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S U M M E R 2 O18


Fred Cohn

The magazine of OPERA America – the national service organization for opera, which leads and serves the entire opera community, supporting the creation, presentation and enjoyment of opera

FCohn@operaamerica.org A RT DIRECTION

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

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Mikaela Bennett in Daniel Fish’s production of Acquanetta, by Michael Gordon and Deborah Artman, at the 2018 Prototype Festival (photo: Maria Baranova) Opera America (ISSN – 1062 – 7243) is published in September, December, March and June. Copyright © 2018 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, e-mail Advertising@operaamerica.org.


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CONVERSATION: First-Time General Directors


JOINED FORCES Co-Productions: How They Work B Y R AY M A R K R I N A L D I






GLOBAL GATHERING The Inaugural World Opera Forum BY FRED COHN





Barbara Leirvik

Timothy O’Leary Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Charles MacKay The Santa Fe Opera


Zizi Mueller Boosey & Hawkes, Ricordi NY

Frayda B. Lindemann, Ph.D. Trustee, The Metropolitan Opera IM M E DI ATE PAST CHA I R M A N

Perryn Leech Houston Grand Opera VICE - CHAI R MAN

Susan F. Morris Trustee, The Santa Fe Opera VICE - CHAI R MAN

Kathryn Smith Madison Opera VICE - CHAI R MAN

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

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

BOARD OF DIRECTORS John E. Baumgardner Jr. Sullivan & Cromwell LLP Daniel Biaggi Palm Beach Opera Wayne S. Brown Michigan Opera Theatre Tassio Carvalho American Airlines Ned Canty Opera Memphis Rena M. De Sisto Bank of America Larry Desrochers Manitoba Opera David B. Devan Opera Philadelphia Carol E. Domina Michael Egel Des Moines Metro Opera Robert Ellis Trustee, San Francisco Opera, Opera Parallèle James Feldman Trustee, Washington National Opera Barbara Glauber Trustee, New England Conservatory Denyce Graves-Montgomery Christopher Hahn Pittsburgh Opera Laura Kaminsky Carol Lazier Trustee, San Diego Opera


Esther Nelson Boston Lyric Opera John F. Nesholm Trustee, Seattle Opera Nicole Paiement Opera Parallèle Bill Palant Étude Arts Jane DiRenzo Pigott Trustee, Lyric Opera of Chicago Yuval Sharon The Industry Matthew Shilvock San Francisco Opera L. Michelle Smith AT&T Global Marketing Organization Jill Steinberg Trustee, National Sawdust

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John Turner Trustee, Houston Grand Opera

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2  O P E R A A M E R I C A

Connections Matter Connecting the art form and audiences, with context, equity and respect. Any attempt to summarize four days of intense discussion in one phrase is bound to oversimplify a rich experience, but these few words encapsulate several important themes from Opera Conference 2018. Thanks to generous grants from several foundations, more artists participated in our annual conference than ever before. Their focus on creation and performance helped center discussion around the “art” of opera. Yes, many sessions examined the “business” of opera, but these topics were subordinate to deeper interest about the creative process, the stories being told onstage and the people telling their stories through our art form. Discussion about opera audiences acknowledged that opera company leaders have to be attuned to public preferences more than ever. Changing sensibilities and sometimes contradictory desires for interactive entertainment and transformative experiences must shape programming decisions, as well as marketing and communication strategies. Seasons that merely reflect the taste of a general director are no longer sufficient to motivate attendance and philanthropy; a deeper connection to community — to local histories, partner organizations and venues — is an essential ingredient for success. St. Louis and its complex history provided an opportunity to engage in sometimes uncomfortable exploration of systemic racism, especially as it has played out in the arena of primary and secondary education. Extraordinary speakers described the trauma engendered by inequity and the investment that opera companies need to make to reduce barriers to participation. Gender equity was an important parallel theme, with acknowledgment of some progress and recognition of how much more is needed. The necessity of establishing and maintaining respectful workplaces free of sexual harassment, abuse and assault became the focus of two sessions, underscoring the importance of protecting human dignity in every aspect of our work. OPERA America’s annual conference followed the World Opera Forum in Madrid by only two months, and it amplified the unique qualities and circumstances that shape opera in North America. As reported in Fred Cohn’s article on page 26, the forum was organized around four topics: heritage, new works, diversity and advocacy. One hundred invited delegates debated issues over three days and revealed that while there can be global agreement around major themes that are shaping opera, national differences — of language, repertoire, politics and funding systems, among others — determine specific strategies for success. The commitment of U.S. and Canadian opera leaders to new works, civic engagement and entrepreneurial inventiveness were distinguishing qualities in Madrid and even more dominant features of our meeting in St. Louis, as reported by our European guests. They also noted the dynamism of our mid-sized and smaller companies, many of which are defining the trends that make the North American opera scene especially vibrant. The learning from Opera Conference will inform our fall forums, and new grant programs will provide financial assistance for projects that test new ideas. Most important, though, is our continued conversation and collaboration, and our commitment to expanding and strengthening our community. Working together, we can create the conditions for continued progress.

