January 10, 2020

The Atlanta Opera launches the new year with a new mainstage production of Salome, Richard Strauss’s still unsettling 1905 take on Oscar Wilde’s twisted biblical tale of incest, seduction and power (Jan 25, 28, 31; Feb 2). A high point of Atlanta’s 40th anniversary season, the opera receives an ambitious new staging from “innovative risk-taker” Tomer Zvulun (Opera News), the company’s Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. General & Artistic Director. Marking her U.S. title role debut, Georgia resident and “dark-hued, compelling mezzo-soprano” Jennifer Holloway (New York Times) reprises the headlining performance with which she has already wowed critics and audiences throughout Europe. Music Director Arthur Fagen, who launched his Atlanta Opera tenure in 2010, leads from the pit.

Zvulun explains:

“Richard Strauss scored an unprecedented triumph when Salome premiered in Dresden in 1905. More than a century later, Salome still retains the power to shock, disgust and terrify us. Most importantly it has the power to fascinate and hook a modern audience as these themes of sex, death and the abuse of power are ever so relevant in our world. This is a brand new take on this masterpiece, conceived by a brilliant team of designers and starring some of the most preeminent performers of our time, including Jennifer Holloway, Nathan Berg and Jennifer Larmore. How will it play in Atlanta in 2020? I am truly excited to bring this profound masterpiece to our audience as a part of our 40th anniversary season.”

The production represents a homecoming for Holloway, a University of Georgia alumna who returns to The Atlanta Opera after lending her “bright, focused, seemingly effortless sound and movie-star good looks” (ArtsATL) to Così fan tutte’s Dorabella in the 2010-11 season. Since then, Holloway has made something of a signature role of Salome, triumphing as Strauss’s anti-heroine at Germany’s Semperoper Dresden, National Theater Mannheim and Leipzig Opera; Spain’s Bilbao Opera; and England’s Opera North, where she gave “an outstanding central performance.” As the review by The Times of London continued:

“She catches all the complexities and conflicts of the Judean princess: at once a petulant spoilt child and a woman who mistakes lust and infatuation for love, weary of being leered at and objectified, and unable to interrogate her own destructive urges. … Holloway’s guttural demands for Jokanaan’s head are pure revenge, sitting as happily in her voice as the floated high notes and ecstatic outpourings.”

For her first American appearances in the role, Holloway will be joined by Canadian bass-baritone Nathan Berg, the “majestic bass” (Financial Times) heard on the Houston Symphony’s 2018 Grammy-winning Wozzeck recording, who makes his company debut as John the Baptist or Jochanaan, Salome’s object of desire. The “consistently thrilling” Dutch tenor Frank van Aken (Bachtrack) portrays Salome’s stepfather, the tetrarch Herod Antipas, opposite Grammy-winning mezzo-soprano and Atlanta native Jennifer Larmore, who makes her role debut as Salome’s mother, Herodias. Bringing his “heroic, ringing tenor and martial bearing” (New York Classical Review) to the role of Narraboth, the captain of the guard, Adam Diegel rounds out this distinguished cast of principals.

To help realize his singular vision, Zvulun has assembled a similarly stellar creative team. Salome’s set and projection design is by International Opera Awards finalist Erhard Rom, whose credits include San Francisco Opera, Washington National Opera, the Glimmerglass Festival and the Royal Swedish Opera. Lighting is by Emmy, Obie, Bessie and Helen Hayes Award-winner Robert Wierzel, perhaps best-known for his numerous collaborations with Bill T. Jones and the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, and costumes by European Opera Prize-winner Mattie Ullrich, whose recent operatic productions include La clemenza di Tito at LA Opera and the world premiere of David T. Little and Royce Vavrek’s JFK. Salome also features choreography by Amir Levy, whose work has been seen at Baden-Baden, the Metropolitan Opera and in The Atlanta Opera’s hit 2017-18 presentation of Carmen.

Zvulun’s new production of Salome exemplifies his vision for larger-scale, dramatic repertoire that will be featured more prominently in coming seasons. Most notably, his own new production of Das Rheingold is due to premiere in 2020-21. He explains:

“Our major new production of the German masterpiece Salome continues the initiative that we started in the 2017-18 season, with our new interpretation of Wagner’s Flying Dutchman. The strategy behind programming these important Germanic operas was to prepare our audience, orchestra and company for Wagner’s ultimate masterworks, Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, which are planned for subsequent seasons. These pieces came to symbolize the pinnacle of music theater for a very good reason. Undertaking and interpreting them through a new lens is the essence of The Atlanta Opera’s mission, to reimagine opera and breathe new life into the most powerful known operatic works.”

