UTAH OPERA ANNOUNCES 2015-16 SEASON

Not surprisingly, it’s going to be a roster of well known favorites when Utah Opera’s new season gets under way in October in the Capitol Theatre.

Starting off the 2015-16 season will be Giacomo Puccini’s perennial favorite Tosca, with soprano Kara Shay Thomson in the title role. Also in the cast is baritone Michael Chioldi as Baron Scarpia. Long time Utah Opera conductor Robert Tweten will return to lead the Utah Symphony. Performances run Oct. 10-18.

For the new year, Utah Opera will finally bring back Franz Léhar’s spirited operetta The Merry Widow. Sung in English, the cast features sopranos Caroline Worra as Hanna, the merry widow, and Sharin Apostolou as Valencienne. Conductor will be the Utah Symphony’s principal pops conductor Jerry Steichen. It will be onstage Jan. 16-24, 2016.

Giuseppe Verdi’s Aïda returns to Utah Opera after an 11-year hiatus in March 2016. In the title role will be soprano Jennifer Check, with bass-baritone Alfred Walker as Amonasro. Ari Pelto will conduct. Aïda will be performed March 12-20, 2016.

Finally, W.A. Mozart’s comedic masterpiece, The Marriage of Figaro, will round out the season in May. In the cast will  be soprano Anya Matanovic as Susanna and baritone Craig Irvin as the Count. Gary Thor Wedor will conduct. It will be performed May 7-15, 2016.

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About Edward Reichel

Edward Reichel, author, writer and composer, has been covering the classical music scene in Utah since 1997. For many years he served as the primary music critic for the Deseret News. He has also written for a number of publications, including Chamber Music Magazine, OPERA Magazine, 15 Bytes, Park City Magazine and Salt Lake Magazine. He holds a Ph.D. in composition from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He can be reached at ed.reichel@gmail.com. Reichel Recommends is also on Twitter @ReichelArts.

One thought on “UTAH OPERA ANNOUNCES 2015-16 SEASON

  1. Indeed, the 2015-2016 Utah Opera season is not really a surprise, but I was hoping that we would get Puccini’s Manon Lescaut rather than his Tosca. The current season is about as adventurous as can reasonably be expected for our local classical music market and customer base. The Pearl Fishers by Bizet and The Rake’s Progress by Stravinsky were rather unexpected choices for this season.

    Hopefully the next several seasons could see serious consideration given to Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischutz, Smetana’s The Bartered Bride, Dvorak’s Rusalka, and Janacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen, all of which could be promoted as Utah Opera premieres, with stories of love that are more than captivating. However, the Czech language is not a natural one for most opera singers, although The Cunnning Little Vixen has been performed in English translations, but with a loss of mood and atmosphere. Utah Opera did perform Janacek’s Jenufa in 2005 though–there is at least a language precedent.

    Even the standard German language repertoire in regional opera companies in the United States can appear rather limited; it usually includes Beethoven’s Fidelio, Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman, and Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus. For the largest opera houses in North America, there are always the more expansive Wagner operas and those of Richard Strauss. Franz Lehar’s The Merry Widow is rarely sung in German in North America in any case, as Utah Opera’s choice of language attests. The English version will no doubt help increase attendance and translates well.

    On the subject of conductors, Gary Thor Wedow was an impressive conductor for last season’s Abduction from the Seraglio, and he is an excellent choice to conduct Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. Jerry Steichen should also provide excellent conducting for the Merry Widow, and conductor Robert Tweten has been consistently good and sometimes outstanding.

    Perhaps Thierry Fischer would be interested in conducting Debussy’s Pelleas et Melisande or Berlioz’s Beatrice et Benedict in the future, assuming all goes well with The Rake’s Progress. The Berlioz, since it is based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, should be attractive to our local audience. However, assembling a suitable cast for either opera would be rather difficult–but what about our local soprano Celena Shafer, who has sung one of the leading roles in the Berlioz–finding a set to rent would not be all that easy, and constructing an original set and designing costumes may be hard to justify based on expected future rentals. But one can always hope for more variety of composers from our Utah Opera.

    Indeed, I hope that the company continues its commitment to opera in English written by American or English composers. Benjamin Britten’s 1947 comedic opera Albert Herring, although a chamber opera, would most likely be well received, and again Celena Shafer has sung one of the major roles. The 2005 production of Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of the best things Utah Opera has given use in the last decade or two.

    The recent Westminster College Opera Studio’s production of Handel’s Semele, written in English, was superb, as Mr. Reichel noted in his review, and is one of Handel’s most beautiful creations. Yet Utah Opera has only performed his opera Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar), back in 2004. We could use a little of the last decade or two’s rage for his operas, or even Vivaldi’s, however obscure they may have been several decades ago–the music is often exceedingly compelling.

    Even the University of Utah’s opera program will be performing Massenet’s Cendrillon (Cinderella) this April–now that is a real surprise. And on the subject of Massenet, I believe that our local audience could be captivated by his opera Thais, because of its eroticism, not in spite of the presence of it. We could use a slightly provocative production, tempered by beauty of course–Westminster’s production of Semele was quite clever and subtle with its take on the eroticism in that story, and in the end it was mesmerizing. The production of Salome by Strauss in Abravanel Hall in the fall of 2013 is a tempting template.

    In any case, it would appear that the upcoming season should sell well, and the selected singers for the leading roles in the chosen operas should provide some compelling singing. But I still long for a little more consistency in our scope of repertoire.

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