Portland Opera's Salome 2013

Salome's lust for an imprisoned man, coupled with her stepfather's lecherous desires, result in John the Baptist's severed head on a plate.


Powerful, intense, salacious — since its premiere in 1905, Strauss' retelling of this biblical tale continues to shock and thrill audiences, and features one of the most demanding roles in all of opera.


An all-new production featuring celebrated Metropolitan Opera soprano Kelly Cae Hogan. Opera Now applauded "the lovely Kelly Cae Hogan (as Salome) whose powerful voice carried the drama."


Sung in German with English translations projected above the stage.



ADVISORY:

Salome contains adult themes, including violence and sexual content. This opera may not be the best choice for young opera lovers. Salome is suitable for most high school students, but we urge you to review the plot to determine if it is a good fit before purchasing tickets. 

 

Cast 
  
SalomeKelly Cae Hogan
HerodiasRosalind Plowright
PageMelissa Fajardo
HerodAlan Woodrow
NarrabothRic Furman
First JewJon Kolbet
Second JewIan José Ramirez
Third JewCarl Halvorson
Fourth JewMarcus Shelton
Second NazareneDavid Warner
Jokanaan (John the Baptist)David Pittsinger
First NazareneAnton Belov
First SoldierJonathan Kimple
Second SoldierKonstantin Kvach
Fifth JewDarren Stokes
CappadocianAndré Flynn
  
Stage Director Stephen Lawless
ChoreographerMatthew Ferraro
ConductorGeorge Manahan
  
Creative Team  
  
Lighting DesignerMark McCullough
Scenic DesignerBenoit Dugardyn
Costume DesignerIngeborg Bernerth

 

From the moonlit terrace of King Herod's palace, Narraboth, captain of the guard, gazes rapturously inside at the Princess Salome, who is feasting with her stepfather and his court. The voice of the prophet Jokanaan (John the Baptist) echoes from a deep cistern, where he is imprisoned by the king, who fears him. Salome, bored with Herod's lechery and his coarse guests, rushes out for fresh air and becomes curious when she hears Jokanaan curse Herodias, her mother. When the soldiers refuse to bring Jokanaan to her, Salome turns her wiles on Narraboth, who orders that Jokanaan be summoned. Salome is fascinated by the prophet's deathly pallor and pours out her uncontrollable desire to touch him. The prophet rejects her, speaking of the Son of God who will come to save mankind. When Salome continues to beg for Jokanaan's kiss, Narraboth stabs himself in horror, and the prophet descends into the cistern, urging her to seek salvation in the Messiah. The girl collapses in frustration and longing.


Herod appears, followed by his court. When he slips in Narraboth's blood, he becomes unnerved and begins to experience hallucinations, which Herodias scorns. Herod's thoughts turn to Salome, who spurns his attentions. Renewed abuse from Jokanaan's subterranean voice harrasses Herodias, who demands that Herod turn the prophet over to the Jews. Herod's refusal incurs an argument among several Jews concerning the nature of God, and a narrative of Christ's miracles by two Nazarenes.


Herod begs Salome to divert him by dancing and offers her anything she might wish in return. Salome makes him swear he will live up to his promise, then dances. Salome demands the head of Jokanaan on a silver platter, ignoring Herod's desperate alternatives - jewels, rare birds, a sacred veil. The terrified king finally gives in. After a tense pause, the arm of the executioner rises from the cistern, offering the head to Salome. Salome seizes her reward passionately, addressing Jokanaan as if he lived and triumphantly kissing his lips. Overcome with revulsion, Herod orders the soldiers to kill Salome.


— courtesy of Opera News


MAKING SALOME SING

Making Salome Sing

 

“No, Herr Strauss, I won’t do it; I’m a decent woman.”
— Marie Wittich, soprano who originated the role of Salome

 

“But Strauss, to put it mildly, is a sensationalist, despite his genius, and his business sense is large.”

— Henry Kreihbel, music critic, in a New York Tribune review of Salome in 1907

 

Sex sells.  It always has.  And for fin de siècle Europe, the Salome story held endless fascination.  The approximately nine verse tale found in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark settled themselves into the febrile imaginations of artists, novelists, poets, playwrights and musicians, and became a Rorschach test for societal mores.  The fin de siècle male gaze was titillated and horrified by the fleshed-out (and fleshly) visions of the teenage femme fatale imagined by Decadents like Gustav Flaubert and Oscar Wilde.  Richard Strauss understood this and understood too that if anything sold better than sex in the bourgeois milieu of his time, it was scandale.  He staked his reputation on it, threw his genius into it and produced a modernist masterpiece in Salome.  And it did sell.  From the proceeds of Salome, Strauss built his villa in Garmisch and established beyond doubt his international importance as a composer.  Salome was a hit.


The journey of Salome from the pages of the Gospels to the stages of turn of the century opera houses is tangled, complex and deeply intriguing.  The Gospel account is simple and spare.  From Mark:

 

Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John and bound him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife: for he had married her.  For John had said unto Herod, “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.”  Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not:  for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.  And when a convenient day was come, and Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee; and when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, “Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee.”  And he sware unto her, “Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom.” And she went forth, and said unto her mother, “What shall I ask?”  And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.”  And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, “I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist.”  And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath’s sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her.  And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought:  and he went and beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel:  and the damsel gave it to her mother.

 

One can see that Mark doesn’t focus on the dancing daughter in any way, other than as a means for Herodias to exact her revenge (and perhaps as a cover for Herod’s political decision to execute John the Baptist).  She is not even given a name.  That is left to the great historian of the ancient world, Josephus, who records the daughter’s name as Salome.  Her step-father, Herod, is named as Herod Antipas, and was the son of Herod the Great (the Herod of the Nativity story), and Roman tetrarch of Galilee from 4 B.C.E. to 39 C.E., the lesser son of a great and terrible family.  Herod Antipas fell in love with his brother’s wife, Herodias, who divorced her husband and took their daughter Salome to live with her uncle, now step-father.  This marriage was considered illegal and incestuous by many, including John the Baptist.  Josephus tells us that Herod Antipas imprisoned and executed John the Baptist, but no more on that score.


The story of Salome’s dance proved irresistible to visual artists.  Early representations of the story are more concerned with the dance than the head, but by the Middle Ages and early Renaissance, the story was included in the depictions of the life of John the Baptist, and therefore, focus more on the delivery of the head than on the dance.  In any case, in these works, neither the dance nor Salome’s taking John’s head is in any way lascivious.


No, it was left to the Symbolists and Decadents of the late nineteenth century to augment the Salome character into the mythic femme fatale familiar to us today.  We know far more about Salome’s motivations and personality than Matthew and Mark give us—and we know because Oscar Wilde and Richard Strauss told us.


The Decadence Movement in the late nineteenth century pushed back against bourgeois “smugness and optimism” by “denying ‘normal’ ethical and aesthetic standards.”  Oscar Wilde, with his ambiguous public sexuality, flamboyant dress, caustic wit, flair and artifice was almost a caricature of a great Decadence writer.  Other representatives of Decadent artists and writers are H.G. Wells, Paul Verlaine, Edvard Munch, Charles Baudelaire, Aubrey Beardsley, and Gustav Moreau.


The Decadents were fond of Orientalist fantasy, favored highly ornamental metaphors over clarity of content, and espoused hedonism.  They were excessively interested in novelty, fascinated by corruption (meaning decomposition), death, and the psychological motivations of individuals.  Mostly, they had absolute scorn for contemporary society.  Salome, pregnant with possibility, was a perfect vehicle through which to explore these obsessions.


Wilde found that the lack of initiative displayed by the Gospel’s Salome “made it necessary…to convert her into the cardinal flower of the perverse garden.”  He does this by giving his Salome sexual autonomy, a worrisome—not to say alarming—quality in a woman for the fin de siècle male.  Wilde implied that Salome’s beauty was such that the men around her could not resist her allure (including her step-father, Herod, but excluding God’s prophet, John the Baptist).  The frenzy to which she could drive men (in the case of one hopeful suitor, to suicide; in the case of Herod, to grant her impossibly macabre request) made her dangerous.  She could strip men of their volition!


Wilde’s point was that her beauty was only skin deep—as was true of all women.  For Wilde, “Women aren’t beautiful at all.  They are something else, I allow:  magnificent when dressed with taste and covered with jewels, but beautiful, no.  Beauty reflects the soul.”  It was a man’s “duty” to be beautiful, which to Wilde indicated his purity of soul.  Hence John’s physical beauty in Salome reflects his righteousness and provides a foil for Salome’s illusory beauty, which masked her depravity.


In his mind’s eye, Wilde had envisioned French actress Sarah Bernhardt in the role of Salome.  She did not, in fact, originate the role, however, and even Wilde’s exotically beautiful French language script was unable to make it a success at its Paris opening.  In England, the play was banned outright, citing a law disallowing Biblical persons to be depicted on stage.  But in Germany, it was a different story.  A German language translation by Hedwig Lachmann, directed by the brilliant Max Reinhardt (whose productions would continue to inspire Strauss in the years ahead) had been very favorably received in 1901.  Reinhardt remounted that production in 1903 in Berlin around the time that Strauss was looking for a new subject for his next opera.


