Monday, January 31, 2011

Don Quixote in the Wings

Following Seattle Opera’s final performance of The Barber of Seville on Saturday night, the Italian language leaves our theater for a while. We won’t present an Italian opera again until January of 2012, when Verdi’s Attila comes to Seattle Opera for the first time. (We’ll be singing in French, German, and English before then.) Coming up next--beginning rehearsal tomorrow, in fact--is Don Quichotte, a French opera based on a Spanish story, and featuring an exciting international cast.

Ernesto Alorda, Seattle Opera’s Artist and Community Relations Manager, is responsible for getting all Seattle Opera’s performers to town, helping them find housing, and taking care of them in any other way that comes up. I checked in with him just now, and he’s had a busy weekend. His team of Artist Aides not only had to get all the Barber performers off to the airport, they had to welcome to Seattle:
•Italian conductor Carlo Montanaro, making his Seattle Opera debut with Don Quichotte, and flying in from Verona
•Canadian bass-baritone John Relyea, opening night’s Don Quichotte
•Polish mezzo soprano Malgorzata Walewska (his Dulcinée), flying in from Warsaw
•Argentinian bass-baritone Eduardo Chama (Sancho Panza), coming from Philadelphia
Nicolas Cavallier, who sings Don Quichotte in the alternate cast, coming from his home in Paris
Daniela Sindram, who plays opposite Cavallier as Dulcinée, coming from her home outside of Munich
•Although Sara de Luis, our choreographer and one of our principal dancers, lives in Seattle, the other principal dancer, Raúl Salcedo, makes his home in Mexico and came to Seattle from Cancùn

Also in the cast are Seattle natives Alex Mansoori and Marcus Shelton, both alumni of Seattle Opera’s Young Artists Program and both making mainstage debuts in these performances, Seattleites Emily Clubb and Jen Bromagen, and native French-speaking Seattle actor Jad Kassouf, just back from Paris. The only person who’s doesn’t get here immediately, Ernesto told me, is American baritone Richard Bernstein, who plays Cavallier’s Sancho Panza. If you want to know why Bernstein is coming late, tune in to the Metropolitan Opera’s live broadcast of Simon Boccanegra on Saturday (10 am on Classic KING-FM, 98.1) and listen for his unctuous Pietro.

Although Ernesto is a big fan of Italian and French opera, he’s a native Cuban, and he’s most excited about this opera because of the story’s Spanish origin. “Cervantes’ Don Quixote is one of the great books in any language,” Ernesto told me, “And in every Spanish-speaking country, everybody has been exposed to Don Quixote, every household has a copy of the book. It makes no difference where you’ve been educated or even if you’ve been educated--everyone knows these characters. I remember how my father, who loved to read, when I was a boy on Sundays he often went into his room and read a chapter of Don Quixote, sometimes laughing so loud that we all wanted to know what it was. I was only 5, 6, 7 years old, so I didn’t always understand what was so funny at the time, but I’ll never forget how much he loved the book.” Ernesto started reading Don Quixote as a teenager. I remember the book’s warmth and hilarity pulling me through the long, dark winter of my freshman year in college. We couldn’t be more excited to get started on this opera tomorrow.


  1. Hallo, Jon!
    Great that your father enjoyed reading "Don Quixote" to himself. It would be even greater if fathers read a story like this out loud to their children -- and answered questions like you had as a 5-7 year-old. Now days in "families" it seems it is everyone for her/him self rather than joint family activities like reading or making music together as a family -- and going to the opera together as a family like this season with "Barbiere" and, hopefully, next season at "Madama Butterfly"; my parents took me to "Butterfly" as a pre-teenie (my third opera), and I bacame a life-
    long opera-lover/-goer as a result!!!
    Win H.