Virginia Opera, The Official Opera Company of the Commonwealth of Virginia, announces its 2013-14 Season that features four, brand-new mainstage productions and two Special Engagement productions that span comedy, drama, farce and grand opera. The Company’s 39th Subscription Season will open with Falstaff in September, followed by The Magic Flute in November, Ariadne auf Naxos in February, and Carmen in March. Special Engagements next season will include performances of The Girl of the Golden West in January and Sweeney Todd in May.
Russell P. Allen, President and CEO, stated “Virginia Opera is bringing to the Commonwealth a season that sparkles with new productions of old favorites and new productions of works not done by the Opera in 25-30 years. Also, it is exciting to offer two productions never previously produced by Virginia Opera. It will be a most memorable year for all of us.”
“With the announcement of its enviable 2013-14 season, Virginia Opera takes another leap forward in providing its supporters and subscribers with an even wider variety of musical and dramatic experiences, and a surge in artistic quality that is nothing short of astounding,” said Robin Thompson, Virginia Opera’s Artistic Advisor.
FALSTAFF – Verdi
Virginia Opera will open the season by celebrating the bicentennial of Giuseppe Verdi’s birth with performances of Falstaff beginning Friday, Sept. 27, 2013 at Norfolk’s Harrison Opera House. This effervescent, quicksilver comic opera snags one of the most endearing characters in literature in a backfiring scheme to get rich. The production will be directed by the internationally-acclaimed Stephen Lawless, who Opera Magazine calls “a genius,” and conducted by Joseph Rescigno. Rescigno returns to Virginia Opera after conducting Wagner’s Die Walküre in 2011 where he was praised by The Virginian-Pilot for his “complete command” of the podium.
Baritone Stephen Powell makes his company and role debut as the charming, yet devious title character with a voice Opera Now describes as “gleaming.” Also in their debuts, Weston Hurt will resume the role of Ford after his performances at Seattle Opera, where The Seattle Times hailed: “Hurt imbued the jealous husband [Ford] with just the right touch of fury…[he] has a baritone as mellifluous as the best tenors," and Elizabeth Caballero will perform as Alice, a wealthy object of Falstaff’s affection. Ms. Caballero’s voice was recently praised by the Kansas City Star as being “delicate yet powerful, passionate yet controlled.”
The late-Verdi gem is the third installment of Virginia Opera’s “First of Firsts” series—an initiative designed to present brand-new productions of operas never before seen by Virginia Opera audiences. Falstaff will be sung in Italian with English supertitles.
The Magic Flute – Mozart
The fantastical world of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Magic Flute comes alive as Virginia Opera’s second production of the 2013-14 Season, opening Nov. 8, 2013 at Norfolk’s Harrison Opera House. A timeless fairy tale that explores the limits of loyalty and love, The Magic Flute will see many audience-favorite artists return to Virginia Opera in this fresh production conceived by innovative director Michael Shell and conducted by former Music Director of the Richmond Symphony Orchestra, Mark Russell Smith.
Matthew Plenk makes a triumphant return as the noble Prince Tamino, after his popular portrayal of The Mikado’s Nanki-Poo (2012). Soprano Nadine Sierra makes her company debut as Pamina, the other half of this determined, lovesick couple. The quirky Papageno will be played by David Pershall, a former Virginia Opera Emerging Artist who recently wowed critics and audiences as Zurga in The Pearl Fishers. “As Zurga…baritone David Pershall radiated vocal confidence and decisiveness… his instrument was clear and strong,” said The Washington Times.
In another highly anticipated return, Soprano Heather Buck will play the visually and audibly compelling Queen of the Night, a familiar role to Ms. Buck, whose performances with the English National Opera had London’s The Times praising, “Heather Buck is quite a find as the Queen of Night: statuesque of bearing, surefire in the vocal stratosphere, and a powerfully ambiguous presence.” Ms. Buck made her company debut as La Princesse in its 2012 production of Orphée and, most recently, performed as the doomed priestess Leila to great acclaim in the current season’s production of The Pearl Fishers. The Magic Flute will be sung in English with English supertitles.
