Charlottesville Opera/Ash Lawn Opera Launches 40th Season
Charlottesville Opera, the newly renamed Ash Lawn Opera, kicks off its fortieth anniversary season on March 23 and 24 with the East Coast premiere of Middlemarch in Spring, presented in collaboration with the Virginia Festival of the Book. The exciting and ambitious season, which also features Rigoletto and Oklahoma! this summer, is a celebration of the company's growth and achievements as Charlottesville, Virginia's premier opera company. To accompany this special anniversary, Charlottesville Opera has also announced a new logo and redesigned website.
The season opens with Charlottesville Opera's first premiere in over 35 years, Middlemarch in Spring by composer Allen Shearer and librettist Claudia Stevens. The 2015 world premiere of Middlemarch in Spring was named one of the year's most notable new musical works by Encyclopedia Britannica and one of the top 10 operatic events of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle. Charlottesville Opera brings the lauded work to the East Coast for the first time, with several important members of the premiere cast, including world-renowned bass-baritone Philip Skinner, a veteran of many productions at the San Francisco and Metropolitan Operas.
With the Virginia Festival of the Book, Charlottesville Opera has invited Rebecca Mead, author of My Life in Middlemarch and staff writer at the New Yorker, to give a free lecture to ticket holders before the Friday, March 24performance. Librettist Stevens will deliver the pre-performance lecture on Thursday, March 23. Artistic Director Michelle Krisel said, "We're proud to be able to bring this exciting new work to opera lovers throughout the region."
In addition to the two mainstage performances, Charlottesville Opera will hold a number of special events leading up to the Middlemarch in Spring opening that will give long-time supporters and new audience members an inside look at the new production. On March 16, the company will hold a reception for donors at the Colonnade Club at the University of Virginia featuring a talk by UVa professor Alison Booth, who studies women writers and Victorian literature, as well as excerpts from the opera performed by cast members. Charlottesville Opera will then hold a fundraiser on March 18 at Airslie, a historic country estate in Keswick, featuring performances by Middlemarch in Spring artists.
Middlemarch in Spring will be followed by a summer season filled with audience favorites. It begins with fan-favorite Hyung Yun, who received audience acclaim as Germont in La traviata (2016), Sharpless in Madama Butterfly (2015), and Melchior in Amahl and the Night Visitors (2012, 2014), starring as the title role of Verdi's tragic masterpiece Rigoletto, with a performance at the Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre at Virginia Tech on July 9, followed by performances at The Paramount Theater in Charlottesville on July 14, 16, and 19. This production will also feature a dynamic ensemble made up of singers from throughout Virginia. The summer will conclude with Rodgers and Hammerstein's beloved musical Oklahoma!, featuring Charlottesville Opera's first-ever partnership with Charlottesville Ballet, the city's only professional Dance Company. Charlottesville Ballet is proud to include choreography by CB Artist Mary Hein, three professional soloists, and a student ensemble to bring the musical's rousing dance numbers to life.
The company has also announced its new logo and redesigned website to accompany these exciting changes. Executive Director Kevin O'Halloran said, "The new look reflects our evolution as a company, while acknowledging our rich history in Charlottesville." The company announced its name change to Charlottesville Opera in December 2016, in recognition of its artistic and professional evolution since its beginnings as the Ash Lawn Opera Festival, with performances held at Ash Lawn-Highland. The new name signals the company's strong base in the local community and recognizes the distance it has come. Martha Redinger, President of Charlottesville Opera, said, "We're proud of our heritage, and we thank all those who built and supported Ash Lawn Opera through the years. We're pleased to be able to signal our progress and professionalism with our new name: Charlottesville Opera."