Boston Lyric Opera Announces 2017-18 Season
BOSTON, MA: Boston Lyric Opera’s Stanford
Calderwood General & Artistic Director Esther Nelson announced today an eclectic
2017/18 Season designed to please die-hard opera fans as well as newcomers to
the art form. Each of the Company’s productions will be presented on a different
area stage, starting October 13-22, 2017 with a new production of Giacomo
Puccini’s Tosca featuring the American debut of award-winning rising global star
Elena Stikhina in the title role. The World Premiere of The Nefarious, Immoral
but Highly Profitable Enterprise of Mr. Burke & Mr. Hare (a.k.a. Burke & Hare)
by composer Julian Grant and librettist Mark Campbell follows November 8-12,
2017. From March 16-25, 2018, BLO presents Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s
pivotal early-20th century work The Threepenny Opera. BLO closes its Season in
May with Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti, paired with his Arias and
Barcarolles, to mark the Lawrence, Mass.-born composer’s centennial.
“We have a Season of captivating stories that exemplify the human condition and spirit with a compelling range, from a popular Puccini classic to a brand new opera, as well as two significant works from composers who shaped 20th century music and musical theater,” Nelson says. “To me, the lineup speaks to our core mission of creating curiosity and enthusiasm for opera by presenting works that were definitive in their times and are just as powerful today.”
Set in early 1800’s Rome against a backdrop of war, chaos and corruption, Puccini’s quintessential opera Tosca tells the dramatic and sweeping story of three strong-willed characters who are both masters and victims of their own fate: Floria Tosca, a young singer of grit and determination; the artist and revolutionary Mario Cavaradossi; and the power-hungry police chief Baron Scarpia. Crystal Manich (BLO’s 2016 Werther and 2014 I Puritani) returns to direct a powerful, accessible and highly theatrical new production that uniquely incorporates the orchestra alongside some of opera’s most archetypal characters. One of the best works for those experiencing opera for the first time or those returning to a beloved classic, BLO’s Tosca – a co-production with Opera Omaha – will be performed at the ornate, history-rich Emerson/Cutler Majestic Theatre.
In addition to Stikhina, the rising Russian star who has amassed significant credits in her home country and more recently throughout Europe, the Tosca cast includes American tenor Jonathan Burton, Daniel Sutin (BLO’s Macbeth), as well as James Maddalena who recently was seen in BLO’s La Bohème. The design team includes Julia Noulin-Mérat as Set Designer, Paul Hackenmueller as Lighting Designer, and Deborah Newhall as Costume Designer. Tosca will be conducted by David Stern in his BLO debut. The son of acclaimed violinist Isaac Stern, he is founder of Opera Fuoco in Paris, chief conductor of Florida’s Palm Beach Opera, and music director/opera for the Crested Butte Music Festival in Colorado.
“Tosca is one of the most galvanizing, popular works in the opera canon,” Nelson says. “Its title role has been a showcase for opera stars since its premiere, and Elena is a star indeed. We are excited to welcome both Elena and David to Boston for their BLO debuts.”
BURKE & HARE
With its opening line, “The people of Edinburgh are not dying … quickly enough,” composer Julian Grant and librettist Mark Campbell’s The Nefarious, Immoral but Highly Profitable Enterprise of Mr. Burke & Mr. Hare set the stage for a highly theatrical, brutally funny chamber opera based on real events. Set in 1820s Scotland – when the city’s famed schools of anatomy faced a severe shortage of fresh cadavers for their lectures – the opera follows William Burke, William Hare and their accomplices who discover a money-making opportunity by murdering disenfranchised citizens and selling their corpses to Dr. Robert Knox at his renowned medical academy.
The World Premiere of Burke & Hare is the inaugural full-length opera in BLO’s expanded New Works program, the commissioning-focused arm of its Opera Annex initiative. This initiative aims for broader access to opera by opening the creative process to the public, with free workshops of new works, digital and social opportunities to follow development milestones, and more. Commissioned by Music-Theatre Group with support from BLO, Burke & Hare will be staged at the Boston Center for the Arts Cyclorama, an historic building whose neoclassical Victorian style reflects the story’s 19th century time period, and whose circular interior recalls early operating theaters where observers watched medical procedures.
An ingenious narrative involving five of Burke and Hare’s victims propels the chronicle of Dr. Knox’s downfall and the apprehension of his suppliers. Nelson says the work’s focus on the forgotten victims of the sensationalistic murders puts questions of morality and science front-and-center, echoing modern concerns about the ethical costs of knowledge, advancement and discovery.
