Thursday, May 28, 2015

Get to Know Jesse Blumberg

Jesse Blumberg is a busy man. The baritone sang in Hawaii, Boston and Paris (among others) in the 14/15 season. This weekend, he sings the role of Charlie (the adult son of Maddy coping with the loss of his partner to AIDS) in Three Decembers. We spoke with Jesse to learn more about his time in Atlanta, his "perfect day," and his preparation for different roles.

This is your Atlanta debut. Seems like there’s a balance between getting used to a long stay in a new town, while learning a new production. What’s that process like?

I've performed in the Atlanta area before, but it's great to be in the city and making a debut with The Atlanta Opera. This three-week stay is a bit shorter than usual for an opera stint, but then again this opera is shorter than usual. Rehearsals never felt rushed, and there was still time to explore the city a bit, too. Every out of town stay is different, but this one has felt relaxed and comfortable. I try to go running every couple days, so the parks and the Beltline trails have been great for that. And this is such a food and beer town, which has made for some delicious and fun times out with our wonderful cast and production team.

An ideal day in the life of Jesse Blumberg is…

That's a tough one - but it probably involves friends and family, good food, and some sort of rewarding musical project. If you can get all of those into one day, then it's an ideal day indeed.

How do you prepare and get into a role like Charlie? And how does it compare with preparing for your previous roles, like Figaro?

Three Decembers feels more like a play than an opera, in many ways; it just happens to be sung. But the characters are very much like those you'd meet in a theatrical family drama, and a lot of their issues among each other are ones that anyone who's ever been part of a family can relate to.  And the theme of loss that runs throughout is one that we all know, as well. Charlie is losing his partner to AIDS, and interestingly enough, I've told a very similar story on stage before, in Ricky Ian Gordon's Green Sneakers. Both of these stories are so personal, while still dealing with very universal matters - fear, loss, grieving. But I think then you trust the material the librettist and composer have given you, and you trust your director (and our Emma Griffin couldn't be better!) to let you know when you're going too far, or not far enough.  It's been a wonderful process these few weeks, and I can't wait to see what the audience thinks of this powerful piece of theatre.  

Usage of any images on this blog is restricted to The Atlanta Opera and approved news websites. Any other usage, particularly for professional purposes, must have written permission. For additional information, please contact The Atlanta Opera's Marketing Department at 404.881.8801.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Get to Know Teddi Hanslowe

Soprano Theodora (Teddi) Hanslowe has sung on stages across the globe. This weekend, she sings the role of Madeleine Mitchell, the disconnected matriarch of her modern family, in Three Decembers. We asked Teddi three questions to get to know her better as an opera singer, learn about her process as a performer, and get her point of view on the evolution of opera today. 

Did you always want to be a singer or performer? And specifically an opera singer?

I think I always wanted to be a singer. My family is very musical, and I grew up singing and with a lot of music in our home. I idolized Julie Andrews and sang in musicals in high school. I also played the oboe for 8 years. My musical training was not typical for an opera singer. I majored in English and was active in the Drama department at Cornell University, where I got my bachelors. When I spent a year in Vienna, Austria, where my father was born, I got hooked on the opera. At that point, my interest in foreign language and acting and singing all started to come together. I was lucky that the vocal training I got was good, so despite not studying voice as my major in college, I was able to begin working as an opera singer quite early, and I never did anything else.

Maddy is a complex (amongst other adjectives) character. What is the process like getting into this role, as opposed to other parts you have sung in the past? 

Maddy is a narcissist,  very career-oriented and charismatic, and she thrives on stage. She is her best self on stage. I have played a lot of sweet, sympathetic characters (Cenerentola, Sister Helen, the Composer), and it took me a while to stop judging Maddy, given her poor parenting abilities and how self-absorbed she is. But playing Maddy is FUN. Portraying a character who is herself an actress - and particularly an actress with secrets - allows for a lot of layering in her personality. And she's a star. She's big and vibrant.

What is your take on the evolution of opera, both musically and within society? And how do you see modern opera – like Three Decembers – fitting in with the classics? 

I think the classics are here to stay, but the importance of developing new operas with current subjects can't be overstated. Musically, the last 100+ years have been about exploring new harmonies and dissonances to express more modern emotion, and rhythms more reflective of spoken language. In society, I would say opera has taken on more relevant subject matter, provoking discussion and thought about current issues. As for Three Decembers, there are a lot of people who think they don't like opera who will find this a very entertaining and moving piece. Heggie's score is gripping, the story is fast-paced, and here, you have a cast of singing actors who really tell a story. How this particular opera fits into the large scheme in the pantheon of opera is hard to say, because it is a smaller work than Heggie's Moby Dick or Dead Man Walking. I think it has the ability to woo a different audience, and that may be its most important role.

Usage of any images on this blog is restricted to The Atlanta Opera and approved news websites. Any other usage, particularly for professional purposes, must have written permission. For additional information, please contact The Atlanta Opera's Marketing Department at 404.881.8801.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Toperoke & Los Trompos

We spent a beautiful evening at The High Museum of Art kicking off their entertainment series for Los Trompos ('Spinning Tops').

We invited music lovers and fans to swing, chill and listen to beautiful arias from beloved operas in the art installations on Sifly Plaza.

Toperoke, our take on Karaoke, invited listeners to choose an aria for one of our incredible chorus members to sing while spinning or sitting inside. 

Thank you to our amazing chorus members! Stay tuned for info on the next Toperoke night coming up in September.

Friday, April 24, 2015

We're excited to bring Three Decembers, an opera by American composer Jake Heggie, to Atlanta this May. 

The contemporary opera (set in the late 20th century) will launch the Discoveries series - dedicated to audience members looking for new operatic works, new ideas, and fresh perspectives.