Marc A. Scorca President/CEO SUMMER 2018  3



he way music works with film, and the way it works with staged theater, is not so radically different,” says Laura Karpman. The four-time Emmy winner has long worked in television and film, and she received a 2015 OPERA America Discovery Grant for Female Composers to develop Balls, an opera recounting the infamous 1973 tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King. In straddling the genres of opera and film, Karpman assumes a place in a line that includes Copland, Bernstein, Prokofiev and Shostakovich, along with contemporary composers like John Corigliano, Germaine Franco and Nico Muhly. “It’s the same impetus for both opera and film,” says Karpman. “You write what serves the story.” “Film and opera both require the dramatic talent to read a text and say, ‘This is what’s called for,’” says Corigliano, composer of The Ghosts of Versailles and winner of an Academy Award for The Red Violin. “Some composers are dramatic and theatrical, and some are not.” Muhly points out that some film music has distinct counterparts in the

Giovanni Rivera-Litz as the Roman Candle (center) in Karpman’s Wilde Tales

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operatic repertory. “Music that works thematically, like in Star Wars or Lawrence of Arabia, is the perfect Wagnerian thing,” he says. “The music knows more than the people: ‘Ooooh ... she’s going to use the Force!’” (His new opera Marnie opens this fall at the Met, and he has also composed scores for movies like The Reader and Margaret.) Franco, a 2018 recipient of an OA Discovery Grant for ¡La Capitana!, about a soldadera in the Mexican Revolution, intends to bring to the project a folkloric tone similar to her work on the animated film Coco. Just as in that lauded score, she is using indigenous instruments in her orchestration for ¡La Capitana! “I want this be something people in a small village in Mexico could enjoy,” she says. She notes that military bands were a part of the Mexican Revolution, often playing marches by Verdi — an indication that opera in that day was a popular art form much like film is today. “I’m not writing for a higher art form, or just for a certain class of people,” she says. “Let’s make this an opera that people who don’t know anything about opera can enjoy.” As similar as the dramatic aims

Germaine Franco

Nico Muhly

Dis Marilyn aute es Horne dia sum in John aut Corigliano’s reicae ipicipsum The Ghosts lis estiore of Versailles etur autaquo at the Met qui dolorest, sitas atiae volupta tquam,

Histeria Producciones (Karpman); Ana Cuba (Muhly); Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival (Wilde Tales); Erika Davidson/Metropolitan Opera (The Ghosts of Versailles)

Composers Move from Screen to Stage

Laura Karpman


Richard Hubert Smith/English National Opera

Muhly’s Marnie at the English National Opera

of film music and opera may be, the compositional process can be wildly unalike. “The biggest difference is who’s driving the car,” says Muhly. “In a movie, it’s the director. With an opera, the score is the text that will guide everybody’s life for three or four months. Everybody is sitting in a room looking at a document that I, the composer, created.” “For a composer, opera is at a midway point between film and symphonic music,” says Corigliano. “In film, the composer is like the sound-effects person, serving the director. He will want something, and if you don’t give it to him, he’ll get someone else. In opera, the director can be the prima donna, interfering and making changes. In symphonic composing, nobody lays a hand on it. They promise to play it, whether they like it or not.”

The very fact that they have to take the back seat can make a film project, for some composers, a more straightforward task than an opera. “You’re given so many instructions,” Corigliano says. “‘You’ve got one minute and 13 seconds, and 40 seconds in you need a climax.’ All of this makes it easier to compose.” “If you look at a page of text you’re going to set as a song or as an opera, it’s difficult to know how long it’s going to take to get through,” says Muhly. “Sometimes you’re running downhill, sometimes uphill — it’s an elastic bungee cord of possibility. There’s no ‘In the next shot, you have 30 seconds.’ That’s the hardest thing with opera — it’s so much more your problem.” Workshopping is a vital part of the composition process in both genres, Laura Karpman says: Film music may

have no formal workshop process, but “you workshop it for the director.” She found something similar when she brought her children’s opera, Wilde Tales (a 2015 OA Commissioning Grant for Female Composers recipient) to The Glimmerglass Festival, under Francesca Zambello’s direction. “She was as tough as any movie director: ‘We have to cut this; we have to move that,’” Karpman reports. “And she was right about every single thing.” She believes that her grounding in the work ethic of film composition has served as good preparation for her opera assignments. “One of the things I love about doing commercial music is that it’s a daily practice,” Karpman says. “Some of it is going to be special, and some of it isn’t. To be a flexible opera composer, you have to have the same attitude.” — Fred Cohn SUMMER 2018  5


David Angus, music director at Boston Lyric Opera, has extended his contract for three years, through the 2020–2021 season. David Bamberger left his post as artistic director of the Opera Theater at Cleveland Institute of Music. Opera Omaha appointed Rebecca Brown as its new director of marketing and PR.


Houston Grand Opera named Eun Sun Kim as principal guest conductor, starting in the 2019–2020 season. She will be the first person to hold this position since 1993. Conductor Timothy Myers was named Austin Opera’s artistic advisor for the 2018–2019 season. He will work with the artistic staff on casting, repertoire planning and orchestra administration.


Swedish soprano Nina Stemme was awarded the $1 million Birgit Nilsson Prize. Given every three to four years, the prize is the largest of its kind in the performing arts, and is drawn from an endowment established by Nilsson before her death in 2005.


Ian Derrer, who led Kentucky Opera for the past two years, has taken his new post as general director of The Dallas Opera. Florentine Opera Company announced that its general director, William Florescu, has departed due to “his violation of Florentine Opera’s policies and prohibitions concerning sexual misconduct.”


The Curtis Institute of Music appointed bass-baritone Eric Owens, a Curtis alumnus, and Danielle Orlando, its principal opera coach, to lead both the vocal studies department and Curtis Opera Theatre, beginning in the 2019– 2020 season. They will replace Mikael Eliasen, who has led the voice and opera program for more than 30 years.