Strauss’s opera, Feuersnot, had been a funny, “naughty,” topical social criticism of his home-town, Munich.  It was successful, but too specific to the region to gain popularity outside of Germany.  Strauss was eager to cement his reputation internationally and aware that opera alone could really give him the fame and financial compensation he wanted and required.


Feuersnot had created a mild scandal and consequently, sold well.  Its short length made it a perfect candidate for a companion piece, and Strauss began looking for a suitable possibility.  Wolzogen, his librettist for Feuersnot, presented him a lively comic scenario based on Cervantes, but Strauss wasn’t interested.  Soon after, Anton Linder approached him with a libretto based on Wilde’s Salome.  Strauss was intrigued and thought it might make a good pairing for Feuersnot (the mind boggles), but Linder’s libretto, though lucid, was not particularly stimulating.  For inspiration, Strauss attended the Reinhardt production of Lachmann’s translation still playing in Berlin.  Wilde’s archaic, poetic language, drawing upon the Song of Songs, with its glittering, ornate imagery, was all the music Strauss needed in his text.  Lachmann’s translation became Strauss’s libretto.  Or rather, a streamlined version of it.  Only a third of Lachmann’s text survives in the ninety minute opera, but it is enough.


Strauss was well aware of the artistic and social climate of Berlin.  He currently labored under Kaiser Wilhelm II as the first kappelmeister of the Berlin Staatsoper.  Strauss had little respect for Wilhelm artistically, or indeed, at all, but Berlin was the epicenter of German cultural life, and though Wilhelm insisted that he preferred “Strauss” (meaning Johann), his court and people were more interested in exploring “sexual deviance and moral decadence”—at least in their artistic endeavors.  Strauss was willing to capitalize on this vogue and the success of Wilde’s play to attain his operatic ambitions.


Strauss began writing in November 1904 and finished in June 1905.  The opera was complete, but getting it produced was another matter.  Rehearsals were difficult.  Strauss’s music was complex and harmonically challenging, which made the cast irritable.  They at one point went en masse to conductor Ernst von Schuch to return their scores, with the exception of the Herod.  When asked, he said, “I already know my role by heart.”  One imagines the rest of the cast snatching back their scores from von Schuch and stomping off to learn their parts.  But the music wasn’t the only problem.


Marie Wittich, the Salome, was more disturbed by the action.  She was a brilliant soprano, but a German lady of stolid burgher stock.  Strauss had described his heroine as “a sixteen-year-old princess with the voice of Isolde.”  Imminently practical, Wittich is said to have replied, “One just does not write like that, Herr Strauss.  Either one thing or the other.”  Strauss’s elephantine orchestrations required Wittich’s Isolde-sized voice, but she was a thirty-seven-year old woman, and understandably, refused to dance the Dance of the Seven Veils.  She was the first (but certainly not the last) soprano to utilize a professional dancer to step in at the appropriate moment.  Less understandable was her refusal to kiss John the Baptist’s decapitated head, but placating Frau Wittich meant keeping the rest of the cast in rehearsals and the director accommodated her squeamishness.


Nevertheless, the Dresden world premiere on December 9, 1905 was a resounding success.  The long-suffering cast received thirty-eight curtain calls and opera houses around the world began to consider picking it up, just as Strauss had hoped.  Before two years were out, fifty theaters had performed the work, but the best stories remain those of the great cities which refused the opera.


Despite Gustav Mahler’s enthusiastic cheerleading, Viennese censors, at the urging of the Church, quashed Salome in Austria’s capitol city, dashing Mahler’s dream of conducting the Austrian debut.  When Austria received her premiere, it would be in the more liberal, if more remote, city of Graz on May 16, 1906.  The furor surrounding this performance gives one an indication of how influential Strauss and his opera had become.  In attendance for Strauss’s spectacle were Puccini; the Mahlers;  the young avant-garde composer Schoenberg with an entourage of his students, one of whom was Alban Berg; Johann Strauss’s widow; and (according to several sources, including Hitler himself), a seventeen-year-old Adolf Hitler.  The city vibrated with nervous anticipation.  Music critic Ernst Décsey described the scene:

 

The city was in a state of great excitement.  Parties formed and split.  Pub philosophers buzzed about what was going on…Visitors from the provinces, critics, press people, reporters and foreigners from Vienna…Three more than sold out houses.  Porters groaned and hoteliers reached for the keys of their safes.

 

Successes like this led the conservative Metropolitan Opera in New York to stage the work in 1907 with the fiercely talented singing actress Olive Fremstad in the title role.  Unlike the squeamish Wittich, Fremstad embraced the role full-throttle, going so far as to visit the city morgue to heft a head so as to add to the realism of her portrayal.  Evidently, her dedication did the trick.  “More than a few” fled the theater when Fremstad’s Salome staggered when receiving the head on a platter.  The Metropolitan Board was more revolted than impressed after the dress rehearsal (absurdly scheduled for 11:00 am on a Sunday morning).  Their revulsion created the scandal necessary to sell out the opening, but the Met, cowed by public outcry (at least among preachers and press men) withdrew the opera after only five performances.  It would be almost thirty more years before Salome returned to the Metropolitan Opera.


In London, the play had been banned until 1907.  Sir Thomas Beecham prevailed upon the Lord Chamberlain to be allowed to stage the show at Covent Garden.  The Lord Chamberlain agreed, but insisted that there be “improvements” made to protect the audience.  The Jews arguing over the Messiah were now not identified as Jewish, but merely as learned wise men.  John the Baptist was not to be named, only referred to obliquely as “The Prophet.”  There would be no severed head, only a bowl of blood (which according to one author “[looked]…for all the world like a bowl of tomato soup.”  Most ludicrous of all, Salome’s sexual desire for John the Baptist became “a desire on her part for spiritual guidance.”  Uh-huh.


Beecham wrote years later that these humiliations—at least to the text—did not survive the integrity of the cast:

 

…gradually I sensed, a growing restlessness and excitement of which the first manifestation was a slip on the part of Salome, who forgot two or three lines of the Bowdlerized text.  The infection spread among the other performers, and by the time the second half of the work was well under way they were all giving in and shamelessly restoring it to its integrity, as if no such things existed as British respectability and its legal custodians.

 

As the Lord Chamberlain did not speak German, it seems not to have mattered to him.


Critics argued fiercely over the piece, with each other, and seemingly, themselves.  Henry Krehbiel wrote, “There is not a whiff of fresh or healthy air blowing through Salome, except that which exhales from the cistern, the prison of Jochanaan.”


But after four tiny-typed columns in the 1907 New York Tribune spent excoriating the piece, he concludes:

 

The score is unquestionably the greatest triumph of reflection and ingenuity of contrivance that the literature of music can show…There is no escape from the power of the music when it soars to grandiose heights in the duet between Salome and the prophet, the subsequent intermezzo and the wicked apotheosis.  It overwhelms the senses and reduces the nervous system of the listeners to exhaustion…

 

Salome still packs a wallop.  The music may not be quite as “modern” in the 21st century, but it still has extraordinary power.  For those of us with ears attuned to Verdi and Puccini, it may still be as jarring, disturbing and hauntingly beautiful as it was for its first audience.  The content remains shocking, even to our numbed eyes, ears and souls, bombarded by the movies and news of our 24/7 culture.  But in the opera house, the intimate, inescapable interchange between performers and audience can melt the numbness and leave us gasping.  And that is a “whiff of fresh air.”


 

 

 

 

Richard Strauss:  Consummate Professional, Fallible Genius

(June 11, 1864-September 8, 1949)


“Befreiung durch die Arbeit.”

“Liberation through work.”

— Richard Strauss

 

Richard Strauss was a professional.  Richard Strauss never missed a deadline.  That would be unprofessional.  Composing was simply work.  Inspiration was nice, but irrelevant.  Music was music; music was work; music was life.  Music put food on his family’s table, a roof over their heads and money in their pockets.  Music was a beloved tool, familiar to the composer’s hand.  Music was a noble pursuit which beautified and illuminated life.  What music was not was a philosophical abnegation of the self or reflection of the composer’s inner life or morality (with very rare exception).


Strauss’s attitudes toward work and music are directly attributable to his father, Franz Strauss.  Franz was born on the wrong side of the bed in 1822.  His father gave him his name and nothing else.  It was his uncles who were to give him a lasting legacy and a means of making a living.  They taught Franz music.  The life of a professional musician, then as now, was uncertain, and security meant diversification.  Franz learned to play a wide variety of instruments as well as music theory and enough composition to write competently.  By ten years old he was gigging with his uncles and teaching students of his own.  By fifteen, Franz was playing guitar for Duke Maximilian of Bavaria.  By twenty-five, he was playing first horn at the Munich Court Orchestra and had a young family.  Sadly this first family all died between 1852 and 1854 of tuberculosis and cholera, twin scourges of poverty.  Like his famous son would years later, Franz Strauss answered this bottomless grief by working tirelessly.   By the time he married Richard’s mother, he had won a professorship at the Royal Music School and was an internationally respected French horn player.  


