Friday, November 13, 2015

Philip Glass on Voting Rights; Cherubino, Almaviva, Holocaust Survivors, and the Devil

What's up in the opera world? This week, the world is paying attention to an exciting opening:

Philip Glass Revises Appomatox to Consider Voting Rights
Washington National Opera will present its first Philip Glass opera beginning tomorrow: a revised version of Appomatox, first heard in San Francisco in 2007. As Glass explained to Michael Cooper in a recent New York Times article, the original version focused more on Lee’s surrender, which ended the Civil War at Appomatox in 1865. The revised opera opens with Frederick Douglass telling Lincoln he would like to see “voting rights for all free men of color,” and continues by dramatizing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1965 visit to the White House to press President Lyndon B. Johnson on the Voting Rights Act. WNO’s production stars Seattle favorite Richard Paul Fink as Ulysses S. Grant and Nicholas Katzenbach; rising star Solomon Howard plays both Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr; and the great Donald Eastman designed the set.

And here’s the latest on some singers who will be coming to Seattle soon:

Karin Mushegain Doing Back-To-Back Cherubinos
When Seattle Opera presents The Marriage of Figaro in January, American mezzo Karin Mushegain will return as everyone’s favorite oversexed teenage androgyne. But first, this gorgeous young singer sings Cherubino down at Opera San José; tomorrow night is the first of her six performances. Ms. Mushegain made a strong Seattle Opera debut as Rossini’s Cenerentola in 2013. Karin Mushegain as Cinderella implores the prince to let kindness prevail in Rossini’s La Cenerentola, with Brett Polegato (Dandini), Dana Pundt (Clorinda), Sarah Larsen (Tisbe), René Barbera (Ramiro), and Valerian Ruminski (Don Magnifico) and the orchestra of Seattle Opera conducted by Giacomo Sagripanti.

Andrew Owens Opens Barber of Seville in Miami
When Seattle Opera presents our first Mary Stuart starting in February, our audiences will have their first chance to hear the exciting young American lyric tenor Andrew Owens in the role of the conflicted Leicester, beloved by Queen Elizabeth but in love with Mary Stuart. Owens is currently in Miami, singing Count Almaviva in the Florida Grand Opera production of The Barber of Seville, which opens tomorrow night.

Andrew Owens in rehearsal for The Barber of Seville at Florida Grand Opera

David Danholt Stars in The Passenger in Detroit
Seattle Wagner-lovers remember David Danholt’s thrilling triumph in our 2014 International Wagner Competition. David Danholt sings the conclusion to "Parsifal," with the orchestra of Seattle Opera conducted by Sebastian Lang-Lessing.

The Danish tenor returns to Seattle to sing Erik in our Flying Dutchman in May. But starting tomorrow, he’s starring in Michigan Opera Theater’s production of The Passenger, a 1959 opera by Soviet composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg that wasn’t performed until 2010, but since then has been presented all over the world. Danholt plays a West German diplomat who had no idea that his wife once served as an SS officer in Auschwitz; a chance encounter on a trans-Atlantic crossing opens a world of guilt, denial, fear, courage, and love, in a searingly powerful drama. A video is available of The Passenger’s world premiere, in Bregenz.

Seattle Opera Staff Wowed by Munich Mefistofele
Meanwhile, Aren Der Hacopian, Seattle Opera’s Artistic Administrator, is off running around Europe hearing and auditioning singers. He wrote me from Munich, where the Bayerische Staatsoper’s strong performance of Rigoletto and Boito’s Mefistofele (starring Rene Pape and Joseph Calleja) made a big impression:

“How may I explain how truly jaw-dropping this performance of Mefistofele was? Simply awesome! At the end, I turned around to see an older gentleman just hypnotized, his slightly teary eyes in disbelief. He looked at me and said, ‘Wonderful, just wonderful!!!’”

René Pape (Mefistofele), Joseph Calleja (Faust), Bayerischen Staatsoper Chorus and Ballet

“The videos, such as a live-feed camera went under the stage to reveal all hundreds of suffering angels that Mefistofele has devastated, were fantastic. And imagine the finale of Act 2 - the stage filled with what seemed like 200 choristers, soloists, dancers, and actors moving, singing and performing their hearts out to phenomenal music of Mefistofele’s wild orgy as the entire stage divided into three separate sections and moved up and down, as if the stage itself was hopping up and down and dancing amidst huge fiery bursts.”