THE MAGAZINE OF BOSTON LYRIC OPERA | FALL 2017
ESTHER NELSON, STANFORD CALDERWOOD GENERAL & ARTISTIC DIRECTOR | DAVID ANGUS, MUSIC DIRECTOR | JOHN CONKLIN, ARTISTIC ADVISOR
EDITORIAL STAFF Cathy Emmons Sara O’Brien Lacey Upton Eileen Williston CONTRIBUTORS John Conklin Sara O’Brien Laura Stanﬁeld Prichard Harlow Robinson Lacey Upton MISSION The mission of Boston Lyric Opera is to build curiosity, enthusiasm, and support for opera by creating musically and theatrically compelling productions, events, and educational resources for our community and beyond. We produce opera in all forms, large to small, popular to lesser known, from early music to newly-commissioned works. ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE Boston Lyric Opera 11 Avenue de Lafayette Boston, MA 02111-1736 P: 617.542.4912 | F: 617.542.4913 AUDIENCE SERVICES 617.542.6772 | email@example.com PATRON SERVICES Bailey Kerr 617.542.4912 x 2450 | firstname.lastname@example.org COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT & EDUCATION Lacey Upton 617.542.4912 x2420 | email@example.com EVENTS Sara O’Brien 617.542.4912 x2900 | firstname.lastname@example.org For a full listing of BLO staff, please visit BLO.org/about. GET SOCIAL WITH OPERA #TOSCABLO | #BURKEBLO
BLO’s programs are funded, in part, by grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. Coda Magazine is underwritten with the support of Jane and Jeffrey Marshall.
WELCOME TO BLO’S 41ST SEASON! After the celebrations of our record-breaking 40TH Anniversary Season last year, BLO is focusing on the future. By embracing change and opening up the process of our work, you—our supporters and community members—become part of its creation. Our 2017/18 Season demonstrates opera’s incredible versatility from beloved classics to the fresh and urgent, and these two ends of the spectrum play out brilliantly in our two fall offerings. We open the Season with our new production of Puccini’s Tosca—a staple for any opera lover. The title character of Floria Tosca is a star-making opportunity for sopranos; the character is herself an opera diva whose presence must be magnetic and arresting, and whose voice must be powerful yet sensitive. In the title role for this new production, we are excited to introduce Elena Stikhina in her American debut. Elena is a native of Russia who is taking opera stages by storm! She has already won international acclaim as Tosca, Tatyana (in Eugene Onegin) and Leonora (in La Forza del Destino), a role that she will repeat at Opéra National de Paris next year, and she just received rave reviews for her Senta (in The Flying Duchman) at the Mariinsky Festival. Elena will be joined by a fantastic cast and our wonderful BLO Chorus and Orchestra. We also welcome David Stern who is making his BLO debut conducting Tosca. The next opera on our fall Season is an event not to be missed: the World Premiere of Julian Grant and Mark Campbell’s The Nefarious, Immoral but Highly Proﬁtable Enterprise of Mr. Burke & Mr. Hare. Based on the true story of the killing spree of William Burke and William Hare, and the subsequent trial that rocked the world of medicine, the work uses elements of vaudeville, tragedy, and the macabre to examine questions of morality and murder. It is a thought-provoking and highly entertaining theatrical ride from two of the strongest voices in contemporary opera. Burke & Hare has musical direction from our own David Angus and stage direction by David Schweizer, whose incisive work has included BLO productions of The Love Potion and The Emperor of Atlantis, or Death Quits. The cast features William Burden, who recently appeared in the national broadcast première of Bel Canto on PBS, opposite international star Marie McLaughlin, and features a great number of our talented former and current Emerging Artists. The making of opera is never done, and neither are we. BLO is committed to moving the industry forward, expanding what “opera” means through innovative programming, both cherishing the great popular works and exploring the creations of tomorrow, and presenting incredible voices and compelling productions onstage. Join us at the performances, as well as online throughout the year as we share videos from the rehearsal room, insight from our directors and designers, and proﬁles of our incredible artists. Thank you for being part of our journey.
Esther Nelson Stanford Calderwood General & Artistic Director
TABLE OF CONTENTS Finding Meaning in Melodrama: A Guide to Tosca ...................... 2 High Five: Get to Know Tosca in 5 Minutes or Less ..................... 4 Julian Grant
MAKING A KILLING: THE CREATORS OF BURKE & HARE TALK NEW OPERA Sunday, November 5, 2017 | 2:00 – 3:00pm Museum of Fine Arts, Boston | Remis Auditorium Tickets: $16 for MFA members | $20 for general public BLO subscribers may access the member price through BLO.org! WBUR Arts Reporter Andrea Shea sits down with composer Julian Grant and librettist Mark Campbell to discuss their inspirations, writing process, and the vibrancy and urgency of opera in the 21st century. Their new opera, The Nefarious, Immoral but Highly Proﬁtable Enterprise of Mr. Burke & Mr. Hare, is a Andrea Shea highly theatrical and often brutally funny exploration of greed, morality and medicine. Based on an historical event, the opera depicts the infamous ten-month killing spree of William Burke and William Hare in 1828. Boston Lyric Opera gives the work its World Premiere on November 8.
In Perfect Harmony: Julian Grant & Mark Campbell ......................... 5 High Five: Get to Know Burke & Hare in 5 Minutes or Less ................. 7 Two Divas Walked into a Bar .................................... 8 Sneak Peek: The Visual World of Tosca ..................................... 10 Edinburgh, 1828: The Historical Core of Burke & Hare ........................ 12 Napoleon Complex: The Politics of Tosca ................ 16 Spotlight: PRIMA member, Veronica Brown ........................ 18 Contributors ............................. 20 Curtains ..................................... 21
To purchase tickets to the event: visit mfa.org/tickets For additional event information: call 617.542.6772 or email email@example.com
On our cover: Collage includes notes by Dr. Thomas Graham taken during a lecture in Edinburgh by John Scott Russell on Natural Philosophy, December 8, 1834 and St. Peter’s and the Castel Sant’Angelo from the Tiber River by Lieven Cruyl, 17th Century AD, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts.
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FINDING MEANING IN MELODRAMA: A GUIDE TO TOSCA BY LAURA STANFIELD PRICHARD
omposer Giacomo Puccini based his Tosca on the 1889 play La Tosca by Victorien Sardou. He had seen a performance of it while working on Manon Lescaut (even Verdi was interested in it!), and was taken with the thriller. He began work in earnest in 1896, after asking his publisher Giulio Ricordi to wrangle the rights for Sardou’s play from Alberto Franchetti, another composer who worked with librettist Luigi Illica. A tempestuous tale of seduction, cruelty, and deception, this opera presents a ﬁerce battle of wills set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars. Conductor James Levine has described it as “Puccini’s glorious musical inspiration [combined] with the melodramatic vitality of one of the great Hitchcock ﬁlms.” The creative team that Puccini and his publisher put together was superb: Luigi Illica created the scenario and Giuseppe Giacosa created the poetic language of the libretto. This trio had worked together on La Bohème, and in 1904, would later produce Madama Butterﬂy. Puccini was attracted to the ironic contrasts and reversals in the play: Cavaradossi is tortured, but doesn’t confess (Tosca does); “sweet and innocent hands” kill Scarpia; Angelotti survives by disguising himself; and some of the deaths we witness are meant to be faked. Over the course of three acts, the creators combined heartpounding tension and suspense with portraits of devotion and courage. We are presented with three questions: How far would you go to protect a friend? What would you do to save someone you love? Which would you choose when law and citizen responsibility collide?
