Friday, September 12, 2014

General & Artistic Director Tomer Zvulun on our exciting 2014-2015 season!

General & Artistic Director Tomer Zvulun
Jeff Roffman
   I am so excited to finally kick off the Atlanta Opera 2014-15 season, my first planned season as a General and Artistic Director. I have heard the term “Southern hospitality” before, but in the past 16 months I have seen it daily as I was offered a warm, genuine welcome to a wonderful city that I now call home.  Moving here was an adventure for me, and I believe this new season will start an adventure for all of us, together.
     This will be an incredible season that includes familiar, well-loved operas reimagined in new productions and featuring great performances by exciting up-and-coming stars. One of the highlights of the season for me is the Southeastern premiere of a modern American Opera by arguably, the most prominent living opera composers of our time: Jake Heggie.
     The season opens this weekend with a delicious appetizer: an outstanding concert of chorus’ greatest hits, where we present the most popular chorus numbers from operas such as Carmen, Traviata and Porgy and Bess performed by the world-renowned Atlanta Opera chorus and led by Walter Huff. It is also a unique collaboration with three leading universities: Emory, Georgia State, and Kennesaw State.
      Performances will take place on different campuses in town: Emory’s Schwartz Center on September 12th, 14th and the Bailey Performance Center September 16th at Kennesaw State. Soloists in the concert include popular local stars: Leah Partridge, Indra Thomas, and Tim Miller among others.
      It is not an accident that the first performance I scheduled and planned as General Director celebrates the Atlanta Opera Chorus and Walter Huff’s 25th year with the company. I have worked with the chorus regularly over the past decade as a stage director. From the very first time I encountered this incredible group of musicians, I have admired their work and the passion that they bring to every rehearsal and performance. Their leader over the past quarter century, Walter Huff, is one of the most respected chorus masters in the country and this special concert is in his and their honor.

Ray Boc
   We open our mainstage season at the magnificent Cobb Energy Centre with Puccini’s immortal Madama Butterfly, in a stunning new production co-produced by late Lorin Maazel’s Castleton Festival. The opera, which I will direct, will be led by our music Director, Arthur Fagen and feature a spectacular cast, including Dina Kuznetsova - who triumphed in London with her portrayal as Cio Cio San; Adam Diegel - who sang the role of Pinkerton at the Metropolitan Opera last year; and Nina Yoshida Nelsen - who performed Suzuki with The New York City Opera. This new production is making a sophisticated use of projection and multimedia effects, which will transform the stage into countless, magical locations. The design team that brought Atlanta audiences the 2011 Lucia di Lammermoor (Robert Wierzel, Erhard Rom and myself) returns with this new interpretation of Puccini’s masterpiece.
      Verdi’s incredibly touching Rigoletto will be presented this winter in a co-production that premiered in Boston last year and features one of opera’s fastest rising stars – Nadine Sierra.  Baritone Todd Thomas portrays the cursed hunchback; sonorous bass Morris Robinson will reprise his signature role of the murderer Sparafucile; and rising American tenor Scott Quinn
Marina Levitskaya
will debut as the heartless Duke of Mantua.
      Maestro Joe Rescigno, a regular guest at our podium, will return to lead the Atlanta Opera Chorus and Orchestra. This brand new production, designed by NEA award winner John Conklin with opulent Renaissance costumes by Vita Tzykun and arresting lighting design by Robert Wierzel, was premiered to great critical and audience acclaim at the Boston Lyric Opera and will be seen in multiple other cities in the US.
      Our spring production at the Cobb Energy Centre will feature Mozart’s profound masterpiece The Marriage of Figaro in a production that was widely applauded across the US and Canada. Designer Susan Benson’s elegant, lush costumes and gorgeous period sets, combined with Tara Faircloth’s stage direction will create a lovely, colorful evening in the theatre. Maestro Fagen will lead a dynamic cast, combined of up and coming young singers: Craig Colcough, Loren Snouffer, Katie Van Kooten and John Moore.  They will join veteran performers Victoria Livengood and Bruno Pratico, who delighted Atlanta audiences in 2012-13’s The Italian Girl in Algiers.

Brett Croomer
      I am excited to close this season by our anticipated move back to midtown’s Alliance Theatre to showcase the Atlanta premiere of the deeply moving American opera, Three Decembers by Jake Heggie. This theatrical, intimate opera is highly intense and effective as it spans over 3 decades and multiple cities, but clocks in at just under 90 minutes. The contemporary story of a distraught family that deals with loss, estranged relationships and reconciliation is propelled by Jake Heggie’s richly melodic and inventive music. Metropolitan Opera Veteran Teddy Hanslow sings the career-obsessed mother Maddy; Jennifer Black and Jesse Blumberg portray her estranged children. Steven Osgood conducts the Atlanta Opera Orchestra in a new production conceived by innovative director  Emma Griffin.
      This varied season reinvents the familiar by presenting well-known operas in fresh productions that focus on theatrical and visual effects. It features the up-and-coming opera stars of tomorrow and relies on the continuous leadership and musicianship of our maestros: chorus master Walter Huff leading our world renowned Chorus, and our beloved Music Director Arthur Fagen. At the same time, we establish our commitment to new exciting work, by leading living composers. Those programming choices are enhanced by our commitment to reach into the community and establish presence all over the city by collaborating with other arts organizations. In addition to our university partnerships this fall, Theatrical Outfit will feature our 24 Hour Project; we will celebrate our 2nd season collaboration with the Bremen Museum concert series; and of course our return to midtown with the Alliance Theatre.
     I always think of an opera performance as the greatest miracle possible: orchestra, chorus, designers, directors, conductors, stage managers, stage hands and hundreds of other people working tirelessly to coordinate efforts and create a moving experience that will stir the audience’s hearts. There are so many things that can go wrong, yet when everything gels and the stars align, I can’t think of any art form that has a stronger impact on the audience’s soul. It is pure magic.
     This upcoming season, planned with so much thought and passion, will be when all those efforts perfectly align to create that elusive magic that we are constantly chasing.

 These are the evenings I live for.  Come join us.

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