Florida Grand Opera to Open 2013-14 Season with Levy's MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA, Begin. 11/7
Florida Grand Opera (FGO) will kick-off its 73rd continuous season of grand opera this 2013-2014 season with the Southeast American premiere of Broward-based composer Marvin David Levy's Mourning Becomes Electra. In homage to its composer, the production will open at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on November 7, 2013, in a new production created by Florida Grand Opera.
Mourning Becomes Electra was inspired by the Eugene O'Neill play of the same name, which is itself a retelling of Aeschylus' Oresteia, a masterpiece of ancient Greek theater and noted as the oldest play cycle in recorded history. Levy planned not merely to set the play to music, but to build on O'Neill's structure through simple and minimalistic orchestrations, an approach that intrigued O'Neill sufficiently to allow it. The New York Times has called this opera, "a kicking and screaming contemporary opera that deserves a future."
FGO will be only the fifth company in the United States to perform the opera. The work was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera in 1967 to commemorate the company's new home at Lincoln Center. The original production was well-received on its premiere, but then disappeared for 30 years until a new production by the Lyric Opera of Chicago returned the work to the stage in 1998 in a new edition prepared by the composer. A more dramatic revision of the opera was then presented by Seattle Opera in 2003, in a co-production with New York City Opera, featuring additional cuts and rewrites, condensing the piece from three acts to two, as well as adding a new finale. The opera to be presented in South Florida has been further revised since it was last staged.
The story transplants the classic Greek tragedy to a small New England town in 1865. Christine Mannon, the distant young wife of General Ezra Mannon, has fallen in love with a handsome young suitor while her husband was away at war. Seeing the opportunity to be with her new love, Christine replaces her husband's heart medicine with poison, but the general manages to inform his daughter, Lavinia, of her mother's murderous plot before taking his final breath. Enraged by her beloved father's ignominious end, Lavinia enlists the help of her brother, Orin, as death and misfortune continue to follow this cursed family.
Acclaimed soprano Lauren Flanigan returns to FGO as Christine Mannon, a role she has commanded many times over. The New York Times described her 2004 performance in the role with New York City Opera as "...a mesmerizing, sometimes terrifying portrayal of the ruthless and unhinged Christine." The celebrated American singer has embodied more than 100 different operatic roles and enjoyed what Opera News calls "one of the most distinctive careers of any artist in her generation." She last performed with FGO in 2001, making her company and role debut in the title role of Marc Blitzstein's Regina, adding "yet another stellar portrayal to her trophy cabinet of offbeat characters," said the Sun Sentinel.
In the role of her vengeful daughter, Lavinia, is Canadian soprano RAYANNE DUPUIS. She last performed the role with Seattle Opera in 2003 and was called "near perfection" by Opera Canada as well as "chilling and visceral" by Andante.com. Making her company debut this coming season, the Paris-based singer has performed with numerous renowned companies, such as Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and Austin Lyric Opera. Also making his FGO and role debut is American baritone Morgan Smith as Adam Brant, Christine's handsome young suitor. An artist of ample repertoire, Smith recently received critical acclaim for his role as Starbuck in San Francisco Opera's Moby-Dick, a part to which he brought "mellifluous lyricism," according to the Wall Street Journal when it premiered with Dallas Opera in 2010. No stranger to Mourning Becomes Electra, he sang as Peter Niles in Seattle Opera's 2004 staging and was called "first-rate" by the Seattle Times.
Considering one of the most versatile baritones of his generation, baritone Keith Phares makes his FGO debut as Orin Mannon. He appeared as Figaro in Washington National Opera's IL Barbiere di Siviglia and in the title role in Elmer Gantry with Florentine Opera, prompting Opera News to write that "Keith Phares's scrupulously rendered Elmer Gantry appears a strong contender for iconographic recognition. Beautifully vocalized and bursting with charismatic smarm (think Burt Lancaster with buttery legato), Phares's achievement will prove a difficult act to follow." A company regular, bass KEVIN LANGAN, returns to FGO as the stern and authoritative Ezra Mannon, making this his twelfth role with the company. He has been hailed by the New York Times for his "deep, toffee-smooth voice and convincing interpretive abilities" and boasts a robust repertoire spanning more than 80 roles.
Mourning Becomes Electra will be under the direction of Grammy-Award-nominated director Kevin Newbury, who makes his Company debut with this production. An avid collaborator on contemporary works, Newbury has worked with some of the nation's leading opera companies, including Glimmerglass Opera and San Francisco Opera, and is cited by Opera News for his "thoughtfulness, eye for details, and ability to frame the dramatic moment." The FGO production will feature innovative projections by famous Broadway designer Wendall K. Harrington, whom Variety magazine called "brilliant" for her treatment of Franz Schreker's Die Gezeichneten, and sets by ANYA KLEPIKOV, a Yale School of Drama alumna named a "young designer to watch" by Live Design.