Tosca reverently lays a cruciﬁx on Scarpia’s body. Photograph of a pre-1914 production at the old Metropolitan Opera House, New York. Right inset, cover of the original 1899 libretto, by Alfredo Montalti; Puccini photographed in 1908, U.S. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
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Puccini visited Sardou twice in Paris (in April 1898 and January 1899) to discuss the adaptation and demanded two big changes to Act III. Sardou gave in on the ﬁrst point and allowed Puccini to replace Cavaradossi’s (original) patriotic hymn with a love song. He did not acquiesce on the second matter—he wanted an abrupt, thundering ﬁnale, while Puccini preferred a more extended musical setting of Tosca’s death (think Mimì). The completed libretto takes a realistic approach to the passage of time and leans toward the verismo style: it includes scenes of physical and psychological torture, and most of the conﬂicts are between individuals (singing duets), rather than monumental forces. In Bohème, the villain was fate (Mimì’s illness and death), and the characters progressed inexorably through their bohemian lives (devoted to art and love) toward the tragic conclusion. In Tosca, both villains and heroes struggle physically and mentally on stage, and you may expect a coup de théâtre at any moment. Puccini loved the operas of Richard Wagner and combined Wagner’s inﬂuence with his own style, shifting quickly between emotions and musical keys, with his own Leitmotifs for Baron Scarpia and the hidden well in Cavaradossi’s garden (a place of refuge). Puccini grew up in Lucca, north of Rome, but wanted Tosca to sound as Roman as possible. He researched not only when church bells were likely to have rung, but also how the exact bells of all the churches surrounding the Castel Sant’Angelo sounded. We hear them in Act I to announce the Angelus, they continue under prayerful singing, and they even provide counterpoint to Scarpia’s main musical theme. In Act II, Puccini includes a distant drum roll, reminding us of the French invasion of Rome and threatening Cavaradossi’s execution. Act III begins with the sounds of distant bells from the countryside, eventually drowned out by Roman city bells signaling daybreak. The title role is a celebrated opera singer, and Floria Tosca must be considered a height of any soprano’s career. Although female sopranos were banned in Rome around 1800, women did perform during Carnival and in private theatres. So Tosca would have been allowed to pray in church, but not sing there! The opera is also well-known for a history of theatrical mishaps. In a famous example, Tito Gobbi played Scarpia opposite Maria Callas in Tosca: during one performance, she came too near the candles burning on Scarpia’s desk in Act II and ignited her wig. Gobbi immediately jumped on Tosca, embraced her, and extinguished the ﬂames. Tosca rejected him with disgust, but then whispered, “Thank you, Tito,” just before stabbing him. Also memorable is Plácido Domingo’s headlong fall while rushing down from the scaffolding during Act I on live television in Rome: he crashed into the fence of the real Cappella Attavanti, giving a deﬁnite hint of realism to the broadcast. In 1995, tenor Fabio Armiliato was actually shot in the leg by debris from the blanks during Act III after the pistol was overloaded with powder. Five days later, he returned to perform (on crutches), and fell during his Act II
b ki his hi other h leg. l Apocryphal A entrance, breaking stories include a Tosca bouncing back up in the air after her Act III leap, and the soldiers following her off the parapet (after being told to “exit with the principals”). The two biggest hit arias from Tosca are easy to recognize, as Puccini brings his swirling action to a halt for them. In Act II, as Tosca is being blackmailed by Scarpia, she sings “Vissi d’arte,” (“I’ve lived for art”) saying that she’s always lived her life for art and love. The tenor’s signature moment comes in Act III. As he’s awaiting execution, Cavaradossi sings “E lucevan le stelle” (“How the stars shimmer”), looking back on his life, his love for Tosca, and how it has all come to nothing. He’ll die, he says, in desperation. Act I, combining operatic and sacred musical forms, also showcases Cavaradossi. “Recondita armonia” compares the beauty of two very different women, introducing the character as someone with an artist’s eye for detail and nuance. As the drama builds, Scarpia sings “Tre sbirri, una carozza... Va Tosca!” (“Three men, a carriage... Go, Tosca!”), describing his manipulation of Tosca. Driven by jealousy, she unwittingly helps Scarpia to pursue a traitor during the singing of the Roman Te Deum canticle. Puccini came from a long line of both church and theatrical composers; he also interrupts this sacred scene with the sound of Roman cannons announcing Napoleon’s supposed defeat at Marengo. One of opera’s greatest villains, Scarpia begins Act II with his scene-chewing “Ha più forte sapore” (“[Violent conquest] has a stronger ﬂavor”), anticipating the submission of Tosca to his will. Puccini shows himself as a master orchestrator here, developing the sounds of an offstage chamber orchestra (a favorite effect of Verdi) into a raging torrent of malice. The libretto chillingly contrasts two of Puccini’s favorite pastimes, hunting and romance, in a searing denunciation of love and life. This brief arioso is sometimes called Scarpia’s “Credo” and is a perfect example of what some may love (or hate) about Puccini: Scarpia rejects music and pleasure in favor of “nuova esca” (new bait for his prey), just as Puccini gives precedence to drama and realism over an extended melodic treatment. His music perfectly mirrors Scarpia’s impatience, and in so doing, deprives us of the great aria any other Italian composer would have written. BOSTON LYRIC OPERA CODA FALL 2017 | 3
WHO’S WHO ELENA STIKHINA AS TOSCA JONATHAN BURTON AS CAVARADOSSI Conducted by David Stern and directed by Crystal Manich. Scenic Design by Julia Noulin-Mérat, Costume Design by Deborah Newhall, and Lighting Design by Paul Hackenmueller.
Get to Know Tosca in Five Minutes or Less TOSCA OCTOBER 13 – 22 Music by Giacomo Puccini Libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa A co-production between Boston Lyric Opera & Opera Omaha Sung in Italian, with English surtitles Length: Approximately 2 hours, including 1 intermission SUPER-SHORT SYNOPSIS Rome, June, 1800: Angelotti, an escaped political prisoner, seeks help from Cavaradossi, a painter and sympathizer with his cause. Cavaradossi conceals Angelotti from Tosca, his lover. A cannon announces the arrival of Scarpia, Chief of Police; the two men ﬂee. Scarpia probes Tosca for information, implying that Cavaradossi is faithless. Enraged, she leaves to confront him, while Scarpia’s agents trail her. Later, Scarpia fantasizes about Tosca, whom he has summoned. He interrogates her while Cavaradossi is tortured. Finally, she relents. Scarpia tells Tosca he will spare her lover’s life through a mock execution if she gives herself to him that evening. She agrees in despair, but when he turns to embrace her, Tosca kills him. Tosca ﬁnds Cavaradossi in prison and they imagine starting a new life. Police agents escort him away; Tosca watches in hiding. The men ﬁre and Cavaradossi falls. She rushes to him but he is truly dead. As the soldiers close in on her, Tosca makes her ﬁnal choice.
language (think melodic lines, swelling chords, and expressive, emotional orchestration), and his willingness to explore the dark sides of humanity (for example, the sexual power struggle and physical violence in Tosca) identify him as a pioneer of the verismo tradition.
