A different pandemic, romanticized: Maria Luigia Borsi and Gianluca Terranova in The Atlanta Opera's 2015 production of Puccini's "La bohème." The highly popular opera, in which tuburculosis plays a pivotal role, returns in the company's 2020-21 season.(credit: Jeff Roffman)

The Atlanta Opera acts boldly with brave new moves for 2020-21 season

Mark Gresham | 06 APR 2020 @ 6am ET

In the midst of the growling COVID-19 pandemic and a new statewide shelter-in-place order to go into effect that evening, on Friday The Atlanta Opera announced the postponement of the two final productions of its 2019-20 season, Madame Butterfly and Glory Denied, both originally scheduled for May.

That’s correct: postponed, not canceled.

Cancellation would have been the easy way out, but in a forward-thinking move, The Atlanta Opera has instead chosen to add Madama Butterfly to the 2020-21 season, bringing the total number of productions in the new season to seven. For Atlanta, that is unprecedented and will make the 2020-21 season a bit of a breakthrough year for the company — even if as a child of necessity born of unusual circumstances.


“Thinking creatively to keep our commitment to our audiences during this time is so important,” said Tomer Zvulun, general and artistic director of the company, in Friday’s press release. “The new Atlanta Opera Puccini Festival allows us to build anticipation of something greater than the sum of its original parts.”

As for Glory Denied, it has been rescheduled for the 2021-22 season.

Tomer Zvulun (source: The Atlanta Opera)

Tomer Zvulun (source: The Atlanta Opera)

It was under the leadership of Zvulun, who is also internationally recognized and active as a stage director, that The Atlanta Opera expanded from three to four mainstage productions in recent years and launched its innovative and successful Discoveries series.

The other unprecedented element for Atlanta will be the interweaving of the performances of Madame Butterfly and La bohème into a singular ”Puccini festival” in November, with four performances of La bohème scheduled for November 7, 10, 13 and 15, and three performances of Madame Butterfly scheduled for November 12, 14, and 17, both at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.

Interweaving productions is costly, but hardly out of bounds for major US Opera companies. Lyric Opera of Chicago does it regularly as does the Metropolitan Opera. But for The Atlanta Opera, which has long followed the Italian “stagione” model of mounting one opera at a time, doing that, along with presenting eight productions, constitutes a swift kick upstairs into a different league altogether.


The other uncertainty is whether the COVID-19 pandemic will re-occur or continue into the fall season.

“Time will tell what the fall brings for our community, but right now we feel fortunate to be in this position,” says Zvulun, “and we are planning these performances with hope and optimism.”

Here’s the lineup, including some comments by Zvulun taken from a conversation with EarRelevant’s Mark Gresham earlier this year:

  • La bohème
    November 7, 10, 13 & 15
    Music by Giacomo Puccini, libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacos. Director: Tomer Zvulun. Conductor: Timothy Myers. A reprise of The Atlanta Opera’s highly successful 2015 production, with scenic and projection designs inspired by 19th-century French photography.
  • Madama Butterfly
    November 12, 14 & 17
    Music by Giacomo Puccini, libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. Director: Tomer Zvulun. Conductor TBA.
  • The Barber of Seville
    January 23, 26, 29 & 31
    Music by: Gioachino Rossini. Director: Michael Shell. Conductor: Arthur Fagen.
  • The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs
    Febrtuary 11, 12, 13 & 14, 2021
    Music by Mason Bates, libretto by Mark Campbell. Director: Tomer Zvulun. Conductor: Michael Christie. “A brand new co-production, the second production in the history of the piece, that will be seen in Austin three weeks before our opening, then from us it’s going to Kansas City.. It’s a real co-production. It’s a big big deal.” ~Tomer Zvulun 
  • The Sound of Music
    March 6, 9, 12 & 14
    Music by Richard Rodgers;, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein, book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. Director: Francesca Zambello. Conductor:  Joseph Colaneri. “Another brand new production premiering in Glimmerglass this summer stopping in Atlanta then moving to Houston.” ~Tomer Zvulun
  • As One
    March 26 & 28, April 1 & 3, 2021
    Music by Laura Kaminsky, libretto by Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed. Director: Josh Ivany; Cnductor TBA. “A brand new production, an introduction to Atlanta in an intimate venue in Out Front Theater.”  ~Tomer Zvulun
  • Das Rheingold
    May 1, 3, 7 & 9
    Music and libretto by Richard Wagner. Director: Tomer Zvulun. Conductor: Patrick Summers. “A major new production originating here in Atlanta.”  ~Tomer Zvulun

For more details about each opera, and for ticket information, visit The Atlanta Opera website at atlantaopera.org.  ■