May 17, 2016

Press Release: Portland Opera Announces 2017 Season

Portland Opera today announced the complete repertory for its 2017 Season. With five productions on the main stage and one additional production that will launch what will become an annual winter event, General Director Christopher Mattaliano’s vision for the future of opera in Portland is a feast for the heart and mind consisting of both the trusted and true, bold and new.

“Each of the 2017 operas tells a great love story – yet each is markedly different! Love, with all its mysteries and manifestations, runs through this season – stories of GREAT LOVE – all on a truly operatic scale. And we continue to honor the great operatic traditions with our productions at the Keller Theater, while we also strive to challenge and inspire not only our beloved audience, but also ourselves, with our productions at the Newmark Theater and at our own Hampton Opera Studio Theater,” says Christopher Mattaliano, who will direct.

Patrons will find much to love in a well-balanced mix that includes traditional productions of timeless titles, original designs from beloved directors who know how to appeal to the desires of discerning Portland audiences, award-winning contemporary works on an exciting double bill, and the return of the crowd-pleasing showcase of the best in opera. Look to February, April, May, June, July, and August for six productions, seven titles, and a total of 24 performances.

Portland Opera’s subscribers will have first crack at purchasing tickets to an inaugural annual event: Winter Vino e Voce, a unique new offering of artistically unexpected performances. Experience the intimacy and immediacy of a 250-seat venue in the Hampton Opera Center’s studio theater with Monteverdi’s Songs of Love and War in February.

As a celebratory, intentionally welcoming way to usher in 2017’s main stage performances, Portland Opera is bringing back the star-studded Big Night concert on April 8 in the Keller Auditorium. Bring a friend who is new to opera and introduce them to the best arias, duets and choral pieces in the repertoire. For those not in the know, it’s soloists, chorus and orchestra all on stage together and there is something for everyone.

On May 5, one of the most tender love stories of all time will transform the Keller Auditorium stage into 1830s Paris for Puccini’s La Bohème. This perennial favorite will come to life with unabashedly traditional scenery and costumes that will sing to both those who are new to opera and to those who know Puccini’s blockbuster by heart.

La Bohème will be followed in June by a classic American work, Mitch Leigh’s Man of La Mancha, also at Keller Auditorium. Man of La Mancha’s uplifting story, unforgettable characters, and timeless songs like “The Impossible Dream” garnered it five Tony Awards® and have the power to send audiences back into the streets feeling better about the world around all of us.

July brings two intimate new Newmark productions. Mozart’s Così fan tutte is a deeply insightful look at relationships. Perhaps Mozart’s most beautiful outpouring of music, Così fan tutte is also his most profound comedy. The West Coast premiere of a double bill featuring The Difficulty of Crossing a Field and The Little Match Girl Passion by award winning composer David Lang will be staged by none other than Imago Theatre’s Artistic Co-Director Jerry Mouawad.

Both Newmark productions will feature new scenery and costumes, created especially for the intimacy of the Newmark Theatre. Creating more fresh new productions is a hallmark of Portland Opera’s new spring/summer season format. With Portland Opera’s second summer of rotating-repertory performances, patrons who are looking for the immersive experience of seeing two great masterpieces on two consecutive days should note that repertory dates in 2017 are July 28 & 29.

Songs of Love and War
Hampton Opera Center
February 17, 19m, 21, 23, 25, 2017

Winter Vino e Voce, is a new annual winter offering of intimate performances at the Hampton Opera Center, a spark of light in February for opera lovers. Offered in Portland Opera’s home, Winter Vino e Voce’s inaugural performance will showcase Claudio Monteverdi, the first great genius of opera composers.

In 1607 Monteverdi – at the age of 40 – wrote the earliest opera that is still in regular production, L’Orfeo. Thirty-one years later, he created his eighth book of madrigals, known as Songs of Love and War. He composed nine books of madrigals, the last three are based on purely secular texts. Book 8 contains a series of vocal solos, duets, trios, and quartets, which are based on poetry that uses the metaphor of war to describe love.

“For this production, I have chosen to stage a series of madrigals from Books 7, 8 and 9,” says General Director Christopher Mattaliano who will direct. “The poetry in these songs is surprisingly ‘modern’ in viewpoint, covering a wide range of emotion and content: the dance of courtship, sensual attraction, sexual passion, unrequited love, betrayal, lovers at war, and the tension between chastity and sensual pleasure. Think Carmina Burana, only much earlier.”

