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Category: Opera


Christiane Libor is stunning and the storytelling gripping for Seattle Opera’s remount of Beethoven’s only opera “Fidelio”

Clifton Forbis (Florestan), Christiane Libor (Leonore), and Seattle Opera Chorus and Supernumeraries Photo © Elise Bakketun

It’s quite an experience to see the one and only opera by that master of sweeping musical thought: Beethoven’s “Fidelio.” It’s even better when the key role is played by a masterful soprano making her U.S. debut: Christiane Libor. Those two experiences outweigh any minor complaints of staging (and Beethoven’s own inability to write well for voice) to make Seattle Opera’s “Fidelio” – which just opened at McCaw Hall and continues through Oct. 27 – a musical treat you shouldn’t miss.

Of course, it’s not Libor alone who carries this opera, though as Leonore – a devoted wife who disguises herself as a male prison employee to rescue her husband Florestan from political imprisonment and death – the German soprano gives the role both strength and truly convincing emotion with a voice that flows like molten gold through Beethoven’s every register change, octave leap and endless phrase.

No, like any good production this “Fidelio” is strong on almost all sides. Read more »


Seattle Opera expects to go into the red

Seattle Opera announced on Tuesday evening it is anticipating a shortfall for its 2011-2012 season. In response it is retooling for a leaner future.

In the announcement SO said it will reduce its five opera season to a four opera season in 2014. And it will replace “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” with its International Wagner Competition in the summer of 2014. The 2012-2013 season will stay as previously announced.

The 2011-2012 season included 36 performances of five mainstage productions (“Porgy and Bess,” “Carmen,” “Attila,” “Orphée et Eurydice,” and “Madama Butterfly”). SO states that it has operated without a deficit for

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Seattle Opera offers first free opera simulcast at Key Arena this weekend with “Madame Butterfly,” starring Patricia Racette

Patricia Racette as Madama Butterfly in a 2009 production by the Metropolitan Opera. Photo: Marty Sohl

Seattle Opera joins the Metropolitan Opera, the Washington National Opera, Houston Grand Opera and other major companies in offering a free screen opera simulcast for the first time this weekend. Saturday night will see an expected combined audience of over 10,000 at Key Arena to watch a free live HD simulcast of Puccini’s masterpiece “Madame Butterfly,” broadcast from McCaw Hall and starring soprano Patricia Racette as Cio-Cio-San, her signature role, in her debut with the company. Italian tenor Stefano Secco plays Pinkerton, the U.S. Naval officer officer who loves then abandons the Japanese geisha.

The event is part of The Next Fifty, the 50th anniversary celebrations of the 1962 World’s Fair opera performance that led to the formation of Seattle Opera. Read more »


Lakewood mezzo-soprano J’nai Bridges wins two national opera awards

A Lakewood native has taken out two major opera awards totaling $20,000 in the last month. J’nai Bridges, 25, a mezzo-soprano who grew up in Lakewood and who recently graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music, was last week awarded a Sarah Tucker Study Grant of $5,000, part of the Richard Tucker Foundation awards to recognize young opera talent in America.

The award, one of several given each year to young singers transitioning from study to professional career, follows on the heels of Bridges’ receipt of the Marian Anderson Award Prize, a $15,000 cash prize which

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Tacoma Opera’s “La Bohème” a success, despite the Rialto Theater and the male leads

Tess Altiveros as Musetta in Tacoma Opera's "La Bohème." Photo: Peter Serko

It’s a brave opera company that puts on a big opera like “La Bohème” in a theater like Tacoma’s Rialto. No pit, no fly, no wings, no backstage and not even much stage room – it’s the kind of thing only a small community opera can get away with. Tacoma Opera’s bigger than that, but the decision to take Puccini’s tangled love-story about starving bohemian artists out of Tacoma’s bigger Pantages was a financial one made by a cautious board. And last Friday night it worked – but despite the venue, not because of it.

Tacoma Opera’s “La Bohème” was, in fact, a success, thanks to smart directing, skilful playing, and some excellent singing from most, if not all, singers.

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University of Puget Sound Tacoma’s “Pirates of Penzance” is a riot – in the best possible way.

There’s a lot on in Tacoma theaters this weekend – Tacoma Opera, the Northwest Sinfonietta, Les Ballets Trockadero – but if you want laughs, great singing and sheer value for money all in one show then head to the University of Puget Sound to hear the student production of “Pirates of Penzance,” with a last performance 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon.

Lovers of Gilbert and Sullivan’s hilarious 19th-century operatic comedies will rejoice – at last, a local production! – and those who’ve never heard of these English gems with their ridiculously loquacious verbiage, completely silly antics and parody plots will

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Opera “Amahl and the Night Visitors” – with Tacoma Opera singers and director – at St. Luke’s Episcopal, Tacoma

From left: Brian Trunk, Barry Johnson and Dave Olson as the three Kings in "Amahl and the Night Visitors" at St. Lukes' Episcopal, Tacoma. Photo: Rosemary Ponnekanti

This weekend sees a first for me: Usually I’m the one watching and writing about local opera, but this Saturday and Sunday I’m in one. It’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” the sweet-and-short opera by Gian-Carlo Menotti about the Three Kings of the Christmas story; and the production is at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Tacoma, featuring members and a director from Tacoma Opera as well as church singers.

Don’t expect to see me on stage, though – my voice isn’t that good. No, I’ll be accompanying on piano, along with a harpist. It isn’t the first opera I’ve played for by any measure – my former career was playing double bass for symphony and opera orchestras – but it’s my first in Tacoma.

And the other first for me is seeing my two kids singing in an opera: my son in the children’s chorus, and my daughter in the lead role of Amahl.

“Amahl” was the first opera written just for TV, in 1951, and as such it’s very approachable for those of us who can’t sit through Verdi or Wagner. Just 50 minutes long, its music is modern yet sweet and tonal, with harmonious duets and witty humor. It tells (in English) the story of the Three Kings from the point of view of a poor crippled shepherd boy, Amahl, who gets a visit from the kings as they make their way to Bethlehem. Read more »


Tacoma Opera’s Rialto Theater production of “The Turk in Italy” is sheer dramatic delight.

Tacoma Opera. Photo: Dean Koepfler, The News Tribune.

When an opera company mounts a regional premiere of a 200-year-old opera, you have to ask why no-one else has done it. The answer, once you see Tacoma Opera’s production of Rossini’s “The Turk in Italy,” on this weekend in the Rialto Theater, is clear: It needs a brilliantly even cast and a clever stage director. This production has both in spades, with the bonus of a skilled conductor, sensitive orchestra and a very versatile set.

In telling the story of a married couple torn apart by a woman who can’t stop flirting, this opera doesn’t exactly break ground plot-wise; nor does it go emotionally beyond Rossini’s usual froth – though that’s always lovely to hear. But three and a quarter hours of froth is pretty hard to take without something more, and for Tacoma Opera that something would be sheer vocal and comic chutzpah. Every one of the five main principals has superb control of these difficult lines, and each has a delightfully entertaining take on the opera’s stock characters.

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