Franz Strauss was so respected that he was held in high regard by Richard Wagner, who loved the way Strauss played his music.  Strauss, for his part, was loudly and publicly “anti-Wagnerian.”  An anecdote, perhaps apocryphal, summarizes the depth of Straussian professionalism.  Given that Wagner was well aware of how Strauss the elder felt about his music, he was particularly struck by a singularly compelling performance and laughed, “I fancy after all, Strauss, you cannot be such an anti-Wagnerian as they make out, seeing that you play my music so beautifully.”


“What’s that got to do with it?” Franz Strauss snapped.


Perhaps that is all one needs to know about Richard Strauss’s father.


In marrying Richard’s mother, Josephine Pschorr, Franz became a respectable member of the middle class.  Josephine’s father owned a highly profitable brewery and after a tenacious seven year courtship, he allowed his daughter to marry a musician.  The Pschorr family contained no other professional musicians, but was nevertheless enthusiastically musical, filled with talented amateurs who shared weekly musical evenings, as both entertainers and audience.  Young Richard Strauss would find his earliest compositions given voice at these family gatherings.  In this way and others, the young prodigy’s talent was nurtured, encouraged and trained, but not at the expense of a solid liberal arts education.  


Strauss’s father could more easily “control the message” if he undertook Richard’s early musical education himself.  Consequently, he shielded his son from dangerous Wagnerian influences, while still providing him a world class education in the great musical masters (prior to late Beethoven, that is)!  Given his father’s position, it is no surprise that Richard’s youth was filled with music.  He accompanied his father both to orchestral rehearsals and operatic performances at the Court Theater.  His musical literacy developed along with his academic studies, seemingly effortlessly.


To get an idea of the precocious Master Strauss as a ten year old boy, one can read a delightful account of him given by one of his teachers from the Ludwigs-Gymnasium in a report card under “Confidential Qualifications”:
 


Few of our scholars have combined conscientiousness, talent, and liveliness in their natures to the same degree as this boy.  His application is great, he learns easily and willingly.  His achievements give him pleasure and fire him to greater exertions.  He is outstandingly attentive during lessons; he misses nothing.  And yet he can hardly sit still for a minute, finding confinement to his desk unbearable.  His blue eyes sparkle with gaiety and merriment day after day; sincerity and good-heartedness are clearly marked in his features.  His achievements are good, very good.  Every teacher must take to such a boy; indeed it is difficult not to show a preference.  Strauss is developing into a talented musician.”

 

Few of our scholars have combined conscientiousness, talent, and liveliness in their natures to the same degree as this boy.  His application is great, he learns easily and willingly.  His achievements give him pleasure and fire him to greater exertions.  He is outstandingly attentive during lessons; he misses nothing.  And yet he can hardly sit still for a minute, finding confinement to his desk unbearable.  His blue eyes sparkle with gaiety and merriment day after day; sincerity and good-heartedness are clearly marked in his features.  His achievements are good, very good.  Every teacher must take to such a boy; indeed it is difficult not to show a preference.  Strauss is developing into a talented musician.”


At the same time, his father would report years later that he remembered “that Richard’s mother used to cover his school books with blank music paper, and that the boy would use the coverings for scribbling his musical ideas during the progress of a French lesson.”   A cruel temptation indeed, he was disciplined for writing a violin concerto on his math book soon after receiving the glowing report above!


Richard Strauss was very young when he became a world famous composer and conductor.  In 1881, he made his professional debut as a composer at the ripe old age of seventeen.  1881 was a very good year for the young man.  Three of his songs received their public debut; his second string quartet was performed for an audience played by his violin instructor; and his Symphony in D minor was played at the Music Academy conducted by no less than Hermann Levi!


Within three years of this impressive career launch, Strauss stepped upon the conductor’s platform to direct the premiere of his own Suite Op. 4—with no rehearsal.  Conductor Hans von Bülow had taken sharp interest in the talented youth, despite the brittle relationship he shared with the elder Strauss.  Strauss der vater had played under Bülow’s baton and found both his conducting and passionate Wagnerianism distressing.  Nevertheless, von Bülow recommended the twenty-one year old Strauss to be his successor on the podium of the Meiningen Orchestra.  Shortly thereafter he returned home to Munich to begin a three year contract as the Third Conductor at the Munich Hof und National Theater, which presented frustrations by the bushelful.  As Third Conductor, he was never allowed to conduct “important” operas and his inexperience led to some major tension between him and the orchestra, particularly with regard to tempi.  


In fact, he conducted very little during this contract, but that afforded him time to compose.  Which he did.  Copiously.  He wrote many songs, the Violin Sonata Op. 18 and began work on his first tone poem, Macbeth.  The time also allowed him to reflect upon his musical philosophy (or eventual lack thereof) and explore Wagner’s “musical language” more fully, according to his friend and mentor Alexander Ritter, “as the vehicle for realizing the central tenet of Schopenhauerian metaphysics: the denial of the Will.”  Heady stuff, and a philosophy Strauss would ultimately jettison, but these debates and examinations pushed him to write a new type of composition:  the tone poem.


Before his Munich contract began, Strauss toured Italy, drinking in the beauty of the art, architecture and vistas; experiencing and dismissing great Italian operas and gathering up impressions which would evolve into musical expression in Aus Italien.  The work was loudly applauded and critically praised.  Soon after,  Don Juan exploded lustily into concert halls—perhaps influenced by developments in his own life.


If the first Munich contract allowed time for composing, it also allowed time for romance.  Strauss began to take a more than professional interest in one of his voice students, soprano Pauline de Ahna.  Pauline was extraordinarily beautiful, talented and headstrong.  They would eventually marry, and the intensity of their relationship, both its pleasures and pains, would inspire musical homages from the normally reserved Strauss.  Many biographers (and contemporaries) expressed surprise at Strauss’s obvious love and deep respect for Pauline, given her sometimes prickly personality.  Plenty of Strauss’s friends and colleagues frankly did not like her, including librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal.  But what was it that they didn’t like?  Pauline’s insistence that she was more than Frau Richard Strauss?  She had, after all, been a singer who had wanted and been capable of a career.  Early in her marriage she toured with her husband, singing well-received recitals and critically acclaimed performances of leading roles at Bayreuth.  It hardly seems possible that the formidable Cosima Wagner would allow a second-class singer to sing at Bayreuth, regardless of Herr Strauss’s influence.  Strauss himself seemed well-aware of his wife’s potential frustration—it is even represented in subtle ways in later operas.  Their separations were hard on Strauss and his letters reflect his distress.  He loved her and was inspired by her. The young Pauline’s voice was without question a muse.  Strauss wrote lieder for her and coached her, and her sound was the one he imagined for his subsequent operatic heroines.  They married in 1894.


During their courtship, Strauss’s fame continued to grow.  His tone poem Don Juan was a revelation, though Cosima Wagner commented, “It seemed to me, in your Don Juan, that you were more interested in the presentation of your characters than in the way your characters had spoken to you.  I call that the play of intelligence against emotions.”  This was a criticism similar to many others that would be leveled at Strauss throughout his career:  that his music was chock full of technical brilliance, but could be emotionally devoid or needlessly complex.  The real issue for Wagnerians, of course, was the feeling that Strauss did not find in music any metaphysical meaning.  His next piece, Tod und Verklärung (Death and Transfiguration), which Strauss wrote from his own program highlights their misunderstanding.  Strauss’s work can be deeply profound—it is simply that Strauss objected to the Wagnerite philosophy that an artist and an audience can and should become, what philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer called “pure, will-less, timeless.”  Strauss was very much about the will.  Regardless of metaphysical musings, after Tod und Verklärung premiered in 1889, Strauss’s international reputation was secured.  He was twenty-six.


During all of this writing, Strauss was kept substantially busy at the Weimar Court Opera, where he had eagerly signed a contract to escape the vicissitudes of Third Conductor at Munich.  Here, he supervised new productions of Wagner operas in addition to the customary stable of classics.  All of this conducting, producing and writing were guiding him down the path to opera, the genre which would dominate the balance of his composing career.


While gracing the podiums of all of the world’s great capitals, supervising production at Weimar and producing his own new works, Strauss was busy writing his first opera Guntram, for which he also wrote the libretto.  Shortly after his wedding, he received an invitation to return to Munich; this time as Generalmusikdirector for the ill, semi-retired Hermann Levi.  Now Strauss was (mostly) in charge, able to conduct his favorite operas and even have a hand in the programming.  Mozart was his passion and he was instrumental in reintroducing some of Mozart’s (at the time) lesser known works, like Cosí fan tutte.  