THE BLO PRODUCTION Get ready for a Tosca with an orchestral sound as epic as the story onstage. While the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre orchestra pit is on the small side—generally accommodating up to about 35 musicians—a full Puccini orchestra is usually much larger. Our creative team for Tosca determined that they would ﬁnd a solution to the space crunch. Hence, the 58-piece orchestra will be placed onstage at the Majestic, rather than in the pit, elevated on a level 10' above the singers. The score becomes a living, breathing, visible force in the confrontation between Tosca, Scarpia, and Cavaradossi—with the sound and scale that Puccini intended. For more information and a sneak peek at the designs, see page 10. FUN FACTS • After the success of La Tosca, Sarah Bernhardt purchased a pet lion for her household menagerie—she named him Scarpia. • BLO’s Tosca, Elena Stikhina, is a Russian soprano with a burgeoning international career, making her U.S. debut in the role for BLO. • The opera is set in real locations throughout the city of Rome, including the church of Sant’Andrea della Valle (Act I), the Palazzo Farnese (Act II), and the Castel Sant’Angelo (Act III). The church’s ﬁrst chapel on the left has been affectionately dubbed the Cappella della Tosca by Puccini fans.
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GETTING REAL: VERISMO Urgent, visceral, and violent, part of Tosca’s appeal lies in that it is the tale of ordinary people—in extraordinary circumstances. In fact, the opera is considered a prime example of a style called verismo. Loosely translated as “realism,” verismo composers rejected royal, noble, and mythical characters in favor of exploring everyday people and situations to their raw, intense, and sometimes violent core. The deﬁnition of verismo opera is broad and open to interpretation, but Puccini’s lifelong focus on realistic situations (such as poor, young, Parisian artists in La Bohème), his direct and accessible musical Sant’Andrea della Valle
The company of the OPERA America New Works Showcase of Burke & Hare, with conductor Erik Ochsner and the SONOS Chamber Orchestra.
IN PERFECT HARMONY COMPOSER-LIBRETTIST TEAM JULIAN GRANT AND MARK CAMPBELL TALK BURKE & HARE BY LACEY UPTON
rom the ﬁrst moment on, it’s clear that the pairing of Julian Grant, composer, and Mark Campbell, librettist, is no ordinary collaboration. During a winter conference phone call, in which the conversation ranged from their families and childhoods to favorite ﬁlms to, most importantly, their upcoming World Premiere with Boston Lyric Opera—The Nefarious, Immoral but Highly Proﬁtable Enterprise of Mr. Burke & Mr. Hare—the two artists described an exciting and fruitful meeting of the minds that has grown into a partnership in the truest sense of the word. “We just have a lot of fun working together,” said Grant. “I’ve never really felt that it was work.” Based on true events, The Nefarious, Immoral but Highly Proﬁtable Enterprise of Mr. Burke & Mr. Hare—often referred to as Burke & Hare for short—is set in the bustling and ﬁerce world of Edinburgh, Scotland, 1828. Anatomy dissections at the school of the renowned Dr. Robert Knox were popular—but fresh bodies were scarce. The opera follows the gruesome tale of two working-class men who discovered they could turn a pretty penny through murder, and of the “good” doctor who looked the other way. All told, Burke and Hare smothered more than a dozen victims, selling the bodies to Dr. Knox’s school, before they were caught and tried, in a case that riveted the United Kingdom.
Conductor David Angus with Julian Grant and Mark Campbell in New York City.
Grant and Campbell were brought together in 2012 by Diane Wondisford at Music-Theatre Group in Brooklyn, NY, which commissioned and developed Burke & Hare. Wondisford was working to get the rights to an unproduced Dylan Thomas screenplay on the subject, which was later adapted by Sir Ronald Harwood and released in 1985 as The Doctor and the Devils. Campbell agreed to work on spec for the project, and, when the screenplay rights weren’t obtained, he and Grant decided to continue working on the opera regardless and create an original libretto. “The early meetings that Julian and I had discussing this subject were some of the most fruitful, exciting meetings I’ve ever had,” Campbell remembered. “… I can’t even really properly credit either of us with all of the storytelling ideas; the collaboration was that ﬂuid.” After their initial meeting, Campbell spent time at the Hermitage, an artists’ retreat in Florida, and penned the ﬁrst draft of the libretto. With that in hand, Grant began asking questions. “He was really BOSTON LYRIC OPERA CODA FALL 2017 | 5
terriﬁc at narrowing in on a few issues in the ﬁrst draft, helping me understand what was missing and what could be corrected,” remembered Campbell. Their back-and-forth reﬁned the events and direction of the opera, and Grant began setting the text to music. The story is dark but compelling: When William Hare’s lodger dies of illness, leaving his rent unpaid, Hare turns to his friend William Burke for advice. The two men decide to sell the dead man’s body to Dr. Knox’s school of anatomy, netting a tidy proﬁt. With the gleeful encouragement of their wives, the pair turn next to murder, targeting mainly the poor and itinerant. Dr. Ferguson, assistant to Dr. Knox, suspects wrongdoing, but Dr. Knox coerces his silence. Grant and Campbell saw quickly that the story needed more balance, and so they introduced several of the victims into the narrative of the opera. The victims sing their own stories, comment on the action, and provide emotional resonance to the piece. Grant and Campbell are both committed to a theatrical vision of Burke & Hare that walks the line between the dark and the vaudevillian, the macabre and the entertaining. “It’s a very serious piece, but it’s also very ﬂippant and silly at the same time in places,” said Grant. The opera had a workshop in December, 2016, in New York City at Music-Theatre Group; recalling it, Campbell noted, “What I felt succeeded most in terms of the text are lines that are brutally funny and kind of cruel. And what I thought succeeded most in the music is its incredible intensity and theatricality.” Grant spoke during the call of his inspirations and style, noting that, as a composer, he strives for clarity and craftsmanship. “One of my great heroes, and I don’t speak a word of Czech, is the composer Janáček, who takes speech rhythms from the Czech language and puts them into the music, so that they’re the basis of all,” said Grant. “I don’t think I do that to the same extent … but the idea is to get some of Mark’s great lines and zingers to ping through. Because there are a lot of punch lines—either ha-ha, funny punch lines or some rather devastatingly horrible punch lines. And the music attempts to heighten those. … The great thing about opera—and I think probably more in opera than you get in
Conductor David Angus leads the company of a December 2016 workshop of Burke & Hare in New York City; Grant, sitting left, looks on alongside Campbell, creative team members, and representatives from Music-Theatre Group.