The cast of Burke & Hare includes renowned tenor William Burden (who recently appeared in the national broadcast premiere of Bel Canto on PBS) and Scottish soprano Marie McLaughlin who has enjoyed a major international career. Additional cast members include Chelsea Basler, Jesse Blumberg, David Cushing, Heather Gallagher, David McFerrin, Mark Schnaible (BLO debut), Michael Slattery (who recently appeared in an OPERA America-sponsored New York showcase of the piece), Emma Sorenson and Michelle Trainor. David Schweizer, who helmed BLO’s acclaimed 2014 production of The Love Potion, will direct. Caleb Wertenbaker will design sets, Nancy Leary will design costumes, and Robert Wierzel will design lighting. A 12-member orchestra will be under the baton of Music Director David Angus.
A benefit performance of Burke & Hare will be held November 10, 2017 as part of BLO’s annual fundraising gala to support the New Works program.
THE THREEPENNY OPERA
BLO kicks off its spring 2018 Season with composer Kurt Weill and librettist Bertolt Brecht’s iconic The Threepenny Opera, making a return to Boston for its first professional production since 2004. (Performed in recent years by theatre companies, Threepenny’s last production by a local professional opera company was in 1988, when it was produced by Sarah Caldwell’s Opera Company of Boston.)
The satirical piece was adapted from John Gay’s 1728 work, The Beggar’s Opera, which itself was a parody of Handel operas. Threepenny premiered in Berlin in 1928, not long before Weill and Brecht both fled to the U.S. to escape the Nazi seizure of power. A vaudevillian view of life in a Victorian slum, the work critiques capitalism, self-interest, and the meaning of morality. With its evergreen story of rich-vs-poor dynamics, and an opera-meets-cabaret score, Threepenny remains extremely popular around the world as it nears its 90th anniversary. BLO will mount the production at the Huntington Theatre Company’s Huntington Avenue Theatre, a historic venue that opened three years before Threepenny premiered in Europe.
Casting for the production includes Kelly Kaduce (BLO’s La Bohème) as Polly Peachum, and her Bohème co-star James Maddalena as Mr. Peachum. Daniel Belcher makes his BLO debut as Tiger Brown/Street Singer, the character who delivers the enduring hit “The Ballad of Mack the Knife.” Additional cast and creative team for Threepenny will be announced at a later date.
“Of The Threepenny Opera, Weill himself said ‘the ambiguous and captivating distinctions between entertainment and politics, play and morality, are at the heart of this work,’” Nelson notes. “He knew this indictment of the bourgeoisie – a satiric cry to acknowledge the less-fortunate people in society – would remain strikingly relevant. I’m thrilled to be producing this on the Huntington’s stage.”
TROUBLE IN TAHITI/ARIAS AND BARCAROLLES
To mark the 100th birthday of American composer Leonard Bernstein, BLO closes its Season with Bernstein’s one-act opera Trouble in Tahiti. Bernstein wrote the music and the libretto for the piece, which premiered in 1952 at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., and was revised that same year for a second performance at Tanglewood. The relatively short work (35 min.) will be paired with Bernstein’s Arias and Barcarolles for a cabaret-style evening. Singers Heather Johnson (Lizzie Borden, upcoming The Rake’s Progress), Neal Ferreira (In the Penal Colony), Vincent Turregano and Mara Bonde return to BLO for this performance. David Schweizer returns as Stage Director, Nancy Leary is Costume Designer, Jeff Adelberg makes his BLO debut as Lighting Designer, and David Angus conducts. Dates and location for the production will be announced later.
Both Tahiti and Arias explore the timeless topic of relationships, in intimate productions sung by a small cast: Tahiti is a candid portrayal of a troubled young marriage, with music by a jazz trio; Arias is a cycle of songs about love and marriage with musical accompaniment by piano four hands, featuring BLO Music Director David Angus and Principal Coach Accompanist Brett Hodgdon. Bernstein began writing Tahiti on his honeymoon in 1951, between successes with On the Town and West Side Story. It focuses on the domestic conflict of a young couple who, in contrast to their seemingly perfect mid-century suburban life in Wellesley, Mass., are desperately unhappy. Arias was Bernstein’s last major work; it was completed in 1988 but existed in various forms since Bernstein began it in 1955. It has been described as “eclectic, exciting, jazzy…it reflects Bernstein at his multi-faceted best.”
“Massachusetts takes great pride in its native son Leonard Bernstein, who is among the most American of composers,” says Nelson. “At his centennial, we celebrate how he brought together musical influences indigenous to this country, including jazz, and combined it with stories and topics that enlighten our common experiences,” says Nelson. “Trouble in Tahiti and Arias and Barcarolles are cut from the same cloth, musically and emotionally, and they work beautifully together. It’s the first time these two works have been performed together on the same bill.”
Season subscriptions for each production are now on sale for current subscribers and go on sale to the public April 24, 2017. Subscriptions can be ordered online at www.blo.org/tickets, by phone through BLO Audience Services at 617.542.6772 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Individual performance tickets will go on sale on June 15, 2017.