Ariadne auf Naxos – R. Strauss
February 2014 will see Richard Strauss’ uproarious Ariadne auf Naxos as Virginia Opera’s third opera of the 2013-14 Season. Last performed at Virginia Opera in 1990, it will open Feb. 7, 2014 at Norfolk’s Harrison Opera House. Vienna’s most affluent aristocrat creates a head-on collision between low comedy and high art when he asks a burlesque troupe to perform alongside an opera company. Tragic opera turns romantic comedy set against the backdrop of Strauss’ passionate, soaring music, led by up-and-coming conductor Garrett Keast, who Symphony Magazine named “a conductor to watch.
Soprano Christina Pier will make her Virginia Opera mainstage debut as the opera company’s Diva, and later the lovelorn Ariadne. Ms. Pier has been hailed by Opera News for her “big, gleaming soprano and impressive coloratura….” After making her recent debut at The Metropolitan Opera, Audrey Luna will take the stage as the saucy Zerbinetta—the star of the burlesque troupe and Ariadne’s opposite in music and life—a role familiar to Ms. Luna. The New York Times said this of her performance with Tanglewood Opera Festival: “… Audrey Luna, in that soubrette role, very nearly did steal the evening. Her vocal athleticism was of a very different sort…nimble and daringly acrobatic. She delivered some of her most altitudinous and treacherous coloratura lying flat on her back.” Ariadne auf Naxos will be sung in German with English supertitles.
Carmen – Bizet
Rounding out Virginia Opera’s mainstage subscription offerings for 2013-14 is Georges Bizet’s Carmen, opening Mar. 21, 2014 at Norfolk’s Harrison Opera House. The passionate tale of desire and vengeance is the apex of Bizet’s career, whose brilliance shines in numerous celebrated arias such as the “Toreador’s Song” and the “Habanera.”
Opera’s most notorious vixen will be played by mezzo-soprano Heather Johnson in her mainstage company debut. Ms. Johnson was one of four headlining artists at Virginia Opera’s Opera in the Park earlier this season, performing a variety of opera’s greatest hits, including arias from Carmen. Bass-baritone Ryan Kuster will take the stage as the assertive bullfighter Escamillio, a role he recently performed at San Francisco Opera, where his performance was called “pure bravado.” The role of Micaela—the opera’s hometown sweetheart—will be performed by Corinne Winters, who recently sang the part at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis to several rave reviews, one naming her as the “standout” of the production.
Conductor John DeMain will return to Virginia Opera to lead Bizet’s powerful score after his praised debut conducting Aida in 2011. DeMain is currently the Artistic Director of the Madison Opera after having served as the Music Director and Principal Conductor of Houston Grand Opera for eighteen years. Award-winning stage director Tazewell Thompson returns to tackle the opera’s sultry world of Seville alongside recent Pearl Fishers collaborators: Merrily Murray-Walsh (costumes), Donald Eastman (set design) and Robert Wierzel (lighting design). Carmen will be sung in French with English supertitles.
Virginia Opera will offer two Special Engagement presentations alongside the four mainstage operas for the 2013-14 Season. Giacomo Puccini’s The Girl of the Golden West will be performed in January 2014 at Virginia Beach’s Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, Newport News’ Ferguson Center for the Arts and the Carpenter Theatre at Richmond CenterStage. The Girl of the Golden West was originally slated to be part of Lyric Opera Virginia’s 2012-13 Season, which they chose to no longer produce. Virginia Opera committed to presenting the production as part of a joint agreement to ensure Lyric Opera subscribers would not be left with unredeemable tickets. (See Virginia Opera press release dated Nov. 20, 2012.
The Golden (and Wild) West shines as Minnie, a gun-wielding, saloon-owning firecracker, stands her ground against miners, cowboys and her own heart. Director Lillian Groag—a familiar force to Commonwealth audiences due to her 20-year history with Virginia Opera (beginning with Puccini’s Tosca in 1993)—remounts her production of Puccini’s “love letter to America” originally from Glimmerglass Opera. “Puccini’s evocation of the California Gold Rush captures all the frenetic activity, camaraderie, loneliness and improbability of love in music that anticipates the exotic harmonies of Turandot,” says Robin Thompson. The Girl of the Golden West will be sung in Italian with English supertitles.