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music theatre—is that the words and the drama can say one thing and the music can very subtly undermine it, in the best way. So you can reveal a lot about a character who is saying one thing, and the music is telling you he’s meaning another. And there’s an awful lot of that double-edged quality in the scenario and the actual verbiage that Mark writes. It’s a gift, really.” Burke & Hare was performed in selections in January 2017 at the OPERA America New Works Showcase, giving the team another opportunity to see it on its feet; that performance was repeated with a Boston cast at the Boston Center for the Arts in February for a small group of donors and supporters with Grant present, as well as David Schweizer, stage director. “I really rely on David for astute dramaturgical advice,” said Campbell. A longtime opera director with several BLO credits—The Love Potion (2014), Macbeth (2011), The Emperor of Atlantis, or Death Quits (2011)—Schweizer offers musical and dramaturgical insight, listening intently to provide his view of what will work best dramatically. David Angus, conductor of the World Premiere production and BLO Music Director, was also present and has become instrumental in giving feedback and input to the creators. With the World Premiere approaching, Grant and Campbell are busy with a few rewrites, tightening up some sections, ratcheting up the drama in others, and enjoying these last few months working together closely. This partnership has had special resonance for both. “It’s been a really powerful collaboration because, ﬁrst of all, I trust [Grant’s] judgement, I trust his knowledge of drama, and I trust him as an artist,” said Campbell. “Mark is a born librettist,” returned Grant. “… I’ve actually never worked with a librettist that I’ve been this happy with before.” With Burke & Hare, both men agree that they want audiences to be swept into the story, left without much time to think or react—like a “roller coaster ride,” in Grant’s words. Only after you disembark, when the ﬁnal note has been sung, can your ringing mind begin to process what it all means. Audiences will get the chance to board— for the ﬁrst time—this November.
Learn more about Burke & Hare, see sneak peek videos and photos, and read about BLO’s New Works initiative at: BLO.org/new-works.
WHO’S WHO JESSE BLUMBERG AS WILLIAM BURKE CRAIG COLCLOUGH AS WILLIAM HARE Conducted by David Angus and directed by David Schweizer. Scenic Design by Caleb Wertenbaker, Costume Design by Nancy Leary, and Lighting Design by Robert Wierzel.
Get to Know Burke & Hare in 5 Minutes or Less THE NEFARIOUS, IMMORAL BUT HIGHLY PROFITABLE ENTERPRISE OF MR. BURKE & MR. HARE NOVEMBER 8 – 12 Music by Julian Grant Libretto by Mark Campbell A World Premiere commissioned by Music-Theatre Group with additional support from BLO Sung in English, with English surtitles Length: Approximately 90 minutes, with no intermission SUPER-SHORT SYNOPSIS Edinburgh, Scotland, 1828. The city’s world-renowned schools of anatomy face a shortage of cadavers. William Hare and William Burke ﬁnd Donald’s corpse at the boardinghouse they run. They sell the corpse to Dr. Knox’s surgery school. Burke and Hare celebrate their proﬁt with Helen and Margaret at the pub. Hare convinces Burke to take their enterprise to the next level and suggests murdering Abigail Simpson, a drunk at the pub. Elsewhere in the pub, Dr. Ferguson, Knox’s assistant, has a romantic exchange with Mary Paterson, a young prostitute he has been seeing. Abigail’s body is sold to Knox’s school. The killings escalate, bringing success to the school and prosperity to Burke, Hare, Helen and Margaret. Ferguson is troubled to ﬁnd the corpse of well-known street person Daft Jamie delivered to the school. Not until he ﬁnds Mary Paterson’s body does he denounce Burke and Hare’s methods. Dr. Knox coerces his continued complicity. Back at the pub, Burke struggles with his conscience while Hare urges unity. Hare drinks with Madge Docherty in the pub, offering to help ﬁnd her lost son. She is murdered but prospective lodgers at the boardinghouse see her corpse. At the school, a constable questions Knox, who compels Ferguson to deny any knowledge of the crimes. Victims and perpetrators alike gather to recount the aftermath of the killing spree.
A DARK HISTORY Grave-digging was a lucrative business in the early 19th century; resurrectionists, as they were known, would dig up recently-interred bodies and sell the corpses to anatomy schools for cadaver research. With few other legal options to obtain subjects, the medical profession found itself complicit in the crimes. The tale of William Burke and William Hare captured the attention and horror of the entire United Kingdom. Their highly publicized trials resulted in Burke’s execution by public hanging, reportedly attended by 25,000 people. Learn more about the history behind the opera on page 13. THE BLO PRODUCTION As Burke & Hare is a World Premiere, BLO has been working with some of the leading artists and creators in opera today to bring it to the stage. Composer Julian Grant has penned more than 18 operas, including works for English National Opera, the Royal Opera and others. Mark Campbell’s work as a librettist is at the forefront of the current contemporary opera scene in this country. He has written more than 16 librettos, the most known of them being Silent Night, which received the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Music. Music-Theatre Group, which commissioned the work and ﬁrst brought Grant and Campbell together, is a non-proﬁt organization dedicated to helping artists turn creative inspiration into dramatically compelling music-theatre works. Burke & Hare features Jesse Blumberg and Craig Colclough as the title characters, as well as the exciting BLO debut of American tenor William Burden as Dr. Knox, and a cameo from internationally-acclaimed Marie McLaughlin as Abigail Simpson. DID YOU KNOW? The story of Burke and Hare became so widespread during the 19th century that it even spawned a nursery rhyme in Edinburgh: Up the close and doon the stair, But and ben’ wi’ Burke and Hare. Burke’s the butcher, Hare’s the thief, Knox the boy that buys the beef. Listen carefully—it comes up at a crucial moment in the opera. Burke & Hare by George Andrew Lutenor, a portrait painter and juror at Hare’s trial. BOSTON LYRIC OPERA CODA FALL 2017 | 7
COLLAGE: DETAIL, TOSCA POSTER BY ADOLFO HOHENSTEIN, 1899; DETAIL, JENNY LIND BY EDUARD MAGNUS, 1862
WALKED INTO A BAR… A DELIGHTFUL, PLAYFUL IMAGINED ENCOUNTER FROM THE MIND OF JOHN CONKLIN, BLO ARTISTIC ADVISOR
ecently we had the pleasure of sitting down in the cocktail lounge of the Four Seasons Hotel for a brief chat with two internationally known singer-artists (no, not “divas” … see their comments below), both appearing in Boston this Season: Floria Tosca, a soprano poised for superstardom and making her American debut with Boston Lyric Opera at the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre; and Jenny Lind, the “Swedish Nightingale,” the most beloved soprano of the 19th century, returning in a ﬁnal concert appearance at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Over a modest libation … Ms. Tosca sipped a prosecco, Ms. Lind a Perrier (with lime) … they spoke with surprising candor about their illustrious careers and their deﬁnite views about their roles in the performing arts world. CODA: A gracious and even slightly awestruck welcome to you both. And I hope I may presume on our city’s reputation for elegant informality to address you as “Jenny” and “Floria.” FLORIA TOSCA: Of course.
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JENNY LIND: Boston has always been so welcoming, and it is wonderful to be back here. CODA: Thank you both. Floria, your pathway to international stardom was a most unusual one. You were discovered by the famous composer Domenico Cimarosa. FT: True. I had been taken in by a religious order in the remote hills of Ancona where, if you can believe it, as an orphan I had led the desperate, almost outcast, life of a sheep herder. I was taught music by the convent organist and, by a lucky chance, Cimarosa heard me sing. He wanted me to leave the protection of the church and sing on the stage, but the convent was set against it, and he had to appeal to the Pope. His Holiness sided with Cimarosa, saying that my “beautiful singing was also a way of praying to God.” CODA: So you studied for a time in Parma and made your successful debut there … La Scala, Paris, Covent Garden followed in due course. And now, your American debut in Boston.
