Page 1

January 2020


Gioachino Rossini: You have the right to remain silent! By GLENN WINTERS

INSIDE The Editor’s Notes


Letter from the Chair


Merchant of Venice


Meet the Artist


New Guild Members


Guild Night


At The Harrison


45 Years of Virginia Opera


A Tribute


VOG Calendar


The Met Live in HD


But for the involvement of local police, Rossini’s La Cenerentola (Cinderella) is an opera that might never have been written. The year 1816 saw Rossini juggling several assignments in a particularly hectic period of his burgeoning musical career. Projects included a revival of L’Italiana in Algeri in January; the premiere of Il barbieri di Siviglia in February; a new cantata in April; and two more new operas in September and December. It’s a shame railroads were not yet available, as Rossini was living the commuter life, making frequent jaunts from Naples (where he was Director of Royal Theaters) to Rome and back again. A big opportunity brought the composer to Rome: the impresario Pietro Cartoni offered him a contract to create a new opera for the Teatro Valle to open the Carnival season on December 26. The terms included the generous fee of 500 scudi, or about $30,000. As time passed, however, things got complicated. Rossini was expected to report to Rome in October to meet with Cartoni and begin work in earnest. But delays resulting from his over-crowded schedule pushed the start-up date to December Continued on page 2


The Tenor Behind the Scenes By POWERS PETERSON

Russell P. Allen Photo credit Virginia Opera

Russell P. Allen, President and CEO of the Virginia Opera Association, has a unique perspective on the opera world, not only from in front of the stage and but also from behind it. Having spent 15 years at the Virginia Opera (VO), Mr. Allen will retire at the end of the current season. As a piano player and a professional tenor, though neither currently, Russell has always appreciated music. His professional managerial positions started with the Dale Warland singers (Minnesota) and included tenures at the Jacksonville Symphony, the Houston Symphony, the Phoenix Symphony, and the Atlanta Opera. He then became the Executive Director first of the Orlando Ballet and then of the Washington Ballet. In September 2011 Russell accepted the challenging position of President and CEO of the Virginia Opera. The administration of any artistic organization is not for the faint of heart. VO had serious financial difficulties at the Continued on page 4

January 2020 From the Cover 3; this caused the new opera to be moved from the first production of the season to the second. Even December 3 proved impossible as it conflicted with the premiere of Rossini’s Otello on December 4. A second snag involved a complete rejection of the original subject and of the librettist chosen. The new opera was originally to be called Laurina alla corte, with a libretto by Gaetano Rossi. At first, Rossini appeared pleased with the drafts he received from Rossi, expressing praise for its theatricality. But as October turned to November, Rossini seemed to lose interest in the whole project, ignoring Cartoni and going incommunicado. That’s when the cops got involved. Cartoni, after what must have been several sleepless nights, requested that the Chief of the Naples Police Force compel the wayward genius to comply with the contract he’d signed or face the consequences. Resigned to his legal obligations, Rossini finally showed up in Rome to begin work. But more problems were to come! The draft of Laurina alla corte, the proposed libretto for Rome, ran afoul of the censors. After fruitless attempts to avoid censorship without drastically altering the story, the opera was abandoned. Another snag: Rossi was no longer available, committed to another project. Cartoni now had a composer, but no subject and no librettist, with the Carnival clock tick-tocking ominously. At literally the last possible moment all parties agreed on the subject of the familiar fairytale Cinderella. You may wonder how this opera was composed – and rehearsed! – in such a brief window of time. The answer is: Rossini and his new librettist Jacopo Ferretti, um, “borrowed” the libretto of a recent Cinderella opera called Agatina, o La Virtù premiata by Stefano Pavesi. That opera had been staged at La Scala only two years earlier! Fortunately for posterity, the concept of intellectual property was not yet in existence.

2 The downside of Rossini’s procrastination is described in Herbert Weinstock’s biography of the composer. With the music having been completed at such a late date, there was insufficient time for the artists – oh, pity the artists – to learn their roles. Ferretti wrote of the first performance that “all those taking part in the performance on that fatal first night had rapid pulses and the sweat of death dripping from their pallid foreheads.” It must have been a horrendous performance; it was greeted with catcalls from the audience. Rossini predicted that once everyone learned their parts his Cinderella would be fought over by prima donnas and performed all over Europe. He wasn’t wrong.