The second Special Engagement presentation of the 2013-14 Season is Stephen Sondheim’s popular Sweeney Todd, which will be performed in May 2014 at Norfolk’s Harrison Opera House and the Carpenter Theatre at Richmond CenterStage. Director Ron Daniels remounts his equally dark and delightful production from Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, where The Demon Barber of Fleet Street comes alive in this chilling Tony Award-winning thriller that The Wall Street Journal called “the best of both opera and Broadway worlds.” Sweeney Todd is the third installment of Virginia Opera’s American Opera Cycle and is presented in collaboration with co-producer, the Virginia Arts Festival. It will be sung in English with English supertitles.
Subscriptions, STUDENT NIGHTS and Performance Schedule
Due to the increased number of productions in its 2013-14 Season, Virginia Opera has condensed its schedule at Norfolk’s Harrison Opera House from four to three performances in its Subscription Series. Opening Night for each production has moved from Saturday evenings to Friday evenings, merging its subscribers with those from the former Friday Night series. In addition, the Wednesday Night series has moved to Tuesday evenings. The Sunday series will see no changes.
Subscriptions for the new season in Norfolk and Richmond are available online at www.vaopera.org, in person at performances and by calling Virginia Opera’s Box Office at 1.866.OPERA.VA (1.866.673.7282). Subscriptions in Fairfax will be available beginning April 11, 2013 through George Mason University’s Center for the Arts, which may be reached at 703.993.ARTS (2787). The two Special Engagement productions are currently available as additions to any 2013-14 Season subscription tickets.
Each performance of Virginia Opera’s 2013-14 Season will feature a free pre-performance discussion by Virginia Opera’s Dr. Glenn Winters. There will also be Student Night at the Opera performances offered in Norfolk for Virginia Opera’s mainstage productions, occurring the Wednesday evening before each Opening Night. There will be additional Student Night performances in Richmond for Carmen and in Virginia Beach for The Girl of the Golden West. For more information on Student Night at the Opera, contact Laura Wigginton at email@example.com or 757.627.9545 ext 3347.
Performance dates for Virginia Opera’s 2013-14 subscription SeasoN
Norfolk: Sept. 27, 29 & Oct. 1, 2013
Richmond: Oct. 4 & 6, 2013
Fairfax: Oct. 11 & 13, 2013
The Magic Flute
Norfolk: Nov. 8, 10, & 12, 2013
Richmond: Nov. 22 & 24, 2013
Fairfax: Dec. 6 & 7*, 2013
*The second performance of The Magic Flute in Fairfax will occur on the afternoon of Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. A Sunday performance is not available in Fairfax for this production.
Ariadne auf Naxos
Norfolk: Feb. 7, 9, & 11, 2014
Richmond: Feb. 21 & 23, 2014
Fairfax: Feb. 14 & 16, 2014
Norfolk: Mar. 21, 23, & 25, 2014
Richmond: April 4 & 6, 2014
Fairfax: April 11 & 13, 2014
Performance dates for Virginia Opera’s 2013-14 SPECIAL ENGAGEMENTS
The Girl of the Golden West
Virginia Beach: Jan. 10 & 12, 2014
Richmond: Jan. 17 & 19, 2014
Newport News: Jan. 23, 2014
Norfolk: May 9, 10, & 11, 2014
Richmond: May 23, 24, & 25, 2014
June 18, 2015 - Norfolk & Richmond, VA - Virginia Opera is pleased to announce a key staff appointment. Robert Cinnante, has been appointed to the position of Director of Education and Outreach, a post with statewide responsibility based in the Richmond offices of Virginia Opera. Mr. Cinnante joins Virginia Opera with the assignment of expanding the Education Program, both increasing its impact and outreach, and shaping the touring arm to ensure a broader visibility and understanding of the art form.
April 29, 2015 - The Virginia Opera took a gamble by staging its landmark production of Stephen Sondheim’s musical theater blockbuster Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street as the opening show for its 40th anniversary season, which began last fall. Happily, the gamble paid off--big time.
By John Shulson
Verdi’s “La Traviata” ranks among the top 10 most done and seen operas in the repertoire. Based on “The Lady of the Camellias” by Alexandre Dumas, “Traviata" is the typical tale of the power and pain of love. Violetta is the high society courtesan who enjoys attention but fears giving up freedom, ultimately having it both ways, but not without emotional and physical turmoil and, of course, a last minute surge of hope before death.