Allure" panel discussion during Seattle Opera's Carmen ('19). Sunny Martini photo. Photos taken inside the Opera Center by Philip Newton and Sunny Martini.

BIPOC interested in careers in arts leadership and administration may apply now for paid fellowships with Seattle Opera, Seattle Symphony, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and (and 
Classical KING FM starting in 2022). Deadline to apply: Feb. 1, 2021. Learn more at

Four leading arts organizations are coming together to launch the Seattle Arts Fellowship—a new initiative that supports emerging leaders and administrators of color.

“Black, Indigenous, People of Color are an integral part of what this art form should be now and in the future both on stage and behind the scenes,” said Christina Scheppelmann, General Director of Seattle Opera. “With the Seattle Arts Fellowship, we invest in their voices, and in their leadership.”

The fellowship was initially seeded through Seattle Opera’s efforts and grants from Opera America. Now, in addition to the opera, presenting institutions include Seattle Symphony and Pacific Northwest Ballet. Each organization will offer a fellowship in areas ranging from Marketing, Community Education, Artistic Planning, and Broadcasting (starting in 2022) at Classical KING FM 98.1.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

David Gately Conversation (Part 2)

During the filming of The Elixir of Love. Philip Newton photo

During the middle of rehearsing The Elixir of Love, stage director David Gately took a few minutes to check in with us. He let us know how things are going under these unique circumstances.

So David, how's it going?
Surprisingly, really well. It has been incredibly fun putting the production together. Everyone is so excited to be involved. After doing a few run-throughs, we started video capture today. The entire process is terrific!

How many cameras are you using?
We have four cameras—three positioned at various locations in the hall and one roaming steady camera. We’re getting multiple views of the performance.

Will you share some insights on how you're keeping everyone safe?
We are following all the local guidelines, of course. We maintain at least 20 ft. of clearance around artists when they are singings, which is mandated by the American Guild of Musical Artists. We are using double props. After a performer touches a prop, we stop the action, and replace it with an identical one before another performer touches it. The props person wear gloves at all times, and each prop is cleaned and sanitized before it is used again.

A Conversation with director David Gately

Stage Director David Gately has helped to create a new The Elixir of Love production for streaming at Seattle Opera. Gately has directed opera all of his professional life, starting back during his days in college. In this conversation, which took place shortly before arriving in Seattle, he discusses his hopes for this Seattle Opera production, directing while social distancing, the future of the performing arts, and more. 

How would you best describe your directing style?
I find it best to let others describe my style. Nevertheless, my approach is simply to concentrate on the acting and the characters first. Whenever I look at a piece, I immediately go to the text, while the music is yet another source of information about what’s happening between characters.

My comedy is rather aggressive with lots of physical interaction. Now, obviously that’s going to be a real challenge with social distancing where people can’t be near each other. So this is going to be a totally completely different kind of thing. We hope the viewer will get the flavor of what we’re doing within the guidelines of being safe

An Inside Look at The Elixir of Love

Madison Leonard (Adina) and Patrick Carfizzi (Dulcamara). Philip Newton photo

Seattle Opera continues its Fall Season with Elixir of Love, with music by Gaetano Donizetti and libretto by Felice Romani. Utterly enjoyable from first sip to last, this fizzy concoction is opera’s most winning comedy. A love-struck bumpkin is about to lose the company of a rich and independent landowner. Crossing paths with a quack doctor, he’s duped in more ways than one. Wine, a windfall, and a fateful furtive tear eventually reveal happy truths as sincerity triumphs amid much rejoicing.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Seattle Opera Serenades Jubilee Women's Center

Tess Altiveros performs with Seattle Opera's Community Serenades. Sunny Martini photo

Community Serenades, Seattle Opera's program that brings opera to elders and people experiencing homelessness, continues with a performance and supply drive for Jubilee Women’s Center. 

EDIT: This Community Serenade is being rescheduled due to inclement weather. 

Seattle Opera continues its Community Serenades program meant to bring joy to vulnerable community members with a performance for Jubilee Women’s Center this November. This program brings an opera singer and pianist to perform in various settings for seniors and people experiencing homelessness.

While performing outside apartment or housing complexes, the artists maintain a recommended distance from others and adhere to approved safety protocols as residents listen from their homes/rooms up above.

This initiative has been made possible in part thanks to the company’s ongoing partnership with Path with Art, a nonprofit which has connected Seattle Opera to social service organizations such as Jubilee and Plymouth Housing

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Creating Opera During a Pandemic

Madison Leonard (Adina), Tess Altiveros (Gianetta), Andrew Stenson (Nemorino) and Maestro Carlo Montanaro during filming of The Elixir of Love. Philip Newton photo 

During the global pandemic, Seattle Opera's work stands out among its peers. SO is one of few American companies continuing to produce opera on the McCaw Hall stage—albeit, in adapted productions, staged specifically for streaming, and with strict COVID-19 safety protocols. In this Q&A, Seattle Opera General Director Christina Scheppelmann shares more about how the company pulled off a brand-new Elixir of Love production, which premieres for subscribers on Friday, Nov. 13. Filmed with three different stationary cameras and one steadicam on the McCaw Hall stage, the production stars Madison Leonard, Michael Adams, Patrick Carfizzi, and Tess Altiveros. Maestro Carlo Montanaro leads the cast and two pianists, plus musicians from Seattle Symphony Orchestra. Learn more at

Seattle Opera is one of the first American companies to create a new production in its regular theater and specifically for streaming. Can you explain the significance of this Elixir of Love production? 

