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▼ Opera for Babies

▼ Audiences Under 50

▼ Christian Van Horn’s First Opera

W IN T E R 2 0 1 9  $5.99


Ellen Reid & Roxie Perkins Leah Coloff Philip Venables Michael McQuilken, Firehorse, & The Few Moments Graham Reynolds & Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol Joseph Keckler Frances Pollock & Tia Price David T. Little & Royce Vavrek Andrea Clearfield, Jean-Claude van Itallie, & Lois Walden Sarah LaBrie


by purchasing a 4-show standard proto Pack for $100 and receive a 20% discount off the regular price! The standard proto Pack includes standard seating options for any 4 prototype performances of your choice as available. Explore the 4-show premium proto Pack and receive discounted premium seats for 4 shows of your choice as available for $240. Individual tickets are now on sale. Visit PROTOT YPEFE STIVAL .ORG

Caroline Shaw + a one night only tribute concert to composer Matt Marks

The premier global festival of opera-theatre and music-theatre in New York City. January 5–13, 2019

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“The best news in opera in New York these days is the prototype Festival...” T H E WA S H I N G T O N P O S T



OFFICERS Timothy O’Leary Washington National Opera

Zizi Mueller Boosey & Hawkes, Ricordi NY


John Nesholm Trustee, Seattle Opera

Frayda B. Lindemann, Ph.D. Trustee, The Metropolitan Opera

Nicole Paiement Opera Parallèle


Bill Palant Étude Arts

Wayne S. Brown Michigan Opera Theatre VICE - CHAI R

Laura Kaminsky

Jane DiRenzo Pigott Trustee, Lyric Opera of Chicago


Yuval Sharon The Industry

Kathryn Smith Madison Opera

Matthew Shilvock San Francisco Opera


Evan J. Hazell Trustee, Calgary Opera TREA S U R E R

Perryn Leech Houston Grand Opera SECR E TA RY

Marc A. Scorca PRES I DE N T/ CE O

BOARD OF DIRECTORS John E. Baumgardner Jr. Sullivan & Cromwell LLP Annie Burridge Austin Opera Ned Canty Opera Memphis Tassio Carvalho American Airlines Rena M. De Sisto Bank of America Larry Desrochers Manitoba Opera David B. Devan Opera Philadelphia Carol E. Domina Trustee, The Metropolitan Opera Michael Egel Des Moines Metro Opera Robert Ellis Trustee, San Francisco Opera, Opera Parallèle Anthony Freud Lyric Opera of Chicago Barbara Glauber Trustee, New England Conservatory Denyce Graves-Montgomery Carol F. Henry Trustee, Los Angeles Opera Carol Lazier Trustee, San Diego Opera Susan G. Marineau Trustee, The Santa Fe Opera

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Fred Cohn

FCohn@operaamerica.org A RT DIRECTION

Made Visible Studio A S S O C I AT E E D I T O R

Nicholas Wise


L. Michelle Smith AT&T Global Marketing Organization


Jill Steinberg Trustee, National Sawdust


Robert Tancer Trustee, Arizona Opera


Ryan Taylor Minnesota Opera John G. Turner Trustee, Houston Grand Opera Dona D. Vaughn Opera Maine, Manhattan School of Music Roger Weitz Opera Omaha Carole Yaley Trustee, Central City Opera EX-OFFICIO MEMBERS James M. Barton Christina Loewen, Opera.ca Nicholas Payne, Opera Europa NATIONAL OPERA CENTER BOARD OF OVERSEERS James M. Barton, CHA I R John E. Baumgardner Jr. Larry Bomback L. Henry Cox III Douglas Cuomo Margee M. Filstrup Jeanne Goffi-Fynn, Ed.D. Jane A. Gross Virginia Lauridsen Karen Kriendler Nelson Frederick W. Peters Jane A. Robinson Anthony Rudel Michael Scimeca, M.D. Jeri Sedlar Thurmond Smithgall Robert Tancer Barbara Augusta Teichert Darren K. Woods

