January 23, 2020

The Atlanta Opera’s 41st season promises to be its most ambitious and far-reaching to date. True to the vision of Tomer Zvulun, the company’s Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. General & Artistic Director, the 2020-21 lineup boasts major new productions of three critically important works: Das Rheingold, one of the most iconic in the canon; The Sound of Music, one of the best-loved classics of musical theater; and The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, one of contemporary opera’s most palpable hits, now receiving its Southeast premiere. Together with the Atlanta premiere of As One, Steve Jobs is one of two topical and much talked-about new operas in Atlanta’s award-winning Discoveries series, which breaks down barriers between artists and their audience by providing intimate, immersive experiences in nontraditional spaces. And the season is completed by the returns of celebrated takes on a pair of beloved repertory staples: La bohème and The Barber of Seville. By introducing new partnerships with two local institutions, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the LGBTQIA+ community-focused Out Front Theatre Company; by presenting such world-class artists as Melody Moore, Santiago Ballerini, Jessica Nuccio, Stephanie Lauricella and conductors Patrick Summers, Michael Christie, Joseph Colaneri, Timothy Myers and The Atlanta Opera’s long-time Carl & Sally Gable Music Director Arthur Fagen; by commissioning original artwork from photographer and 2018 Prix Virginia Laureate Cig Harvey; and by featuring collaborations with Austin Opera and Lyric Opera of Kansas City and productions from Houston Grand Opera and the Glimmerglass Festival, the coming season serves notice that The Atlanta Opera is expanding its reach on the American opera scene. Now entering its fifth decade, the company is fast becoming the national player its city so richly deserves.

Looking ahead to the new season, Tomer Zvulun – the “innovative risk-taker … bringing change to The Atlanta Opera” (Opera News) – comments:

“The coming season represents a real milestone for us. Combining expansion, collaboration with local and national organizations, and a deep commitment to breathing fresh life into new works and operatic masterpieces, our five-year strategic plan is finally coming to fruition. We are capitalizing on the success of our recent new productions of Salome and The Flying Dutchman to create a brand new interpretation of Das Rheingold, presenting an important new production of The Sound of Music from our frequent collaborators at the Glimmerglass Festival and Houston Grand Opera, and partnering with Austin Opera and Lyric Opera of Kansas City to produce a new take on a recent masterpiece that has already won a Grammy: The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs. This powerful new piece will be presented at the Ferst Center for the Arts at Georgia Tech as part of a two-year collaborative initiative with the university. Our Discoveries series is presenting a bold production of the critically acclaimed chamber opera As One, a transgender woman’s story of self-discovery, and we round out our season with fresh interpretations of two great blockbusters, La bohème and The Barber of Seville. We are thrilled to have been able to attract some very prominent conductors and vocal stars. Through our successful fundraising initiatives and a significant increase in attendance, the city of Atlanta and our board of directors have proven that they are completely behind our vision of reimagining opera. We are well on the way to fulfilling our mission of bringing this major city the major opera company it deserves.”

About the 2020-21 productions

The Atlanta Opera inaugurates the 2020-21 season with the return to the main stage of Zvulun’s hit treatment of La bohème. Featuring sets by International Opera Awards finalist Erhard Rom, costumes by late Tony Award-winner Martin Pakledinaz and lighting by Emmy, Obie, Bessie and Helen Hayes Award-winner Robert Wierzel, Zvulun’s staging updates the action to Puccini’s own era, the Paris of the Belle Époque. The production has already been the vehicle for numerous successful revivals, notably in Atlanta, Dallas and Seattle, where it was hailed as “a must-see La bohème … [that sheds] new light on the humanity of the piece” (Seattle Times). Its upcoming Atlanta run will showcase the U.S. debut of soprano Jessica Nuccio, already a highly sought-after Mimì in her native Italy, and the return of Timothy Myers, Artistic Advisor to Austin Opera, who made his company debut in 2018’s Sweeney Todd (Nov 7–15).