The Glenn Gould Foundation selected soprano Jessye Norman to be its 12th Glenn Gould Prize Laureate in recognition of her lifelong contribution to the arts. This biennial award of $100,000 also entitles Norman to choose a young artist to receive a City of Toronto Glenn Gould Protégé Prize of $15,000.

Allison Rabbitt was promoted to director of development at Seattle Opera, succeeding Lisa Bury. Gandhi

Minnesota Opera hired Priti Gandhi for the newly created position of chief artistic officer. Gandhi previously served as artistic administrator at San Diego Opera.



Jim Schaeffer, for 10 years the artistic and general director of the Center for Contemporary Opera, has retired.

Soprano Nadine Sierra was named the winner of the Metropolitan Opera’s 2018 Beverly Sills Artist Award. The $50,000 prize is given annually to an exceptional singer between the ages of 25 and 40 who has already appeared in featured roles at the Met.


Opera Theatre of Saint Louis appointed Andrew Jorgensen as its new general director. (See “The New Crew,” p. 16.)

12  O P E R A A M E R I C A


Adam Turner was promoted from principal conductor to artistic director at Virginia Opera.

Van Horn

Bass-baritone Christian Van Horn received the 2018 Richard Tucker Award, which carries a prize of $50,000.

Karen Almond (Derrer), Courtesy of the San Diego Union-Tribune (Gandhi), Cassidy DuHon (Jorgensen), Nikolaj Lund (Kim), Dario Acosta (Owens), Tina Krohn (Turner), Carol Friedman (Norman), Merri Cyr (Sierra), Simon Pauly (Van Horn)



P E O P L E The annual award recognizes an American singer on the threshold of a major career. Van Horn will be featured at the Richard Tucker Music Foundation’s annual gala on October 21 at Carnegie Hall. The Tucker Foundation also bestowed Career Grants of $10,000 to soprano Andrea Carroll, mezzosoprano Samantha Hankey and tenor Jack Swanson. Study Grants of $5,000 went to tenor Eric Ferring, baritone Theo Hoffman, bass David Leigh, tenor Brian Michael Moore, soprano Gabriella Reyes de Ramírez, mezzosoprano Zoie Reams and tenor Kyle van Schoonhoven.

Getty Images (Abreu), Fay Fox (Cohen), Bonnie Perkinson (Conlon), JD Scott (Higdon), Ruben Martin (Domingo), Adam Moskowitz (Hertzberg)


The Dallas Opera announced the winners of the 29th annual Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition: Countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen won the first-place prize of $10,000, tenor Josh Lovell received the second-place prize of $5,000, and tenor Mario Rojas took the third-place prize of $2,500.

San Francisco Opera, recognizing her support of young artists. Mezzosoprano Wallis Giunta won the Young Singer award. Higdon

Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music gave its $100,000 Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition to Jennifer Higdon, composer of the opera Cold Mountain. The biennial award honors composers who have made a major impact on contemporary classical music.


Singer and maestro Plácido Domingo received an honorary Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Manhattan School of Music at its 2018 commencement ceremony. (See p. 36 for the naming of Plácido Domingo Hall at the National Opera Center.)

Hertzberg Wilde

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis gave its 2018 Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation Prize to soprano Laura Wilde, a former Gerdine Young Artist at the company. The $10,000 award recognizes extraordinary artistic potential in early-career artists.

The Music Critics Association of North America gave its second annual Best New Opera Award to composer/ librettist David Hertzberg for The Wake World, an Opera Philadelphia commission that received its world premiere at last fall’s O17 festival.

Campbell-White Conlon

Conductor James Conlon, music director of Los Angeles Opera, was named Commendatore Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana (Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic) by President Sergio Mattarella of Italy.

Tenor Piotr Beczała, soprano Malin Byström, conductor Vladimir Jurowski, designer Paul Steinberg and director Mariusz Treliński were among the winners at the International Opera Awards, held April 9 in London. The Philanthropy award went to Annette Campbell-White, board member of

The Solti Foundation U.S. awarded Career Assistance Grants to eight conductors, including Stefano Sarzani, assistant conductor at Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Lidiya Yankovskaya, music director of Chicago Opera Theater.

IN MEMORIAM José Antonio Abreu, the economist and conductor who created Abreu Venezuela’s music-education program El Sistema, died on March 24 at age 78. Abreu initially founded an orchestra of 11 young musicians in 1975, and his educational efforts eventually grew into a nationwide, state-funded network of youth orchestras and choirs serving hundreds of thousands of children — a model that has been replicated in more than 60 countries. Abreu’s most famous protégé, the conductor Gustavo Dudamel, leads El Sistema’s flagship orchestra, the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra. The American soprano Kristine Ciesinski died on June 9 at age 65. She rose to prominence in the late 1970s, after being selected as a finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and went on to sing cornerstone roles of the dramatic-soprano repertoire — including Senta, Salome, Lady Macbeth, and Marie in Wozzeck. Her four-decade stage career was based mostly in Europe, but she also sang with Cincinnati Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Opera Orchestra of New York. Ciesinski was an active vocal teacher for the past two decades and served on the voice faculties of Brigham Young University and Florida State University.

S U M M E R 2 0 1 8   13



Marc A. Scorca, OPERA America’s president and CEO, talks to three first-time general directors: ANNIE BURRIDGE (Austin Opera), ANDREW JORGENSEN (Opera Theatre of Saint Louis) and MATTHEW SHILVOCK (San Francisco Opera).

