Press Room

After Its Extraordinary Pandemic Season, The Atlanta Opera Returns Home for 2021-22, with Programming Embracing Optimism, Inspiration and Escapism

Left to right: Julius Caesar in Egypt, The Pirates of Penzance, Barber of Seville, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs (credit: Cig Harvey)

Galvanized by the enthusiastic reception of its innovative programming solutions during the past season, The Atlanta Opera – “one of the few American companies to perform live for in-person audiences during the COVID-19 pandemic” (Wall Street Journal) – celebrates its much-anticipated return to the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre with four colorful, uplifting and escapist mainstage productions in 2021-22. Beginning in November with Handel’s Julius Caesar in Egypt, in its first staging by the company, the season continues with the return of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, Rossini’s beloved Barber of Seville, and the Southeastern premiere of the Grammy award-winning opera The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, in a new production by Carl W. Knobloch Jr. General and Artistic Director Tomer Zvulun. Two Discoveries series productions will also be announced at a later date. Meanwhile, at least two of the innovations necessitated by the pandemic proved their staying power: the “Big Tent” series will continue the momentum of the current season in the fall while easing audiences back into the indoor venue, and the company’s commitment to streaming opera productions is now a permanent feature of its operations. Not only will select mainstage and Discoveries productions be filmed, but digital-only shorts and features will also be created, with all the new content streamed on the Spotlight Media platform. Far from languishing during the challenges of the past year, The Atlanta Opera emphatically rose, and continues to rise, to the occasion, only reinforcing its reputation as “one of the most exciting opera companies in America” (Opera Wire).

The health and safety of casts, crew and audiences remains The Atlanta Opera’s first priority. The company will continue to rely on the advice and direction of its health and safety team, led by Emory University’s Dr. Carlos del Rio, in setting standards for each production.

Reflecting on the new season, Zvulun says:

“The tent gave us the opportunity to take incredible artistic risks. We really had a chance to break rules, experiment, innovate and let our creativity take us to new places. We have emerged from the 2020-21 season with incredible momentum and excitement for what we can do in the future. It is now time for us to harness the innovations we created during the pandemic, toward the most uplifting season in recent memory. We wanted to celebrate our return to the mainstage with beloved works that are full of optimism and adventure. Following the longest winter in a forced exile, we feel the need to laugh, forget and be inspired.”

The mainstage opens in November with the U.S. premiere of Zvulun’s staging of Handel’s Baroque masterpiece Julius Caesar in Egypt, which the director first created for The Israeli Opera, which performed it in the outdoor setting of a 12th-century crusader’s fortress. Collaborating with Zvulun on the production are renowned choreographer Donald Byrd and set and costume designers Alexander Lisianski and Mattie Ullrich. Loosely based on events during the Roman Civil War of 49-45 BC, the story of power, intrigue, sex, love and violence traces Caesar’s love affair with Cleopatra as she struggles to become the ruler of Egypt. Conducted by Baroque specialist Gary Wedow making his Atlanta debut, the opera features Jasmine Habersham and Meg Marino, both stars of the company’s recent production of The Threepenny Carmen, with the rest of the cast still to be announced.

In January, The Atlanta Opera takes to the high seas with Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera The Pirates of Penzance. Seán Curran’s rollicking staging will feature a host of return engagements: Santiago Ballerini, familiar from The Atlanta Opera’s 2018 production of La fille du régiment and 2019’s La Cenerentola, sings Frederic, with 2020-21 Atlanta Opera Studio member Susanne Burgess – who sang the role of Lucy in the recent Threepenny Opera – as his love-at-first-sight Mabel; and Craig Irvin, last seen in Kevin Puts’s Silent Night, sings the Pirate King. Francesco Milioto, Music Director of Opera San Antonio and conductor of the recent Threepenny Opera, will be on the podium.