Meanwhile, three further productions complete the current Atlanta season. First, Kristin Lewis and Morris Robinson, who drew raves in the same roles at La Scala, headline the company premiere of Francesca Zambello’s celebrated staging of George and Ira Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (March 7-15). Next, the “consistently breathtaking” Japanese soprano Yasko Sato (Oregon Arts-Watch) stars in Zvulun’s treatment of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly (May 2-10). And 2019-20 concludes with the Discoveries series’ Atlanta premiere of Glory Denied (2007), in which company favorite Michael Mayes not only revisits his definitive portrayal of the protagonist, but also makes his co-directorial debut, collaborating with Zvulun to create The Atlanta Opera’s original new production of the work. A recent opera by Guggenheim Fellow Tom Cipullo, this follows America’s longest-held prisoner of war as he transitions back from the Southeast Asian jungle to his U.S. suburban home (May 21-24).

About The Atlanta Opera

The Atlanta Opera’s mission is to build the major international opera company that Atlanta deserves, while reimagining what the art form can be. Founded in 1979, The Atlanta Opera celebrates its 40th anniversary this season. The company works with world-renowned singers, conductors, directors, and designers who seek to enhance the art form. Under the leadership of internationally recognized stage director and Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. General & Artistic Director Tomer Zvulun, The Atlanta Opera expanded from three to four mainstage productions at Cobb Energy Centre and launched the acclaimed Discoveries series. In recent years, the company has been named among the “Best of 2015” by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has been nominated for a 2016 International Opera Award, and has won ArtsATL’s 2019 Luminary Award for Community Engagement in recognition of its successful Veterans Program in partnership with the Home Depot Foundation. In addition, The Atlanta Opera was featured in a 2018 Harvard Business School case study about successful organizational growth, and Zvulun was invited to present a TEDx Talk at Emory University entitled “The Ambidextrous Opera Company, or Opera in the Age of iPhones.”

High-resolution promotional photos may be downloaded here.

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Atlanta Opera presents Richard Strauss’s Salome (new production)

Sat, Jan 25 at 8pm
Tues, Jan 28 at 7:30pm
Fri, Jan 31 at  8pm
Sun, Feb 2 at 3pm
Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

Conductor: Arthur Fagen
Director: Tomer Zvulun
Scenic and projections designer: Erhard Rom
Lighting designer: Robert Wierzel
Costume designer: Mattie Ullrich
Choreographer: Amir Levy

Herod Antipas: Frank van Aken
Herodias: Jennifer Larmore
Salome: Jennifer Holloway
Jochanaan: Nathan Berg
Narraboth: Adam Diegel
The Page of Herodias: Elizabeth Sarian*
First Soldier: Mitch Gindlesperger
Second Soldier: Isaac Kim*
First Jew: Julius Ahn
Second Jew: Brian Frutiger
Third Jew: Isaac Kim*
Fourth Jew: Justin Stolz**
Fifth Jew: Alan Higgs**
First Nazarene: Jonathan Bryan*
Second Nazarene / Cappadocian / Slave: Philip Cokorinos

* member of The Atlanta Opera Studio
** alumnus of The Atlanta Opera Studio

Upcoming later this season

March 7, 8, 10, 13 & 15
Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
George and Ira Gershwin: Porgy & Bess (Atlanta production premiere)
Conductor: David Charles Abell
Production director: Francesca Zambello
Porgy: Morris Robinson (March 7, 8 & 10) / Musa Ngqungwana (March 13 & 15)
Bess: Kristin Lewis
Sportin’ Life: Jermaine Smith
Jake: Reginald Smith Jr.
Clara: Jacqueline Echols
Serena: Indra Thomas
Maria: La’Shelle Allen
A Washington National Opera production

May 2, 5, 8 & 10
Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
Puccini: Madama Butterfly (revival of original Atlanta production)
Conductor: Carlo Montanaro
Director: Tomer Zvulun
Cio-Cio San: Yasko Sato
Pinkerton: Gianluca Terranova
Sharpless: Michael Chioldi
Suzuki: Katharine Goeldner
A co-production with the Castleton Festival

May 21, 22, 23 & 24
Hertz Stage at the Woodruff Arts Center
Discoveries series
Tom Cipullo: Glory Denied (Atlanta premiere)
Director: Tomer Zvulun
Co-director: Michael Mayes
Col. Jim Thompson: Michael Mayes

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© 21C Media Group, January 2020