Aidan Lang (pictured left) has been named Seattle Opera's third General Director effective September 1, 2014. He will replace Speight Jenkins, who became General Director in 1983. Beginning immediately, Lang will be included in planning for the 2015-2016 season, working towards his first fully programmed season in 2016-2017.
Seattle Opera announced the 2013-2014 season today. Sarah Coburn and Terri Richter Franklin share the role of Marie in La fille du régiment, while Lawrence Brownlee and Andrew Stenson sing Tonio. William Burden sings Hoffmann, sharing the role with Russell Thomas.
Seattle Opera announced today that the company anticipates a shortfall for the 2011-2012 season. The company has operated without a deficit for 18 of the past 19 seasons, so this is cause for concern. As a result, the International Wagner Competition will replace Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg for Summer 2014. The Young Artists Program will produce a concert with orchestra instead of a fully-produced opera in the upcoming season, and will go on hiatus for the following season. There will also be operational reductions including leadership salary cuts, lower artist fees, and the net loss of four full-time staff positions.
* Notes *
Orphée et Eurydice (William Burden as Orphée with the Furies pictured left, photograph by Elise Bakketun) opened at Seattle Opera on last night. Jose Maria Condemi's production provided a series of entertaining moments that did not quite cohere, but did not get in the way of the music. Phillip Lienau's set is clean, and the scene changes were smooth and quiet, enhanced by Connie Yun's lighting. The costumes, from Heidi Zamora, had a loose, relaxed look. Yannis Adoniou's choreography was dull, for example, the first ballet consisted of three dancers falling to the floor in unison and the third one was a pantomime foreshadowing the plot. The second ballet was silliest, the 7 dancers were Furies who drew their shirts over their heads. It seemed an untoward combination of Martha Graham's Lamentation (1930) and Merce Cunningham's Antic Meet (1958).
Conductor Gary Thor Wedow kept the orchestra moving, occasionally a bit a head of the singers. There were 2 or 3 minor intonation errors, but for the most part the orchestra had a nice, clear sound. The chorus sang well.
The principals were uniformly strong. Julianne Gearhart looked like she was on her way to Black Rock City as an Amore outfitted with pink ruffles, fairy wings, tall shiny boots, and a glittering cruiser. Her voice has a breathless, girlish quality to it. Davinia Rodríguez's voice is more piercing, and her Eurydice was convincing. Rodríguez pushed a little hard on some of the high notes at the beginning of Act II, Scene 2, but otherwise sounded fine. William Burden made for an incredible Orphée. His voice is sweet and bright, and his singing was quite moving. His "J'ai perdu mon Eurydice" was exquisite.
* Tattling *
Someone unwrapped something in cellophane during the overture. There was some whispering, particularly when no one was singing. No electronic noise was noted. I laughed a great deal during the second ballet, and tried to keep this as silent as possible.
Seattle Opera announced the 2012-2013 season today. Noticed that one of the Bohème casts has Nadine Sierra and Michael Fabiano as Mimì and Rodolfo.
* Notes *
Porgy and Bess (Mary Elizabeth Williams as Serena and Gordon Hawkins as Porgy pictured left, photograph by Elise Bakketun) had a sixth performance at Seattle Opera on Sunday afternoon. Chris Alexander's production is serviceable, though perhaps blunt. The set, from Michael Scott, is attractive, but does not facilitate scene changes. The music was often interrupted by applause, and a fidgety silence predominated during the short breaks between scenes. Christina Giannini's costumes were nice enough, but Bess' initial red dress was not particularly flattering in cut. Duane Schuler's lighting was simple and elegant. Kabby Mitchell III choreography looked wonderful on the dancers, and on most of the singers, especially Michael Redding and Jermaine Smith.
John DeMain held the orchestra together, though there were times when singers and musicians were not precisely together. The soli were all very clear, almost jarringly so. The singers were strong, even the small roles of Strawberry Woman (Ibidunni Ojikutu) and Crab Man (Ashley Faatoalia) were cast perfectly. The chorus sounded fine, and were only occasionally not tightly synchronized. Angel Blue (Clara) sang "Summertime" beautifully, her voice lucid and icy. Gwendolyn Brown's Maria was sympathetic and funny, and her diction is marvelous. Mary Elizabeth Williams was impressive as Serena, her "My Man's Gone Now" was incandescent. A couple of notes were slightly throaty, though this actually fits the aria well.
