Portland Opera Announces 2009/10 Season Love & Marriage

CONTACT:  Julia Sheridan, 503-295-3508
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love and marriage



(Portland, Ore.) – Portland Opera General Director Christopher Mattaliano today officially announced the details of the 2009/10 Season, the Company’s 45th season and Mr. Mattaliano’s sixth as artistic leader. The 2009/10 Season will offer many different takes—as only opera can—on two very popular and passionate subjects, Love & Marriage.  

The season built around romance begins appropriately enough with possibly the world’s favorite romantic opera, Puccini’s La Bohème; continues with the highly anticipated west coast premiere of Philip Glass’s Orphée; ushers in spring with Mozart’s wry, Così fan tutte; includes an exciting pairing of Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti and two rarely done Monteverdi works; and ends with the lightness, laughter and love of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.  The season’s collection of company premieres and familiar, well-loved favorites promises beauty, delight and intrigue and is bound to satisfy both the opera fanatic and the opera newcomer.

“The 2009/10 Season is possibly the most romantic season ever produced at Portland Opera,” says Portland Opera General Director Christopher Mattaliano. “When all is said and done,” he continued, “a season about love and marriage, rich with beautiful music, deep with insight and peppered with comic comment, can only be an uplifting experience.  I’m very excited in particular to be producing the west coast premiere of a critically acclaimed production of Orphée and to be revisiting some opera favorites as well.”

The 2009/10 Season marks the fifth year of the increasingly heralded Portland Opera Studio Program, in which some of the nation’s finest young singers join the company for an intensive, nine-month training program.  These singers take on many of the season’s smaller roles on the mainstage, perform in recital, and are featured in the yearly Studio Artists production at the Newmark Theatre.


THE 2009/10 SEASON

Giacomo Puccini
September 25, 27m, 29, October 1, 3, 2009

Puccini’s first masterpiece, La Bohème is a touching, sincere and timeless story about young people in love and the dilemmas they face.  Unapologetically romantic, its bursts of passion capture the first spark of young love with such truth that audiences recognize the joy and the pain of their own first loves.  A most poignant love story, it is the perfect choice to open a season of Love & Marriage.  

Based on Henry Murger’s novel, Scenes from the Bohemian Life, La Bohème opened in 1896.  Set in the most romantic city in the world, Puccini’s enduring classic follows the romantic attachments and friendships of the poet Rodolfo and his free-spirited artist friends eking out a living in the Latin Quarter in Paris. Rudolfo meets and falls in love with the fragile seamstress Mimi when she innocently asks for a light for her candle.  Their love is sweet, poetic, spiritual and ultimately tragic when Rodolfo learns that Mimi is dying.  Although poverty and illness eventually overwhelm them, theirs is a tale of survival and their tenderness for one another transcends death and transforms those around them.

In addition to being one of the most popular operas of all time (OPERA America puts it at number two) the music from La Bohème will be familiar to many from its presence in numerous films including Atonement, Moonstruck, The Boondock Saints, The Great Caruso and Mimi, a 1935 British film starring Gertrude Lawrence and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr..  La Bohème was also the inspiration behind the huge Broadway hit musical Rent.

Making their Company debuts are four very exciting singers.  Soprano KELLY KADUCE sings Mimi, a role she also performed at New York City Opera.  Opera News magazine says “Kaduce sings with bell-like purity and silvery sweetness. . . A born actress.”  The Washington Post called tenor ARTURO CHACÓN-CRUZ, who sings Rodolfo, “a star worth watching.”  As Marcello, baritone MICHAEL TODD SIMPSON won recent praise from the Seattle Times as “an appropriately fiery Marcello.” Soprano ALYSON CAMBRIDGE is the tempestous Musetta.  The New York Times noted her “powerful, clear voice.”  ANTONELLO ALLEMANDI (La Bohème 1994, L’Elisir d’Amore 1992) conducts and SANDRA BERNHARD (Aida 2008, The Marriage of Figaro 2003, La Bohème 2001, Don Giovanni 1997) is the Stage Director. La Bohème was last performed by Portland Opera in 2001.