In 1895, Guntram debuted.  It opened in Munich and immediately closed.  This was a painful failure for the young man who heretofore had never fallen so hard.  He was embittered and had difficulty continuing on at Munich; the humiliation compounded an already difficult situation.  After Levi’s resignation, his title, position and commensurate salary were not immediately offered to Strauss, though he was still responsible for the work.  When he was finally offered the position, the agreed upon fee was, without explanation, altered to favor the company.  Strauss, indignant, began looking another post, and signed with the Berlin Opera in 1898.


This led to a painful family dynamic, which almost led Strauss and his new wife to divorce.  Strauss loved Berlin and its cosmopolitan artistic scene, but Pauline did not.  She chose to stay in Munich with their little son, Franz.  Interestingly, during this heart-breaking time, Strauss wrote Symhonia domestica, a sweetly innocent tone poem about family life.


Strauss sought now to work on something completely different.  The opera he wrote after his failure with Guntram was Feuersnot (1901), a farce lampooning Munich’s parochial burghers and musical life.  It debuted in Dresden and was well received, but because of its innately limited interest (pointedly Bavarian satire) it didn’t make it beyond Germany’s borders.  After this lighthearted fare, Strauss took on Salome (1905), which brought him to the world’s attention as a powerful operatic force.  


A brief aside must be made at this time regarding Strauss, his working life and his attitude toward money.  Throughout his entire career to this point, Strauss had kept in mind one thing:  financial independence by fifty.  This would allow him the freedom to simply compose music.  This is why he worked so tirelessly that on more than one occasion he made himself ill.  This overriding goal also led him to crusade to protect composers’ incomes by guaranteeing them royalties.  Before Strauss, German composers were paid a flat fee for their works and had no part in the future profits garnered by theaters, orchestras and musicians, not to mention publishers, on future productions.  In Berlin, Strauss joined forces with a couple of old friends (one a lawyer) and drafted a bill to protect the rights of composers in Germany.  It passed the Reichstag in 1901, and Strauss would take up the cause again in the 1930s.  


When he composed Salome, Strauss used the words of the Oscar Wilde play. Rather than setting the text in a traditional verse form, like most opera lyrics, Strauss’s libretto is a direct translation of Wilde’s play by German author Hugo Lachmann. In his next work, Strauss would turn to another brilliant dramatist—this time a German who was destined to become his most valued artistic partner, Hermann von Hofmannsthal.  When Strauss saw Hofmannsthal’s Elektra, he was struck by its direct language and reliance on theatrical movement to drive home its emotional wallop.  Strauss was fascinated.  Audiences were stunned.  Hofmannsthal was delighted when Strauss contacted him for permission to use his play as the libretto for his next opera, and gave the composer unfettered use of his work.  Elektra was a triumph in more ways than one.  Strauss won an artistic victory, and also gained a collaborator.


After the depravity of Salome and the insanity of Elektra, Strauss wanted to write a comedy, and turned to Hofmannsthal, who wrote the libretto for his most beloved opera, Der Rosenkavalier (1911).  Though not exactly the broad burlesque he had originally hoped for, it afforded Strauss the opportunity to explore a new operatic language for a new age.  He retreated from the limited vocabulary of chromaticism and dissonance utilized in Salome and Elektra, and created a new musical language, which, like a collage, used styles borrowed from many times and genres to create a beautiful, cohesive whole.  Hofmannsthal was deeply satisfied by the result, feeling that at last an operatic work had created parity among all its elements: words, music and action.


Their next collaboration, Ariadne auf Naxos, was supposed to be a breezy little project, but instead turned into a rather agonizing, drawn out process, mostly because of Hofmannsthal’s heavy concept of the piece, a genre-busting combination of theater and opera.  Its 1912 premiere was dead on arrival, and the two worked hard to reshape the work for a new 1916 date, which proved to be better received.  


In the meantime, Europe had been plunged into the horrors of World War I.  Strauss, who considered himself apolitical, was financially ruined by the war.  He was enraged to find that his entire life-savings—the savings which were to make him financially independent—had been seized by the British government from the London bank in which they were kept, simply because he was German.  Additionally upsetting, his son was about to be drafted, and Hofmannsthal already had been—which seriously delayed the playwright from completing Act III of their new opera, Die Frau ohne Schatten (The Woman without a Shadow)!  Annoyed, Strauss wrote, “…poets ought to be permitted to stay at home.  There is plenty of cannon fodder available: critics, stage producers who have their own ideas, actors who act Moliere, etc.” (quoted from Bryan Gilliam’s The Life of Richard Strauss).


This insight into Strauss’s attitudes towards political and social circumstances which interfered with his artistic pursuits helps to illuminate Strauss’s initial reaction to the Nazis and his attempts to work with the regime to forward his own apolitical agenda.  As with so many others who have tried to deal with the devil, Strauss would learn that this way was unwinnable.


After World War I, Strauss’s lost fortune necessitated that he begin again.  He did so in Vienna.  In 1919, he was offered the helm of the Vienna Staatsoper and moved his family to the Austrian capitol.  Artistically, he wished to move beyond the mythic and take up a contemporary subject.  The opera Intermezzo (1923) was a modern bedroom farce, based upon a misunderstanding early in his own marriage.  It was enthusiastically received—a great relief to Strauss, whose last two works (two ballets and Die Frau ohne Schatten) had been failures.


Intermezzo restored Strauss’s confidence and determination to write another full length opera with Hofmannsthal, who had been uninterested in Intermezzo.  Strauss wanted something light—an operetta—something frivolous and fun.  Hofmannsthal happily complied, with the caveat that Strauss’s music be light and frothy too.  The fruit of their labor would be their last opera together, Die ägyptische Helena (1928), based upon Helen of Troy.


Only a year later, Hofmannsthal died suddenly of a stroke while planning the funeral of his son.  Strauss was utterly bereft.  In a letter to the widow Strauss wrote, “No one will ever replace him for me or the world of music.”


In 1929 the stock market crashed and a world-wide depression ensued.  The combined effects of the Treaty of Versailles and the economic devastation of the Great Depression proved fertile ground for the National Socialist Party.  Many German artists and musicians were swept up in the Nazi wave, either as willing participants or as silent bystanders.  Strauss was not indifferent to the Nazis and, indeed, felt Hitler to be an “ignoramus” as early as 1930.  But he felt himself (as an apolitical agent of high culture) to be above the fray.  He felt that art and culture were and should be immune to politics.  He had no frame of reference for handling the Nazis, and thought he could use them to forward his ambitions with regard to copyright laws.  According to Gilliam

 

One thing is clear:  Strauss showed little courageous opposition during this grim 12 year period.  Especially in the first three years of the regime, we can trace a pattern of cooperation and accommodation, a pattern drawn in part from his earlier dealings with political authorities: dukes, Kaisers, presidents and chancellors.  But neither was he a Nazi sympathizer, nor did he share their anti-Semitic beliefs.

 

Later in the regime, he learned all too vividly that he could not control the Nazis he worked with, nor was he immune to politics.  Because for the Nazis, no aspect of life was immune to politics.


In 1933, Joseph Goebbels, Third Reich Minister of Propaganda, invited Strauss to become president of the Reichsmusikkammer.  Strauss accepted, hoping to use his influence to see some of his musico-cultural ambitions (extension of copyright from 30 to 50 years as well as improved musical education for public school children) realized.  He held the post for two years, eventually being fired.


Strauss was fired for a number of reasons.  He viewed his position as the titular head of the RKK as honorary, was rarely “at the office,” and wielded his influence only in those areas which interested him.  Unfortunately, this left day to day operations to middle management, which was populated by true-believers, more than willing to conduct a dangerous whisper campaign against Strauss.  They had plenty to whisper about.  Strauss had attempted several times to mitigate the damage done to Jews who were forced from their influential positions in the musical world, albeit in quiet ways which he supposed would not damage his own standing.  His new librettist, Stefan Zweig, was a Jew, a Jew who fled Germany and tried to partner with Strauss from a distance until even that became untenable.  Most dangerous of all, Strauss’s daughter-in-law, Alice, and therefore his grandsons, were Jews.  Though Strauss did not initially understand this, the Nazis held all the cards, because he loved Alice and his grandsons.


The straw that broke the camel’s back with Goebbels and severed Strauss from the RKK was a letter he wrote to Zweig, attempting to persuade the playwright to continue their artistic relationship.  Once again Strauss’s professional dedication to art above all else trumped caution.  Strauss was myopic in this regard, but was soon to see his error.  He wrote:

 

Do you believe that I am ever, in any of my actions, guided by the thought that I am ‘German?’ Do you believe that Mozart composed as an Aryan?  I know only two types of people: those with and without talent.  ‘Das Volk’ exist for me only at the moment they become the audience.  Whether they are Chinese, Bavarians, New Zealanders, or Berliners leaves me cold.  What matters is that they pay the full price of admission. (Gilliam, 1999)



Zweig never received the letter.  It was intercepted and presented to Goebbels.  Strauss was humiliated and dismissed.  He spent the rest of the build-up to war and the war itself in constant anxiety.  His daughter-in-law and grandsons became a target—Strauss wrote obsequious letters to Hitler and lesser officials throughout the war aiming to protect his family.  In his book, Composers of the Nazi Era, Michael Kater sums up the situation as:  “The strategy was to use and abuse the composer at the same time—to make him pay for the sins of the past and nip further rebellion in the bud.”