Vincent Covatto

Patricia Kiernan Johnson


Opera America (ISSN – 1062 – 7243) is published in September, December, March and June. Copyright © 2019 by OPERA America. All rights reserved. This publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission. Editorial policy: The views expressed in this publication are those of the various authors for the purpose of encouraging discussion. Unless expressly noted, they do not reflect the formal policy, or necessarily the views, of OPERA America. To contact the editor, e-mail Editor@operaamerica.org. The deadline for advertising submissions is 45 days before publication date. The presence of advertising implies no endorsement of the products or services offered. For advertising rates, visit operaamerica.org/Advertising. OPERA America 330 Seventh Avenue New York, NY 10001 212.796.8620

DEAD MAN WALKING Feb 2, 5, 8, 10, 2019 | Cobb Energy Centre Music Jake heggie Libretto Terrence McNally Based on the novel by Sister Helen Prejean Director Tomer Zvulun Conductor Joseph Mechavich


Jamie Barton Sister Helen Prejean role debut

Michael Mayes Joseph DeRocher

Maria Zifchak Mrs. DeRocher


Kevin Burdette

Jay Hunter Morris

Karen Slack

Wayne Tigges

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LA BOHÈME Giacomo Puccini


COSÌ FAN TUTTE Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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Poul Ruders Becky and David Starobin


WINTER 2019  5

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Charlotte Hoather in BambinO at the Met

of Up in the Mountains, an opera by the Norwegian ensemble Dieserud/ Lindgren designed for children under three years old, an age group that was new territory for the company’s education department. “It made sense because we are here to connect to the entire community,” says Ruth Nott, director of education, “and an opera for babies gave us the opportunity to reach a new part of the population.” Cabaniss’ work with Carnegie’s Lullaby Project, which pairs pregnant women and new parents with artists who write and sing personalized lullabies, gave him the inspiration for OTOYOTOY! “We asked ourselves, ‘Once we’ve written, performed and recorded

a lullaby, how do we then help young moms and dads sustain their musical experience and keep music going in their children’s lives?’” he says. In the 45-minute OTOYOTOY!, four eggs hatch to reveal three birds and the title character, a human figure representing the spirit of play who longs for acceptance from his nestmates. The opera explores themes of work versus play, as well as difference and outsider status. “I try for clarity of image and intention, and trust that the babies will respond to that,” says librettist Zoë Palmer. “The music does the heavy lifting, and the babies respond to the multisensory experience.”

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Quincy Bruckerhoff, Principal Representative 10  O P E R A A M E R I C A

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Richard Termine/Met Opera

t was not your typical opera crowd. When Carnegie Hall presented OTOYOTOY! this October in its Resnick Education Wing, a significant portion of the audience consisted of babies. The 2017 opera is the work of composer Thomas Cabaniss, singer/ composer Saskia Lane and librettist Zoë Palmer, and it featured the vocal ensemble Moving Star, which specializes in improvisation. The interactive environment that the team created was aimed at infants, and infants only. (“Please note that this event is for babies and toddlers age two or younger,” a notice on Carnegie’s website warns. “It is not recommended for older children.”) The idea is not unique to Carnegie Hall. Last April and May, the Metropolitan Opera presented BambinO, a 40-minute opera for babies 18 months and younger. And in 2017, San Francisco Opera offered the American premiere


Line from an abandoned railroad spur into a vibrant park, and one of the city’s most notable attractions. She first conceived of staging a massive artistic event there six years ago and brought Lang into the project soon after. “I always imagined this should be an opera,” Diller says. “It had to involve voice; it had to be what we call ‘operatic.’ The idea was to show the transformation of the city as night falls and the misaligned rhythms of its inhabitants, then bring their stories together to become more than the sum of the parts.” “In the cultural imagination, sunset is the time of transition to stability and family — which is nothing like what it is today for most people,” Diller explains. “We wanted to take this important


avid Lang’s The Mile-Long Opera was most definitely unlike any “opera” ever produced. The spectacular performance art/art installation/musical event sent 10,000 audience members over six evenings in early October through New York City’s High Line, working their way through a 30-block corridor of over 1,000 singers and actors, who represented a typically New York range of ethnicities and age groups. Each performer intoned a fragment of the music and of the Anne Carson/Claudia Rankine libretto, the text drawn from interviews with actual New Yorkers. As composed by Lang, the whole blended with the sounds of the city and cohered into (in the words of the work’s subtitle) “a biography of seven o’clock.” “I love opera,” says Lang. “When we see Mimì or Tosca on stage, the music allows us to feel their struggle. It’s such a powerful and human tool, I’ve always felt it could be used in places other than opera houses — other places where humanity can be made special. In the opera house, you have a procession of characters who walk in front of