Glenn Winters

The Editor’s Notes By POWERS PETERSON

The Virginia Opera Association is in its 45th season this year. To show you the depth and breadth of VO’s productions, we’ve tallied the operas for all 186 performances since VO’s inception. There are quite a few surprises, so take a look at p. 7. The Guild is holding its biennial Merchant of Venice rummage sale on April 4 at HOH. Popular with both Guild members and the general public, it’s a great way to support the opera. And perhaps to find something you can’t live without. In 2018 I found a treasure to add to one of my collections - a Royal Worcester porcelain egg coddler for $5.00! Royal Worcester invented the egg coddler in the 1800s and they now retail for upwards of $45.00. Who knows what you’ll find? More tributes to retiring Russell Allen, the President and CEO of VO, come from Kim Winslow, Jim Deming, and Mike Lott. Each of them has something wonderfully unexpected to say. There’s our third artists’ dinner of the season on January 25. We welcome edible contributions as we plan to serve dinner to the 60+ artists and crew of Cinderella. The Guild hosts its second Guild Night on January 28 at Harrison Opera House. If you’re a Guild member, bring guests. If you’re not yet a member, join us to explore the cultural treasure that is Virginia Opera. If you have something to say, reach me at Coloratura160@gmail.com. I’m listening.

The editor with Russell Allen at a Virginia Opera Gala

January 2020

Chairperson’s Corner By AMBER TAYLOR REEVES

3 I hope everyone has had the merriest of holidays with family and friends.

We’ve said goodbye to 2019 and rung in the New Year. We have two operas remaining in this season. Cinderella is at hand. Then the season closes with Virginia Opera favorite, director Lillian Groag, bringing her adaptation of Aida. The Virginia Opera Guild (VOG) and the Symphony League shared a Holiday Luncheon on December 14 at the Norfolk Yacht and Country Club. The Soloist Shannon Jennings performed “O mio babbino caro,” “O Holy Night,” and “Let it Snow.” The Symphony League’s Concertmaster, violinist Vahn Armstrong, played several instrumentals. The second Guild Night is upon us. Consider joining us on January 28 at 6:00 p.m. at Harrison Opera House for a convivial time prior to watching a rehearsal of Cinderella. We ended 2019 with a total of 147 Guild members. We welcomed 30 new members in 2019. We are looking forward to continuing to grow our membership in 2020.

The Guild’s mission is to support Virginia Opera. One way to do so is by purchasing season tickets. It is still not too late to convert your single tickets to a season ticket subscription. Please visit www.vaopera.org or call the box office at 866-673-7282. There are also many other opportunities to help the Guild and show your support for Virginia Opera. Join one of our committees or contribute food for the artists’ dinners. Donate gently used items for the upcoming Merchant of Venice rummage sale. See more information and details below. Call me at 757-354-5658 or email me at amberlaru@gmail.com. I’ll be pleased to provide you a list of opportunities to consider or answer any questions.



Merchant of Venice Rummage Sale The Virginia Opera Guild’s biennial rummage sale will again take place on Saturday, April 4, 2020, at The Harrison Opera House from 8 a.m. till 1 p.m. Proceeds support the Guild in its mission to support the Virginia Opera. In terms of your tax-deductible donations, we’re looking for just about anything, as long as it’s in good condition. Previously we’ve sold furniture, housewares, silverware, jewelry, bikes of all kinds, toys, sporting goods, artworks, rugs, handbags, briefcases, luggage, working electronics and small appliances, lamps, books, CD’s, DVD’s, knickknacks, Halloween costumes, and decorative items. We’ve even sold a wheelchair and a full-size artificial Christmas tree. We accept scarves and belts but no other clothing or shoes. The Guild needs volunteers to assist in accepting donations on the following days and times: Monday, March 30, 2020, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, March 31, 2020, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 - 7 p.m.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 7 p.m. There is a very limited ability to accept and store donations prior to late March. If you would like to donate items earlier, contact Barbara Buchmann at barbarab4700@gmail.com. We also need volunteers to help sort and arrange items prior to the sale. Can you help on any of the following days? Wednesday, April 1, 2020, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 7 p.m. Thursday, April 2, 2020, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, April 3, 2020, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Lastly, we need volunteers on Saturday, April 4, from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. to monitor departments, assist buyers, and clean up afterwards. If you can help, contact Barbara at barbarab4700@gmail.com.

