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The Atlanta Opera Embraces the Epic with New Production of Das Rheingold Headlining 2022-23 Mainstage Season

American Premiere of Bluebeard’s Castle from London’s Theatre of Sound and New Production of The Snowy Day in Discoveries Series

Photo: Das Rheingold, set design by Erhard Rom

The Atlanta Opera – “one of the most exciting opera companies in America” (Opera Wire) – announces a new season of large-scale performances at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre for 2022-23 with a spirit of positivity and optimism for the future. Highlighting the season is Wagner’s monumental Das Rheingold, in a new production by Carl W. Knobloch Jr. General and Artistic Director Tomer Zvulun, who will be celebrating his tenth anniversary with the company. The Discoveries series will feature two thought-provoking company premieres: Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle, in an inventive production from England’s Theatre of Sound; and a new production – presented at Morehouse College – of Joel Thompson’s The Snowy Day, based on the classic children’s book by Ezra Jack Keats. The full season also includes Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, presented in partnership with the Japan-America Society of Georgia, a film-noir reimagining of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and a new period production of Bernstein’s Candide. All productions will be filmed for release on The Atlanta Opera’s Spotlight Media platform.

The Spotlight Media streaming platform was just one of the creative ways The Atlanta Opera rose to the occasion of the pandemic with innovations of lasting value and importance to future operations. 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, totaling more than 40 performances during the darkest days of the pandemic. The company also continues to be an innovation leader with its programming, as evidenced by Zvulun’s new production of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs (Atlanta performances begin on April 30) and the adventurous new productions and company premieres upcoming in 2022-23. 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.”

Celebrating Zvulun’s Ten Years with The Atlanta Opera

This season marks Tomer Zvulun’s 10th season as The Atlanta Opera’s general and artistic director. Next spring’s Das Rheingold will mark his 50th production with the company and will debut exactly 10 years after his arrival. During his tenure, he has doubled the length of the season while significantly expanding the number of performance nights; doubled the number of productions from three per season to six; attracted new audiences to opera while strengthening ties with existing ones; and taken opera deeper into the community through the company’s award-winning Veterans Program, bilingual school productions and, most recently, the creation of the Spotlight Media streaming platform. Commenting on the new season, Zvulun says:

“This whole season has been programmed with Voltaire’s famous observation in mind: ‘The most important decision we can ever make is to be in a good mood.’ What other choice do we have right now, other than to be stubbornly optimistic?

“As we enter the third year of the pandemic, we are determined to grapple with the ironies and complexities of life and to persevere as Candide did. Just like the hero of Bernstein’s opera, our season will transport us around the world in a series of colorful adventures, from Japan to Spain to the heights of Norse mythology. It’s time for adventuring.”

New Rheingold

In spring 2023, marking a triumph long in the making for The Atlanta Opera, 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 planned for the following season. 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. Zvulun explains:

“The decision to mount Das Rheingold is the result of the tremendous growth in the capabilities of the company and our orchestra and in the readiness of audiences. We are stronger today than we have ever been. I am very proud of that.”

Das Rheingold’s outstanding cast of American voices will be led by bass-baritone Greer Grimsley as Wotan, making his company debut. Since first singing the role in Seattle in 2005 he has performed it to acclaim around the world, including in three complete Ring cycles in Seattle, at his Bayreuth debut in 2018 and in the reprise of Robert LePage’s landmark production at the Metropolitan Opera the following year. The Huffington Post, after raving about his “wide-ranging and handsome voice,” declared that “he sings…well…like a god.” Grimsley will be joined by the Loge of “excellent young spinto tenor” Richard Cox (Opera News); veteran Icelandic bass Kristinn Sigmundsson as Fasolt; and Zachary Nelson as Alberich. Patrick Summers, Artistic & Music Director of Houston Grand Opera and former Principal Guest Conductor of San Francisco Opera, will also make his company debut leading the production from the podium (April 29–May 7).