The rest of the war years, Strauss continued to conduct and compose.  The destruction of Munich, Berlin and Dresden (where so many of his operas had premiered) left him “undone.”  Members of Alice’s family were hauled off to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz.  After the war she wrote, “…We knew nothing of the exterminations and would not have believed it.”


Strauss’s compositions during the war years included lieder and concerti.  He wrote choruses set to dark poems, an opera called Capriccio and another called Der liebe der Danae.  As each milestone birthday arrived, Strauss was feted; trotted out to conduct his works and be celebrated as the world’s greatest composer.  Otherwise, he was isolated in his Garmisch villa, besides his constant negotiations to ensure his family’s safety.


At last, of course, the war ended.  Strauss, aged and frail, retreated to Switzerland while the de-Nazification trials wore on.  Here he heard the premiere of his Metamorphosen (1946), a deeply personal and spiritual work for strings which sought to comprehend the depths of depravity humankind is capable of, devolving, instead of evolving, into an animal state.  He wrote it as an expression of his “grief for Munich.”

 

I could never forget the sad fate of my dear native city with which the
 happiest memories of my life are indissolubly bound up.  I would think in bitter grief of the beautiful Odeon concert hall where as a school boy and ‘son of the orchestra’ I got to know the whole range of the classical symphony right up to Berlioz, who in those days was still an anathema to many; where Hermann Levi in 1883 baptised the first symphony of an Unterprimaner [upper-elementary school boy] who was present standing behind a column in the pit and only three years later made his debut at the conductor’s desk…I have never ceased to grieve…



Strauss’s world had disappeared, buried under the rubble caused by Allied bombs and Nazi boots.  His last compositions were titled, aptly, The Four Last Songs, of which the final words are, “How tired we are from wandering, could this perhaps be death?”


Strauss died on September 8, 1949 at home with loved ones at his side.

 

 

George Manahan

Conductor

Portland Opera Music Director
Previously at Portland Opera:
Falstaff (2013); Don Giovanni (2012); Big Night Concert (2012); Big Night Concert (2011); The Barber of Seville (2010); Così fan tutte (2010) ...

 

 

George Manahan

Conductor

Portland Opera Music Director

Previously at Portland Opera:Big Night Concert (2013, 2012, 2011); Falstaff (2013); Don Giovanni (2012); The Barber of Seville (2010);  Così fan tutte  (2010);  Rigoletto  (2009); Rodelinda (2008); Macbeth (2006).


After distinguishing himself as one of Portland Opera’s most renown and beloved guest conductors, George Manahan was appointed Music Director at the beginning of the 2012/13 Season.  As Music Director, Mr. Manahan oversees the Portland Opera orchestra, working closely with them to achieve the highest levels of excellence.


The Atlanta-born conductor spent 14 years as the Music Director for New York City Opera and currently holds that title for the American Composer’s Orchestra.  He has conducted for many of the world’s leading opera companies including New York City Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, National Opera of Paris, Santa Fe Opera, and Seattle Opera.  In September 2013, he made his debut at San Francisco Opera debut conducting the world premiere of Tobias Picker’s Dolores Claiborne. His other world premieres include Charles Wuorinen’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories, David Lang’s Modern Painters, Hans Werner Henze’s The English Cat and the New York premiere of Richard Danielpour’s Margaret Garner.


Maestro Manahan’s career also extends into the symphonic world, and he has conducted the National Symphony Orchestra as well as the symphonies of Atlanta, San Francisco, Indianapolis, the Juilliard School, and the Manhattan School of Music, among many others.  In May,  he was honored by the American Society of Composers and Publishers for his "career-long advocacy for American composers and the music of our time."


A widely-recorded conductor, Mr. Manahan was nominated for a  GRAMMY in 2004 for his recording of Edward Thomas’ Desire under the Elms, and he also conducted the premiere recordings of Steve Reich’s Tehillim and Tobias Picker’s Emmelin.  His numerous television performances include an Emmy Award for his 2007 telecast of New York City Opera’s production of Madame Butterfly on PBS’s “Live from Lincoln Center,” as well as broadcasts of La bohème, Lizzie Borden and Tosca.

 

 

 

Stephen Lawless

Director

Previously at Portland Opera: The Marriage of Figaro (2011).


Stephen Lawless was Director of Production for the Glyndebourne Touring Opera from 1986 to 1991, where his work culminated in an immensely successful production of Death in Venice ...

 

 

Stephen Lawless

Director

Previously at Portland Opera: The Marriage of Figaro (2011).


Stephen Lawless was Director of Production for the Glyndebourne Touring Opera from 1986 to 1991, where his work culminated in an immensely successful production of Death in Venice, which was subsequently recorded by the BBC for television and video release.  The production was revived at the 1992 Glyndebourne Festival. He made his début with the Kirov Opera in Leningrad producing Boris Godunov which was broadcast live on British television, the first ever live telecast of an opera from the Soviet Union to the U.K.


His productions include Boris Godonov for the Vienna Staatsoper; Der Fliegende Holländer, Daphne, Capriccio, Semele and Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci for the New York City Opera; Il trovatore, Vanessa, and L’elisir d’amore for Washington Opera; Un ballo in maschera, Il trovatore, L’elisir d’amore, Don Pasquale and Falstaff for Los Angeles Opera; Capriccio and Boris Godonov for San Francisco Opera; Le nozze di Figaro and La bohème for the Lyric  Opera Chicago; Le nozze di Figaro, Cavallaria rusticana andPagliacciLa clemenza di Tito, Maria Stuarda, Anna Bolena and Boris Godonov for Dallas Opera; Scarlatti’s Griselda for the Deutsche Staatsoper, Berlin; Boris Godonov and Un ballo in maschera for La Fenice in Venice; Orfeo,  Tancredi and a double bill of Iolanta and Francesca da Rimini for the Theater an der Wien; Die Fledermaus for the Opera de Geneve; Falstaff and Die Fledermaus for Glyndebourne Festival Opera; Le nozze di figaro, Tosca, Der Rosenkavalier and Un ballo in maschera for the Hong Kong Festival; Peter Grimes, Die Fledermaus and Otello for Graz Opera; Acis and Galatea, Venus and Adonis, Dido and Aeneas, and Don Chisciotte in Sierra Morena for the Innsbruck Festival; Salome and Der Ring des Niebelungen for the Nürnberg Opera; Maria Stuarda for the Canadian Opera; L’elisir d’amore and Faust for Santa Fe Opera and Die Fledermaus for the National Performing Arts Centre in Beijing.  He received great critical acclaim for his production of Don Giovanni at the Metropolitan Opera, New York.


 

 

 

 

Kelly Cae Hogan — Salome

Soprano

Previously at Portland Opera: Big Night Concert (2013).


Called “a revelation” by The Washington Post,Kelly Cae Hogan is making her mark internationally as a dramatic soprano ...

 

 

Kelly Cae Hogan — Salome

Soprano

Previously at Portland Opera: Big Night Concert (2013).


Called “a revelation” by The Washington Post,Kelly Cae Hogan is making her mark internationally as a dramatic soprano. After singing the role of Gerhilde at the Metropolitan Opera in Die Walküre under the batons of Maestros James Levine, Fabio Luisi, Lorin Maazel, and Donald Runnicles, Ms. Hogan is now taking on the role of Brünnhilde, singing it first with Virginia Opera and subsequently with Opera North in a live BBC Radio broadcast. Additional roles last season included Leonorain Beethoven’s Fidelio and Elisabeth in Wagner’s Tannhäuser at the Staatstheater Kassel in Germany, Blanche DuBois in André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire at Virginia Opera, and the title role in Norma at the Theater Bonn in Germany. Past roles have included Abigaille in Verdi’s Nabucco,title roles in Puccini’s Turandot and Tosca, the Marschallin in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier,and Senta in Wagner’s Der Fliegende Holländer. She was praised by the German newspaper Kreiszeitungfor her ability to portray Strauss’s Salome with “almost unearthly beautiful sounds,”and has performed the role with the Polish National Opera, Florentine Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and on tour in Japan. Ms. Hogan recently made her Portland Opera debut at the Big Night Concert in September. Later this season she will return to Opera North to sing her first Lady Macbeth in the renowned Verdi work.


Learn more about Kelly at her website.

 

 

 

 

Rosalind Plowright — Herodias

Mezzo Soprano

Portland Opera Debut 


In a career which spans over 35 years, Rosalind Plowright is regarded as one of Britain's greatest singing actresses ...

 

 

Rosalind Plowright — Herodias

Mezzo Soprano

Portland Opera Debut


In a career which spans over 35 years, Rosalind Plowright is regarded as one of Britain's greatest singing actresses. She sang her first professional role as the Page in 1975 at English National Opera and launched a career as a soprano, performing many title roles, including Norma, Medée, Aida, Tosca, Manon Lescaut at the greatest international opera houses. She has performed with Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti, and has worked with Maestros  Carlo Maria Giulini, Riccardo Muti, Claudio Abbado, Zubin Mehta, and Giuseppe Sinopli, among many others.