FT: An honor. CODA: And you, Jenny, had an equally surprising route to your present prestige. You entered the Royal Theater School in Stockholm at the age of only nine! JL: The youngest ever. I started as an actor and dancer … I made my debut in opera at 19. CODA: And two years later, you were appointed court singer and made a member of the Swedish Academy. JL: But it was too much, too soon. And here, if I may, I give to your readers who are seeking a career in singing a word of sincere warning. I wore out my voice, and in desperation went to Paris to seek help from Manuel García. CODA: … The famous singer and teacher—and father to two equally famous daughters, Maria Malibran and Pauline Viradot. JL: Exactly. He made me stop singing entirely for two months and then completely retrained my voice from the ground up. Thankfully, I was able to return to Stockholm. CODA: … And to achieve a stupendous success. The rest is, as it were, history. Paris … Berlin … Your reception in London was phenomenal. The opening night audience included Queen Victoria and Felix Mendelssohn. JL: Such a lovely lady and so unassuming … she was nearly as short as I. And Mendelssohn subsequently became a close friend. CODA: And then came America and Mr. P. T. Barnum. JL: Ah yes … In his more genially autocratic moods he reminded of Giuseppe Verdi. CODA: With whom you worked on the world premiere of I Masnadieri. JL: He wrote the part of Amelia for me, and conducted the premiere in London. CODA: And said you were, “A marvelous artist in every sense of the word.” But back to Barnum. He became your manager for your unprecedentedly successful tour of the Americas, but eventually you broke off and toured on your own. JL: I felt he saw me not as an artist but as a kind of exotic performing animal in a side show. CODA: Now that you are both at the peak of your careers, what lies ahead? FT: After Boston, I return to Rome for a gala concert and ball at the Palazzo Farnese. CODA: Sounds very elegant. And beyond that?
FT: My agent is in discussion with the Metropolitan Opera about my debut there in a new piece by my esteemed colleague Giacomo Puccini. It is all very conﬁdential at the moment, but I can say the piece is about a famous operatic diva, so … CODA: …a natural ﬁt. And you, Jenny? JL: I am hoping to persuade my good friend Mendelssohn to write an opera for me. He is quite intrigued at the idea and we are considering a piece based on the story “The Emperor’s Nightingale,” written for me by Hans Christian Andersen. CODA: Floria, you were recently in the news as having suffered a severe, even life-threatening fall … are you OK? FT: It was a very frightening experience. I was touring the Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome, doing some research for an opera set in that location. On the parapets I stumbled very near the edge and the sheer drop to the Tiber below. A policeman who was accompanying my party grabbed me at the very last second … CODA: … And very thankfully, you have fully recovered to sing another day. And now to continue, if I may, on an even more personal note … Floria … FT: Do not believe everything you read on those nasty opera blogs! CODA: Your name has been linked with up-and-coming painter Mario Cavaradossi. Any comment? FT: Mario is a very talented artist and a good friend. CODA: He also has a bit of a reputation as a political activist. Do you share any of this side of his personality? FT: I try very hard to stay away from political involvement and focus on my singing. But as you know, Italy is currently undergoing a very serious crisis, with police brutality and repressive activity on all sides, and I do believe there is a time and place for artists to speak out … and act if necessary. CODA: You are both well-known for your religious beliefs and charitable work—somewhat surprising, perhaps, in this cynical age, with its emphasis on media presence, tabloid fame, and success at any cost. JL: I hate the word “diva,” with its overtones of selﬁshness, arrogance and triviality to describe our personas … we are workers and artists. FT: Brava! Do you know the famous Italian saying, “Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore?” “I live for Art, I live for Love”? Perhaps this shall be my credo. JL: Brava … and perhaps mine also. CODA: Thanks to you both.
John Conklin explores the relationship and artistry of Jenny Lind, P.T. Barnum, and Walt Whitman, three icons of 19TH century America, in a unique MFA Signature Series event this winter. Stay tuned at BLO.org for announcements and ticket information! BOSTON LYRIC OPERA CODA FALL 2017 | 9
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THE VISUAL WORLD OF TOSCA TOSCA OCT 13 – 22 | 2017 Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre A co-production between BLO and Opera Omaha
A good production of Tosca is a fast-paced, plot-driven adrenaline rush for the audience. From the ﬁrst moment to its ﬁnal, shocking ending, Puccini creates a world of escalating tension and twists that grabs the listener and refuses to relent.
Tosca is set during a very speciﬁc moment in Italian history, amidst the Napoleonic Wars and the ensuing power struggle for control of Rome. This fall’s new Tosca, a co-production between BLO and Opera Omaha, will create a fantastic, historically-informed visual world for the story’s central confrontation between Tosca, the diva who lives for love and art; Cavaradossi, the sensitive painter who deﬁes a monarchy; and Scarpia, the lustful police chief who wields power and violence at will. Take a sneak peek here at the lush, period costumes designed by Deborah Newhall and imaginative, atmospheric set designs by Julia Noulin-Mérat before Tosca premieres!
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Dr. Robert Knox (1791–1862), Scottish surgeon, anatomist and zoologist, published in A Sketch of the Life and Writings of Robert Knox the Anatomist, 1870. Surgical instruments used for amputations and operations, 1841. Notes and sketches by Dr. Thomas Graham taken during a lecture by John Scott Russell on Natural Philosophy on December 8, 1834 in Edinburgh.
Designer Caleb Wertenbaker’s set model for Burke & Hare, evoking the shape and design of an anatomy theatre.
n 1828, Edinburgh was a bustling, prosperous city. It swelled during the harvest, with scores of immigrants and laborers arriving in search of seasonal employment and housing. Old Town’s winding cobblestone streets were thickly lined with open markets and bustling with the noises of industrial activity coming from paper mills, tanneries, and saltworks. The working class and poor clustered into tenement buildings and rented out any extra space for cash to travelers and itinerant workers. Meanwhile, the city’s New Town, designed and built in the 18th century, boasted gleaming, ordered streets, stately Georgian homes, and lives of comfort and wealth for the city’s well-to-do.
ON RARY, LOND LLCOME LIB INSETS: WE
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Edinburgh also boasted a relatively new industry that was experiencing a boom of success, money and renown—its schools of anatomy were thriving. As the ﬁeld of medicine became increasingly modernized and professionalized throughout the 1700s, hundreds of would-be doctors, surgeons, and anatomists ﬂocked to the University of Edinburgh’s courses, which for three generations were led by the anatomists of the Munro family, a professorship passed from father to son, to his son. But while the ﬁrst and second Munros were brilliant scientists, the third Alexander Munro was lackluster and entitled. The majority of the University’s enrolled students, hundreds each year, simply did not attend his lectures and instead fulﬁlled their credits through private anatomy courses. Competition among these private providers was intense, with no fewer than six schools in operation in the 1820s in the area of the city known as Surgeons’ Square. One such school was run by Dr. Robert Knox, a brash and ambitious anatomist who had begun his career in the military hospitals of the Napoleonic Wars and in South Africa. Knox returned to Edinburgh in 1822 and, by 1826, was the charismatic and ambitious leader of a thriving school that took on more students than his competitors combined and boasted three assistants, including Dr. William Ferguson.