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you. Our piece is the same; the only difference is that you’re the one who’s moving.” Although at one spot, the walkway opened up to accommodate a chorus, for the most part the individual performers worked in a kind of connected isolation. “You couldn’t have a big moment where people would stop,” Lang explains. “That would cause a traffic jam, and violate the idea that the piece existed as you walked. Logistically, it was important to create a kind of music where people would keep going.” Still, the music showed a surprising degree of coherence: a result of Lang’s painstaking compositional approach. Each area of the walk occupied its own harmonic territory. “At the edges of the areas, you’d hear something that had an edge that was harmonically different,” he says. “The seams were designed to pull you forward. It was my attempt to use harmony to sculpt your way through.” The Mile-Long Opera was the brainchild of Elizabeth Diller, a partner in the firm of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, whose designs helped turn the High

and universal theme, and make it both intimate and a large spectacle.” By its very nature, The Mile-Long Opera was an ephemeral event, vanishing into the mist after its short run. “I love the idea that you have an opera that can only be done in one space,” Lang says. He leaves open the idea of bringing The Mile-Long Opera to other spaces in other cities, but it will require extensive adaptation. “It doesn’t make sense to go to Paris or London and tell them how great New Yorkers are,” he says. “But I see it as a structure for how to move in space, and how to see your fellow citizens up close and identify with them and love them. That’s something we can do in music that we have trouble doing in our everyday lives.” –Fred Cohn

Iwan Bann (above), Liz Ligon (below)



Alejandra Valarino Boyer, a 2017 alumna of OPERA America’s Leadership Intensive, has joined Seattle Opera as director of programs and partnerships. She was previously Lyric Opera of Chicago’s director of community programs. The White House nominated Mary Anne Carter to serve a four-year term as chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. She has served as acting chair since June, when former chair Jane Chu left the agency.

de la Guardia

role of vice president and artistic director of social impact. Marcus Küchle has left his posts at Cincinnati Opera — director of artistic operations and new works development, and co-artistic director of Opera Fusion: New Works — to take the top administrative post at the Tyrolean Festival in Erl, Austria.

Cori Ellison, who formerly served as staff dramaturg at the Glyndebourne Festival and New York City Opera, was appointed dramaturg at The Santa Fe Opera. The company also announced Allison Swenson’s promotion from senior major gifts officer to director of development, and a change in Heather Kemp’s title from director of finance to chief financial officer. Ed Harsh, previously president and CEO of New Music USA, was named director of strategic initiatives by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music.


The poet and performer Marc Bamuthi Joseph, who wrote the libretto for Daniel Bernard Roumain’s We Shall Not Be Moved, was appointed by the Kennedy Center to the newly created 16  O P E R A A M E R I C A

Amrita Vijayaraghavan joined Heartbeat Opera as managing director.

Crystal Manich was appointed artistic director of Mill City Summer Opera. Opera Modesto, which recently changed its name from Townsend Opera, selected Roy Stevens as its new general and artistic director.


Aliana de la Guardia and Julia NoulinMérat were named co-artistic directors of Guerilla Opera, replacing Mike Williams, who will continue to serve as a producer and board member.



Long Beach Opera named Jennifer Rivera, the company’s director of development, as its new executive director and CEO. Rivera was a 2016 participant in OPERA America’s Leadership Intensive.


Washington National Opera appointed Evan Rogister as principal conductor and hired Samuel Gelber, formerly artistic administrator at LA Opera, as director of artistic planning. The company also promoted Stefanie Mercier to director of artistic and production operations, and Becca Kitelinger to chief development officer. Calgary Opera announced its new leadership team: Bramwell Tovey, formerly music director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, is artistic director; and Heather Kitchen, most recently interim executive producer at the Banff Centre, is managing director and CEO.



Kim Pensinger Witman will retire in February from Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, after 22 years as its vice president of opera and classical programming. Her successor is Lee Anne Myslewski, currently the organization’s director of artistic administration. Myslewski was a 2012 participant in OPERA America’s Leadership Intensive.