In 1999 Rosalind Plowright switched to the dramatic mezzo fach where her stage presence and sense of character brings life to roles like Klytamnestra in Strauss’s Elektra, Mme de Croissy in Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmelites, Zia Principessa in Puccini’s Suor Angelica. She sang the role of Frika in the Royal Opera House’s new Ring between 2004 and 2007, and made her Metropolitain Opera Debut in Janack’s Jenufa in 2012. Ms. Plowright has dabbled in TV drama, appearing in two episodes of “The House of Elliot” and “The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous,” and helped develop and starred in the musical comedy “Two’s a Crowd.” In 2012, Ms. Plowright joined the Monty Python team for Eric Idle and John Du Prez’s oratorio based on “Life of Brian” Not the Messiah – He’s a Very Naughty Boy.


Upcoming engagements include Mme de Croissy in Dialogues des Carmelites in Paris, Mrs Sedley in Peter Grimes in both Lyon and Vienna, and Contessa di Coigny in Andrea Chenier at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.Ms. Plowright was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth for her services to music in 2007.


Learn more about Rosalind at her website.

 

 

 

 

Melissa Fajardo — Page

Mezzo Soprano

Portland Opera Resident Artist
Previously at Portland Opera:
Big Night Concert (2013).


Singing her first role at Keller Auditorium is mezzo soprano Melissa Fajardo ...

 

 

Melissa Fajardo — Page

Mezzo Soprano

Portland Opera Resident Artist
Previously at Portland Opera:
Big Night Concert (2013).


Singing her first role at Keller Auditorium is mezzo soprano Melissa Fajardo. This summer, Ms. Fajardo was a Gerdine Young Artist at Opera Theatre of St. Louis, where she covered the role of Kathy Hagen in Terence Blanchard and Michael Cristofer’s new opera Champion, and in August she performed her first musical theater role, Bloody Mary, in Opera North’s South Pacific. Ms. Fajardo received her master’s degree in May 2013 from the Eastman School of Music. She made her Princeton Symphony Orchestra debut performing the Mother in Stravinsky’s Marva and returned for the world premiere of Edward Cone’s The Duchess of Malfi. Additional roles include Geneviève in Pelléas et Mélisande and Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro at Westminster Choir College, Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Mère Jeanne in Dialogues de Carmélites and Kate from The Pirates of Penzance at the Brevard Music Center. As a Resident Artist at Portland Opera, she will also sing Alisa in Lucia di Lammermoor, Lady with a Hat Box in Postcard from Morocco, and Kate in The Pirates of Penzance. Ms. Fajardo will present a solo recital on February 4, 2014 at Portland Art Museum’s Whitsell Auditorium as part of the Portland Opera Resident Artist series.

 

 

 

Alan Woodrow — Herod

Tenor

Portland Opera Debut


Alan Woodrow studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and at the London Opera Centre. On completing his studies he joined English National Opera, where he was principal tenor for several years ...

 

 

Alan Woodrow — Herod

Tenor

Portland Opera Debut


Alan Woodrow studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and at the London Opera Centre. On completing his studies he joined English National Opera, where he was principal tenor for several years. It was his exceptional debut in Martinů's The Greek Passion at the Edinburgh Festival that first brought him to the attention of major European houses. This was quickly followed by further debuts including Sergei in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk at the Bastille, La Scala and Oper Frankfurt; Tamboumajor in Wozzeck for Opera North; and Florestan in Fidelio for Opera Omaha, which launched an international career.


Amongst his signature roles are Siegfried in Der Ring des Nibelungen, Siegmund in Die Walküre, Herodin Salome,  Kaiser in Die Frau ohne Schatten, title roles in Guntram and Rienzi, Guido Bardi in Eine Florentinische Tragödie, Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos,and Prince in Love for Three Oranges. In these and other roles Alan has appeared worldwide in prestigious opera houses and with important festivals such as Opéra National de Paris, Bayerische Staatsoper München, Teatro alla Scala, Gran Teatre de Liceu, Teatro Real, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Edinburgh Festival, New National Theatre Tokyo, Royal Albert Hall, San Diego Opera, Seattle Opera, and many others. Most recent appearances include Mao Tse-Tung in John Adams’ Nixon in China with Lyric Opera of Kansas City and Fatty in Kurt Weill’s Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny for Israeli Opera.


Read more about Alan here.

 

 

 

Ric Furman — Narraboth

Tenor

Previously at Portland Opera: Big Night Concert (2013).


Hailed as a “beautiful tenor” by Opera News, Ric Furman made an unscheduled Seattle Opera debut last season when he was called at the last minute to perform Florestan in Beethoven’s Fidelio, a role he had been covering ...

 

 

Ric Furman — Narraboth

Tenor

Previously at Portland Opera: Big Night Concert (2013).


Hailed as a “beautiful tenor” by Opera News, Ric Furman made an unscheduled Seattle Opera debut last season when he was called at the last minute to perform Florestan in Beethoven’s Fidelio, a role he had been covering. The Sun Break praised his “big voice of beautiful timbre” and Seen and Heard International found his performance “thoroughly compelling in his evocation first of utter despair and eventually of exultant joy.” Already an established performer of the lyric roles, Mr. Furman is now making waves in the Heldentenor repertoire. When he sang excerpts from Siegfried and Götterdämmerung with the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, Music Cincinnati said that he “looks, acts, and sounds like a Siegfried of the future,” and that he “sang Wagner’s hero with heft and beauty.”  Other concert performances include Haydn’s Paukenmesse at Carnegie Hall and excerpts from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, Bernstein’s West Side Story, and Beethoven’s Fidelio with the Dayton Philharmonic. He is also a frequent performer of Handel’s Messiah. In April Mr. Furman will sing selections from Richard Wagner’s greatest works at the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra’s Season Finale concert and will return to Seattle Opera in 2015.

 

 

 

Jon Kolbet — First Jew

Tenor

Previously at Portland Opera: Goro, Madame Butterfly (2012); Basilio, The Marriage of Figaro (2011); Mr. Upfold in Albert Herring (2008); Giove/Eumete in The Return of Ulysses (2006); Zefirino in The Journey to Reims (2004) ...

 

 

Jon Kolbet — First Jew

Tenor

Previously at Portland Opera: Goro, Madame Butterfly (2012); Basilio, The Marriage of Figaro (2011); Mr. Upfold in Albert Herring (2008); Giove/Eumete in The Return of Ulysses (2006); Zefirino in The Journey to Reims (2004); Basilio in The Marriage of Figaro and Pang in Turandot (2003); Oreste in La Belle Hélène (2001); Pong in Turandot (1996).


Jon Kolbet, an Iowa native, has become a specialist in the character tenor repertoire. Since his graduation from the Houston Opera Studio in 1994, Mr. Kolbet has become a favorite guest artist with Houston Grand Opera, including the roles of Howard Boucher in Dead Man Walking, the Haushofmeister in Ariadne auf Naxos, Monostatos in Mozart’s Zauberflöte, Guillot de Morfontaine in Massenet’s Manon, Snake/Vain Man in Rachel Portman’s Little Prince, and the Simpleton in Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov. Other roles include Goro in Madama Butterfly with San Francisco Opera, Basilio and Don Curzio in Le nozze di Figaro with Utah Opera,  and  Andreas / Spalanzani / Franz / Pitichinaccio in Offenbach’s Contes d’Hoffmann with Tulsa Opera. He has appeared with New York City Opera, New Orleans Opera, Opera Carolina, Kentucky Opera, Dallas Opera, El Paso Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Florentine Opera, Opera Festival of New Jersey, Nashville Opera, and Opera Illinois.


Read more about Jon here.

 

 

 

Carl Halvorson — Third Jew

Tenor

Previously at Portland Opera: Dr. Caius, Falstaff (2013); Don Curzio, The Marriage of Figaro (2011); The Emperor Altoum, Turandot (2011); Torquemada, L'Heure Espagnole (2011); Embers / Numbers / Trees, L’Enfant et les Sortilèges (2011) ...

 

 

Carl Halvorson — Third Jew

Tenor

Previously at Portland Opera: Dr. Caius, Falstaff (2013); Don Curzio, The Marriage of Figaro (2011); The Emperor Altoum, Turandot (2011); Torquemada, L'Heure Espagnole (2011); Embers / Numbers / Trees, L’Enfant et les Sortilèges (2011); Reporter, Orphée (2009).