Three Decembers, first performed at the Houston Grand Opera in 2008, is a chamber opera based on a short story by Terrance McNally. The production will be conducted by Steven Osgood and directed by Emma Griffin with scenic design by Laura Jellinek; all three are making their Atlanta Opera debuts. Costume Design is by Joanna Schmink and Lighting Design is by Ken Yunker. Both are Atlanta-based designers.

Taking place during three Decembers over the course of three decades (1986, 1996, 2006), the story hinges on evolving family relationships, mounting tensions, and deep secrets that lie between a mother and her adult daughter and son.

The opera spans a period of 20 years, opening in 1986 with the children reading their Christmas cards from their mother. Christmas of 1996 reveals the death of Charlie’s partner, Beatrice’s disintegrating marriage, and the truth behind their father’s death. The third December, set in 2006, finds the children eulogizing Maddy and reflecting on the tapestry of lies that has been exposed.

Jake Heggie is a Guggenheim Fellow and composer of acclaimed operas Dead Man Walking, Moby Dick, The End of the Affair and the upcoming Great Scott. His work has been produced on five continents and recorded for Atlantic Records and Virgin Classics. He lives in San Francisco with his husband, Curt Branom.

Librettist Gene Scheer frequently collaborates with Heggie, including their productions of Moby Dick and To Hell and Back. His operas have been performed at Houston Grand Opera, the Dallas Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera. Documentarian Ken Burns featured Scheer’s song “American Anthem” (sung by Norah Jones) in his Emmy Award-winning World War II documentary, The War. Scheer’s work on the oratorio for August 4, 1964 earned him a Grammy nomination.

Three Decembers will be presented on May 29, 30 and 31 at the Alliance Theatre. Single tickets are currently available for $35, plus convenience and venue fees, and can be purchased online at or by calling 404-881-8885. The opera will be performed in English. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

High School Opera Institute

The Atlanta Opera and Emory University are pleased to offer High School Opera Institute, a one-week intensive study program on the Emory campus, designed for rising 10th-12th grade singers. 

Classes include:
• Individual and group vocal coaching; diction
• Yoga and stretching; movement and characterization
• Audition techniques; vocal health
• Resume writing; college and career discussion sessions.

Using the audition process as a focus, students receive feedback throughout the week, which culminates in a final mock audition, presented in front of parents and invited guests. Young singers come away with improved vocal technique, better understanding of the audition process, and increased confidence in an audition or interview situation.

• Applications can be downloaded by clicking here

• Deadline to apply is Friday, March 27
• Please email resume, application (and headshot if available) to
• Selected applicants will be invited to audition by Wednesday, April 1
• Auditions will be Saturday, April 11 and Monday, April 13
• Participation fee: $500.00

For more information or to apply, email Wade Thomas at


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Pick Up Your Q: Stage Director Tara Faircloth

You’re a Georgia native. What is it like to direct a show so close to home?

To be perfectly honest, I've been so focused on staging the show, I've hardly taken a moment to soak it all in!  However, it has been quite a few years since I've been on the East Coast in the spring, and I had forgotten how perfectly breathtaking it is when everything starts blooming.  This is such a gorgeous city... it is a real pleasure to be back in my native land.

In recent years, you've worked as an assistant director in several major opera houses. What have you learned as an AD that you've applied as a stage director?

The job of a big house AD is very intense and requires a very long list of skills that you might not use as often when you are in the director chair, most having to do with organization and large scale communication. As an AD I've developed a strong appreciation for the many technicians and production staff that make the “magic” happen behind the scenes. I've also gotten a lot of experience working with huge choruses, and have really learned to love how a chorus can help bring the stage to life and amplify the story. 

What are some of your favorite moments, musically or theatrically, in The Marriage of Figaro?   
Where to begin?! Well, maybe at the beginning... when the curtain rises we meet Figaro and Susanna, busily preparing for their wedding day.  I just love the hustle and bustle, the playfulness and charm of these adorable people who are so clearly in love. Another favorite moment is  the Figaro/Susanna duet in the finale of Act 4. There is a huge amount of physical comedy in that section, and it ends when Figaro brings it all to a halt with a big kiss. The two end up giggling on floor together.  Musically and dramatically it is really satisfying.

What is the most complicated scene to direct in this opera?

This entire opera feels like a three-ring circus from start to finish, with only small pause for breath during the Countess's arias and Susanna's Act 4 aria. The rest of the time it is non-stop action. A household run by Figaro and Susanna would be nothing less! Probably the most physically (and mentally?) demanding scene is the finale of Act 4. There is an awful lot of back and forth, with ladies in disguise, wrong exits, and intense wooing in the dark. Keeping up with it all is a real trick!

This show has several strong female characters. What’s your take on their relationships and their world?

I love the women of Nozze. They are smart and strong, and when they get hurt, they shed a tear and then they pick themselves back up again. In another opera, the Countess would probably go lose her mind when faced with her husband's infidelities. We would end with a mad scene and suicide. Not our Countess!  She calls up the smartest lady she knows (Susanna) and makes a plan.

What advice would you give to an audience member enjoying The Marriage of Figaro for the first time?    

Fasten your seatbelt! This is an opera that is filled to the brim with gorgeous and amusing tunes, and they are sung by genuine, fully-developed characters experiencing all the many aspects of love. Please laugh, but also allow yourself to feel the pain of the Countess when she realizes she no longer holds interest for her husband, or the jealousy and heartache of Figaro when he discovers he has been laughing at his own expense. Relish how generously Mozart expends his beautiful music... even the most ludicrous moments are exquisitely beautiful, because he has tunes to spare. This is an amazing cast, and I think it will be quite clear why this is one of the most beloved operas of all time.