Michael Redding was a force as Crown, he had a lot of volume, yet good control. Jermaine Smith played Sportin' Life with the right amount of sneaky, greasy charm. He was occasionally overwhelmed by either the chorus or orchestra. Lisa Daltirus was a curious choice for Bess, though one should note that she has sung the role quite a lot. Daltirus is oddly devoid of sensuality, especially in the way she moves, and there were occasional unattractive gasps or catches at the bottom of her voice. She can sound perfectly clarion, and this came through in her reprisal of "Summertime." Gordon Hawkins (Porgy) had a better sense of his own body, and though his voice is perhaps not the richest, he sang well. His speaking voice is quite lovely and effective. Both he and Daltrius contributed to a particularly moving "Bess, You Is My Woman Now."
* Tattling *
The audience seemed unprepared for how long the first half of this opera was. The person next to me in CC 6 was the ideal standee: silent, attentive, and aware of the space around her. The couple standing at CC 8 and 9 were also pretty quiet, and kept their whispering to a minimum. A watch alarm was heard at 3pm, and a person in the last row of the orchestra did check her mobile phone during the pauses between scenes.
I must remember to use the NATO phonetic alphabet when spelling my surname, as there was all sorts of confusion at the box office when I picked up my ticket. Thankfully, the people at the box office are both polite and kind.
Seattle Opera's Annual Meeting was held today at McCaw Hall. The company announced that it achieved a balanced budget (unaudited) for the 2010-2011 season. The Seattle Opera Artists of the Year awards went to Aleksandra Kurzak for singing the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor last October, and to Zandra Rhodes, Costume Designer for The Magic Flute in May.
Yesterday Seattle Opera officially announced Summer schedules for 2013 and 2014. Asher Fisch will conduct the Ring. The cast includes Alwyn Mellor (Brünnhilde), Stefan Vinke (Siegfried), Greer Grimsley (Wotan), Stephanie Blythe (Fricka), Margaret Jane Wray (Sieglinde), Stuart Skelton (Siegmund), Dennis Petersen (Mime), and Richard Paul Fink (Alberich).
Asher Fisch will also conduct Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, which will be Speight Jenkins' production as General Director. He will retire on September 1, 2014.
* Notes *
Il Barbiere di Siviglia returned to Seattle Opera this weekend. The set, from the Canadian Opera Company and designed by John Stoddart, is traditional, and turns for the various scenes. Particularly amusing were the projections used for the storm scene, we saw all manner of objects fly by. Peter Kazaras' stage direction was pleasingly campy, involving many dance moves. This all came together for a satisfying show and much laughter was heard.
Maestro Dean Williamson kept the orchestra going at a good clip, the brass had some ragged moments but the playing was lively. The chorus was not exactly together in the first scene, perhaps the choreography threw things off slightly.
Sunday's alternate cast was strong. David Adam Moore was an entertaining and spry Figaro. His voice is pleasant, but there were times when not all the words he sang could be discerned. He was also a bit slow during "Numero quindici a mano manca." Nicholas Phan made a fine Seattle Opera debut as Almaviva. His voice has a lot of volume and sweetness, though there was some strain at times. Kate Lindsey was a slightly tomboyish and very pert Rosina. She sounded rich and hale, yet shimmered when necessary.
As for the smaller roles, Sally Wolf sang Berta's aria convincingly. Burak Bilgili was a hilarious Don Basilio and Patrick Carfizzi likewise was comic. Carfizzi had wonderfully clear enunciation for "A un dottor della mia sorte."
* Tattling *
The audience clapped for the set twice, once for when they turned it about in Act I, and once for the interior at the beginning of Act II. The person in front of me in U 1 of Section 1 of the Orchestra Level twitched her head to pretty much every note of the music. Had I not been so engaged with this performance, I might have been more bothered by this. The woman in either V or W Seat 2 Section 2 sang along to the first notes of "Buona Sera, Mio Signore."