While there is no “story,” per se, to the evening, each song tells it’s own mini-story. The evening will feel like a series of staged scenes or vignettes – a woman laments about her lover’s betrayal, a duet with a man attempting (comically) to seduce a woman, a trio with three men pleading with their lovers to stop fighting, etc. In Monteverdi’s lyric, deeply expressive, and emotionally direct Songs of Love and War, the birth of opera as we know it is right around the corner.

Sung in Italian with English text projected above the stage

Opera’s best arias, duets and ensembles
Keller Auditorium
April 8, 2017

After a three-year hiatus, Portland Opera is going to bring Music Director George Manahan and the orchestra back up on the stage, along with its celebrated opera chorus. They’ll be joined by international guest stars performing selections from the most popular operas of Puccini, Mozart, Verdi, and Wagner, in addition to classic Broadway tunes.

Portland Opera’s Big Night concert is a “one-night only” event. All ticket proceeds benefit Portland Opera’s Education and Outreach Program, serving tens of thousands of students in Oregon and Southwest Washington annually.

La Bohème   
Keller Auditorium
May 5, 7m, 11, 13, 2017

May 5 at the Keller Auditorium is opening night for a cherished staple of opera lovers the world over: Puccini’s ageless classic, La Bohème. Giacomo Puccini is immensely popular with audiences throughout the world. He’s well known for the soaring melodies, great sense of theater, and rich, atmospheric orchestrations of masterpieces such as Madame Butterfly, Tosca, Turandot, and, of course, La Bohème.

La Bohème is based on Henri Murger’s novel, Scenes from the Bohemian Life. Set in the frigid cold of a Paris winter in the 1830s, it follows the loves and fortunes of a small group of friends: the poet, Rodolfo, the seamstress Mimi, the painter Marcello, the musician Schaunard, the philosopher Colline and the coquette, Musetta.

Portland Opera’s production features the debut of Vanessa Isiguen, credited for her “enormous skill and sly charm,” as Mimi; former Portland Opera Resident Artist Jennifer Forni (Micaëla, Carmen [2015] and Tatiana, Eugene Onegin [2016]) as Musetta; the American debut of the exciting Italian tenor Giordano Lucá as Rodolfo; and, also making his Portland Opera debut, the “eloquent” and “commanding” Will Liverman as Marcello.

Esteemed Music Director George Manahan will conduct Puccini’s lush and intricate score. His work on the podium conducting this piece has been described as “full of fire.” Among Manahan’s television credits is the New York City Opera’s performance of La Bohème which was broadcast on PBS in 2000.

Making her directorial debut with Portland Opera is Kathleen Belcher, a regular at The Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Los Angeles Opera. The New York Times praises her for “pitch-perfect interpretation,” San Francisco Classical Voice hails her direction as “exceptional,” and San Francisco Chronicle calls her work “studded with imaginative and telling details.”

Sung in Italian with English text projected above the stage.

Man of La Mancha

Keller Auditorium
June 9, 11m, 15, 17, 2017

Man of La Mancha was the first true “concept musical,” in that the over-arching idea or theme is almost more important than the narrative. It was an enormous success with both audiences and critics when it first appeared on Broadway, winning won five Tony Awards ®, including “best musical.”

Like the great lyric works of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, and Stephen Sondheim, Man of La Mancha has entered the operatic canon, and is now regularly performed by opera companies who can do justice to its stirring dramatic melodies sung by fully trained lyric voices, accompanied by a full orchestra.

The piece is inspired by Miguel Cervantes’ great novel Don Quixote, but librettist Dale Wasserman framed his tale as a play within a play, and included the character of Cervantes himself. We first meet him in prison, where he is awaiting trial by the Spanish Inquisition. Cervantes presents the story of Don Quixote to his fellow prisoners, who in turn participate in telling the tale, enacting its many colorful roles.

With credits including numerous principal roles at the Royal Opera House, Paris Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, and more, Welsh baritone Jason Howard is recognized as one of the UK’s leading performers on the international operatic stage. He has received global acclaim for not only his operatic roles, but also his Broadway roles. Howard will make his Portland Opera debut as Don Quixote. Tara Venditti is making her Portland Opera debut as Aldonza, the object of Don Quixote’s reverential love. From the Royal Opera House to Glimmerglass, Venditti is praised for both her beautiful, rich voice and her stage presence alike.