16  O P E R A A M E R I C A

A NNIE BUR R IDGE Austin Opera

Burridge, an alumna of OPERA America’s Leadership Intensive program, spent nine years at Opera Philadelphia, where she oversaw the development, marketing and communications departments, spearheaded a rebranding campaign and, as managing director, helped pave the way toward the company’s phenomenally successful festival, O17. She took the reins at Austin Opera in October 2016.

SCORCA: You were in a prime deputy position in Philadelphia. What about being a general director is different? BURRIDGE: I’m not sure whether the role is different, or the community. I learned so much from David [Devan, general director] in Philadelphia, but we’re different people. I had to figure out how to use the things that I admired so much in him in a way that would be authentic to my own leadership, and meanwhile adapt to the very different culture here in Austin.

Paul Sirochman

What you seem to be saying is that being a general director isn’t a cookiecutter role, directly transferable from one city to another. Right. I spent about 50 to 60 percent of my time in Philadelphia working with our board. I was on nearly all the committees, and led half of them. So I figured board relationships would be a piece of cake. But I went from a board that was comfortable governing to one that had never served in that capacity, and that was a big change. I also didn’t have a good sense of how things had happened before because there was such a long break between [former general director] Joe Specter’s departure and my arrival. It was hard to ground myself in the reality of the board members who had been there a long time. They have a history; you don’t. Yes. There were things that I would propose that were standard practices in the business that were completely foreign to the board in Austin. Also, during the few months between Joe and me, board members were actually running the company. They had stepped into staff roles and served as interim leaders. They

had already had hands-on operational involvement, and lines became even more blurred during that interim. My guess is you have to experiment with what works and what doesn’t as a leader. There were a few times that I provoked a flurry that I did not expect. I thought, “Well, that was really valuable,” because now I knew where folks were coming from. Did you encounter challenges in building a staff? It was easier than I thought it would be. When I got here, there were lots of open positions. Many of the people I brought in I had known for some time. But the critical question is, how do you combine a legacy staff with new staff? I invested a lot of time in that. I made sure that long-serving staff were an integral part of the hiring process: coming up with job descriptions and interviewing the new people. I’m really pleased with the results. How have you gone about building your profile in the community? It has been great fun. Austin is such an interesting place. My family and I will go to the rodeo one weekend, then to a black-tie affair the next. My board has been great about inviting me to events. My peers at other organizations have been incredibly generous in reaching out to me. It means a lot of evenings out, but I find ways to incorporate my family. I love being an opera representative. How do you gauge if you’ve created a positive working culture? I ask my staff for feedback often, and many of them are comfortable giving it.

Some of them can’t believe that when there’s a decision to be made, I round them up and talk about it. We figure out so many things at the table. Some of the best ideas for marketing initiatives might come from a completely different department, and everybody is comfortable with that. The quality of the brainstorming exceeds my expectations every time. Do you have any advice for someone who’s in the same position as you were a couple of years ago, preparing to take the reins for the first time? I wish I’d had formal a mentor, the way Ryan Taylor had arranged a formal relationship with Kevin Smith when he went to Arizona. Also, I should have asked more questions during the interview process. If I had been more diligent in the depth and repetitiveness with which I asked questions during that process, establishing mutual expectations upon my arrival would have been simpler. The number-one role can be lonely. You have nobody you can unburden yourself to. When you’re the leader, you aren’t supposed to cry on the shoulders of staff members. Who do you talk to? Whom do you turn to for support, feedback and advice? That element has been new, and very difficult, but my peers at other performing-arts organizations have been terrific — they’ll return a call in the middle of the night. And my fellow general directors in opera have been fantastic in responding when I have a question. I wouldn’t have made it through my first year without you and Ryan, and also Perryn Leech and Tim O’Leary. S U M M E R 2 0 1 8   17

Steven Williamson in Opera Philadelphia’s ANDY: A Popera in 2015

20  O P E R A A M E R I C A


Dominic M. Mercier

BY VIVIEN SCHWEITZER HE DEFINITION OF OPERA has been in flux ever since Philip Glass wrote Einstein on the Beach in 1976, after which the director of the Netherlands Opera, commissioning Satyagraha, stipulated it should be “a real opera.” In the ensuing decades, works including Robert Ashley’s streamof-consciousness electronic operas and Helmut Lachenmann’s The Little Match Girl (1990) — which includes gasps, whispers, wails and almost every type of vocal utterance except the actual singing of text — further tested the boundaries. Recent works of musical theater, such as Michael Gordon and Deborah Artman’s avant-garde, heavily amplified Acquanetta, and David T. Little and Royce Vavrek’s engrossing Dog Days, which culminates in a deafening, apocalyptic drone, have rendered the borders of opera even more porous. These latest paradigm-shifting works, commissioned by independent companies that have made eclectic and experimental works their lifeblood, have created new opportunities in the broader opera world and the chance to attract a new audience to the art form. S U M M E R 2 0 1 8   21

“I don’t know what ’s so da unting about change.

You just have to do it.”