Composer Matthew Aucoin, artistin-residence at LA Opera, has been named a 2018 MacArthur Fellow. Commonly known as a “genius grant,” the MacArthur Fellowship provides its recipients with $625,000 in no-stringsattached funding, disbursed over five years. Musical America named countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo as its 2019 vocalist of the year. It also announced 30 professionals of the year, including Linden Christ, director of education at Chicago Opera Theater; Eric Einhorn, general and artistic director of On Site Opera; Julian Wachner, director of music and arts at Trinity Wall Street; and Aiden Kim Feltkamp, director of

Timothy Gurczak (de la Guardia/Noulin-Mérat), Bethanie Hines (Joseph), Christian Coulson (Rivera), Simon Pauly (Rogister), Kristin Hoebermann (Witman/Myslewski), Steven Laxton (Aucoin)


emerging composers and diversity at American Composers Orchestra and formerly a customer service associate at the National Opera Center.


Chris Corrie (MacKay), Catherine Pisaroni (Pisaroni), Daniel Denino (D’Angelo), Ken Howard (Domingo), Louis Melancon/Met Opera Archives (Borkh/Caballe)

Charles MacKay, former general director of The Santa Fe Opera, received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Indiana University Bloomington at its December 15 commencement ceremony. Louisa Proske, co-artistic director of Heartbeat Opera, won a 2018 Princess Grace Award for her directing work in opera and theater. At a November 1 reception at the National Opera Center, the New York Opera Alliance presented its inaugural NYOA Community Award to Michael Spierman, founder and artistic director of the Bronx Opera, in recognition of his contributions to opera in New York.


The recipients of the 2019 Opera News Awards are mezzo-soprano Rosalind

Elias, stage director and designer Laurent Pelly, soprano Ailyn Pérez, bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni, and tenor Ramón Vargas. They will be feted at an April gala at New York’s Plaza Hotel.


Mezzo-soprano Katherine Beck won the seventh annual Mildred Miller International Voice Competition, hosted by Pittsburgh Festival Opera on October 21. Borkh


Mezzo-soprano Emily D’Angelo and tenor Pavel Petrov received the firstplace prizes of $30,000 each in the 2018 Operalia competition. Iowa Public Television won an Upper Midwest Emmy in the Arts/ Entertainment division for its broadcast of Des Moines Metro Opera’s Billy Budd. The performance was conducted by David Neely and directed by Kristine McIntyre. Tenor Matthew Cairns took home first prize at Canadian Opera Company’s annual Ensemble Studio Competition on November 1, earning $5,000 and a performance opportunity at Ontario’s Elora Festival. Bass-baritone Vartan Gabrielian won the $3,000 second prize, and mezzo-soprano Jamie Groote, the third prize of $1,500.

The Metropolitan Opera honored Plácido Domingo for his 50 years with the company during the November 23 performance of Il trittico. During the intermission ceremony, General Manager Peter Gelb presented the singer and conductor with a piece of the Met’s stage, along with a gilded version of a jacket he had worn as Otello. Later in the evening, Domingo sang his first Met Gianni Schicchi, marking his 52nd role and 695th singing appearance with the company.

The German soprano Inge Borkh died on August 26 at age 97. Borkh excelled in the dramatic soprano repertoire, and became particularly renowned for her febrile, vocally soaring performances of Strauss’ Elektra and Salome. She made her U.S. debut in 1953 as Elektra at San Francisco Opera and five years later bowed as Salome at the Met, where through 1971 she appeared in roles such as Leonore, the Dyer’s Wife and Elektra.


Soprano Montserrat Caballé, whose opulent, technically astounding voice made her an international star, died on October 6 at age 85. Caballé trained at the Liceu Conservatory and made her breakthrough in 1965, in a Carnegie Hall concert performance of Lucrezia Borgia. She made her Met debut later that year as Marguerite in Faust, appearing with the company 98 times over the next 20 years, while also appearing with Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera and New Orleans Opera. In a career spanning more than five decades, she took on a remarkably diverse repertoire of more than 80 roles, encompassing Puccini, Verdi, Strauss, Wagner and the bel canto repertory.