Music Director George Manahan will conduct a score that the Chicago Tribune credits with the “unusual rewards” of “not the typical violin sections but a percussive-heavy combination of brass, woodwinds and flamenco-style guitars.”

Director Alan Paul is the Associate Artistic Director of The Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, DC (Recipient of the 2012 Regional Theater Tony Award). In 2014, he received a Helen Hayes nomination for Best Director for Man of La Mancha.

Sung in English with text projected above the stage.

Così fan tutte
Newmark Theatre
July 14, 16m, 20, 22, 26, 29, 2017

Continuing Portland Opera’s season of love, is Mozart’s most sensuously beautiful opera, Così fan tutte. Mozart’s place in music is unparalleled and his relationship to opera unique. Mozart’s work, no matter the genre, epitomizes the music of the classical period and the idealism of the Age of Enlightenment. Mozart’s art, like no other, meets humanity’s longing for wholeness and reconciliation.

Così fan tutte is the third of Mozart’s operas with a libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, following the great success of The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni. It is easy to dismiss da Ponte’s scenario as trivial: Two young couples are challenged by an older, wiser man to discover whether their love is true.  He convinces the two young men to disguise themselves and then to attempt to seduce the other’s lover. While the action is often madcap comedy, the emotional impact is deeply affecting, due to Mozart’s rich music, teasing out meaning where a lesser composer could not.

Returning to Portland Opera after the critically acclaimed production of The Rake’s Progress (2015), is Director Roy Rallo. Nicholas Fox, Portland Opera’s Chorus Master and Assistant Conductor, who made his Portland Opera conducting debut with the enormously popular The Elixir of Love in 2015, will conduct.

Sung in Italian with English text projected above the stage.

The Difficulty of Crossing a Field & The Little Match Girl Passion
Newmark Theatre
July 28, 30m, Aug 3, 5, 2017

“Portland Opera has developed a reputation for presenting moving, innovative productions from brilliant composers who may be less well-known to our opera audiences,” says Christopher Mattaliano. “Composers the likes of Philip Glass, Claudio Monteverdi, John Adams, Dominick Argento, and Francesco Cavalli have graced our theaters with beautiful, powerful works that showcase all that opera has to offer. For 2017, we are thrilled to continue this tradition with two deeply affecting works by the American composer, David Lang.”

Based on a one-page story by the 19th century American writer Ambrose Bierce, The Difficulty of Crossing a Field is part courtroom drama, and part cosmic mystery. In the pre-Civil War South, the slave owner Williamson walks across his field and disappears in plain view of his family, his neighbors and his slaves, forever altering the relationships among them.

Each witness has a distinct response to this loss, revealed in a series of narrative “tellings” throughout the course of the opera. Hannah Penn (Julie, Show Boat [2015]), will sing the role of Mrs. Williamson. Christian Zaremba, “a stage animal with a big bass voice,” according to The New York Times and Martin Bakari, a “golden” and “velvety” tenor will both make their Portland Opera debuts.

In 2008, David Lang won the Pulitzer Prize for his highly original and deeply moving score The Little Match Girl Passion. Lang based his work on Hans Christian Andersen’s story of a little girl selling matches, who, after seeing visions of her beloved Grandmother and the warmth of past Christmases in the flames of her matches, succumbs to cold and dies.

Lang was fascinated by the tale’s Christian overtones and the parallels between the little match girl’s suffering, death and transfiguration and those of Christ. Using Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion as an inspiration and reference, Lang integrates biblical text into the story, providing both a commentary and spiritual reflection on the story of the little girl.

Born in 1957, Lang is an enormous presence in the new music scene. Critics call his work “fresh, emotional and infinitely approachable.” Conductor Hal France, who last appeared at Portland Opera to conduct Show Boat (2015), will take the podium. Jerry Mouawad, Artistic Co-Director of Imago Theatre, is making his Portland Opera directing debut.

Sung in English with text projected above the stage.

2017 Subscription Information

Current Portland Opera subscribers will receive renewal packets for the 2017 Season in June 2016. Renewing subscribers are guaranteed subscriber discounts of up to 20%, the opportunity to retain or improve their Keller Auditorium seats, and have priority seating in the Newmark Theatre. Renewing subscribers also receive a variety of payment plan options, discounts at many area hotels and restaurants, and invitations to subscriber-only special events, along with a host of other benefits.