Nicholas Payne with Robert Marx, president of the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation

Mark Edward Kent, president of the Biome Foundation


he idea has been in the air for the whole history of cooperation between OPERA America and Opera Europa, dating back to the European organization’s founding in 2002. Both groups hold annual conferences; would it be possible to stage an international convocation for North American and European companies alike? But both Marc A. Scorca, OA’s president/ CEO, and Nicholas Payne, director of Opera Europa, realized the impracticability of such an idea: No matter which side of the Atlantic the gathering might take place, the commitment of time and expense for overseas travel would leave out the members of one group or the other. Enter Ignacio García-Belenguer, general director of Madrid’s Teatro Real. His hallowed theater would be celebrating its 200th anniversary in 2018; how could it celebrate the august occasion in a way that would have global resonance? Payne suggested a World Opera Forum. Instead of being an orthodox conference, with members paying to attend a variegated slate of panel discussions and meetings, this would take the form of a focused series of shared discussions, with opera leaders from around the world coming in as invited, all-expenses-paid delegates. In the midst of planning, the newly formed Ópera Latinoamérica climbed aboard. The World Opera Forum, organized and facilitated by OPERA America, would be a truly global affair, with participants coming in from not just Europe, the U.S. and Latin America, but also Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. García-Belenguer brought in a number of government agencies and corporate sponsors to underwrite the event and 26  O P E R A A M E R I C A


Ignacio García-Belenguer, general director of the Teatro Real; María Victoria Alcaraz, general director of the Teatro Colón; Marc A. Scorca; and Nicholas Payne

is canon which a ut bo a g in “W e are talk hite men.

w 420 years of ’ needs n of ‘opera er The definitio include a larg o t d e d n a o be exp t ic theater.” R, us m f o n io it in CTO def I ST I C D I RE



in ING  MADRID is an exercise of power by one social group versus another.”


The firstever World

Javier de Real (Teatro Real)

Opera Forum took a global

Lawrence Edelson, founder of American Lyric Theater

approach to the art form. BY FRED COHN The Teatro Real

S U M M E R 2 0 1 8   27

JOINED O F RCES The challenges and rewards of co-productions


Cory Weaver Cory Weaver

Megan Marino and Raquel Gonzรกlez in Eugene Onegin at Lyric Opera of Kansas City

Megan Marino and Raquel Gonzรกlez in Eugene Onegin at Lyric Opera of Kansas City

WHEN TOMER ZVULUN became general and artistic director of The Atlanta Opera in 2013, the company used sets and costumes rented from other companies’ moribund mountings. Five years later, Atlanta is mounting a season that, while still staying within budget constraints, much more thoroughly bears its own imprint. In fact, two of its mainstage shows, Dead Man Walking and Eugene Onegin, will be directed by Zvulun himself; those, along with La traviata, will be co-productions, put together by consortiums of companies that share costs and creative input. A look at the 2018–2019 season shows that co-productions are a dominant force in our era. Two of the Met’s four new stagings will be coproductions; at Lyric Opera of Chicago, they make up more than half the season. Companies across the country — and indeed, the world — are finding that co-production partnerships, if they’re prudently administered, make sense from both an economic and an aesthetic standpoint. In a time that places increasing emphasis on innovation in opera, co-productions allow companies to offer productions that, while they may not represent a cost savings over rental arrangements and revivals, offer the advantages of 32  O P E R A A M E R I C A

both novelty and sophistication. If it were acting as a lone operator, The Atlanta Opera would never be able to present a season resembling its 2018– 2019 roster, which will give its audience a series of fresh experiences, on a scale more lavish and complicated than what the company might have been able to offer on its own. With new works, a coproduction will often be a co-commission, as well, with companies sharing the risk — and the glory — of bringing a new opera to the stage. But many companies now feel that the standard repertoire, too, demands the level of innovation that co-productions can afford. “It is incumbent on us to give our audience dynamic productions of standard repertory,” says Deborah Sandler, general director and CEO of Lyric Opera of Kansas City. Her company is lead producer on Zvulun’s Onegin production, in a consortium that, aside from The Atlanta Opera, also includes Hawaii Opera Theatre, Michigan Opera Theatre and Seattle Opera. “If no one makes new productions, we’ll all be looking at productions that are 25 years old,” says Aidan Lang, general

director of Seattle Opera. Making good on his observation, all five of his company’s 2018–2019 offerings are new to Seattle, and four of them are co-productions. A co-production is, first and foremost, a business arrangement, and all partners need to stay focused on the bottom line. “In reality, what we’re looking for is money — people to share the cost,” says Abby Rodd, director of production at The Glimmerglass Festival. On the face of it, the math is simple. “Say you’re spending a hundred thousand for your set and another organization is spending another hundred thousand,” says Sandler. “You get more bang for your buck.” When Opera Philadelphia was planning its recent Carmen, it was looking at a design and construction budget in the $500,000 range. But when Seattle Opera and Irish National Opera came on board, its own costs fell to roughly $200,000. “If we’re doing a show alone, it might cost $400,000 to produce it,” says Karen Quisenberry, chief production officer at Minnesota Opera. “But if we get people to buy in, we can maybe make a $550,000 show and jazz it up a little more.”

Cory Weaver


Aida at San Francisco Opera in 2016

Left: Edward Parks in The Santa Fe Opera’s world premiere of (R)evolution of Steve Jobs. Below left: Valeriano Lanchas, Elizabeth Bishop and Marko Mimica in Le nozze di Figaro at Palm Beach Opera. Below right: West Side Story at Houston Grand Opera.