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Ne Ryan Brown, Artistic Director




as e


Opera Lafayette is pleased to announce the release of two DVDs on the Naxos label: Léonore, ou L’amour conjugal by Gaveaux Modern premiere of a predecessor to Beethoven’s Fidelio Released: December 7, 2018 “The event was uncommonly rewarding… Opera Lafayette cogently demonstrated, Léonore works perfectly well on its own terms. Gaveaux’s music is engaging…” George Loomis, Musical America (2/27/17)

Les Fêtes de l’Hymen et de l’Amour by Rameau Production featuring three dance companies: Kalanidhi Dance, New York Baroque Dance Company, and Séan Curran Dance Company Released: January 14, 2019 “One of their most imaginative productions ever… Dancing is as important as singing in French opera-ballets, and for Les Fêtes, Opera Lafayette not only embraced that challenge but made dance the central thematic element… Musically, Les Fêtes is a delight, with one great tune after another.” Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal (10/13/14)

Available as DVD and Blu-Ray at Naxos.com, Amazon.com, ArkivMusic.com. These DVDs join 12 Opera Lafayette CDs recorded on the Naxos label, which can be found at OperaLafayette.org and Naxos.com. 20  O P E R A A M E R I C A

Carmen Giannattasio as Tosca and Scott Hendricks as Scarpia in San Francisco Opera’s Tosca

the Y E A R in






Cory Weaver

By Fred Cohn


or all the vitality of contemporary opera, the standard repertory remains the backbone of the industry. This year’s premieres of works like Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek’s Proving Up, Lembit Beecher and Hannah Moscovitch’s Sky on Swings and the fulllength version of Huang Ruo and David Henry Hwang’s An American Soldier all garnered well-deserved attention, as did mountings of recent operas by composers like Ricky Ian Gordon, Jake Heggie, Laura Kaminsky and Kevin Puts. But as always, the bulk of the offerings


from most companies, large and small, consisted of the works, written between the late 1700s and the early 1900s, that have maintained a foothold in the repertory across the centuries. “You can’t give up on the standard repertory,” says Heidi Waleson, opera critic for The Wall Street Journal. “It’s the base of the industry.” A look at OPERA America’s tally of the most-produced operas of 2017–2018 confirms the point (see “The Top 25,” pages 24–25). Although it includes Kaminsky’s 2014 As One, Astor Piazzolla’s 1968 María de Buenos Aires and Leonard Bernstein’s 1956 Candide, W I N T E R 2 0 1 9   21

Pacific Opera Project’s La bohème, with Katherine Giaquinto as Musetta, Alex DeSocio as Marcello, Keith Colclough as Colline, Daria Somers as Mimì, Dane Suarez as Rodolfo and E. Scott Levin as Schaunard

the bulk of the list consists of works like The Barber of Seville, La traviata, La bohème and Carmen, most of them standard fare in past eras, and some of them mainstays virtually throughout the history of opera in America. In fact, seven of the titles were performed at the Metropolitan Opera in 1883– 1884, its first season. To be sure, our companies’ forays into contemporary opera are revitalizing the field. But they have largely built their reputations 22  O P E R A A M E R I C A

Brenda Rae in the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor at Opera Philadephia

and audiences on the foundation of “heritage” operas, and they still offer a steady stream of canonical works as a dominant part of the mix. But even though the works are familiar, their interpretations may offer surprises. Waleson notes that straightforwardly traditional mountings of standard pieces (“the bohemians are in the garret, or outside in the snowstorm”) have by and large given way to “tweaked” interpretations.

“The opera is changed just enough to make it a little different, but not so much that you don’t recognize it,” she explains. She offers as an example Laurent Pelly’s production of Lucia di Lammermoor at Opera Philadelphia this fall, the black-and-white design stripping away the work’s romanticism and suggesting a feminist subtext. “I like it when the director has an individual take that’s still of a piece with the opera,” she says. “People seeing

Russ Rowland (Fidelio), Martha Benedict (La bohème), Kelly & Massa (Lucia di Lammermoor)

Derrell Acon as Roc, Malorie Casimir as Marcy and Kelly Griffin as Leah in Heartbeat Opera’s reimagined Fidelio