There are five operas scheduled for next season at Seattle Opera and again we have 3 conductors returning and 2 debuts. John DeMain conducts Gershwin, Carlo Montanaro conducts Verdi, and Gary Thor Wedow conducts Gluck. Pier Giorgio Morandi and Julian Kovatchev have their first performances in Seattle, conducting Carmen and Butterfly respectively. As for singers, Joseph Calleja is Don José, William Burden Orpheus, John Relyea Attila, and Patricia Racette is Butterfly. I am especially curious about José Maria Condemi's production of the Gluck opera.
* Notes *
The world premiere of Daron Aric Hagen's Amelia had a promising opening at Seattle Opera last night. The production, directed by Stephen Wadsworth and designed by Thomas Lynch, is both smart and tasteful. Some of the scene changes were rather noisy, and this was particularly unfortunate as it interrupted the music.
Wadsworth's story came together in the libretto, written by poet Gardner McFall. The text did not display the awkwardness that marks many contemporary operas. The words fit the music, and the deft overlapping of narratives condensed the plot without being confusing or tedious. Layering of the Icarus myth and the life of Amelia Earhart with the main story line worked surprisingly well. There were a few moments that were ungainly, and it might have been better to be shown rather than to be told, given that this was an opera.
The orchestra, conducted by Gerard Schwarz, sounded lively. The brass sounded clear in Act I, but perhaps had more trouble with the second half. The cello sounded brilliant, especially at the beginning of Act I Scene 2. Hagen's orchestration could be overgrown, and at times it was somewhat difficult to hear certain arias. However, the use of silence was effective and compelling. There was quite a lot of singing as an ensemble, and the voices were handled astutely. The a cappella section at the end was striking.
The singing was all quite lovely. Museop Kim, David Won, and Karen Vuong were convincing in their duel roles as North Vietnamese villagers and American hospital staff. The voices of Nicholas Coppolo (Icarus/Young Boy) and Jordan Bisch (Daedalus/Young Boy's Father) were evocative and blended nicely together. As the young Amelia, Ashley Emerson was eerily child-like. Her voice was very pretty, flexible, and youthful.
Jane Eaglen fit the role of Amelia's Aunt Helen perfectly, and produced a full sound without overwhelming the others. Jennifer Zetlan cut a cunning figure as the Flier, the way she sat on the hospital bed with utter aplomb as Amelia is whisked off was strangely delightful. Zetlan's voice was piercing, a good foil for Eaglen. Nathan Gunn was fine as Paul, the husband of Amelia, as was Luretta Bybee as Amanda, her mother. William Burden (Dodge) sounded warm and sweet, and could be heart-rending. Mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey impressed in the title role with her clear, bright voice.
* Tattling *
There was some light talking during the music. A cellular phone rang during Act II as William Burden sang.
This was the first time in many years that I was not in standing room for Seattle Opera, and my press contact for Amelia made sure I was sent to the box office for a seat upgrade. I was right in front of the composer himself on the orchestra level.
There are five operas scheduled for next season at Seattle Opera, none of which are particularly adventurous. Many familiar conductors return: Asher Fisch conducts Wagner, Dean Williamson conducts Rossini, and Gary Thor Wedow conducts Mozart. Bruno Cinquegrani and Carlo Montanaro have debuts on the Seattle podium, in Lucia and Quichotte respectively. As for singers, Greer Grimsley is Kurwenal, William Burden Edgardo, John Relyea Quichotte, and Christine Brandes Queen of the Night.
The 2009-2010 participants of the Young Artists Program at Seattle Opera are sopranos Megan Hart, Vira Slywotzky, Marcy Stonikas; mezzo-sopranos Jenni Blank and Maya Layhani; tenors Alex Mansoori and Bray Wilkins; baritones Michael Krzankowski and Eric Neuville; and bass Erik Anstine. Layhani and Mansoori were both recently in San Francisco Opera's Merola Program.