At the Merchant of Venice rummage sale Photo DRA

January 2020


From the Cover time of Allen’s return. Allen was tasked with “forcing the company to operate in the black while maintaining artistic quality and eliminating operational debt.” He credits his mentor Gideon Toeplitz at the Houston Symphony with “teaching me so much through direct instruction and example. Gideon’s financial work resonated with me as I undertook the challenges at VO.” One could say that the book Allen is currently reading, Michael

L-R: Allan Reynolds, Harriet Reynolds, and Russell Allen

Wolff ’s Fire and Fury, in some ways mirrors what it was like when he returned to VO. Of all his many accomplishments at VO, which is Russell Allen proudest of? First is “the fact that we’ve accomplished so much artistically

because we never lost sight of our commitment to artistic excellence. Even in some of our darkest times the Board of Directors’ commitment was never lowered.” Allen is equally proud that “VO is still here as a viable opera company.” In 2012 the company “found itself in a precarious financial condition” due to the recession of 2009-2010 and the split with the former artistic director. In response, Allen had the Board initiate a longterm prioritized, financial plan. The first priority was to operate in the black. By the 2014-2015 season that goal had been accomplished, and the company continues to operate in the black. The second priority was to eliminate debt. At this time, over 75% of the debt has been eliminated. The third priority was to build a cash reserve of one million dollars and the fourth was to repay the endowment funds. “Achieving these last two goals will be the task of my successor, and that needs to happen by VO’s fiftieth anniversary season (2023-2024).” Allen cites Turandot (2017) as the best example of maintaining artistic standards while under financial duress. “Significant cut-backs were necessary mid-season. Director Lillian Groag, the conductor, and the designer worked to develop a new production from scratch, primarily using projections. The result was a hit production at the lower budget

Tributes to R. P. Allen My husband Paul and I were attending Opera in the Park several years ago. The date just happened to be my birthday. Russell was kind enough to wish me a happy birthday from the main stage. Celebrating my birthday with 5,000 opera fans was exciting! Kim Winslow has been an active supporter of VO since moving to Norfolk ten years ago. Kim Winslow

required. Necessity was trumped by creativity.” Allen has had a hand in selecting the vocal talent that so distinguishes opera. One singer he admires and has brought to VO is Kelly Cae Hogan. “She is an amazing artist. In three unique roles Kelly Cae has consistently taken her beautiful voice and molded it around the character in a way that rings true every time: Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire (2013), Salome in Salome (2015), and Turandot in Turandot (2017).” Not to be forgotten are the numerous singers who have graced the stages of both The Harrison and The Metropolitan Opera in NYC: Kyle Albertson, Ginger Costa-Jackson, Rachele Gilmore, Zachary James, Will Liverman, Cecilia Violetta López, Danielle Pastin, and Carlos Enrique Santelli. What will Allen do in retirement? He will continue to travel to old and new places, including to his sister’s home in Strasbourg, France. He will continue to hone his skills at bridge and will be able to read far more non-fiction than he’s been able to do prior to retiring. Whatever Russell Allen chooses to do, or not to do, we congratulate him on his many successes and wish him well. Bravo, Russell! Photos credit Virginia Opera

Russell doesn’t get enough credit for his powers of persuasion. In 2012 he suggested I become the Treasurer of the Statewide Board of Virginia Opera Association. I thought, “OK. Doing it for one year will be interesting.” Each subsequent year, just like the military, Russell asked me to re-up. And I did. My tenure lasted five years. Give the man credit! Jim Deming was most recently the Treasurer of the Statewide Board of Virginia Opera. Jim Deming

Russell Allen receiving the 2018 Virginia Commission for the Arts Inspiration Award as a Bedrock Institution

January 2020 MEET THE ARTIST

Living the Fairy Tale By POWERS PETERSON

Famed lirico-spinto soprano Carol Vaness taught Alyssa Martin a most important lesson, one Alyssa’s adhered to. The lesson? “Don’t focus on what other people think. Focus on what your voice can do and what you want to do.” Vaness was Martin’s teacher and mentor at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music where Martin obtained both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Music.

Alyssa Martin Photo credit Karil Cadel Photography

Ms. Martin sang the role of the Fox in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen at Glimmerglass Opera in 2018. “Musically, it’s a difficult opera. The notes are incredibly high; and, strange to say, the orchestra is not ‘with’ the singers. I had to count to catch the rhythms. Though we performed the opera in English, Czech does not translate well. But this story of the cycle of life is universal.”

5 Martin sees a similarity with Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola). She has sung the role before, at Arizona Opera in 2017. After her performance at VO, she will sing the similar title role in Massenet’s Cendrillon at Opera Birmingham this coming April. As in Vixen, the core of the story is that kindness and respect for others serve one well. “What this opera has to say about Angelina (Cinderella) is that it doesn’t matter how important she is, or what she wears. It’s how she lives her life and does the work in front of her.” But unlike Vixen, this opera is “highly singable. Rossini’s vocal writing is superb — and he wrote this opera in just twenty days!” Martin is so admiring of Rossini’s skills at such a young age that she is currently reading three biographies of the composer. Another VO delight for Martin is that baritone Joseph Lattanzi will be singing the role of Dandini, the prince’s servant. They shared the stage in the Arizona Opera production. Having sung in three other operas together, they have become close friends. “He’s supported me through a number of triumphs and setbacks, and I’ve done the same for him. I’m so looking forward to singing with him again.” One of her dream roles is to sing with Lattanzi in Don Giovanni.