A Boost for Creativity

our 20th- and 21st-century operas, ranging from Tosca (1900) to The Little Prince (2003), serve as the inspirations for the creative teams that have been selected as finalists for the 2019 Robert L.B. Tobin DirectorDesigner Showcase. Each of the four finalist teams has received $2,000 to refine their concept proposals, and they will all present them at Opera Conference 2019 this June in San Francisco. The designs will then be featured in six-month rotating exhibitions at the National Opera Center, beginning this summer. (See opposite page for a look at the current exhibition, featuring the Flying Dutchman production concept from a 2017 finalist team led by director Luke Harlan.) Launched in 2008 with support from the Tobin Theatre Arts Fund, the Director-Designer Showcase provides emerging directors and designers with a national platform to introduce their work to industry leaders. Every two years, directors and designers submit production concepts for a select group of operas, with the most promising proposals receiving support for further development.

María de Buenos Aires


The Little Prince

The Rape of Lucretia

2 019 D I R E C T O R - D E S I G N E R S H O W C A S E F I N A L I S T S

The Little Prince

(Rachel Portman) Noam Shapiro, director Santiago Orjuela-Laverde, scenic design Tamrin Goldberg, choreography Haydee Zelideth, costume design Reza Behjat, lighting design Yana Birÿkova, projection design

In this interpretation of Portman’s opera, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s fable about a mysterious young boy and a stranded pilot becomes a modern migration story. As a group of migrants waits at the U.S. border, a father calms the children by recasting their dangerous journey 36  O P E R A A M E R I C A

as the intergalactic travels of the Little Prince, transforming their interactions with smugglers, officers and aid workers into encounters with strange grownups and resplendent beasts.

María de Buenos Aires

(Astor Piazzolla) Victoria Crutchfield, director Bryce Cutler, scenic design Nina Bova, costume design Mary Ellen Stebbins, lighting design Kevan Loney, video design

This production places María — the central character in a tale of seduction, prostitution and sexual abuse — in a transparent box, representing the prison of the male

gaze. Upon her death, the box breaks open and mirrored panels split, revealing mirrors beyond mirrors.

The Rape of Lucretia

(Benjamin Britten) Marcus Shields, director Ryan Howell, scenic and costume design Oliver Tidwell Littleton, lighting design

This contemporary reading of Britten’s opera shifts between literal and symbolic representations of the text’s events. The spare white set evokes at various junctures an art gallery, a scientific laboratory and a “shrine of memory.”


(Giacomo Puccini) Shadi Ghaheri, director and choreographer John Bondi-Ernoehazy, scenic design Mika Eubanks, costume design Samuel Chan, lighting design Yaara Bar, projection design

In a framing story, a group of Iranian actors risk their lives to stage Tosca, knowing that their government will not allow such stories to be told. They reimagine the opera’s characters as political prisoners who live under an oppressive regime, one that weaponizes religion and arrests and executes people who believe in love, freedom and justice.


Time Travelers


t’s 1981 in a bleak English fishing village, and Senta, a seamstress at a fishermen’s garment factory, looks to the Dutchman to transport her across the threshold of time, to an era of romance and wealth. This time-bending Flying Dutchman concept — the work of director Luke Harlan, scenic designer Alexander Woodward, projection designer Rasean Davonte Johnson, costume designer Fabian Fidel Aguilar and lighting designer Andrew F. Griffin — is now on exhibit at the National Opera Center as part of OA’s Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Showcase (see opposite page for more information about the program). “The poverty, depression and

defeatism of Senta’s 20th-century life is invaded by the dark, romantic, eternal hope of the Dutchman,” explains Harlan. “It’s realism confronting Romanticism.” The temporal divide between the two central characters is emphasized through the scenic design and projections: Senta’s environment is composed of industrial, rectilinear forms, whereas the Dutchman’s world is conjured through atmospheric projections evoking 19th-century seascapes. Lighting effects and projections transform two metal walkways suspended above the stage, at various moments, into ships at sea and fluorescent light fixtures in the garment factory.