Next up at Atlanta’s Cobb Energy Centre is The Barber of Seville, Rossini’s perennially popular comedy of errors, in a revival of the highly stylized staging by Michael Shell that impressed Opera News as “hilariously delightful with every random turn.” Drawing inspiration from the films of Pedro Almodóvar, this places the action in Spain during the Seville Fair, with colorful sets and costumes by Shoko Kambara and Amanda Seymour, respectively. Theo Hoffman, “a crowd-pleaser, with a solid, burnished baritone and a handy way with a self-deprecating retort” (Opera News), undertakes the title role, with the Almaviva of house favorite Santiago Ballerini, the Argentinean tenor who launched his career in The Atlanta Opera Studio program before returning to star in the company’s recent hit productions of The Daughter of the Regiment and La Cenerentola. Their co-star is mezzo-soprano Stephanie Lauricella, who reprises her “polished, charismatic Rosina,” with which – thanks to “just the right mix of sweetness and sass” (Star-Ledger) – she wowed audiences at Pittsburgh Opera and Deutsche Oper Berlin. Arthur Fagen, now celebrating his tenth anniversary as Carl & Sally Gable Music Director of The Atlanta Opera, conducts (Jan 23–31).

Next season’s Discoveries series opens with the Southeast premiere of Tomer Zvulun’s brand new production of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs (2017), winner of the 2019 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording. Written by Kennedy Center Composer-in-Residence Mason Bates to a libretto by Silent Night’s Mark Campbell, this depicts the visionary Apple co-founder as he looks back on his life and career and confronts his own mortality. “Rapturously received” at its premiere as “a triumph” (Washington Post), Bates’s opera marks an important new addition to the canon, of which Zvulun’s new treatment is just the second to date. His original staging stars John Moore, last seen at Atlanta in The Marriage of Figaro; blessed with “an arresting burnt-umber baritone and personality to burn” (Opera News), Moore reprises his title role performance from Seattle Opera’s West Coast premiere of Steve Jobs. New West Symphony Music Director Michael Christie conducts, as on the opera’s Grammy-winning recording and at its world premiere, when he “preside[d] over an expertly executed performance” (Financial Times). Featuring sets and costumes by Jacob Climer and projections by S. Katy Tucker, the design team behind Zvulun’s acclaimed take on The Flying Dutchman, Atlanta’s Steve Jobs is co-produced with Lyric Opera of Kansas City and Austin Opera. Fittingly for its subject, the opera also launches a new, multi-season collaboration with the Georgia Institute of Technology, the top public college and research university better known as Georgia Tech, where Zvulun’s production makes its Southeast debut at the Ferst Center for the Arts (Feb 11–14).

Continuing its new annual commitment to showcasing great operatic voices in musical theater, The Atlanta Opera presents a new production of The Sound of Music from the inimitable director Francesca Zambello, who also serves as Artistic Director of the Washington National Opera and General Director of the Glimmerglass Festival. Created for the Glimmerglass Festival and Houston Grand Opera, her new staging of the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic features original choreography by Zambello’s regular collaborator Eric Sean Fogel, with sets and lighting by Peter J. Davison and Mark McCullough, respectively, both of whose credits include Covent Garden and the Metropolitan Opera. Glimmerglass Music Director Joseph Colaneri leads the production’s premiere presentation at the New York festival this summer before bringing it to Atlanta next spring; casting is soon to be announced (March 6–14).

The second event in the 2020-21 Discoveries series is the Atlanta premiere of the critically acclaimed chamber opera As One (2014) by Laura Kaminsky, “one of the top 35 female composers in classical music” (Washington Post), librettist Mark Campbell and transgender filmmaker-librettist Kimberly Reed. Sung in two voices – Hannah after (mezzo-soprano) and Hannah before (baritone) – who share the part of a sole transgender protagonist, Kaminsky’s music is set to a libretto by Campbell and Reed, one of Filmmaker magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film,” who also created the multimedia opera’s film. Hailed as “the hottest title in opera right now” (Denver Post), since its world premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, As One has become the most-produced modern opera in America. It makes its first Atlanta appearances at the Out Front Theatre Company, launching a new partnership between The Atlanta Opera and the venue, the Southeast’s center for LGBTQIA+ theater. The cast and creative team will be announced shortly (March 26–April 3).

