Promotional images for the Atlanta Opera's 2019-20 season: top, l-r: Frida, La Cenerentola, Salome; bottom: Porgy and Bess, Madame Butterfly, Glory denied. (source: The Atlanta Opera)

The Atlanta Opera’s 40th season mixes innovations and favorites

John Lemley and Mark Gresham | 03 OCT 2019

The Atlanta Opera is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this season, opening with the first of its two Discoveries Series productions: Frida, the story of the Mexican icon Frida Kahlo, performed at Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center at City Springs starting this Saturday. According to general and artistic director Tomer Zvulun, “These operas are smaller in scope but big on impact, especially the season opening production of Frida.”

All About Frida
Frida Kahlo

John Lemley recently spoke with Tomer Zvulun, general and artistic director of The Atlanta Opera, about Frida Kahlo and the opera based on her life. Listen to the conversation here:

Four mainstage productions follow, all at the Cobb Energy Center.

First among them will be will be Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola, starring mezzo-soprano Emily Fons as Angelina and Santiago Ballerini as Ramiro. The dramma giocoso in two acts is a variation of the Cinderella fairy tale, minus the supernatural elements. No wicked stepmother, rather a callous stepfather (bass-baritone Dale Travis). Instead of a fairy godmother, there is the philosopher Alidoro (bass-baritone Alan Higgs), tutor to the Prince. Even so: nothing at the palace is quite what it seems. Four performances, November 2, 5, 8 & 10.

For darker, more dramatic fare, the company is producing a brand-new version of Richard Strauss’ Salome. The opera’s exotic “Dance of the Seven Veils” is its most infamous passage. Soprano Jennifer Holloway portrays Salome, with tenor Frank van Aken as Herod, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore as Herodias, and baritone Nathan Berg in his Atlanta Opera debut as Jochanaan. Four performances, January 25, 28, 31 & Fenruary 2.


The company then turns to a classic American work: George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Atlanta-native bass Morris Robinson will share the role of Porgy with bass Musa Ngqungwana — Morrison in the first three performances and Ngqungwana in the final two. Lirico-spinto soprano Kristin Lewis sings the role of Bess, with tenor Jermaine Smith as Sportin’ Life, plus Reginald Smith Jr. (Jake), Jacqueline Echols (Clara), Indra Thomas (Serena), and La’Shelle Allen (Maria). Five performances in all, March 7, 8, 10, 13 & 15.

Giacomo Puccini’s masterwork Madame Butterfly is the last of the four mainstage productions for 2019-20, in which late 19th-century Japanese and American cultures collide. Japanese soprano Yasko Sato stars as Cio-Cio-San, with mezzo-soprano Katharine Goeldner as Suzuki, tenor Gianluca Terranova as Lieutenant Pinkerton and baritone Michael Chioldi as Sharpless.

The 2019-20 season closes with a final Discoveries Series production: Glory Denied, which runs for four performances, May 21 through 24, on the Hertz Stage at the Woodruff Arts Center. Baritone Michael Mayes, who portrayed Joseph De Rocher in Dead Man Walking last season, returns to The Atlanta Opera to perform the lead role of Colonel Jim Thompson in this story of the longest held prisoner of war in American history. ■