A scene from the LA premiere of Il Postino (2010)

Alyssa Martin as Cinderella Photo credit Tim Trumble, Arizona Opera

path, singing what she felt was right for her voice. And that’s what I try to do.” Martin’s performances at VO will be memorable for other reasons. Her father’s family is from Natural Bridge, VA, and many family members will be attending the performances. In addition, she is a graduate of VO’s Herndon Foundation Emerging Artists Program. A different but equally happy ending to family tales.

In addition to Vaness, Martin much admires Cecilia Bartoli. Having listened to Bartoli in several performances, Martin “wanted to be an opera singer” because of her. “Bartoli’s voice is hard to classify, just as mine is. But Bartoli carved her own


Save the Date!

Contact Information




Merchant of Venice Rummage Sale

April 4, 2020

Harrison Opera House

Members’ Annual Meeting

May 16, 2020

Harrison Opera House

Join us to support the Virginia Opera Association. Volunteer for a committee or for one of our activities. And don’t forget to check us out on the Virginia Opera website. Here’s how to contact us: Write us

Virginia Opera Guild P.O. Box 11572, Norfolk VA 23517

Call us

RSVP: 757-627-9545, ext. 3584

Email us


Like us

on Facebook: Virginia Opera Guild

January 2020




The Production Conducted by Adam Turner Virginia Opera Orchestra Director+ + + Scenic Designer+ + Costume Designer++ Lighting Designer+ +

+ + + +

Kyle Lang Tony Fanning Sue Bonde Driscoll Otto

The Cast Angelina (Cinderella)+ Don Ramiro+ + Dandini+ + + Don Magnifico+ + Alidoro+ + + Clorinda+ + + Tisbe+ + +

Soprano+ + Tenor+ + Baritone+ + Bass-baritone+ Bass-baritone+ Soprano+ + Mezzo-soprano+

+ + + + + + +

Alyssa Martin David Walton Joseph Lattanzi Dale Travis Karl Buttermann Symone Harcum Whitney Robinson

Score in Italian, the opera’s original language


Guild Night Join Events Chair Amber Taylor Reeves for the second Guild Night this season. The event will begin at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, January 28, 2020 in the Grand Lobby of The Harrison Opera House. We invite every Guild member to bring guests to a one-hour reception that precedes our watching a full-dress rehearsal. Dr. Glenn Winters will offer a brief presentation to introduce us to this fairy tale delight. Light refreshments and beverages will be served. The event is free to Guild members. The fee for guests is $15.00 per person.

New Guild Members We welcome our first-time Guild Members

Terry & Bob Kelly, Norfolk Powers Peterson and Amber Taylor Reeves

Dr. Glenn Winters at the piano

Beverly Mack, Hampton Mary S. K. Reibell, Norfolk John D. & Clelia C. Sheppard, Cape Charles Kelly Wyatt, Suffolk

Guild Chair Amber Taylor Reeves

The Buffet Photos by DRA

January 2020


45 Years at VIRGINIA OPERA, 1975 - 2020 Operas performed 7 times La Bohème (Puccini), La Traviata (Verdi), Madama Butterfly (Puccini). Operas performed 6 times Carmen (Bizet), Don Giovanni (Mozart), The Barber of Seville (Rossini), Tosca (Puccini). Operas performed 5 times I Pagliacci (Leoncavallo), Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti), Rigoletto (Verdi), The Magic Flute (Mozart), The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart). Operas performed 4 times Così fan tutte (Mozart), Die Fledermaus (J. Strauss II), Il Trovatore (Verdi), Porgy and Bess (Gershwin), Romeo & Juliet (Gounod), The Elixir of Love (Donizetti), Turandot (Puccini). Operas performed 3 times A Christmas Carol (Musgrave), Cinderella (Rossini), Don Pasquale (Donizetti), Faust (Gounod), Hansel and Gretel (Humperdink), Norma (Bellini), The Tales of Hoffmann (Offenbach), The Merry Widow (Lehar).

