The Atlanta Opera Presents WEST SIDE STORY
The Atlanta Opera opens the 2018-19 mainstage season with a production of Leonard Bernstein's classic Broadway musical, West Side Story. Francesca Zambello, General & Artistic Director of The Glimmerglass Festival and Artistic Director of Washington National Opera, who created this new production with Houston Grand Opera, The Glimmerglass Festival, and Lyric Opera of Chicago, will direct.
The Atlanta Opera presents West Side Story on November 3, 6, 9, 10, and 11, 2018 at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. Tickets start at $35 (before tax) and can be purchased at www.atlantaopera.org or by calling 404-881-8885. The production will be performed in English with English supertitles.
The production stars Vanessa Becerra as Maria, who recently performed the role at The Glimmerglass Festival and with Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and was seen recently in Atlanta as Johanna in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Andrew Bidlack will sing Tony after performing the role in Kansas City. Brian Vu plays Riff, after appearing in the same role with Houston Grand Opera, Glimmerglass, and Kansas City.
Set against a backdrop of the west side of New York City, the Tony Award-winning musical tells the story of two teenagers from different backgrounds who truly believe love can conquer all, including differing backgrounds, languages, warring gangs, and miscommunication. Inspired by Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story has captivated audiences since its debut in 1957. Created by the iconic team of artists Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, Stephen Sondheim, and Jerome Robbins, this production allows audiences to experience West Side Story as it was originally meant to be seen, on a grand scale with classically trained singers and dancers.
Directed by Francesca Zambello and staged in Atlanta by Associate Director Eric Sean Fogel, The Atlanta Opera's production is in keeping with the original vision of Broadway legends Bernstein, Sondheim and Robbins. Choreographer Julio Monge has resurrected Jerome Robbins' original choreography for this production, and ensemble members are a combination of local talent and veterans who performed in this production at Houston Grand Opera, The Glimmerglass Festival, and Lyric Opera of Kansas City.
"The Leonard Bernstein centennial anniversary is celebrated all over the world with an abundance of new productions of his works," said Carol W. Knobloch, Jr. General & Artistic Director Tomer Zvulun. "We chose Bernstein's arguably greatest masterpiece, West Side Story, to open our 2018-19 mainstage season. We made that choice not to only to commemorate this musical giant's legacy, but also as a deliberate reflection on the times we live in. The issues tackled in a piece that premiered over half a century ago: immigration, violence, social inequality, xenophobia, are still haunting us today as much as they did decades ago. We are thrilled to bring this successful new production to Atlanta with a young, talented cast of singers and actors who truly capture the essence of Bernstein's masterpiece."
Zambello said, "Although America is a country of immigrants, we continue to struggle with issues around immigration and migration, which makes West Side Story an important tale for today. (As Sondheim's lyric neatly put it, "Nobody knows in America / Puerto Rico's in America.") The creators of West Side Story, although well intentioned, didn't get everything right; later critics have pointed out lapses into stereotype."
Francesca Zambello has been the General Director of The Glimmerglass Festival since 2010, and the Artistic Director of The Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center since 2012. She also served as the Artistic Advisor to the San Francisco Opera from 2005-2011, and as the Artistic Director of the Skylight Theater from 1987-1992. In her current roles at the Kennedy Center and the Glimmerglass Festival she is responsible for producing 12 productions annually. She has begun major commissioning programs for new works in both companies that have resulted in productions of many large and small-scaled new works. Ms. Zambello was recently awarded the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government for her contribution to French culture and the Russian Federation's medal for Service to Culture.
Director and Choreographer Eric Sean Fogel will step in as Associate Director. He is a graduate of the College of Charleston and studied at the Alvin Ailey and Martha Graham Dance Studios in New York City. Mr. Fogel is a past member of the Metropolitan Opera Ballet and Ben Munisteri Dance Projects and has performed at Lincoln Center, Brooklyn Academy Of Music, The Joyce Theatre and Dance Theatre Workshop. He also performed in the National Tours of Disney's Beauty and the Beast and West Side Story. Recent choreography credits include Candide (LA Opera), Porgy and Bess (Seattle Opera), Florencia en el Amazonas (Houston Grand Opera). Mr. Fogel has served as associate director under Francesca Zambello for numerous productions, including the world premieres of Excalibur (Theater St. Gallen), The Lion Unicorn and Me (Washington National Opera), The Odyssey (The Glimmerglass Festival).