Philip Glass
November 6, 8m, 12, 14, 2009
Portland Opera Premiere
West Coast Premiere

The Portland Opera/West Coast premiere of American composer Philip Glass’s 1993 opera Orphée is a production The New York Times called “stunning.” Based on French film maker Jean Cocteau’s fascinating 1949 retelling of the Orpheus myth, it draws its libretto almost intact from the screenplay.  The first opera of Philip Glass's Cocteau Trilogy, Orphée is a work of remarkable power that celebrates the potency of love and loyalty.  Although bleakly comic at times, Orphée ultimately delivers a  positive and life affirming experience.  Orphée adds balance to a season of Love & Marriage, proving that it’s not all flowers and chocolates, but it is enduring.

One of the most influential composers alive today, Glass has consistently made “art” music appealing and available to the general public.  His film scores for Kundun, The Hours and Notes on a Scandal were all nominated for Academy Awards.  The music in Orphée pays homage to Gluck and Handel, but remains distinctly individual.  The delicacy and simplicity of the music highlight the powerful range of emotions that the characters—and vicariously, the audience—experience in the course of this “must see” opera.

Orphée, a famous and wealthy poet, is facing a creative crisis and the backlash of critics. He is distracted by a mysterious and alluring Princessa (Death) and her chauffeur, Heurtebise. After his wife Eurydice is killed, Orphée is taken to the underworld. The couple is released on the condition that Orphée not ever look at Eurydice again—they fail, but the Princess of Death sacrifices herself to send the two back to the world of the living.

The west coast premiere of Orphée boasts several of the same cast from the Glimmerglass Opera production The New York Times proclaimed a “surprise hit. . .a rich, complex and challenging experience.”  The Times declared baritone PHILIP CUTLIP as Orphée an “appealing baritone… a tormented and volatile Orphée”; soprano LISA SAFFER as the Princessa “mesmerizing”; SAM HELFRICH’s direction “haunting”; and the performance “vibrantly conducted” by conductor ANNE MANSON.  All four are making their Portland Opera debuts.  RYAN MACPHERSON (Peter Quint in The Turn of the Screw, 2009) sings Heurtebise.  Last seen at Portland Opera as the delightful Rosina in The Barber of Seville, 2004, GEORGIA JARMAN returns to sing Eurydice.  The sets are designed by Andrew Lieberman and costumes by Kaye Voyce.



Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
February 5, 7m, 11, 13, 2010

Così fan tutte roughly translates to All Women Are Like That.  And thus begins Mozart’s modern tale about the nature of love and fidelity, offering deep insight into both.  Mozart’s wit and wisdom in the matters of the heart and the foibles of couples in love have delighted audiences for over 200 years.  His exploration of the subject is profoundly complex and deeply human.  In this cynical, yet amusing opera, love is frail and faith is unstable, thus making Così fan tutte a fitting addition to a season devoted to Love & Marriage.

Così fan tutte is the comic tale of Ferrando and Guglielmo, bridegrooms-to-be confidently touting the virtues of two sisters, Fiordiligi and Dorabella, whom they are to marry.   A skeptical friend wagers that the women’s faithfulness won’t withstand a day of the men’s absence.  The suitors accept the bet and agree to disguise themselves and woo each other’s fiancées.  But what begins as a lighthearted deception ends on a bittersweet note when the women actually fall for the “impostors.”  Set in the crisp sea air of Naples, Così fan tutte is a wry comedy.  On the surface, it is a sparkling satire, but Così reveals some disturbing truths about the heartbreak that can happen when a joke goes too far.

Commissioned in 1790 for the Vienna stage, Così fan tutte was the third collaboration between Mozart and the librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte.  Unlike Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni, however, the piece was not received favorably in Vienna or the rest of Europe.  Its portrayal of young men who would so casually deceive their beloved girlfriends to win a wager created scandal among the aristocracy.