Discoveries series

Bartók’s one-act Bluebeard’s Castle graces the Discoveries series in the U.S. premiere of a production from England’s Theatre of Sound. Longtime collaborators conductor Stephen Higgins and director Daisy Evans – making their company debuts – have reimagined the work as a tale of a husband and wife trying to cope with the implications of her dementia. Instead of doors masking Bluebeard’s true soul, the audience encounters Judith’s fraught relationship with her memories and its effect on her husband. Atlanta Opera favorite, baritone Michael Mayes – praised by the Wall Street Journal after a performance as Joseph De Rocher in Dead Man Walking as “by far the best singer and most convincing actor in the cast” – and soprano Susan Bullock, whom Opera magazine finds “always profoundly musical,” saying that she “brings tears to one’s eyes with a tenderness of phrasing that seems second nature to her,” reprise their roles from the London premiere last fall. The opera will be sung in English, in a new translation commissioned for that occasion (Oct 7–9).

The Atlanta Opera first partnered with the School of Music at Morehouse College, a private historically Black men’s liberal arts college in Atlanta, for this season’s “96-Hour Opera Project,” a competition for composer/librettist teams from historically underrepresented communities to write, cast, direct and stage a compelling new ten-minute work in four days. Morehouse hosts next year’s Discoveries series production of Joel Thompson’s new opera, The Snowy Day. Based on the beloved children’s book by Ezra Jack Keats that is the most checked-out book in the history of the New York Public Library, with a libretto by children’s author Andrea Davis Pinkney, the work premiered at Houston Grand Opera this past December. The book, which communicates without dialogue the deep joy a young Black boy feels as he plays in the snow, was adapted by Pinkney, as the New York Times puts it: “to help change perceptions about Black identity and attract new audiences to opera at a time when the art form faces serious financial pressures and questions about its future.” Part of her challenge was to acknowledge the contemporary implications of the story without losing the book’s charming sense of innocence. As Thompson said in an interview with the New York Times before the premiere: “He’s a Black boy in a red hoodie going out into the snow alone. That’s Tamir Rice; that’s Trayvon Martin. And we wanted to focus on Peter’s humanity and his childlike wonder.” The Snowy Day will be performed in English with English subtitles (March 31–April 2).

Mainstage productions

A new production of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide also debuts in Atlanta in the spring. Based on the 1759 novella by Voltaire, the operetta’s libretto is attributed to Hugh Wheeler (of Sweeney Todd fame), but also boasts contributions by the poet Richard Wilbur, Stephen Sondheim, and Bernstein himself. Director Alison Moritz makes her debut with The Atlanta Opera after creating three other productions of the work, including one for Bernstein’s centennial at Tanglewood in 2018, and finding Candide “strikingly relevant” to the evolving world each time she directs it. Though her previous productions have all been set in the 20th century, her Atlanta production will be a period piece (on the 1974 Broadway set), using the story of Candide and his cohort coming to America in their time as a means of better understanding the convulsions of ours. Tenor Jack Swanson – praised by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung for his “technical precision, his sheer endless breath and penetrating timbre” – sings the title role, which was also the vehicle for his debut with Los Angeles Opera in 2018. He is joined by the Cunegonde of soprano Deanna Breiwick, hailed by the New York Times both for her “sweet sound and floating high notes” and for being a “vocal trapeze artist.” In his debut with The Atlanta Opera, James Lowe, Music Director of the Spokane Symphony, will be on the podium (March 4–12).