Despite the cost efficiencies offered by a co-production arrangement, it does involve its own set of financial obstacles. All the partners have to put up their shares at the very outset; in some cases, years before the production makes its way onto the stage— and into the season budget. The partner companies need to find a way of finding funds for that carried expense. Once a co-production has made the rounds of its home stages, its sets and costumes can be rented out to other companies, with the partners sharing in the revenues according to a schedule worked out in the initial negotiations, with junior partners, of course, getting a smaller cut. Case in point: Francesca Zambello’s staging of West Side Story, a Houston Grand Opera/Lyric Opera of Chicago/Glimmerglass co-production that will make its way to Atlanta next season in a rental agreement. Future revenues will often depend on how well the show is received in the first place, and how much a market there is for the title. Glimmerglass spent a relatively lavish amount to join the West Side Story consortium, with the expectation that the show would have legs as a rental property. But demand — and back-end profits — can be unpredictable. If a show is a flop

in the first place, it’s unlikely to generate much rental interest. Meanwhile, the fees that these rentals generate do not represent a total profit. The company that holds the sets and costumes charges the consortium for storage, handling, maintenance and restocking. All of these costs come off the top before the money is split. Still, the rentals do hold the promise of recouping investment to some degree, even if a show is only rented once in a while. “At the end of the year,” says Quisenberry, “when you sit down and you’re going through everything, and suddenly you get a check for $12,000 or $13,000, it offers some fiscal relief.” At their inception — before numbers start getting crunched — these arrangements often begin informally: when company directors chat on the phone, mingle at premieres or meet each other at the Co-Production Marketplace during OPERA America’s annual conference. “So much of this comes down to networking,” says David Levy, senior vice-president of artistic operations at Opera Philadelphia. He cites the genesis of a Nozze di Figaro as an example: “We knew Deb Sandler in Kansas City had Figaro on her radar screen,” he says. “And then we started talking to David Bennett

Ken Howard ((R)evolution), Bruce Bennett (Le nozze di Figaro), Lynn Lane (West Side Story)

“We live in a world that is looking for efficiencies, and a co-production is one of the few ways we can find them,” says Kurt Howard, OPERA America’s director of programs and services. The savings that co-productions offer may be real, but they’re definitely finite. For one thing, hard production costs typically represent about 60 percent of a show’s budget. A company must rely on its own resources to meet the other 40 percent, covering personnel, along with marketing, ticketing, shipping and a host of other expenses. And even though the price of joining a partnership will be considerably lower than forging a solo path, it will probably not represent a cost savings over a rental. “It may not cost less, but they can get more for what they’re paying,” says Howard.

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ceremony at the National Opera Center saluted the memory of opera coach, teacher and collaborative pianist Joan Krueger, who died last year at the age of 64. Krueger ran a private coaching studio in New York City and taught for 17 years at SUNY Purchase. Over the course of her career, she served as assistant conductor at Sarasota

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Opera, and coached at the Mostly Mozart Festival, where she worked with singers like Cecilia Bartoli and Sumi Jo. Artist manager Ken Benson, a longtime friend of Krueger’s, spearheaded a drive to install an Ovation Hall Tribute Panel in her honor, and on May 18, he presided over its dedication. “While we all have our own per-

sonal memories of Joan,” Benson said at the ceremony, “I really liked the idea of there being one tangible reminder, especially in a place where she had played and visited often. I hope that all of her friends, colleagues and students will think of her when they see it. Hopefully, it will be a lucky omen at their auditions, and her students will be reminded of her words of wisdom.”

Courtesy Purchase College-SUNY

A Tribute to a Friend



New Life After Performing


artha Graham famously said, “A to transferrable skills and the psychological “The skills that I learned effects of a career transition. dancer dies twice — once when as a soprano and in they stop dancing, and this first A panel of professionals provided their stodeath is the more painful.” Although opera ries of transitioning to careers offstage, both universities relate singers’ careers tend to be somewhat longer within and outside the arts. Ava Pine described significantly to what than those of dancers, they’re still subject her leap from singing high-flying coloratura I will need to do to to financial uncertainty and the threat roles to studying nursing; Ana de Archuleta disthat physical injury could cut short their cussed how she founded her own artist-manprosper as a nonprofit performing days. Meanwhile, the opera field agement company after an early career as a administrator.” has lagged behind dance in addressing the soprano and stage manager; Darren K. Woods, —JACQUELYN STEARNS, problem. The Actors Fund’s Career Transition who was a character tenor, talked about how SOPRANO AND ARTS for Dancers program has provided dancers he found his way ADMINISTRATOR with career counseling and financial toward developing assistance since 1985; new operas and menin fact, according to a recent New York toring young singers; and Dan “I’m looking to Times article, more than half of New Kempson explained how he was able “In going back to transition into York City Ballet’s dancers are pursuing apply the performative skills of an school, I’ve learned that, or have already earned undergraduate opera singer to a career in finance. administration to effect for singers, being able to degrees to prepare for life after the change I want to see What emerged from their narraretirement from the stage. tives was a sense of empowerment find a ‘something else’ in the business. What Up to now, opera has never had an — having agency over their careers is a really important I learned is that I have analogous program. Looking to fill the rather than being controlled by castaspect of personal qualities and tools for lacuna, OPERA America this spring ing decisions — as well as a sense of happiness. For me, launched the pilot program Career stability in their personal lives. They moving forward in the Transitions for Singers, welcoming two described, too, how they were able it has given me new business that I didn’t artists for a daylong seminar to remain connected to the art form direction and energized dozen realize I possessed.” at the National Opera Center. The ses- they love: Says Pine, who continues my singing.” — K AREN SLACK, SOPRANO sions addressed everything from per- to performs as she pursues nursing, sonal financial planning and the busi- “I went from singing being my job, to —AVA PINE, SOPRANO ness structure of opera administration, singing being my joy.”



he effects of #MeToo movement, a universal referendum on sexual harassment, abuse and assault, have been felt far and wide: government, business, theater, film, television and dance, not to mention opera. In response, OPERA America has created a web page of anti-harassment resources, found at operaamerica. org/AntiHarassment. The resources, which have been culled from social service organizations, as well as OA’s

own member companies, are aimed at helping opera companies prevent harassment and assisting individuals who have been victims of harassment. Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America, emphasizes that the page is intended as a starting point for any company wishing to create or update its anti-harassment policies. “None of these resources is offered as a prescription, but they are available as points of reference for your own work,”

says Scorca. “We recommend that company leaders seek local expertise to tailor policies and procedures to their own organizations and to secure training for staff, artists, board members and volunteers.” Opera Conference 2018, held in June in St. Louis, featured an all-conference roundtable on sexual harassment, abuse and assault. Details of the roundtable, as well as a full report on the conference, will be included in the fall issue.