Last performed at Portland Opera in 2002, Così fan tutte marks the return of Portland’s own ANGELA NIEDERLOH (title role in Cinderella 2007, Third Lady in The Magic Flute 2007, Melibea in The Journey to Reims 2004) as Dorabella.  The New York Times declared her “an exciting coloratura mezzo-soprano.”  The very popular ROBERT ORTH (title role in Nixon in China 2006, Trombonok in The Journey to Reims 2004, Alfieri in A View from the Bridge, Truffaldino in The Love for Three Oranges and many others) sings Don Alfonso.  Baritone KEITH PHARES (Chou En-Lai in Nixon in China, 2006) sings Guglielmo.  Making their Company debuts are soprano CHRISTINE BRANDES as Despina and soprano LAUREN SKUCE as Fiordiligi.  Tenor  RYAN MACPHERSON (Heurtebise in Orphée 2009, Peter Quint in The Turn of the Screw 2009 ) returns to sing Ferrando and New York City Opera music director GEORGE MANAHAN (Macbeth 2006, Rodelinda 2008) returns to the podium.  ELISE SANDELL, familiar to the Portland Opera for her numerous productions as Assistant Director, makes her mainstage debut as Stage Director.  Ms. Sandell was a Finalist at the recent OPERA America Director-Designer Showcase. The sets are designed by Allen Moyer and costumes by David Woolard.



Leonard Bernstein
March 26, 28m, April 1, 3, 2010
All new production
Portland Opera Premiere

One of America’s greatest composers and conductors, Leonard Bernstein—like Philip Glass—is responsible for bringing “art “ music to the masses.  He took what was familiar to us and used it to speak directly to our hearts, becoming equally recognized in both popular and serious music.  The composer of such beloved hits like On the Town, West Side Story and Candide, he also fostered young people’s interest in music with his “Young People’s Concerts,” a program unrivaled to this day.  It is this ingenious use of popular music that makes Trouble in Tahiti so poignant and so undeniably recognizable.  The opera’s vivid character sketches, haunting libretto and beautiful music brilliantly illustrate a day in the life of a troubled marriage.  

A different sort of tragedy—oddly enough Bernstein called it a comedy—unfolds in this portrait of a tired marriage.  A story of two people trying to find their way, it is set against the idyllic suburban backdrop of the 1950s American Dream.  Sam and Dinah begin their day with an argument about whether Sam will attend his son’s school play or his handball tournament.  The subject almost doesn’t matter, the patterns are so old and the complaints so permanently ingrained.  Trouble in Tahiti follows each of their days and chronicles their inability to communicate with each other or even acknowledge each other’s needs.  Nothing earth shattering occurs during the course of the opera, just the quiet desperation and the certainty that nothing will change for this couple.

The music is jazzy and uniquely American.  Trouble in Tahiti, and the two Monteverdi works will feature the PORTLAND OPERA STUDIO ARTISTS and an all-new production directed by NICHOLAS MUNI (The Turn of the Screw 2009, Faust 2006).  Portland Opera Chorus Master and Assistant Conductor ROBERT AINSLEY conducts.

Two One-Act Monteverdi  Works
IL BALLO DELLE INGRATE (The Dance of the Ungrateful Women)
March 26, 28m, April 1, 3, 2010
All new productions
Portland Opera Premieres

Most likely a child prodigy along the lines of Mozart, Claudio Monteverdi was the first great operatic composer.  Different from those who came before him, he understood the concept of dramatic storytelling in music.  He was a revolutionary who bridged the gap between Renaissance and Baroque, creating operas of terrific emotional punch at the birth of the art form.  He is credited with one of operas greatest technical innovations, the recitative—semi-sung passages between music designed to advance the action of the opera.

The two Monteverdi operas are very short works – mini operas, 45 minutes each featuring a small string ensemble

IL BALLO DELLE INGRATE (The Dance of the Ungrateful Women)  
An ironic comedy about love gone wrong, it starts with Cupid complaining to his mother Venus.  He whines that his arrows no longer work as they once did, that women are not allowing themselves to be seduced and are in fact ungrateful enough to refuse the gift of love.  Venus gets Pluto, the god of the underworld, to appeal to the women.  Pluto releases from the underworld the proud, cruel women who rebuffed love when it was offered, that they might serve as a warning to the living.  The women, all who died as virgins, proclaim ‘life is short, enjoy it, living a virginal life is a waste and you go to hell for it.”  As the women enter, Venus and Cupid sing of their misery and lament the loss of a happier fate had they been less cruel.  