Carl Halvorson is known internationally as a concert, opera and recital artist.  Described as “a singer of unquestioned dramatic gifts and vocal polish” by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and “magnificent” by The New York Times, he has performed as soloist with such orchestras as the New York Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Houston Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Ensemble, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Oregon Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, among many others.Mr. Halvorson has also given over 80 recitals at such venues as Carnegie Hall, Carnegie Recital Hall, London’s Wigmore Hall, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, New York’s 92nd Street Y, and the Kennedy Center and National Gallery in Washington D.C.  Operatic performances include leading roles with the Opera Theater of St. Louis, the Washington Opera, Minnesota Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Boston Opera, Arizona Opera, Tokyo Opera Nomori, London’s Barbican Centre and Berkshire Opera.  Following training at Yale and Juilliard he won many vocal competitions, including the Young Concert Artists International Competition.  He has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Bagby and Sullivan Foundations, and has recorded for numerous labels.

 

 

 

Marcus Shelton — Fourth Jew

Tenor

Previously at Portland Opera: Bardolfo, Falstaff (2013).


With “excellent control and high notes to blow the roof off,” Tenor Marcus Shelton continues to receive high praise for his singing and acting ...

 

 

Marcus Shelton — Fourth Jew

Tenor

Previously at Portland Opera: Bardolfo, Falstaff (2013).


With “excellent control and high notes to blow the roof off,” Tenor Marcus Shelton continues to receive high praise for his singing and acting. Opera Now magazine said he uses “his ample but suave voice with imagination and versatility.”

Mr. Shelton has been featured with many international companies including Greek National Opera, Opera Oviedo, and the Les Azuriales festival in Nice, France, and has been seen around the Northwest with Seattle Opera, Opera Idaho, Tacoma Opera, among many others. Mr. Shelton is also a regular National Anthem performer for the Seattle Mariners and the Seattle Seahawks.

Recent roles include Tonio in Donizetti’s Fille du Regiment, Don Ramiro in Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Nemorino in Donizetti’s L’Elisir D’amore. Concert work includes solos in Orff’s Carmina Burana, Mozart’s Requiem, and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

Marcus was a member of Seattle Opera’s prestigious young artist program for the 2006/07 and 2007/08 seasons, where his roles included Fenton in Verdi’s Falstaff,  Don Jose in Peter Brook’s Tragedie de Carmen, Rinuccio in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, Beppe in Donizetti’s Rita, and several others. Upcoming roles include Albert in Skagit Opera’s Die Fledermaus in March 2014 and Carmina Burana with the Qatar Philharmonic in May 2014.


Learn more about Marcus here.

 

 

 

David Pittsinger — Jokanaan (John the Baptist)

Bass Baritone

Previously at Portland Opera: Count Almaviva, The Marriage of Figaro (2011); Title role, Don Giovanni (2006).


American bass-baritone David Pittsinger is equally at home in baroque through contemporary operas, as well as musical theater ...

 

 

David Pittsinger — Jokanaan (John the Baptist)

Bass - baritone

Previously at Portland Opera: Count Almaviva, The Marriage of Figaro (2011); Title role, Don Giovanni (2006).


American bass-baritone David Pittsinger is equally at home in baroque through contemporary operas, as well as musical theater.  He has appeared on the world’s leading opera and concert stages and on Broadway. Signature roles include the title role in Boito’s Mefistofele, Mephistopheles in Gounod’s Faust, The Villains in Les Contes D’Hoffmann, the title role in Massenet’s Don Quichotte, the title role in Don Giovanni, the roles of Figaro and Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, Nick Shadow in The Rake’s Progress, Scarpia in Tosca and Escamillo in Carmen.


Mr. Pittsinger is a frequent performer at the Metropolitan Opera and has appeared in four Live HD broadcasts. Recent role debuts include Roy Disney in Philip Glass’ world premiere of The Perfect American at Madrid’s Teatro Real, and King Arthur in Camelot at the Glimmerglass Festival. Other recent career highlights include a performance of  Rachmaninoff’s The Bells in Russian with the Huston Symphony;creating the role of Eugene O’Neill in the world premiere of Jeanine Tessori and Tony Kushner’s A Blizzard On Marblehead Neck at Glimmerglass Festival; making history by performing in The Met’s Hamlet and on Broadway in Lincoln Center Theater’s production of South Pacific in the same day; and appearing before the Supreme Court in a musicale for the Supreme Court justices.


A recital performer of both the classical and American Songbook literature, Mr. Pittsinger has also commissioned new works, most recently Scott Eyerly’s Arlington Sons which premiered with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra under Leonard Slatkin in October 2012. He can be heard in recording on Charles Ives Songs (Volumes 1-6, Naxos), Carlisle Floyd’sSusanna (Virgin Records), and Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra (Ricercar), and the recent release of Rodgers & Hammerstein At The Movies (EMI). Later this season, Mr. Pittsinger will sing Hobson in Britten’s Peter Grimes in concert with the St. Louis Symphony, in St. Louis and at Carnegie Hall in New York City.


Learn more about David Pittsinger here.
 

 

 

 

Anton Belov — First Nazarene

Baritone

Previously at Portland Opera: Big Night Concert; Jailer in Tosca (2013).


Called an “emerging star” by the Philadelphia Inquirer, baritone Anton Belov has been praised for his “rich and mellifluous voice” by The New York Times ...

 

 

Anton Belov — First Nazarene

Baritone

Previously at Portland Opera: Big Night Concert; Jailer in Tosca (2013).


Called an “emerging star” by the Philadelphia Inquirer, baritone Anton Belov has been praised for his “rich and mellifluous voice” by The New York Times. A native of Russia and a graduate of the Julliard Opera Center, he has appeared with numerous companies and orchestras throughout the United States, including Boston Lyric Opera, Anchorage Opera, and Tacoma  Opera, among many others. Roles include Germont in Verdi’s La traviata, the Count di Luna in Il trovatore, the title role in Don Giovanni, Escamillo in Carmen, Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, and the title role in Eugene Onegin. Mr. Belov has performed Kurt Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins with the Detroit Symphony at Carnegie Hall and with the Oregon Symphony in Portland and Seattle. Equally at home as a recitalist, Mr. Belov has presented recitals at the New York Festival of Song at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. He is the winner of the George London Competition, the Young Concert Artists International Competition, and the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Mr. Belov is an Assistant Professor of Music at Linfield College.  Later this season, he will sing Marcello in Puccini’s La bohème with the Huntsville Symphony.

 

 

 

Konstantin Kvach — Second Soilder

Bass

Previously at Portland Opera: Judge, Orphée (2009).

 

Born in Russia, bass Konstantin Kvach is greatly admired for his versatility ...

 

 

Konstantin Kvach — Second Soldier

Bass

Previously at Portland Opera: Judge, Orphée (2009).

 

Born in Russia, bass Konstantin Kvach is greatly admired for his versatility, having both the bel canto technique to sing Handel, Mozart, Rossini, as well as the power to handle the dramatic roles of Verdi and Puccini. He has performed internationally as a featured soloist with the Prague Sinfonietta at Dvořak Hall and Jablonec Municipal Theatre in the Czech Republic. Nationally, he performed with Northwest Chamber Orchestra at Benaroya Hall in Seattle, and throughout the northwest with orchestras, opera companies and choral ensembles including Portland Opera, Washington East Opera, Opera Coeur d’Alene, Vancouver Opera, PSU Opera, the Oregon Symphony, Southwest Washington Symphony, Newport Symphony, Northwest Chamber Orchestra, Portland Baroque Orchestra, Oregon Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, Central Oregon Symphony, Lower Columbia Symphonic Band, Portland Symphonic Choir, Bravo!Vancouver, among others. Mr. Kvach is a regular guest artist at the Astoria Music Festival, Northwest Performing Arts, Portland SummerFest and Bel Canto Northwest. Roles include Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Sparafucile in Rigoletto, Grenvil in La traviata, Eutifronte in Der Stein der Weisen, Don Alfonso in Cosí fan tutte, Colline in La bohème, Simone inGianni Schicchi, Pistola in Falstaff, Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro, Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte, Alidoro in La Cenerentola, Commendatore in Don Giovanni, Superintendent Budd in Albert Herring, Gremin in Eugene Onegin, and Kum in Mussorgsky's Sorochintsy Fair.

Recordings include the critically acclaimed world premiere recording of Philip Glass’s Orphée on Orange Mountain Music, and Veljo Tormis’s On American Shores on Clarion.

 

 

 

Darren Stokes — Fifth Jew

Bass Baritone

Portland Opera Debut 

 

American Bass-Baritone Darren K. Stokes is an artist of exceptional vocal ability. He possesses a voice of extraordinary richness with a broad vocal range, and he sings with a singular ease ...

 

 

Darren Stokes — Fifth Jew

Bass Baritone

Portland Opera Debut 

 

American Bass-Baritone Darren K. Stokes is an artist of exceptional vocal ability. He possesses a voice of extraordinary richness with a broad vocal range, and he sings with a singular ease. Mr. Stokes has added 44 roles to his repertoire since embarking on a singing career in 2002 and he has been in very high demand since completing two seasons with the distinguished Ryan Opera Center of the Lyric Opera of Chicago.