To conclude the mainstage season, Zvulun reunites with scenic and projections designer Erhard Rom and lighting designer Robert Wierzel for a major new production of Das Rheingold, the first of the four music dramas that make up Wagner’s monumental Ring cycle; their interpretation of the second, Die Walküre, is slated to follow in 2021-22. As in their celebrated collaborations on La bohème, Eugene Onegin, Madama Butterfly, Rigoletto, Salome and Silent Night, the team members’ vision – now complete with costumes by European Opera Prize-winner Mattie Ullrich – will capture the opera’s timeless mythology. Director Zvulun explains:

“Having made it our goal to create fresh new interpretations of masterpieces by Wagner and Strauss, we have already achieved immense success with The Flying Dutchman and Salome. Now we are building on this success with a new staging of Das Rheingold, which has one of opera’s most epic stories and most dazzling scores. It’s a real honor to be involved in giving this important work a brand new production here in Atlanta and to work on it with such a superb roster of singers.”

Das Rheingold’s outstanding cast will include soprano Melody Moore – “a revelation” (Opera News) – as Freia, a role she has previously sung to acclaim at Washington National Opera and Houston Grand Opera. Moore will be joined by the Loge of “excellent young spinto tenor” Richard Cox (Opera News); the Alberich of Canadian bass-baritone Nathan Berg, the “majestic bass” (Financial Times) who starred in Atlanta’s Salome; the Erda of contralto Meredith Arwady, known for her “dramatic intensity and her ability to support a hefty Wagnerian vocal line over a throbbing orchestra” (New York Times); and, in her role debut as Fricka, by “rich-voiced mezzo-soprano” Maria Zifchak (New York Times), who is already familiar to Atlanta audiences from Sweeney Todd and Dead Man Walking. Maestro Patrick Summers, Artistic & Music Director of Houston Grand Opera and former Principal Guest Conductor of San Francisco Opera, will take the Cobb Energy Centre podium, drawing the entire Atlanta season to a gripping and glorious close (May 1–9).

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.”

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Atlanta Opera: 2020-21 season

Nov 7, 10, 13 & 15
Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
Puccini: La bohème
Conductor: Timothy Myers
Director: Tomer Zvulun
Set design: Erhard Rom
Costume design: Martin Pakledinaz
Lighting design: Robert Wierzel
Mimì: Jessica Nuccio, soprano (U.S. debut)

Jan 23, 26, 29 & 31
Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
Rossini: The Barber of Seville
Conductor: Arthur Fagen
Director: Michael Shell
Count Almaviva: Santiago Ballerini, tenor
Rosina: Stephanie Lauricella, mezzo-soprano (house debut)
Figaro: Theo Hoffman, baritone 

Feb 11–14
Ferst Center for the Arts at Georgia Tech
Discoveries Series
Mason Bates: The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs (new production; Southeast premiere)
A co-production with Lyric Opera of Kansas City and Austin Opera
Conductor: Michael Christie (house debut)
Director: Tomer Zvulun
Set and costume design: Jacob Climer
Projection design: S. Katy Tucker
Steve Jobs: John Moore, baritone

March 6, 9, 12 & 14
Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II: The Sound of Music (new production)
A Glimmerglass Festival and Houston Grand Opera co-production
Conductor: Joseph Colaneri
Director: Francesca Zambello
Associate director & choreographer: Eric Sean Fogel
Set design: Peter J. Davison
Lighting design: Mark McCullough

March 26, 28; April 1 & 3
Out Front Theatre
Discoveries Series
Laura Kaminsky: As One (Atlanta premiere)
Presented in partnership with Out Front Theatre Company

May 1, 4, 7 & 9
Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
Wagner: Das Rheingold (new production)
Conductor: Patrick Summers
Director: Tomer Zvulun
Scenic and projections design: Erhard Rom
Lighting design: Robert Wierzel
Costume design: Mattie Ullrich
Loge: Richard Cox, tenor
Fricka: Maria Zifchak, mezzo-soprano (role debut)
Freia: Melody Moore, soprano
Alberich: Nathan Berg, bass-baritone
Erda: Meredith Arwady, contralto

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© 21C Media Group, January 2020