Mark Gresham | 14 FEB 2019 @ 8:05am ET
When better than Valentine’s Day to reveal plans for a season of operas based on risky relationships? “Dangerous Liaisons” is the overarching theme of The Atlanta Opera’s upcoming 2019-20 season, announced this morning. It will also mark the company’s 40th anniversary.
Throughout the company’s four mainstage productions and two innovative Discoveries series productions in the 2019-20 season, most of the featured protagonists share a particular character flaw: a propensity for self-destructive relationships that threaten to bring about their downfall.
The ambitious mainstage productions at Cobb Energy Centre will include Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, a reprise of Atlanta’s original staging of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, and a new production of Richard Strauss’ Salome, created by TAO artistic director Tomer Zvulun. Two recent American operas – Frida by Robert Xavier Rodríguez and Glory Denied by Tom Cipullo – will see their first Atlanta performances in the company’s innovative Discoveries series, in which authentic, intimate and immersive operatic experiences are presented in nontraditional spaces.
Zvulun explains four ways in which these choices maintain Atlanta Opera’s commitments to its mission, audience and the vitality of the city’s operatic scene.
“First, we’re staging classic works by Puccini, Rossini, and Strauss, but in new and different ways, as part of our commitment to classic opera,” says Zvulun. “Second, we have chosen to stage the Gershwin’s larger-than-life operatic musical, Porgy and Bess, as part of our commitment to bringing new and different audiences into the world of The Atlanta Opera. Third, we’re producing our largest Discoveries season yet, with the story of the Mexican icon Frida Kahlo. Finally, we’re deepening our commitment to our veterans and active duty service members by closing our Discoveries season with Glory Denied, the story of the longest-held prisoner of war in American history.”
The 40th anniversary season will also be a kind of homecoming for four world-class artists, showcasing Atlanta natives Morris Robinson and Jennifer Larmore, University of Georgia graduate Jennifer Holloway, and Atlanta Opera Studio alumnus Santiago Ballerini. Other returning local audience favorites include Emily Fons, Michael Mayes, Gianluca Terranova and Catalina Cuervo, plus the Atlanta Opera debut of Japanese soprano Yasko Sato.
Here follows a little more detail about each of the 2019-20 productions:
Frida, October 5 – 13: Of the pair of new-to-Atlanta operas by American composers that will grace the Discoveries series, the first, which opens the entire season, is Frida, a fantastical theater piece composed by Robert Xavier Rodríguez, incorporating a blend of musical styles drawn from tango, zarzuela, ragtime, vaudeville, and 1930s jazz. The opera is a vivid, theatrically raw portrait of revolutionary Mexican artist Frida Kahlo in the midst of her troubled marriage to muralist Diego Rivera. Frida will star Colombian-born soprano Catalina Cuervo, who headlined Atlanta’s 2017 sold-out performances of Astor Piazzolla’s tango opera Maria de Buenos Aires and which the company is reprising by popular demand late next month.
La Cenerentola, November 2 – 10: The mainstage season at Cobb Energy Centre kicks off with Rossini’s bel canto fairytale, La Cenerentola, presented in an adorably enchanting, faux-Rococo treatment by director Joan Font – a company premiere. Grammy-nominated mezzo-soprano Emily Fons stars in the title role, opposite Argentinean tenor Santiago Ballerini as Ramiro. Ballerini launched his career in the Atlanta Opera Studio program before returning to
star in the company’s 2018 production of another Rossini opera, The
Daughter of the Regiment. Bass-baritone Dale Travis will portray the wicked stepfather Don Magnifico. Dean Williamson, music director of the Nashville Opera, will conduct.
Salome, January 25 – February 2: Richard Strauss’ Salome, based on the eponymous play by Oscar Wilde, twisted biblical tale of lust, incest, seduction and power, gives the story a sublimely heady, Romantic take. The world premiere of a new production by Zvulun, it stars Jennifer Holloway as Salome. Canadian bass-baritone Nathan Berg takes on the role of Jochanaan, the object of her desire. Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano and Atlanta native Jennifer Larmore portrays her mother, Herodias. These performances of Salome will be conducted by TAO music director Arthur Fagen.
Porgy and Bess, March 7 – 15: George and Ira Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, a time-proven work which effectively straddles the worlds of American musical theater and operatic masterpiece. Although Atlanta Opera has presented Porgy and Bess in several past seasons, this will be the company premiere of Francesca Zambello’s celebrated production. The lead role of Porgy will be divided between bass Morris Robinson, who will sing the opening performances, and South African bass-baritone Musa Ngqungwana. Panamanian-American baritone Nmon Ford portrays Crown and tenor Jermaine Smith plays Sportin’ Life. (Singers for the roles of Bess, clara and Maria have not yet been announced.) Conductor David Charles Abell will lead these performances.
Madama Butterfly, May 2 – 10: For the final opera of the mainstage season, Zvulun’s 2014 staging of Puccini’s immensely popular Madama Butterfly returns to the Cobb Energy Centre, showcasing soprano Yasko Sato in the title role in her Atlanta Opera debut. Italian tenor Gianluca Terranova, a solid favorite of Atlanta audiences, is cast as Pinkerton, with baritone Michael Chioldi as Sharpless and mezzo-soprano Katharine Goeldner as Suzuki. Italian Puccini expert Carlo Montanaro will conduct.
Glory Denied, May 21 – 24: The Atlanta premiere of Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied will draw the company’s entire 2019-20 season to a gripping close. It follows the story of Colonel Jim Thompson, America’s longest-held prisoner of war, as he transitions from the jungles of Southeast Asia to his home in suburban USA. The libretto for the 75-minute opera draws on Tom Philpott’s 2001 collection of interviews with returning veterans. Baritone Michael Mayes, who headlined Atlanta’s recent Sweeney Todd last season and Dead Man Walking earlier this month, will portray Col. Thompson. ■