Thus far, Seattle Opera's digital Fall Season has included free solo recitals by Frederick Ballentine, Marcy Stonikas, and Jorell Williams. Subscribers have also been able to access streaming recitals featuring highlights from Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci—filmed on the McCaw Hall stage—with a scenic backdrop and theatrical lighting, and with international singers Gregory Kunde and Alexandra LoBianco as well as Seattle Opera favorites Sarah Larsen Nerys Jones. 

This Elixir of Love production takes our Fall Season to the next level with a production designed specifically for streaming. Our Elixir will include costumes, set elements, lighting, a conductor, and all five soloists. To maintain COVID-19 safety, there will not be a chorus or orchestra, which results in some cuts to the score.  However, this is a true "semi-staged" production created with stage director David Gately and film director Kyle Seago rather than a recital or concert. The final product will be edited, then made available to our subscribers.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

$1 million gift cultivates the next generation of opera storytellers

Sean Airhart photo

The newly announced Jane Lang Davis Creation Lab seeks to empower emerging librettists and composers

A $1 million gift to the Seattle Opera Foundation from the Friday Foundation will help usher in a more diverse generation of storytellers in opera, with a focus on composers and librettists ages 18–30. Applications for the first year of the Jane Lang Davis Creation Lab were accepted late into summer 2020, and chosen participants will be announced this fall. The majority of applicants were Black, Indigenous, or other People of Color (BIPOC)—and/or identified as women. The 16 artists selected will create 20-minute operas, which will be performed in Tagney Jones Hall at the Opera Center next year. Participants will receive support throughout the development process and refine their pieces through table readings and music workshops.

Seattle Opera General Director Christina Scheppelmann said the new, multi-year initiative will bring new stories and perspectives to the community, and to the repertoire at large:

“New stories, new voices in opera complement the great works of the past and help us continue to evolve. The Jane Lang Davis Creation Lab will engage young artists of varied backgrounds in music and theater. We hope to stimulate curiosity about opera, and welcome in new artists, storytellers, and audiences—especially those who have not felt included before.” 

Mentors for this year’s lab include Tazewell Thompson (librettist and director), speaker for the racial justice panel Breaking Glass (’18), and librettist for Blue, an opera about the love, loss, and resilience of a Black American family. Additional mentors are Aishé Keita (actress), who’s been recognized for her work in Danai Gurira’s Familiar at Seattle Repertory Theater and The Guthrie Theater and Kamala Sankaram (composer)—who has received commissions from Washington National Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and Opera Memphis. Finally, Jerre Dye (librettist) and Zach Redler (composer) creators of The Falling and the Rising (’19), join this year’s mentor group.
From left: Tazewell Thomspon, Jerre Dye, Aishé Keita, Kamala Sankaram, and Zach Redler.

The Jane Lang Davis Creation Lab is also significant for Seattle Opera’s commitment to racial equity. The company’s Racial Equity and Social Impact (RESI) plan—which was just made available to the public—mandates that programming include diverse perspectives and topics. The company is also challenging itself to present more operas and works by BIPOC creators.

The Friday Foundation’s $1 million donation enabling creation lab is part of a major investment in arts and culture. Pacific Northwest Ballet, Seattle Art Museum, the Henry Art Gallery and Seattle Symphony will also receive gifts from the foundation, which honor the memory of the late Jane Lang Davis and Richard E. Lang. The couple’s commitment to performing and visual arts stems from their belief that the arts are fundamental to the health and growth of the Puget Sound region. 

Jane Lang Davis was a member of Seattle Opera’s Board of Directors from 1971–1980, and a longtime member of Seattle Opera’s Advisory Board. A subscriber for more than 50 years, she introduced many of her close friends and family to opera. She also helped to connect former General Director Speight Jenkins with important contacts in the region’s performing arts community. To learn more about the Jane Lang Davis Creation Lab, go to and

The Lang Family Collection, 1973


Monday, October 19, 2020

Meet the Artist: Jorell Williams

Premiering this Friday, Oct. 23 is Jorell Williams in Recital with pianist Rachael Kerr. The streaming performance is available free to the public until Friday, November 13, 2020. Jorell Williams is “a robust baritone capable of descending to delicate threads of sound” (Operawire). From his Seattle Opera debut in the powerful chamber opera As One, to his more recent appearances as Dizzy Gillespie in Charlie Parker’s Yardbird, and his moving performance as Homecoming Soldier in The Falling and the Rising, Jorell is fast becoming one of our favorite singers. Learn more at

What most excites you about your upcoming Seattle Opera recital? 
I love the intimacy of concert work in recital. While there is no live audience, this is an opportunity to tell stories through introspection. The songs in the program are funny and full of heart and hope. The opening number is a doozy—it’s about an election!

Seattle Opera audiences first met you when you sang the role of Hannah before in As One (’16)—a chamber opera about a transgender woman’s journey. We, the audience were literally a few feet away from you in this intimate presentation at Washington Hall. Tell me about that experience.
As One was one of the most vulnerable performances I’ve ever given in my entire career. It presented an opportunity to break through a wall that ultimately, opened me up to a more diverse range as an artist. I am not afraid to be vulnerable now. When I do an audition for television, for example—I can return to that place of vulnerability at the drop of a hat. What helped me achieve this during As One is hard to describe. It was everything: knowing the librettists. Getting to work with Maestro John Keene. Everyone in the rehearsal room, really. They created a safe space to tell this story.