THE HISTORICAL CORE OF BURKE & HARE BY LACEY UPTON
Knox, like the other anatomists and lecturers of his day, needed a constant supply of cadavers for purposes of demonstration and practice for his students. Carefully preserved and methodically dissected throughout the course of a three-month class, one cadaver could serve as the subject of a full week of study. Knox’s style was showy and entertaining; he dressed at the height of fashion and strove to make his lectures engaging and surprising. Dissecting theaters were circular, with steeply raked seating all around, enabling viewers to see the central subject—the cadaver, brought back to life (so to speak) in vivid detail by the ﬂamboyant Dr. Knox. With so many schools operating in stiff competition, demand for fresh bodies was intense. There were few legal avenues for obtaining subjects; Scottish law permitted only the bodies of those who had died in prison, committed suicide, or orphans be used for medical research, a limited supply. The practice of grave-digging arose in response, aided by a complicated legal situation: as corpses were not considered anyone’s property, it was technically not illegal to sell a corpse. It was, however, illegal to disturb a gravesite or to steal property from the deceased. By the 1820s, graveyards often sported watchtowers, where guards could keep an eye out for illegal activity, and some families who had the additional funds opted to use a mortsafe, an iron cage that protected an interred coffin. Grave-diggers, also known as resurrectionists, most often found success by robbing the graves of the poor, as they were less likely to be guarded or protected. The medical profession, in its quest for knowledge and success, found itself complicit—and sometimes an eager partner—in these illicit activities. In this atmosphere of mounting greed and increasing oversight of graveyards, in November of 1827, William Burke and William Hare discovered the body of Hare’s lodger, Donald. Donald, an older man, was a retired soldier who had been ill and apparently died of
natural causes. As corpses were no one’s property, selling his body to the school of Dr. Knox was not a crime. But what happened next undoubtedly was. Burke and Hare were laborers, both immigrants to Scotland from Ireland, who lived near one another in the tenements of Tanner’s Close, a section of Old Town, and had struck up a friendship. After netting £7.10s for Donald’s body, the pair graduated next to murder. While their own accounts of the crimes differ in sequence and the historical record is unclear, Burke and Hare murdered no fewer than sixteen people over the course of about ten months—three men, twelve women, and one child—before they were apprehended in November of 1828. The details of their crimes are dark and grim; they targeted mainly transient, poorer members of the lower class with whom Burke and Hare interacted and considered less likely to be missed. They suffocated their victims and sold the bodies to Dr. Knox’s anatomy school. The term burking became synonymous in Edinburgh with murder by suffocation or to commit an anatomy murder. The story of Burke and Hare quickly caught on in the popular press, and Knox was viliﬁed for his role in the murders. Though Burke’s statement to the police officially declared that Knox never encouraged or had knowledge of the murders, there were many who believed that the doctor was, at best, negligent, and at worst, the mastermind behind the crimes. Editorials demanded that he be tried; a crowd burned him in effigy outside his home. He was gradually excluded from the University and left Edinburgh in 1842; his notoriety never completely faded, though he continued to travel and lecture for the remainder of his life. He maintained a medical practice in London until his death in 1862. Several other anatomy murders helped garner public support for reform, including the “London Burkers,” who murdered three people in 1831. The Anatomy Act of 1832 regulated the practice BOSTON LYRIC OPERA CODA FALL 2017 | 13
Idealized etching of Burke murdering Margaret Docherty (also known as Margery Campbell) by Robert Seymour, 1828. Graveyard watchtower, built in Dalkeith, Scotland, in 1827.
THE TERM BURKING BECAME SYNONYMOUS IN EDINBURGH WITH MURDER BY SUFFOCATION OR TO COMMIT AN ANATOMY MURDER. of anatomy, requiring licensed positions that oversaw all bodies being dissected at a particular school or location, and allowed doctors and anatomists greater ability to access unclaimed bodies, especially at prisons and work houses, while still allowing the general populace to donate loved ones’ remains for the purposes of medical research. With a greater supply and increased scrutiny, cases of anatomy murders and the practice of grave-robbing faded away. But while the case of Burke and Hare is a product of this speciﬁc historical moment—the quirks of the legal situation in early 19th-century United Kingdom, the transient urban population of Edinburgh and small police force, the unusual demand for cadavers brought about by a boom in medical research and potential proﬁts—in their opera, composer Julian Grant and librettist Mark Campbell tease out questions of morality and meaning that extend to the present day: How much is a life worth? And who is empowered to decide? For Burke and Hare, workingclass and struggling to get by, right and wrong have little bearing on the practicalities of life. It is Hare who ﬁrst thinks up the money-making scheme, surveying the drunks and drifters at their local pub with an appraiser’s eye. “Immoral?” Hare scoffs when Burke objects. “We’re only putting one foot / Where the other already is: / In the grave.” Cadavers mean food on the table, ﬁne drink, a better life; it doesn’t much matter who they are. But Burke can’t shake his conscience when he catches glimpses of their humanity—the young beggar who struggles, the mother who calls out for her son as she takes her last breath. Meanwhile, Dr. Knox is the embodiment of a medical establishment singularly focused on the pursuit of knowledge— at any human cost. “Knowledge is the wing wherewith we ﬂy to heaven,” he sings, quoting Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part II. 14 | BOSTON LYRIC OPERA CODA FALL 2017
“We must pursue knowledge. Above all.” When his assistant Dr. Ferguson voices alarm about the bodies’ provenance, Knox dismisses the concerns. “We require cadavers,” he tells Ferguson. “These men supply cadavers. What more do we need to know?” For Knox, their research serves the greater good and supersedes all. Proﬁt, status and success are also at play; when Ferguson threatens to resign, Knox uses his reputation as leverage. “Think— think!—of your career, / All that you could lose, / All that you have worked so hard for,” he sings. Faced with the prospect of social and ﬁnancial ruin, Ferguson remains silent. Much like in life, justice was elusive and incomplete. Hare turned on his associate, receiving immunity for a full confession; his wife, Margaret, also avoided prosecution as part of the deal. Hare was eventually released and left Edinburgh for the city of Dumfries, but was recognized on the journey; when he arrived, an angry mob had gathered and he was driven from town and not seen again. Burke and his lover, Helen McDougal, were tried for the murder of Madge Docherty, the ﬁnal victim. Burke was sentenced to hang, but McDougal’s verdict came back not proven. After her release, she too was pursued by a mob and ﬂed Edinburgh; the remainder of her life is lost to historical record. Burke made a full confession after his sentence, placing much of the blame for the murders on Hare, and was hanged in early 1829 before a crowd of 25,000. In a dark twist of justice, his body was dissected by Dr. Munro (the third) at the University of Edinburgh; his skeleton remains on display at the Anatomical Museum of the Edinburgh Medical School, while his death mask and a book bound using his skin are on view at Surgeons’ Hall Museum. In the end, Hare paid with his freedom; Knox with his career; Burke with his life. The victims netted about ten pounds each.
THE NEFARIOUS, IMMORAL BUT HIGHLY PROFITABLE ENTERPRISE OF
FRIDAY NOVEMBER 10 WE INVITE YOU TO JOIN US FOR A REMARKABLE EVENING PRE-PERFORMANCE Cocktails | 5:30pm WORLD PREMIERE Gala Performance of Grant & Campbellâ€™s Burke & Hare | 7:00pm The Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street GALA DINNER | 8:30pm The Benjamin Franklin Institute for Technology, 41 Berkeley Street Dress to kill.
FOR SPONSORSHIPS OR FOR QUESTIONS Please contact Erin Coffey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617.702.8975.
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NAPOLEON COMPLEX THE POLITICS OF TOSCA By Harlow Robinson
The Battle of Marengo, as painted by Louis-François Lejeune (1802); The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries by Jacques-Louis David, 1812; Giacomo Puccini in a studio photograph.
