ACT Presents THE INNER I: HOW ARTISTS SEE THEMSELVES

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ACT Presents THE INNER I: HOW ARTISTS SEE THEMSELVESAmerican Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) continues its 2008-09 season Koret Visiting Artist Series with "The Inner 'I': How Artists See Themselves," a conversation with Lotfi Mansouri, celebrated opera director and the general director emeritus of the San Francisco Opera; Judy Kaye, the Tony Award-winning star of A.C.T.'s Souvenir; and the internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade. Moderated by A.C.T. Artistic Director Carey Perloff, the conversation will focus on the different ways artists view themselves and how these self-images affect their work. "The Inner 'I'" is presented in conjunction with A.C.T.'s production of Stephen Temperley's Souvenir, which tells the story of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York socialite and tone-deaf diva who thought she was a great soprano. The conversation will be followed by a Q&A session with the audience. The hour-long event is free and open to the public and takes place on the A.C.T. stage on Monday, February 23, 2009, at 5:30 p.m. Doors will open at 5 p.m. For more information, please visit www.act-sf.org/koret.

"Lotfi Mansouri has helped generations of singers work though their fears and passions in terms of how they see themselves and what they're 'right' for," says Perloff. "He loves the 'diva-ness' of opera singers, understands that strange and wonderful zone where the artist's personality meets the character. And I'm thrilled to have two incomparable divas, Frederica von Stade and Judy Kaye, weigh in with their own unique perspectives-and it will be a special treat to have these incredible artists reflect on the fascinating case of Florence Foster Jenkins." Stephen Temperley's Souvenir is directed by Tony Award winner Vivian Matalon and plays at A.C.T. February 13 through March 15, 2009. Tickets are available by calling A.C.T. Ticket Services at 415.749.2228, or at www.act-sf.org.

As part of a generous partnership with A.C.T., the Koret Foundation has made a three-year commitment to support A.C.T.'s audience programs, including artist panel discussions and A.C.T.'s regularly scheduled Audience Exchange and Prologue discussions. The Koret Visiting Artist Series, in its third season, features exciting talks with acclaimed artists from the American theatrical community, moderated by A.C.T. artistic staff. Held at the American Conservatory Theater before and after select performances throughout the season, the discussions are designed to illuminate the ways in which a theater affects and strengthens a community, the responsibilities of the artist in modern society, and the challenges of the creative process.

Judy Kaye originated the title role of Souvenir: A Fantasia on The Life of Florence Foster Jenkins on Broadway (Tony Award nomination), a role she has also played at The York Theatre Company, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Brentwood Theatre in Los Angeles (LA Stage Alliance Ovation Award), and Arizona Theatre Company. She appeared as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd on Broadway and at A.C.T. last season. She performed in Face the Music for New York City Center's Encores! series and in Zorba in the Los Angeles Reprise! series. Highlights of her career include Phantom of the Opera (Tony; Drama Desk Award nomination), Mamma Mia! (Tony, Drama Desk nominations), On the Twentieth Century (Theatre World Award; Drama Desk nomination), and Ragtime (LA Stage Alliance Ovation Award), all on Broadway, as well as La Bohème, Orpheus in the Underworld, and The Beggars Opera at The Santa Fe Opera. Kaye has performed with symphony orchestras around the world and sung at the White House twice. She is the voice of Kinsey Millhone for Random House's audio book series of the Sue Grafton alphabet mysteries.