The costumes for Senta and her fellow villagers match the gritty realism of the sets. For the Dutchman’s crew, Aguilar drew upon diverse cultural and historic references, imagining that the crew members come from ports around the world, and from different eras. For the opera’s title character, he looked to two 18th-century figures for inspiration — Jean-Baptiste Belley, a former slave from the West Indies who was elected to office in France, and Toussaint Louverture, a leader of the Haitian Revolution — choices that paint the Dutchman as both hero and outsider. The exhibition is the final of three from the 2017 round of the DirectorDesigner Showcase. It runs through July, when it will be succeeded by the first exhibition from the 2019 DirectorDesigner Showcase. The Dutchman concept was also featured in a presentation at Opera Conference 2017 that can be viewed on OPERA America’s YouTube channel. W I N T E R 2 0 1 9   37


The Trouble with Wagner By Michael P. Steinberg University of Chicago Press

Steinberg, a cultural and music historian, looks at the paradoxes of Wagner’s works, focusing on the moral ambiguity of their treatment of politics, mythology and violence. He also offers a personal account of his experience as a dramaturg on the 2009–2013 joint staging of the Ring at La Scala and the Berlin State Opera.

Operatic Geographies: The Place of Opera and the Opera House Edited by Suzanne Aspden University of Chicago Press

Throughout history, the design and physical situation of opera houses have conveyed messages about power and territoriality. This anthology surveys opera houses in a range of geographical settings — from urban to rural, from Old World to New — to consider how they have both reflected and shaped their surroundings.

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Once Upon a Time at the Opera House: Drama at Three Historic Michigan Theaters, 1882–1928

Carmen and the Staging of Spain: Recasting Bizet’s Opera in the Belle Époque

By James Berton Harris Michigan State University Press

By Michael Christoforidis and Elizabeth Kertesz Oxford University Press

Opera houses played an important role, from the late 19th century through the advent of motion pictures in the 1920s, in the cultural life of rural areas. Drawing upon historical records and local lore, Harris profiles three Michigan opera houses — in Coldwater, Calumet and Manistee — that still serve their communities to this day.

The Belle Époque saw an international fascination with Spanish entertainment and the rise of an international “Carmen industry.” Focusing on the years between the 1875 premiere and the beginning of World War I, the authors trace how Carmen productions reflected evolving ideas about Spain and its culture.

Angela Gheorghiu: A Life for Art

Opera in the Jazz Age: Cultural Politics in 1920s Britain

A biography in the form of dialogues, A Life for Art follows the prima donna from her childhood in Communist Romania, to her international debut at Covent Garden in 1992, to her successes in roles like Tosca, Mimì and Juliette. Opera notables like Grace Bumbry, José Carreras, Plácido Domingo, Marilyn Horne, Bryn Terfel and Franco Zeffirelli offer their own reminiscences.

In jazz-age Britain, critical voices would categorize art forms as “highbrow,” “middlebrow” or “lowbrow.” Opera represented a special case, its niche in the “battle of the brows” difficult to categorize. Wilson argues that the era’s debates about opera continue to shape present-day discussions about the art form.

By Angela Gheorghiu with Jon Tolansky ForEdge

By Alexandra Wilson Oxford University Press


Doctor Atomic

By John Adams and Peter Sellars Nonesuch

Adams’ 2005 opera has been captured on DVDs from the Metropolitan Opera and the Dutch National Opera, but this is its first official audio recording. The composer leads the BBC Singers and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Gerald Finley, the role’s originator, plays J. Robert Oppenheimer; Julia Bullock is his wife, Kitty.

Young Caesar

By Lou Harrison and Robert Gordon The Industry Records

Harrison’s rarely performed 1971 opera, which describes a love affair between Julius Caesar and King Nicomedes IV, was recorded live in June 2017, when the Los Angeles Philharmonic presented a semi-staged production developed by The Industry. It features a new performance edition that fuses Harrison’s original gamelan-inspired score with his later lush orchestral style.

Shalimar the Clown

By Jack Perla and Rajiv Joseph Albany Records

This adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s novel was recorded live during its world-premiere run at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in 2016. Leading the cast is tenor Sean Panikkar in the title role, along with Andriana Chuchman, Gregory Dahl, Aubrey Allicock and Katharine Goeldner. Jayce Ogren conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs By Mason Bates and Mark Campbell Pentatone

This live recording captures the 2017 world-premiere run at The Santa Fe Opera, featuring baritone Edward Parks as the Apple founder and mezzosoprano Sasha Cooke as his wife, Laurene. Michael Christie conducts Bates’ electro-acoustic score.