In March, the company turns to Rossini’s perennially popular opera buffa The Barber of Seville, with a revival of the highly stylized staging by Michael Shell that impressed Opera News as “hilariously delightful with every random turn.” Inspired by the work of acclaimed Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, this production transports audiences to a pop-culture world populated by outrageous characters and one pampered rooster. Starring “electrifying” (San Francisco Chronicle) mezzo-soprano Stephanie Lauricella as Rosina, Barber also features Giovanni Romeo – fresh from performing the same role at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater – as Bartolo, and David Crawford, a fixture at the Metropolitan Opera for almost a decade and a half, as Basilio. The production will be conducted by Music Director Arthur Fagen.

The mainstage season concludes with the much-anticipated Southeast premiere of Zvulun’s brand new production of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, 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, (R)evolution follows the visionary Apple co-founder as he looks back on his life and career and confronts his own mortality. While Bates’s work was received as an important new addition to the operatic canon in its first incarnation, Zvulun’s new treatment reinforces its durability. Featuring sets and costumes by Jacob Climer and projections by S. Katy Tucker – the creative team behind The Atlanta Opera’s memorable The Flying Dutchman (R)evolution is co-produced with Lyric Opera of Kansas City and Austin Opera. Most of the cast is still to be announced, but rising mezzo-soprano Sarah Larsen will be featured in the role of Laurene Powell Jobs.

The Atlanta Opera met the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic with an outburst of creativity and innovation that not only permitted continuing engagement with audiences when many companies around the world were dark, but also promises to profoundly affect the future of the company. The “Big Tent” series – an outgrowth of the Discoveries series that was already mounting adventurous new productions in alternative spaces – saw the creation of four new productions in two different outdoor venues, as well as a number of concerts. The “Company of Players” was created from an impressive pool of world-class Atlanta-area talent, including Jamie Barton, Daniela Mack, Morris Robinson, and many others, even while the newly created streaming platform and production company “Spotlight Media” allowed The Atlanta Opera to reach a global audience. Early in the pandemic the company even partnered with Atlanta’s Grady Health System to create thousands of masks and hospital gowns in its costume shop, as well as offering Singing Telegrams to those in hospitals and nursing homes who were isolated from their loved ones. As the Wall Street Journal reported, The Atlanta Opera’s productions “demonstrate[d] how imaginative direction can harness COVID restrictions for artistic effect.” Paying tribute to the company’s spirit of innovation and perseverance, PBS Newshour highlighted The Atlanta Opera in a TV broadcast feature story entitled, “The show will go on! Performing arts pivot during the pandemic.”

About The Atlanta Opera

The Atlanta Opera’s mission is to build the major international opera company that Atlanta deserves, while reimagining what opera can be. Founded in 1979, 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 Performing Arts 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 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 presented a TEDx Talk at Emory University titled “The Ambidextrous Opera Company, or Opera in the Age of iPhones.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, The Atlanta Opera was one of the only companies in the world to create a full, alternative season, consisting of no less than 40 live performances in two different outdoor venues, including a revolutionary custom-designed circus tent. The fundraising goal was tripled, and four new productions were created, each of which employed 150 cast, crew and staff. The critically acclaimed productions and concerts were streamed in HD in the newly created streaming platform “Spotlight Media,” allowing The Atlanta Opera to reach a global audience. National media coverage of the “pandemic season” included features in the Wall Street Journal and PBS Newshour. For more information, visit

To download high-resolution photos, click here.

Atlanta Opera: 2021-22 season
All performances take place in the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

November 6, 9, 12, 14
George Frideric Handel: Julius Caesar in Egypt
Conductor: Gary Wedow
Director: Tomer Zvulun
Set design: Alexander Lisianski
Costume design: Mattie Ullrich
Choreography: Donald Byrd

January 22, 25, 28, 30
W. S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan: The Pirates of Penzance
Conductor: Francesco Milioto
Director: Seán Curran
Set design: James Schuette
Costume design: James Schuette

March 5, 8, 11, 13
Gioachino Rossini: The Barber of Seville
Conductor: Arthur Fagen
Director: Michael Shell
Set design: Shoko Kambara
Costume design: Amanda Seymour

April 30, May 3, 6, 8
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
Director: Tomer Zvulun
Set design: Jacob Climer
Costume design: Jacob Climer
Projection design: S. Katy Tucker

© 21C Media Group, May 2021


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