Mr. Stokes has had the pleasure of performing with prominent companies throughout the US.  He has sung with Grant Park Music Festival, Nashville Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati May Festival, Boston Lyric Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Washington National Opera, Opera Theater of St. Louis, San Francisco Opera, the Ravinia Festival, Opera Memphis, San Antonio Opera, Indianapolis Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, San Francisco Opera,  Opera Saratoga (Lake George Opera), Eugene Opera, and theLyric Opera of Chicago.  Mr. Stokes makes mainstage debuts with The Dallas Opera, Seattle Opera and the Cleveland Orchestra both in Cleveland and NYC at Carnegie Hall and Buffalo Symphony Orchestra in upcoming seasons.  On the operatic mainstage, he has performed Figaro (Le Nozze di Figaro), Calkas (Troilus and Cressida), Ferrando (Il Trovatore), Zuniga (Carmen), Commendatore (Don Giovanni), Imperial Commissioner (Madame Butterfly), General Groves (Dr. Atomic), Mèphistophélès ( Faust),  Escamillo (Carmen and Le Tragedie de Carmen), Jake/The Undertaker (Porgy and Bess), Theseus (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Neptune (The Return of Ulysses), and Parson Alltalk, (Treemonisha) among many others. Important additions by way of principal role covers include Queequeg in the World Premiere of Jake Heggie’s Moby Dick for Dallas Opera and Crown (Porgy and Bess) for Seattle Opera.


The 2011-2012 season offers several role and mainstage company debuts as Banquo (Macbeth) for Boston Lyric Opera, 2nd Armored Man for The Dallas Opera, and the 5th Jew and Cappadocian for the Cleveland Orchestra in a debut with the orchestra in Cleveland and at Carnegie Hall.  Also in the season, Mr. Stokes returns to Indianapolis Opera and records Parson Alltalk (Treemonisha). He looks forward to a debut with The Buffalo Symphony in 2013.   Prior seasons have been equally full for Mr. Stokes. Projects in 2010 and 2011 comprised a company debut with the Washington National Opera singing the role of Jake (Porgy and Bess) along with a company debut with Lake George Opera (Opera Saratoga) in a reprise of Escamillo (Carmen). He enjoyed a first assignment with The Dallas Opera where he added the role of Queequeg to his repertoire covering Jonathan Lemalu in Moby Dick, and he was invited to return to the Ravinia Festival to sing Distant Worlds/Final Fantasy with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  Other assignments in the season include role debuts as Figaro (Le Nozze di Figaro) for San Antonio Opera and Theseus (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) in a return to Boston Lyric Opera.



Important assignments in 2009 included a reprise of Rachmaninoff’s The Bells in debut performances with theNashville Symphony, a company debut with Boston Lyric Opera as Zuniga (Carmen), debut performances as Mèphistophélès in Faust and Parson Alltalk and Producer #2 in Treemonisha for Opera Memphis and a company debut with the San Francisco Opera in Porgy and Bess.  Other mainstage performances in recent seasons include Neptune in Monteverdi’s The Return of Ulysses for Chicago Opera Theater, the Imperial Commissioner (Madama Butterfly) for the Ravinia Festival and the Father (La Forza del Destino) in a performance with Cincinnati May Festival under the direction of the distinguished Mo. James Conlon.


A highlight in Mr. Stokes’s 2nd season at the Ryan Opera Center was his Lyric Opera main stage debut in the lead role of General Groves which he performed as replacement for an indisposed principal.  Highlights in his first season with the company included Iphigénie en Tauride, Dialogues des Carmélites, and Salome with covers of Ferrando (Il Trovatore), the Duke of Verona (Roméo et Juliette), Mandarin (Turandot), and the Marquis (Dialogues des Carmélites).In addition to the replacement performance of  General Groves, 2007-2008 season roles include Basilio (Il Barbiere di Siviglia) on the main stage for a Student Matinee, with Zaretsky (Eugene Onegin)and Curio (Giulio Cesare) which he performs in all main stage performances. Cover assignments for the Lyric include Grenvil (La Traviata), Colline (La Bohème) which he previously performed for Sarasota Opera, and Achilla (Giulio Cesare).


Mr. Stokes trained with distinguished young artists’ programs in addition to the Ryan Opera Center including Glimmerglass Opera and Sarasota Opera - where he was awarded the 2005 Leo M. Rogers Scholarship for Outstanding Apprentice.  He has also toured with Rick Benjamin’s Paragon Ragtime Orchestra – the world’s only year-round, professional organization performing ragtime-era music – and toured in New York State with various gospel groups.   Mr. Stokes is an award recipient from the prestigious William Matheus Sullivan Musical Foundation.

 

 

Jonathan Kimple — First Soldier

Bass Baritone

Former Portland Opera Resident Artist
Previously at Portland Opera:
Count Ceprano, Rigoletto; Giove, La Calisto (2009); Marquis d'Obigny, La Traviata; Second Prisoner, Fidelio (2008) ...

 

 

Jonathan Kimple — First Soldier

Bass Baritone

Former Portland Opera Resident Artist
Previously at Portland Opera:
Count Ceprano, Rigoletto; Giove, La Calisto (2009); Marquis d'Obigny, La Traviata; Second Prisoner, Fidelio (2008).


Former Portland Opera Resident Artist Jonathan Kimple received his Master of Music degree from Manhattan School of Music. His credits include Colline in La bohème for Minnesota Opera, where he also sang the roles of Nourabad in Pearl Fishers, Talbot in Maria Stuarda, Second Soldier in Salome, Barone Douphol in La Traviata, and debuted the role of First German Soldier in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Opera by Kevin Puts, Silent Night. He appeared on stage with Santa Fe Opera, where he covered the title role in Le nozze di Figaro and Farasmane in Radamisto. Jonathan also has performed as Count Ceprano in Rigoletto  with Sarasota Opera, where he covered Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte. With Virginia Opera he sang Sergeant of Police in Pirates of Penzance. This season, he will appear in the Metropolitan Opera's new production of Prince Igor.

 

 

 

André Flynn — Cappadocian

Baritone

Previously at Portland Opera: 3rd Inquisitor, Candide  (2012); A Messenger, La Traviata (2008);  Don Prudenzio, The Journey To Reims (2004);  Sergeant, La bohème (2001); Thierry / 2nd Commissioner, Dialogues of the Carmelites (2001) ...

 

 

André Flynn — Cappadocian

Baritone

Previously at Portland Opera:3rd Inquisitor, Candide  (2012); A Messenger, La Traviata (2008);  Don Prudenzio, The Journey To Reims (2004);  Sergeant, La bohème (2001); Thierry / 2nd Commissioner, Dialogues of the Carmelites (2001); Doctor Grenvil, La Traviata (2001); Montano, Otello (2000) ; Nirenus, Julius Caesar (1999);  Angelotti, Tosca (1998); Farfarello / The Herald, The Love for Three Oranges; Count Ceprano, Rigoletto (1998); Un Grand de Venise, Merchant of Venice (1996);  Sergeant, La bohème (1994); Doctor Grenvil, La traviata (1993); Servant, My Fair Lady (1992); Zaretsky, Eugene Onegin (1992); An Usher, Rigoletto (1990).


André Flynn ha sbeen an active performer in the Northwest for more than 30 years in opera, oratorio, concert and recital. Recent credits include Cadmus in Semele with Baroque Opera Workshop, 2nd Handwerkbursche in Wozzeck  with the Astoria Music Festival and Ferrando in Il trovatore  with Portland SummerFest Opera. He has also performed Bonze in Madama Butterfly and Simone in Gianni Schicchi with Eugene Opera. Oratorio performances include Dvorak’s Stabat Mater and Handel’s Messiah with Boise Master Chorale and Mozart’s Requiem with Oregon Repertory Singers. He has been a featured soloist with the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra and The Basically Bach Festival. Mr. Flynn was the winner of the 1981 Alaska District Metropolitan Opera Auditions and the 1979 and 1981 Alaska Biennial Competitions. In addition to his solo performing he has been a member of Portland’s Choral Cross-Ties and The Montana Chorale.

 


Who is Salome?



Salome in 60-seconds




Oscar Wilde's obsession with Salome





Strauss's Orchestration for Salome

Listen to the Music

Christopher Mattaliano introduces Salome

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Christopher Mattaliano on the shocking premiere of Salome

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Christopher Mattaliano on the plot of Salome

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Jokanaan's Entrance: "Wo ist er, dessen Sündenbecher jetzt voll ist"

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"Tanz der Sieben Schleier" (Dance of the Seven Veils)

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Salome's Aria: "Ah, du wolltest mich nicht deinen Mund Küssen lassen"

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Christopher Mattaliano on the final scene of Salome

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The Final Scene: "Ah! Ich habe deinen Mund geküsst"

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Musical excerpts courtesy of EMI Classics | www.emiclassicsus.com

Hildegard Behrens, José van Dam, Karl-Walter Böhm, Agnes Baltsa, Wieslaw Ochman, Wiener Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan (Conductor).

Schedule

Nov 1, 2013
Friday 7:30 pm
Nov 3, 2013
Sunday 2:00 pm
Nov 7, 2013
Thursday 7:30 pm
Nov 9, 2013
Saturday 7:30 pm