The House without a Christmas Tree By Ricky Ian Gordon and Royce Vavrek Pentatone

In this family-friendly opera, based on a television movie and children’s book from the 1970s, Addie Mills (Lauren Snouffer), a young girl who yearns for a Christmas tree, comes into conflict with her grieving father (Daniel Belcher), tortured by memories of Addie’s mother, who died during the holidays. This live recording was made during the opera’s world-premiere run at Houston Grand Opera in 2017.

Great Scott

By Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally Erato

In Heggie and McNally’s latest collaboration, opera singer Arden Scott (Joyce DiDonato) returns to her hometown to save the company that launched her career. Ailyn Pérez, Frederica von Stade, Anthony Roth Costanzo and Nathan Gunn co-star in this performance from the 2015 world-premiere run at The Dallas Opera, conducted by Patrick Summers.

W I N T E R 2 0 1 9   39




Christian Van Horn

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get past them, but I’m grateful now: Your technique is what gets you through the night. You have to walk before you can run. The first live opera I went to was Rigoletto at New York City Opera; since my teacher had put in 30 years with that company, I thought I should see what it was like. I didn’t have a lot of funds in those days, but I went to the box office and got a cheap seat. It was an exciting performance. They made an announcement that Mark Delavan was suffering from a cold. I thought he sounded fantastic, but he canceled halfway through the show and they pulled in another baritone from backstage. “Wow,” I thought, “this is flying by the seat of your pants.” It was a lot different from the recordings I revered. Suddenly you watch a human being sweating, and it’s exhilarating. I spent a lot of time in standing room at the Met. I wasn’t focused as much on the opera’s story as on what was going on in the singers’ heads. Singing in a house like that became a focal point for me. If you wanted to be there, you had to have a big voice. Sometimes a singer would hit a bad note, or come in half a beat early. I learned that if you miss a high note, the ceiling doesn’t come crashing in. When the audience finds out that you’re human, they love you even more. The Richard Tucker Award is a new starting point for me. Before it was easy to be low-key good: People would open the program and not know who you were — you could be surprisingly good. Now people come in expecting you to be good, which is a different situation. But it’s a crowning moment, and I’m proud I’ve gotten here. Bass-baritone Christian Van Horn is the 2018 winner of the Richard Tucker Award. He recently completed a Metropolitan Opera run in the title role of Boito’s Mefistofele, and will be heard at San Francisco Opera this June as Zoroastro in Handel’s Orlando.

Simon Pauly


always knew I could sing, but I knew nothing about opera. When I was growing up in Centereach, Long Island, my parents put me in the church choir, as much to occupy my time as anything, but I knew I was getting the attention of the chorus director. Then in high school, I tried out for all the musicals and ended up as the lead in stuff like Leader of the Pack and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. There’d be around 70 girls and three guys, and I thought those numbers were pretty good. But I learned just how much I loved putting on a show. There’s nothing like it. At the State University of New York in Stony Brook, I began studying voice in earnest, taking lessons with Richard Cross. After two years, I asked him whether he thought I could do this for a living — a loaded question. He thought about it carefully and said, “I think you can. I’m not sure to what extent, and you have to be willing to spend 10 years and a lot of money to prepare.” But he knew it was possible. Otherwise, I don’t think he would have wasted his time, or mine. That was around the time that Richard joined the faculty of the Yale School of Music, so I followed him there — and he’s my voice teacher to this day. I started listening to basses on recordings, especially Nicolai Ghiaurov. He has one of those completely distinctive voices: two notes of that clarion sound and you know who it is. Eventually, though, I realized he had only that one fantastic color, so I moved on a bit. I discovered Norman Treigle, and it was like I was hearing my own voice. I loved his last-day-of-hislife approach to everything he sang. I still devour recordings. If I want to hear technical perfection, I put on Sam Ramey; for endlessly beautiful sound, I listen to Cesare Siepi. When I sing, I don’t stand there mimicking people, but I have no problem ripping off the greats. There’s a reason they were great. Of course, I wanted to sing the Verdi bass arias right away. But my teacher wouldn’t let me anywhere near them. He kept me on Schubert for two years. I was frustrated that we couldn’t

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Profile for OPERA America

Opera America Winter 2019 Preview  

Opera America Winter 2019 Preview