Romeo & Juliet (Gounod)

Operas performed twice A Masked Ball (Verdi), Aida (Verdi), Ariadne auf Naxus (R. Strauss), Ahmal and the Night Visitors (Menotti), Carousel (Rodgers), Cavalleria Rusticana (Mascagni), Die Walküre (Wagner), HMS Pinafore (Sullivan), Salome (R. Strauss), The Daughter of the Regiment (Donizetti), The Flying Dutchman (Wagner), The Girl of the Golden West (Puccini), The Mikado (Sullivan), The Pirates of Penzance (Sullivan), West Side Story (Bernstein). Operas performed once A Streetcar Named Desire (Previn), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Britten), Agrippina (Handel), Andrea Chénier (Giordano), Anna Bolena (Donizetti), Camelot (Lerner), Cue 67 (Ching), Der Freischütz (von Weber), Elektra (R. Strauss), Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky), Falstaff (Verdi), Fidelio (Beethoven), Gianni Schicchi (Puccini), Harriet, The Woman Called Moses (Musgrave), I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Bellini), Il Postino (Catán), Julius Caesar (Handel), Macbeth (Verdi), Man of La Mancha (Leigh), Manon (Massenet), Mary, Queen of Scots (Musgrave), Oklahoma! (Rodgers), Orphée (Glass), Orfeo ed Euridice (Gluck), Orpheus in the Underworld (Offenbach), Otello (Verdi), Rappahannock County (Gordon), Rodelinda (Handel), Samson and Delilah (Saint Saëns), Simón Bolívar (Musgrave), Street Scene (Weill), Suor Angelica (Puccini), Susannah (Floyd), Sweeney Todd (Sondheim), The Impresario (Mozart), The Medium (Menotti), The Not Mikado (Gardner), The Pearl Fishers (Bizet), The Seven Deadly Sins (Weill), The Tender Land (Copland), The Turn of the Screw (Britten), Tristan und Isolde (Wagner), Werther (Massenet).

The Girl of the Golden West (Puccini)

Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti)

The Barber of Seville (Rossini) Photos credit Virginia Opera

January 2020


Tribute to Russell P. Allen Mike Lott is President of the Central Virginia Opera Board of Directors. Outstanding people have one thing in common: an absolute sense of mission. In my opinion this quote by Zig Ziglar, the author and motivational speaker, sums up Russell P. Allen. He is a remarkable leader who knows his mission! As the President and CEO of Virginia Opera, he enthusiastically took on the difficult assignment to lead the company through some tough times. His confidence, perseverance and optimism provided the energy to keep our opera company moving forward. He simply never gives up. Watching Russell in action is amazing. Sometimes what appears to be an overwhelming problem is discussed in meetings. Russell never fails to frame the Mike Lott problem positively and then offer a path forward. He finds a way to “make things happen.” Russell’s artistic instincts and standards are unshakable. Along with Maestro Adam Turner, his talented team guided Virginia Opera to becoming one of the most artistically respected opera companies in America. He inspired the artists, staff, the Boards, committees, and Guild to work to find new ways to promote and support the opera. He managed the difficult effort to produce the right operas each season in our geographically diverse markets. One thing that comes through loud and clear is that Russell P. Allen loves Virginia Opera: its artists, staff, patrons, fans, and the music. I recently read that “opera can make us see, feel and hear the world differently.” Thank you, Russell, for your absolute sense of mission to keep Virginia Opera performing grand opera in Virginia: to make us see, feel and hear the world differently. It has been a privilege working with you.

The Met Live in HD

Virginia Opera Guild Calendar Date



Jan 25

5:00 p.m.

Artists’ Dinner for Cinderella HOH

Jan 28

6:00 p.m.

Guild Night - HOH

Jan 31

8:00 p.m.


Feb 2

2:30 p.m.


Feb 4

7:30 p.m. 9:30 a.m.

Board Meeting - HOH

Mar 14

5:00 p.m.

Artists’ Dinner for Aida - HOH

8:00 a.m. 1:00 p.m.

Time Opera / Composer

Merchant of Venice Rummage Sale

Conductor / Singers

Feb 1

12:55 p.m.

Porgy and Bess / Gershwin

Robertson / Blue, Schultz, Moore, Graves, Ballentine, Owens, Walker, Singletary

Feb 29

12:55 p.m.

Agrippina / Handel

Bicket / Rae, Di Donato, Lindsey, Davies, Rock., Rose

Mar 14

12:55 p.m.

Der Fliegende Holländer / Wagner

Gergiev / Kampe, Fujimura, Skorokhodov, Portillo, Sir Bryn Terfel, Selig

Apr 11

12:55 p.m.

Tosca / Puccini

de Billy/ Netrebko, Jagde, Volle, Carfizzi

May 9

12:55 p.m.

Maria Stuarda / Donizetti

Benini / Damrau, Barton, Costello, Filonczyk, Pertusi


Feb 5

Apr 4


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