“The less she knows the better.”
he, of course, is Tosca. As her lover Cavaradossi knows all too well, Tosca, the temperamental diva-heroine of Puccini’s passionate tale of political idealism and corruption, is not a political animal. Guileless and consumed by her art, she is too innocent and trusting to keep the secrets revolutionaries must keep. Cavaradossi makes this comment at the beginning of Act I to his fellow conspirator, the rebel Angelotti, on the run from the Roman police force. Cavaradossi fears if they share with the wellmeaning chatterbox Tosca the details of their plotting against the tyrannical regime recently installed in Rome, she will inadvertently expose their plans and endanger their lives. In the end, of course, Tosca does come to learn what her artistactivist boyfriend is up to. And even though she does not really share Cavaradossi’s political views, she aids and abets him out of love. But what exactly are Cavaradossi’s politics? Lovers of Tosca— sometimes affectionately referred to as “Toscaholics”—can be forgiven for not thinking too much about politics or history when they listen to Puccini’s lush, seductive music. We are carried away
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by the sheer beauty of the vocal and instrumental writing, by the vibrant characters (Tosca, Cavaradossi and the evil police chief Scarpia) at the drama’s center, and the universal story of art, jealousy and selﬂess love. For Puccini, too, and for his librettists Guiseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica, historical detail was clearly secondary to the musical setting—as it should be in an opera. In adapting Victorien Sardou’s 1887 play La Tosca, they eliminated most of the background material on the confusing political situation in Rome in June, 1800. Puccini and his librettists seemed to feel, like Cavaradossi, that the less the audience knows about such matters, the better. In the words of that immortal ballad: Don’t know much about history. But if we look more deeply into the ideological and political motivations of the major characters, Tosca can make even more sense. Sardou set his play in a very speciﬁc time and place: June 17, 1800, in Rome. (Puccini and his librettists eliminated the exact date but kept the month.) Why? Because just a few days before, on June 14, 1800, Napoleon had unexpectedly defeated the Austrian armies commanded by Michael von Melas at the famous Battle of Marengo. This brought to an end (at least for a while) a turbulent period in Roman history, marked by frequent changes Photos by Alistair Muir for English National Opera.
of regime between the Republicans (those inspired by Napoleon, and seeking greater democracy and self-determination) and the Royalists. What united the Royalists was a ﬁerce hatred of Napoleon and loyalty to the Bourbon monarchy, based in Naples. The Bourbon King Ferdinand IV of Naples and his wife, Queen Maria Carolina of Austria, viewed with horror the aftermath of the French Revolution, and especially the execution of Maria Carolina’s Hapsburg sister, Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI. In Naples, the Bourbons pursued a xenophobic and Francophobic policy. Those with sympathies for the French Revolution and Napoleon were branded as “Jacobins” or even “Voltaireans” (followers of the philosopher Voltaire, anti-aristocratic advocate of free speech and equal rights). In Act I of Puccini’s Tosca, Scarpia exclaims with disgust that Cavaradossi is “Un uom sospetto! Un volterian!” “A man under suspicion! A Voltairean!” In September, 1799, Bourbon troops supported by the Catholic Church entered Rome and established a police state. No shrinking violet, the ambitious Maria Carolina launched a purge of republicans, liberals and anyone else who had compromised themselves during the preceding brief period of French rule. Rome, wrote the eyewitness Francesco Lomonaco, became “a theater of horrors and desolation.”
Scarpia, a thuggish Sicilian, has come to Rome to supervise the capture, torture and execution of those opposed to Bourbon rule. These include Cavaradossi and Angelotti. As musicologist Deborah Burton has shown, these characters were based on real historical personages, as was the character of the opera singer Tosca. When Cavaradossi ﬁrst sees Angelotti hiding in the Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle in Act I, he sings: “Angelotti! The governor of the overthrown Roman Republic.” This is the only cryptic clue we get in the opera concerning Angelotti’s identity as the leader of the former anti-Bourbon regime—which explains why Scarpia, the sadistic enforcer of Bourbon control, is so intent on capturing and punishing both him and Cavaradossi. Given his strong political commitment, Cavaradossi might have chosen a more suitable comrade than Tosca. In her show-stopping Act II aria, “Vissi d’arte” (“I have lived for art”), she proclaims the supremacy of art, its ability to console “those who are poor and unhappy,” and her abiding faith in God—a faith the anti-clerical Cavaradossi utterly rejects. What shallow political convictions Tosca does hold incline, at least at ﬁrst, towards support of the Bourbons. She admires the pomp and circumstance of life at their court—not to mention their lavish support of the arts. In CONTINUED ON PAGE 20. BOSTON LYRIC OPERA CODA FALL 2017 | 17
VERONICA BROWN, PRIMA MEMBER & CHAMPION FOR OPERA BY SARA O’BRIEN
eronica Brown’s enthusiasm for opera is unmistakable. When she reminisces on her past opera experiences, her face lights up, whether its Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro or Janáček’s Kátya Kabanová. From Wagner’s bombast to Mimì and Rodolfo’s transcendent love duet, Brown’s memories of each operatic experience remain remarkably present, infused with her passion and joy for the music. Brown is currently a member of PRIMA, BLO’s social group for young arts lovers, where she joins other young professionals in the greater Boston area who are interested in supporting the arts community and who want to explore it with others. Through parties, mixers, and special “behind the scenes” access to BLO’s operas, PRIMA members enjoy exclusive social gatherings, insider-access to BLO’s productions and the chance to meet and greet BLO cast members through special PRIMA rates for Opening Night celebrations. An eager supporter of the arts, Brown’s love for music and the stage began at an early age. A native of Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood, Brown grew up the daughter of a Boston Public School teacher who organized family outings to musicals and the ballet. Brown’s ﬁrst operatic experience came when her brother sang in the children’s chorus of Boston Lyric Opera’s production of The Little Prince in 2005. However, it wasn’t until 2011 that she visited the opera again for BLO’s Cold War-era production of Verdi’s Macbeth. Inspired to buy a ticket after driving past the Shubert Theatre marquee, Brown purchased a seat in the last row of the theater with no idea what to expect. As a ﬂuent speaker of Italian, she was drawn to the language and found herself completely transﬁxed by the action on stage and drama of the music, particularly Lady Macbeth’s haunting end.
Veronica shows off her ﬁrst two BLO tickets—The Little Prince (2005) and Macbeth (2011).
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Since then, Brown has become an avid opera attendee and theatergoer, frequently attending shows in and around Boston. In addition to BLO, she often attends shows at ArtsEmerson and The Lyric Stage Company of Boston, while also taking advantage of Boston’s thriving opera scene beyond BLO, including Boston Opera Collaborative. She doesn’t watch much television: in fact, she laughs, “People don’t ask me what I’m binge-watching on Netﬂix; they ask me what show I am going to see this week.”
“PEOPLE DON’T ASK ME WHAT I’M BINGE-WATCHING ON NETFLIX; THEY ASK ME WHAT SHOW I AM GOING TO SEE THIS WEEK.” - VERONICA BROWN
Veronica smiles with friend Suely Oechsli at a recent BLO PRIMA event.