To contribute additional policies, tools, resources or articles to OA’s anti-harassment web page, e-mail AntiHarassment@operaamerica.org.

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Creative Thinking

Opera Memphis’ McCleave Project

SHINING BROW Blow-Me-Down Farm in Cornish, NH, site of an Opera North show combining singers and circus artists The Dallas Opera’ Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for Women Conductors





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he 20 projects recently selected to receive OPERA America Innovation Grants embody the initiative’s aim of enhancing artistic vitality, audience experience, organizational effectiveness and community connections. They range from San Diego Opera’s “Opera Hack,” a project that will pair opera creators with technology experts, to On Site Opera’s Amahl and the Night Visitors, to be presented in a soup kitchen with a chorus drawn from New York City’s homeless community. Launched in fall 2016, the Innovation Grants program is funded by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation and provides up to $1.5 million annually to OA’s Professional Company Members. OA has also developed an infrastructure, with Getty Foundation support, to capture and assess outcomes of funded

projects — successes, challenges and even failures. “These grants benefit more than just the recipients,” says Marc A. Scorca, OA’s president and CEO. “Through the lessons learned from the funded initiatives, companies throughout North America will be able to replicate and adopt good ideas, and ultimately contribute to a stronger art form.” Twenty companies — representing nearly 15 percent of all of OA’s Professional Company Members — were selected by an independent panel to receive a total of $1.2 million:

American Opera Projects (New York, NY) Anchorage Opera The Dallas Opera Haymarket Opera Company (Chicago, IL) Nashville Opera Nautilus Music-Theater (St. Paul, MN) New Orleans Opera On Site Opera (New York, NY) Opera Columbus (Columbus, OH) Opéra de Montréal Opera in the Heights and Pacific Opera Project (Houston, TX, and Los Angeles, CA) Opera Memphis Opera North (Lebanon, NH) Opera on Tap (New York, NY) Opera Philadelphia Opera San Luis Obispo Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Pittsburgh Opera San Diego Opera The awarded grants support the production of socially relevant works with civic resonance; projects designed to make opera inclusive and accessible; the fusion of technology with live performance; partnerships among arts and non-arts organizations; research into the audience experience; and career-development programs for opera creators and artists. Visit operaamerica.org/PressRoom for details of the funded initiatives. Applications for the next cycle of Innovation Grants will open this fall, and can be found at operaamerica.org/ Grants.

Ziggy Mack for Opera Memphis (Top), Courtesy Opera North (Middle), Karen Almond (Bottom)




Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement By Naomi André University of Illinois Press

Viewing opera as a fertile area for critical inquiry, political activism and social change, the author examines American and South African artists and composers who have used the medium to reclaim black people’s place in history. In addition to looking at contemporary pieces, the author also considers modern adaptations of canonical European operas.

Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution By Todd S. Purdum Henry Holt and Company

The author offers a fresh assessment of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II — their personalities, relationship with one another, creative process and groundbreaking innovations in musical theater. Scattered throughout are anecdotes about the stars of Broadway’s golden age, such as Ethel Merman, Mary Martin and Julie Andrews, as well as new insights into R&H’s often-overlooked collaborators.

The Oxford Handbook of Faust in Music

Edited by Lorna Fitzsimmons and Charles McKnight Oxford University Press

Since its emergence in 16th-century Germany, the Faust legend has become one of the most popular themes in Western culture, particularly in music. Bringing together the work of more than two dozen authors, this threepart guide surveys representations of Faust in opera, choral and instrumental works, and ballet and musical theater.

Complete Vocal Fitness: A Singer’s Guide to Physical Training, Anatomy and Biomechanics By Claudia Friedlander Rowman & Littlefield

Aimed at opera and musical-theater singers, this primer provides fitness routines to help the body meet the physical demands of singing. The suggested exercises are designed to resolve postural distortions, promote coordinated breath management, improve oxygen consumption, and stabilize the spine and major joints.

On the Road and Off the Record with Leonard Bernstein By Charlie Harmon Imagine

Charlie Harmon, the personal assistant to Leonard Bernstein in the 1980s, offers an insider’s look at Bernstein’s composition process for A Quiet Place, which premiered at Houston Grand Opera in 1983. He also candidly describes Bernstein’s love affairs and personal demons. Director Hal Prince provides the foreword.

Waiting for Verdi: Opera and Political Opinion in 19th-Century Italy By Mary Ann Smart University of California Press

Capturing what it was like to attend the opera and experience music at aristocratic salons in 19th-century Italy, the author illuminates the moral dilemmas, emotional reactions and journalistic polemics sparked by Verdi’s works, and argues that the composer set new boundaries for what Italians could think, feel, say and write.