Zvulun first directed Puccini’s perennially popular Madama Butterfly at The Atlanta Opera in 2014, when it impressed the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as “a powerful and attractive new production defined by moments of shimmery, cinematic fantasy mixed with genuine pathos that are pure Puccini all the way through.” To open the 2022-23 mainstage season, the staging returns to the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, showcasing Yasko Sato in the title role. The Japanese soprano has already headlined the opera in cities including Tokyo, Florence, and Seattle, where she showed herself to be “consistently breathtaking” (Oregon Arts-Watch), prompting the Seattle Times to note: “A lyrical singer and an affecting actress, she can convey vivid emotion in a single gesture or expression.” Joining Sato as Pinkerton is Italian tenor Gianluca Terranova, who previously triumphed in the role in Verona and at the Dallas Opera. A firm Atlanta favorite, Terranova has already played the leading men in house productions of Carmen, La bohème and Turandot. Mezzo-soprano Nina Yoshida Nelsen sings Suzuki, the role that marked her debut with New York City Opera and which she records this spring with Boston Lyric Opera; and Austin Opera Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor Timothy Myers, who made his Atlanta Opera company debut with 2018’s Sweeney Todd, will conduct. Presented in partnership with the Japan-America Society of Georgia, the opera will also be contextualized by a variety of events exploring the problematic racial and gender stereotypes that are at its foundation (Nov 5–13).

Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s acclaimed take on Mozart’s Don Giovanni comes to The Atlanta Opera in the New Year, with director Kristine McIntyre making her company debut. Reimagined with a film noir aesthetic, the production is set, as the company originally described it, in an unspecified city of “snap-brim fedoras, trench coats and dimly lit speakeasies.” Kansas City’s Independent noted how the setting mirrored “the internal explorations of character relationships, which juxtapose light and darkness, comic and tragic in unsettling ways. The production will be conducted by Music Director Arthur Fagen, who just celebrated his own tenth anniversary as Carl & Sally Gable Music Director of The Atlanta Opera, and performed in Italian with English subtitles (Jan 21–29).

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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 on 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 on PBS Newshour. For more information, visit

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Atlanta Opera: 2022-23 mainstage season
All performances take place in the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

Nov 5, 8, 11, 13
Giacomo Puccini: Madama Butterfly
In Italian with English supertitles
Libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa
Conductor: Timothy Myers
Director: Tomer Zvulun
Cio-Cio-San: Yasko Sato
Pinkerton: Gianluca Terranova
Suzuki: Nina Yoshida Nelsen
Goro: Julius Ahn
Imperial Commissioner: Allen Michael Jones
Presented in partnership with The Japan-America Society of Georgia

Jan 21, 24, 27, 29
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Don Giovanni
In Italian with English supertitles
Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte
Conductor: Arthur Fagen
Director: Kristine McIntyre*
Set design: R. Keith Brumley
Costume design: Mary Traylor

March 4, 7, 10, 12
Leonard Bernstein: Candide
Conductor: James Lowe*
Director: Alison Moritz*
Cunegonde: Deanna Breiwick
Candide: Jack Swanson

April 29; May 2, 5, 7
Richard Wagner: Das Rheingold
In German with English supertitles
Conductor: Patrick Summers
Director: Tomer Zvulun
Set and projection design: Erhard Rom
Lighting design: Robert Wierzel
Costume design: Mattie Ullrich
Wotan: Greer Grimsley*
Loge: Richard Cox
Alberich: Zachary Nelson
Mime: Julius Ahn
Fasolt: Kristinn Sigmundsson
Donner: Joseph Barron
Froh: Adam Diegel

Discoveries series productions

Oct 7, 8, 9
Béla Bartók: Bluebeard’s Castle
Kennesaw State University, Dr. Bobbie Bailey & Family Performance Center
Libretto by Béla Balázs
Production from England’s Theatre of Sound
Conductor: Stephen Higgins*
Director: Daisy Evans*
Judith: Susan Bullock
Duke Bluebeard: Michael Mayes

March 31; April 1, 2
Joel Thompson: The Snowy Day
Morehouse College, Ray Charles Performing Arts Center
Libretto by Andrea Davis Pinkney
based on the children’s book by Ezra Jack Keats

*The Atlanta Opera debut

© 21C Media Group, March 2022


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