Brown has become a heartfelt cheerleader for the opera in particular. While she has no music training herself, she speaks energetically about the power of opera to speak to the plight of mankind, tapping into the depth of human emotions and feeding the soul through its artistry and power. She refers to opera as the “culmination of so many art forms,” an exhilarating combination of drama, athleticism and virtuosity. She names one of her favorite operatic moments as a scene in Verdi’s Rigoletto, when Gilda, as she is dying, sings “this ethereal yet powerful” aria even as she lies prone. Brown also advocates strongly for opera in her community. She often brings colleagues and friends, many of whom are ﬁrst-time operagoers, to opera productions. She maintains that opera is accessible, not elite, with universal themes that resonate on many levels, from the horrors of mass tragedy to the nuance of intimate relationships. Through Brown’s invitation and enthusiasm, many of her guests have since become opera fans themselves. One of the ways in which Brown promotes opera is through her involvement in PRIMA where she has found not only community but camaraderie with fellow opera lovers. She is eager to expose younger generations to opera, and almost never misses an opportunity to meet up with fellow PRIMA operagoers. Through PRIMA, Brown has not only made new friends but also found an outlet for her desire to learn more about all the ins and outs of opera. Whenever possible, Brown tries to attend BLO presentations at Boston Public Library and other community venues to learn whatever she can about what’s coming next on stage.
For this coming Season, Brown is excited to join PRIMA’s After Party committee for BLO’s 2017 Opera Gala. This committee is hosting a special party following the Gala performance of The Nefarious, Immoral But Highly Proﬁtable Enterprise of Mr. Burke & Mr. Hare on Friday, November 10. Having attended many arts-hosted parties throughout Boston, Brown is looking forward to shaping the experience for her own generation, giving young operagoers a chance to both see an opera and dance the night away. When she’s not seeing a show, Brown spends her days working in accounting at Tyler Lynch, PC in Cambridge, MA, where Brown, a vegan, is known for bringing healthy treats to share with coworkers during the long tax season. She also enjoys exercise of all kinds—from spinning to barre, boxing to running—Brown makes time each morning to get up and out the door for whatever type of exercise strikes her mood that day. She savors cooking and spends time making most of her own food from scratch, including her own ﬂax milk. Brown likes to muse that perhaps one day she’ll start her own smoothie delivery business, using the freshest ingredients for both vegans and non-vegans alike. While Brown hesitates to name a favorite opera, she admits she has a fondness for the classics, such as The Marriage of Figaro and Rossini’s La Cenerentola, beloved for their grand scale and memorable melodies. She also names Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking as the ﬁrst “modern” opera that truly resonated with her. However, when pressed, Brown admits that Puccini’s La Bohème tugs at her heart strings just a bit more than the rest, having taught her the valuable lesson to always bring a hanky to every opera. BOSTON LYRIC OPERA CODA FALL 2017 | 19
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 17.
Act II Tosca performs in a Te Deum sung for the Queen and her royalist supporters, who are—prematurely, as it turns out—celebrating the Austrian victory at Marengo, ﬁrst (falsely) announced by the Sacristan in Act I. Yes, Tosca does undergo something of a transformation, becoming more serious and aware, embracing Cavaradossi’s cause as she understands Pope Pius VII by how ruthless and evil are the Jacques-Louis David, 1805. enforcers of Bourbon power. Indeed, in the Soviet Union in the 1920s, when the new socialist government was seeking to add political relevance to the classics, Tosca was shown attaining the stature of a revolutionary heroine in a revisionist production retitled as The Battle for the Commune. The opera’s personal, political and military story lines converge brilliantly in the panoramic action of Act II, set at Scarpia’s lair in the Palazzo Farnese. Offstage, we hear Tosca and a chorus performing the Te Deum. During the ensuing conversation between Tosca and Scarpia, we hear the anguished cries of Cavaradossi being tortured—also offstage. Just after Cavaradossi is brought in to confront the distraught Tosca, word arrives from Marengo that in fact Napoleon has defeated the Austrians (who support the Bourbon cause). The news inspires Cavaradossi to an outburst of song, ﬁrst rising to a high A-sharp on the words “Vittoria! Vittoria!” (“Victory! Victory!”) and then proceeding to an impassioned denunciation of tyranny. Tosca does not join her lover in the revolutionary sentiment; in fact she tries to silence him. And, in her following “Vissi d’arte” aria, she begs Scarpia for mercy, saying in effect, “What did I do to deserve this?” What makes the Act III dénouement (Cavaradossi’s execution and Tosca’s suicide) even more tragic is the audience’s knowledge that with Napoleon’s victory at Marengo, the Bourbon reign of terror in Rome is about to end. But in history, things did not turn out the way Cavaradossi had hoped. In the settlement following his victory at Marengo (which also gave us the tasty dish Chicken Marengo), the ever-shifting Napoleon preferred to make an agreement with the Spanish monarchy that ensured the survival of both the Bourbons in Naples and of the Pope in Rome. In July 1800, the new Pope (Pius VII) entered Rome as head of the Vatican State. Maybe it was just as well that Cavaradossi and Tosca were not there to see it. 20 | BOSTON LYRIC OPERA CODA FALL 2017
FALL CODA CONTRIBUTORS Y John Conklin (page 8) is an internationally-recognized set designer and dramaturg. He has designed sets on and off -Broadway, at the Kennedy Center and for opera companies around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Bastille Opera in Paris, the Royal Opera and the opera houses of Munich, Amsterdam, and Bologna, among many others. Mr. Conklin is on the faculty of New York University’s Tisch School and has served as the Artistic Advisor to BLO since 2009. Y Laura Stanﬁeld Prichard (page 2) is a Visiting Researcher in Music and Dance History at Harvard University and regular contributor to the Boston Musical Intelligencer. After teaching and performing in San Francisco for ten years, she is now a popular pre-concert speaker and university lecturer in the Boston (principal speaker for Boston Baroque and Berkshire Choral International). She was an Assistant Director for the SF Symphony Chorus under Vance George’s direction, and is a regular speaker/writer for the Chicago Symphony, New World Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, and Merola Program. Y Harlow Robinson (page 16) is an author, lecturer and Matthews Distinguished Professor of History at Northeastern University. His books include Sergei Prokoﬁev: A Biography, Russians in Hollywood, Hollywood’s Russians, and The Last Impresario: The Life, Times and Legacy of Sol Hurok. He is a frequent lecturer and annotator for The Boston Symphony, Metropolitan Opera Guild, Lincoln Center and Aspen Music Festival.
Daniel Sutin—who returns this Season as Scarpia in Tosca—in the title role of BLO’s 2011 production of Verdi’s Macbeth, with Carter Scott as Lady Macbeth.
A LOOK BACK AT BLO’S PAST PRODUCTIONS
BOSTON LYRIC OPERA CODA FALL 2017 | 21
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noun \ co·da \ ‘ko¯-d \ symbol O \ (1) a concluding musical section that is formally distinct from the main structure (2) something that serves to round out, conclude, or summarize and usually has its own interest.
THE NEFARIOUS, IMMORAL BUT HIGHLY PROFITABLE ENTERPRISE OF MUSIC BY GIACOMO PUCCINI LIBRETTO BY LUIGI ILLICA & GIUSEPPE GIACOSA
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MUSIC BY KURT WEILL LIBRETTO BY BERTOLT BRECHT
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MUSIC BY JULIAN GRANT LIBRETTO BY MARK CAMPBELL
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WITH ARIAS & BARCAROLLES MUSIC & LIBRETTO BY LEONARD BERNSTEIN
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Coda | The Magazine of Boston Lyric Opera | www.BLO.org/coda