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pera was not part of my life when I was a kid. I grew up in a town named Ramona, an hour inland from San Diego. It had just one radio station. It was called COW-FM and it played country music. We listened to Indian classical music, which is of course very different. My mom liked Western classical music, but the closest she came to opera was Beethoven’s Ninth, which my sister called the “People Shouting Tape.” I studied the piano, and I accompanied the school musical in elementary school. It wasn’t very complicated: a boogie-woogie. But it was my first exposure to musical storytelling, and I got bitten by the bug. A couple of years ago, I learned my school had done away with their music program, which made me sad — without the public school system, I wouldn’t have found my way into music. I sang in choir in high school and took lessons from the only voice teacher in town. She had us sing the 24 Italian Songs and Arias, which was my first inkling of what a classical voice could do. I was also a musical-theater nut, especially Sondheim. I didn’t think Phantom of the Opera was really an opera, but I loved the high notes. Then by chance, I stumbled across the Bergman movie of The Magic Flute on TV, and I found it completely enchanting. I got the Renée Fleming recording of Rusalka around the time I came east to go to Sarah Lawrence. I became obsessed with it, especially the Song to the Moon. My first live opera was Rigoletto at the Met. I had heard “Caro nome,” and I wanted to see the whole opera. I was amazed at how much of the music I knew already — it wasn’t something completely unfamiliar. 48  O P E R A A M E R I C A

I studied composition in college, but took a break from it when I started singing professionally. I gravitated toward new music, rather than the “ina” and “etta” roles that, as a high soprano, I would have sung in opera: “perky” was not really my personality. I found a lot of the composers I was working with, though, didn’t really like the classical voice, and I had to drain a lot of vibrato out of my sound, which took the expressivity out. It was the age of irony; it wasn’t admissible to show your emotions. I admit that in the debate over whether music needs to be emotional, I err on the side of being interested in emotion. That’s one reason I started writing my own music. The things I had written in college were little chamber pieces. I never imagined I’d write an opera — it seemed too big and too foreign, and nobody was writing opera back then. But as a performer, I toured for two years with the Wooster Group, where we did a mash-up of Cavalli’s La Didone with music from a Mario Bava zombie movie. It was great, because it made me think about how the classical style of singing could be used in an avant-garde way. When I started writing again, I gravitated toward narrative. I started a band, and we’d perform song cycles with videos: a choose-your-own-adventure kind of thing, where the audience would vote on the ending they wanted. My friend Corey Dargel suggested I apply for a residency at HERE Arts Center, and I got it. That’s where I wrote Miranda. Like many first operas, it was episodic in structure. It mixed classical singing with other kinds of singing. But I realized that this was something I needed to keep doing. And I have! Kamala Sankaram’s Taking Up Serpents will have its world premiere in January at Washington National Opera.

Dario Acosta

Kamala Sankaram

New Operas from


Gregory Spears

Fellow Travelers Developed and co-commissioned by G. Sterling Zinsmeyer and Cincinnati Opera New York Premiere: PROTOTYPE Festival, American Composers Orchestra | January 12-14, 2018 Based on the novel by Thomas Mallon, Gregory Spears’s Fellow Travelers has been hailed as “ravishing” — “seductively beautiful” and “a near-perfect example of fast-flowing musical drama.” Photo: Cory Weaver

Tobias Picker

Dolores Claiborne New York City Opera, world premiere of chamber version | October 2017 Tobias Picker’s “brilliant musical incarnation” Dolores Claiborne received its New York premiere in a version for 14 players with Pacien Mazzagatti conducting members of the New York City Opera orchestra. Photo: Sarah Shatz

Thomas Adès

The Exterminating Angel The Metropolitan Opera | October/November, 2017 Salzburg Music Festival | July 28, 2016 “A turning point for Adès and for opera itself.” Thomas Adès’s long awaited third opera, after Luis Buñuel’s El ángel exterminador, is a “brilliant” and “constantly fascinating” tour-de-force. Photo: Monika Rittershaus

George Benjamin

Written on Skin New Production & Philadelphia Premiere | February 9, 11, 16, 18, 2018 George Benjamin’s “psychologically thrilling, emotionally heart-pounding and viscerally satisfying drama” returns with a new production at Opera Philadelphia. Photo: Stephen Cummiskey

Gerald Barry

Alice’s Adventures Under Ground Los Angeles Philharmonic | November 22, 2016

photo: BBC Radio 3

Stripping the stories of Lewis Carroll’s two Alice books to their hysterical and surrealistic core, Barry’s subversive new opera Alice’s Adventures Under Ground is “a wild ride like none other in opera”—”utterly, bewitchingly joyful.” Photo: Mark Allen

Also from Schott | EAM: Douglas J. Cuomo, Arjuna’s Dilemma Dallas Opera, OPERA America Conference, May 2017

Bernard Rands, Vincent

Indiana University, Jacobs School of Music, April 2011

Ryan Wigglesworth, The Winter’s Tale English National Opera, February 2017

Georg Friedrich Haas, Morgen und Abend Royal Opera House, November 2015

Schott Music Corporation & European American Music Distributors Company 254 West 31st Street, Floor 15 | New York, NY 10001 ny@schott-music.com ∙ www.schott-music.com ∙ www.eamdc.com

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Leonard Bernstein CANDIDE Giacomo Puccini MADAME BUTTERFLY John Adams | Peter Sellars DOCTOR ATOMIC Gioachino Rossini THE ITALIAN GIRL IN ALGIERS Richard Strauss ARIADNE AUF NAXOS

Paul Horpedahl photo



June 29 – August 25





Profile for OPERA America

Opera America Summer 2018 Preview  

Opera America Summer 2018 Preview