LOTFI MANSOURI has been at the forefront of international opera directors and administrators for decades, directing productions across Europe and North America. After 14 years at the helm of the San Francisco Opera (1988-2001), Mansouri is now general director emeritus. During his 40-year association with that company, he directed more than 60 productions, introduced numerous international artists to U.S. audiences, established an historic exchange with the Kirov Opera in St. Petersburg (including productions of War and Peace and Ruslan and Lyudmila, among others), and developed an ambitious program designed to maintain the vitality of the opera repertoire through new commissions (including Dangerous Liaisons, Harvey Milk, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Dead Man Walking, among others) and the presentation of rarely performed and unusual operas. Born in Iran, Mansouri attended UCLA before serving as resident stage director at the Zürich Opera, head stage director of the Grand Théâtre de Genève, and general director of the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto, where he directed 30 new productions (12 of them Canadian premieres), including Wozzeck, Lulu, Death in Venice, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and Ambroise Thomas's Hamlet. While in Toronto, he established a young artist program and pioneered the use of supertitles-now employed throughout North America and Europe-with his production of Elektra in 1983. Mansouri was part of the team that originally presented Pauline Viardot and Friends in 2006 at London's Wigmore Hall and at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. He recently held a series of master classes at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara and taught with the young artist programs at Covent Garden and the Netherlands Opera Studio in Amsterdam. Future activities include directing Rigoletto for the San Diego Opera and teaching master classes at the Royal Conservatory and Canadian Opera Company Ensemble in Toronto.

Described by the New York Times as "one of America's finest artists and singers," the mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade (affectionately known as Flicka) has enriched the world of classical music since her 1970 debut with the Metropolitan Opera, appearing with every leading American and European opera company. She has worked with conductors Claudio Abbado, Charles Dutoit, James Levine, Kurt Masur, Riccardo Muti, Seiji Ozawa, André Previn, Leonard Slatkin, and Michael Tilson Thomas and appeared with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, London Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, and Orchestra of La Scala. She has garnered critical and popular acclaim as one of the world's finest interpreters of Ravel's Shéhérazade, Berlioz's Les nuits d'été, and Canteloube's Les chants d'Auvergne, as well as the orchestrated songs of Debussy and Duparc. She has made more than 70 recordings, receiving six Grammy Award nominations, two Grand Prix du Disque awards, the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis, Italy's Premio della Critica Discografica, and "Best of the Year" citations by Stereo Review and OPERA NEWS. She has enjoyed the distinction of holding simultaneously the first and second places on national sales charts for Angel/EMI's Show Boat and Telarc's The Sound of Music. In 2001 she performed with Sir Elton John, Andre Watts, and the Philadelphia Orchestra for the opening of Philadelphia's Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and in 2002 was seen with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in the opening ceremonies of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games. Her television credits include a gala concert with the San Francisco Symphony to open the 1998-99 season at Carnegie Hall, Live from Lincoln Center, Live from the Met, I Hear America Singing, Christmas with Flicka, A Carnegie Hall Christmas with Kathleen Battle, and Flicka and Friends. She can also be seen in the Unitel film of the Jean-Pierre Ponnelle production of La cenerentola. Von Stade holds honorary doctorates from Yale University, Boston University, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (which holds a Frederica von Stade Distinguished Chair in Voice), the Georgetown University School of Medicine, and the Mannes School of Music (her alma mater). In 1998 von Stade was awarded France's highest honor in the arts when she was appointed an officer of L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and in 1983 she was recognized by President Reagan at the White House for her significant contribution to the arts.

About the Koret Foundation: An entrepreneurial spirit guides Koret in addressing societal challenges and strengthening Bay Area life. Investing in strategic, local solutions, Koret helps to inspire a multiplier effect-encouraging collaborative funding and developing model initiatives. In the San Francisco Bay Area, Koret adds to the region's vitality by promoting educational opportunity, contributing to a diverse cultural landscape, and bolstering organizations that are innovative in their approaches to meeting community needs. With roots in the Jewish community, Koret embraces the community of Israel, especially through Koret Israel Economic Development Funds (KIEDF). Koret believes that economic stability and free market expansion offer the best hope for a prosperous future. At Koret, we understand our responsibility to make an impact-to honor the legacy of our founders, and to find long-lasting solutions that improve people's lives. Koret Visiting Artist Series will continue with three more panel discussions in association with A.C.T.'s 2008-09 season. Visit www.act-sf.org/koret for more information.

 

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