|General & Artistic Director Tomer Zvulun
I am so excited to finally kick off the Atlanta Opera
2014-15 season, my first planned season as a General and Artistic Director. I
have heard the term “Southern hospitality” before, but in the past 16 months I
have seen it daily as I was offered a warm, genuine welcome to a wonderful city
that I now call home. Moving here was an
adventure for me, and I believe this new season will start an adventure for all
of us, together.
This will be an incredible season that includes familiar,
well-loved operas reimagined in new productions and featuring great
performances by exciting up-and-coming stars. One of the highlights of the
season for me is the Southeastern premiere of a modern American Opera by
arguably, the most prominent living opera composers of our time: Jake Heggie.
The season opens this weekend with a delicious appetizer: an
outstanding concert of chorus’ greatest
hits, where we present the most popular chorus numbers from operas such as Carmen, Traviata and Porgy and Bess performed by the world-renowned Atlanta Opera
chorus and led by Walter Huff. It is also a unique collaboration with three
leading universities: Emory, Georgia State, and Kennesaw State.
Performances will take place on different campuses in town:
Emory’s Schwartz Center on September 12th, 14th and the Bailey Performance
Center September 16th at Kennesaw State. Soloists in the concert include
popular local stars: Leah Partridge, Indra Thomas, and Tim Miller among others.
It is not an accident that the first performance I scheduled
and planned as General Director celebrates the Atlanta Opera Chorus and Walter
Huff’s 25th year with the company. I have worked with the chorus
regularly over the past decade as a stage director. From the very first time I
encountered this incredible group of musicians, I have admired their work and
the passion that they bring to every rehearsal and performance. Their leader
over the past quarter century, Walter Huff, is one of the most respected chorus
masters in the country and this special concert is in his and their honor.
We open our mainstage season at the magnificent Cobb Energy
Centre with Puccini’s immortal Madama Butterfly, in a stunning new
production co-produced by late Lorin Maazel’s Castleton Festival. The opera,
which I will direct, will be led by our music Director, Arthur Fagen and
feature a spectacular cast, including Dina Kuznetsova – who triumphed in London
with her portrayal as Cio Cio San; Adam Diegel – who sang the role of Pinkerton
at the Metropolitan Opera last year; and Nina Yoshida Nelsen – who performed
Suzuki with The New York City Opera. This new production is making a
sophisticated use of projection and multimedia effects, which will transform
the stage into countless, magical locations. The design team that brought
Atlanta audiences the 2011 Lucia di
Lammermoor (Robert Wierzel, Erhard Rom and myself) returns with this new
interpretation of Puccini’s masterpiece.
Verdi’s incredibly touching Rigoletto will be
presented this winter in a co-production that premiered in Boston last year and
features one of opera’s fastest rising stars – Nadine Sierra. Baritone Todd Thomas portrays the cursed
hunchback; sonorous bass Morris Robinson will reprise his signature role of the
murderer Sparafucile; and rising American tenor Scott Quinn
will debut as the
heartless Duke of Mantua.
Maestro Joe Rescigno, a regular guest at our podium, will
return to lead the Atlanta Opera Chorus and Orchestra. This brand new
production, designed by NEA award winner John Conklin with opulent Renaissance
costumes by Vita Tzykun and arresting lighting design by Robert Wierzel, was
premiered to great critical and audience acclaim at the Boston Lyric Opera and
will be seen in multiple other cities in the US.
Our spring production at the Cobb Energy Centre will feature
Mozart’s profound masterpiece The Marriage of Figaro in a
production that was widely applauded across the US and Canada. Designer Susan
Benson’s elegant, lush costumes and gorgeous period sets, combined with Tara
Faircloth’s stage direction will create a lovely, colorful evening in the
theatre. Maestro Fagen will lead a dynamic cast, combined of up and coming
young singers: Craig Colcough, Loren Snouffer, Katie Van Kooten and John
Moore. They will join veteran performers
Victoria Livengood and Bruno Pratico, who delighted Atlanta audiences in
2012-13’s The Italian Girl in Algiers.
I am excited to close this season by our anticipated move
back to midtown’s Alliance Theatre to showcase the Atlanta premiere of the
deeply moving American opera, Three Decembers by Jake Heggie. This
theatrical, intimate opera is highly intense and effective as it spans over 3
decades and multiple cities, but clocks in at just under 90 minutes. The
contemporary story of a distraught family that deals with loss, estranged relationships
and reconciliation is propelled by Jake Heggie’s richly melodic and inventive
music. Metropolitan Opera Veteran Teddy Hanslow sings the career-obsessed
mother Maddy; Jennifer Black and Jesse Blumberg portray her estranged children.
Steven Osgood conducts the Atlanta Opera Orchestra in a new production conceived by innovative director Emma Griffin.
This varied season reinvents the familiar by presenting
well-known operas in fresh productions that focus on theatrical and visual
effects. It features the up-and-coming opera stars of tomorrow and relies on
the continuous leadership and musicianship of our maestros: chorus master
Walter Huff leading our world renowned Chorus, and our beloved Music Director
Arthur Fagen. At the same time, we establish our commitment to new exciting
work, by leading living composers. Those programming choices are enhanced by
our commitment to reach into the community and establish presence all over the
city by collaborating with other arts organizations. In addition to our
university partnerships this fall, Theatrical Outfit will feature our 24 Hour
Project; we will celebrate our 2nd season collaboration with the
Bremen Museum concert series; and of course our return to midtown with the
I always think of an opera performance as the greatest
miracle possible: orchestra, chorus, designers,
directors, conductors, stage managers, stage hands and hundreds of other people
working tirelessly to coordinate efforts and create a moving experience that
will stir the audience’s hearts. There are so many things that can go wrong,
yet when everything gels and the stars align, I can’t think of any art form
that has a stronger impact on the audience’s soul. It is pure magic.
This upcoming season, planned with so much thought and
passion, will be when all those efforts perfectly align to create that elusive
magic that we are constantly chasing.