The Virginia Opera has announced its 2013-14 season, which will showcase an impressive slate of notable directors, conductors and singers.
"A lot of these people have come to us because Robin has brought them to our attention," said Russell Allen, president and CEO of Virginia Opera, talking about Robin Thompson, the company's artistic adviser who formerly worked for New York City Opera.
The season will open Sept. 27 at Harrison Opera House with Giuseppe Verdi's "Falstaff," in homage to the 200th anniversary of the composer's birth. Stephen Lawless, an innovative director called "a genius" by Opera Magazine, will lead the production.
"Falstaff" continues Virginia Opera's commitment to starting each season with an opera never staged by the company, which was founded in 1974. "Falstaff" is a story drawn from Shakespeare about a charming but devious knight, Sir John Falstaff, to be played by baritone Stephen Powell.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "The Magic Flute," opening Nov. 8, is a fanciful opera featuring a prince, an evil sorcerer, a Queen of the Night and a man dressed as a bird. Three Virginia Opera favorites from recent seasons - tenor Matthew Plenk, soprano Heather Buck and baritone David Pershall - have leading roles. Pershall is profiled in the current Opera News magazine, and Buck was praised by The Times of London for her English National Opera performance as "quite a find as the Queen of Night."
Thompson said he scheduled Richard Strauss's "Ariadne auf Naxos" as a vehicle to showcase soprano Christina Pier. That production, opening Feb. 7, 2014, will feature what Opera News has described as Pier's "big, gleaming soprano and impressive coloratura" in the role of the lovelorn Ariadne.
She will play opposite Audrey Luna, who portrays the star of the burlesque troupe comically pitted against an opera company. In that role for Tanglewood Opera Festival, Luna "very nearly did steal the evening," The New York Times reported.
The opera season ends in March with Georges Bizet's "Carmen," with mezzo-soprano Heather Johnson in the title role. Stage director Tazewell Thompson, who led this season's "The Pearl Fishers," will return to direct this heated love triangle involving a bullfighter and a gypsy.
Each opera will open at Harrison Opera House in Norfolk, then tour to Richmond and Fairfax.
Additionally, Virginia Opera has scheduled two nonsubscription productions. Either or both of these productions may be added to an opera subscription at a discounted price.
Giacomo Puccini's "The Girl of the Golden West" will be performed in January 2014 at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts in Virginia Beach and the Ferguson Center for the Arts in Newport News, as well as in Richmond.
That opera, about a gun-toting, saloon-owning woman, originally was a Lyric Opera Virginia offering. Due to the economy and other factors, Lyric Opera had insufficient funds to mount its planned productions, so Virginia Opera stepped in last fall so that the company's patrons would not be left with unredeemable tickets.
Also, Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd" will be staged in May 2014 as a co-production with the Virginia Arts Festival. The piece is a fusion of opera and musical theater, and satisfies the company's yearly quest to schedule an American work. Single tickets will go on sale in the summer.
Virginia Opera's 2013-14 season
Four-opera series tickets are $89 to $369. Call 866-673-7282 (OPERAVA).
-Verdi's "Falstaff," Sept. 27, 29, Oct. 1
-Mozart's "The Magic Flute," Nov. 8, 10 and 12
-Strauss's "Ariadne auf Naxos," Feb. 7, 9 and 11, 2014
-Bizet's "Carmen," March 21, 23 and 25, 2014
Either or both of the following productions may be added to a subscription. With a 10 percent subscriber discount, tickets are $35 to $100:
-Puccini's "The Girl of the Golden West," Jan. 10 and 12, 2014, Virginia Beach; Jan. 23, 2014, Newport News
-Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd," presented with Virginia Arts Festival at Harrison Opera House in Norfolk on May 9-11, 2014
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By Teresa Annas