IL COMBATTIMENTO DI TANCREDI E CLORINDA (The Battle of Tancredi & Clorinda).
Based on a mythic tale about the futility of war, Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda tells the story of a devastating clash of wills between Tancredi, knight of the crusades, and the Saracen champion Clorinda, whom Tancredi believes to be a man.  It is not until the end of the cataclysmic battle that the Saracen knight, begging for salvation in baptism from Tancredi, is revealed as his lover.  As Tancredi opens up her visor to offer her baptism, he recognizes her as the beautiful and chaste Clorinda.  At the end, as she accepts the baptism and the holy words are whispered, she breathes, “Heaven opens; I go in peace.”



Gioachino Rossini
May 7, 9m, 13, 15 2010
Original Christopher Mattaliano production

Rossini’s high-spirited The Barber of Seville, is indisputably one of the most beloved comic operas.  It is a shining example of all that is joyful, stylish and virtuosic in the Bel Canto period and perfect for audiences who love an evening of fun.  A prequel to Mozart’s hilarious The Marriage of Figaro, Rossini’s romp sparkles with wit and musical invention.  With a wedding in the final act, The Barber of Seville brings full circle the season’s uplifting theme of Love & Marriage.

Rossini is the king of creating a crescendo, both musically and dramatically, and in Barber he has created an irresistible cast of characters that includes the clever barber Figaro, who arranges everyone’s affairs and manages to make a profit in the process; the romantic aristocrat, Count Almaviva, who has fallen in love with the lovely young Rosina, who in turn is kept a virtual prisoner by her elderly guardian; and suitor, Dr. Bartolo.  It takes a series of ingenious disguises and escapades, but Figaro eventually outwits Dr. Bartolo and his scheming cohorts and brings the young lovers together.

The ubiquitous refrain “Figaro, Figaro, Fi-ga-ro!,” is familiar to most people in the western world.  Maybe not  in the context of Rossini’s opera, but certainly courtesy of Bugs Bunny in the classic 1949 cartoon, Long Haired Hare.  Based on the first of Pierre Beaumarchais’ lively plays about Figaro, Count Almaviva and Rosina, Rossini’s opera, full of life and laughter, introduces us to the characters that Mozart brought vividly to life in The Marriage of Figaro.  

The cast includes the return of the hilarious baritone STEVEN CONDY as Dr. Bartolo, a singer The Washington Times says has “the comic timing of John Candy and a voice that remains flexible, rich and true through every intricacy”  and  mezzo-soprano JENNIFER RIVERA (Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro, 2003) as Rosina.  The Los Angeles Times declared her “a fascinating Rosina sufficiently opulent and agile in voice; wily, brainy and pert in manner.”  Making their Company debuts are exciting young tenor NICHOLAS PHAN as Almaviva and baritone DANIEL BELCHER as the mischievous barber himself, Figaro.  New York City Opera music director GEORGE MANAHAN (Macbeth 2006, Rodelinda 2008) fresh from conducting Così fan tutte returns to the podium and CHRISTOPHER MATTALIANO directs the action.  The Barber of Seville marks Mr. Mattaliano’s twelfth production at Portland Opera, and his third Rossini opera with the Company (Cinderella 2007, The Journey to Reims 2004).

This original production by Christopher Mattaliano was created for Minnesota Opera and Washington Opera and was telecast on PBS.  The Barber of Seville was last seen at Portland Opera in 2004.


Current subscribers to the 2008/09 Season will receive renewal packages beginning January 20, 2009 and have until March 14, 2009 to renew their subscriptions.  Subscription renewals guarantee best patron seating, priority preference for seat change requests, along with special subscriber savings.

Subscriptions, beginning at $224.00 for all five operas, can be renewed:
•    By mail, or in person at The Hampton Opera Center, 211 SE Caruthers St., Portland, OR 97214
•    By phone at 503-241-1802 or 866-739-6737
•    Online at www.portlandopera.org

Subscriptions go on sale to the general public in February.

Download the pdf for full season and cast information.