Veteran actor, director, and choreographer Julio Monge will reset Jerome Robbins' original choreography for this production of West Side Story, which he previously did at Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, The Glimmerglass Festival, Houston Grand Opera, and Lyric Opera of Kansas City. Performance credits on Broadway include On Your Feet!, Jerome Robbins' Broadway, Lincoln Center's Twelfth Night, Man of La Mancha, Fosse, Victor/Victoria, and Paul Simon's The Capeman. Choreography works include West Side Story: The Somewhere Project, celebrating Carnegie Hall's 125th anniversary; Tony Kushner's translation of Mother Courage and Her Children and the musical Radiant Baby, both directed by George C. Wolfe. Other choreography credits include The Threepenny Opera at Williamstown Theater Festival, José Rivera's premiere of References to Salvador Dalí Make Me Hot, and the revival of Pablo Cabrera's La verdadera historia de Pedro Navaja in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Directing credits include Putting Out by Laura E. Bray at New York Venus Theater Festival and Hedwig and the Angry Inch (also producer and translator) at the Gay and Lesbian Theater Festival in Puerto Rico (Best Production Award 2010).
Soprano Vanessa Becerra returns to The Atlanta Opera as Maria. Ms. Becerra recently performed the role at The Glimmerglass Festival and Lyric Opera of Kansas City. A recent graduate of the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program at Los Angeles Opera, Becerra performed there as Papagena in Die Zauberflöte, Babarina in Le nozze di Figaro, and Annina in La traviata. Other recent engagements include Johanna in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street at The Atlanta Opera, Miss Lightfoot in Fellow Travelers at Lyric Opera of Chicago, the title role in Deutscher's Cinderella at Opera San Jose, Sophie in Werther at Opera Delaware, and Laurey Williams in Oklahoma! at the Glimmerglass Festival, for which Opera Today praised her "vibrant presence" and "lilting radiance."
Tenor Andrew Bidlack makes his Atlanta Opera debut as Tony, a role he recently performed at Lyric Opera of Kansas City. A graduate of San Francisco Opera's prestigious Adler Fellowship, Mr. Bidlack was named by Opera News as one of the "Top 25 Brilliant Young Artists" of 2015. He created the roles of Rob Hall in Joby Talbot's Everest at The Dallas Opera and Irving Tashman in Ricky Ian Gordon's Morning Star at Cincinnati Opera. In the 2017-18 season, he recreated the role of Rob Hall for Lyric Opera of Kansas City, returned to the Metropolitan Opera as Beppe in I pagliacci, and performed Arcadio in Florencia en el Amazonas at Florida Grand Opera, and Bill in Jonathan Dove's Flight at Des Moines Metro Opera.
Baritone Brian Vu will perform the role of Riff, the leader of the Jets gang. Mr. Vu originated the role for this production at Houston Grand Opera and went on to perform it at The Glimmerglass Festival and Lyric Opera of Kansas City. A graduate of the Yale School of Music, Mr. Vu has participated in several young artist programs, including Santa Fe Opera, The Glimmerglass Festival, Marilyn Horne's Music Academy, Wolf Trap Opera, and most recently, Pittsburgh Opera. Recent credits include Baron Douphol in La traviata, Hannah before in As One, and Calvin Griffith in The Sumer King at Pittsburgh Opera, Marquis d'Ogigny in La traviata at Wolf Trap Opera, and The Odyssey at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He was a first-place winner of the Lotte Lenya Competition, Grand Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and a recipient of the prestigious Sullivan Foundation Award.
The Atlanta Opera will collaborate with ColorATL and local artists Fabian Williams and Julio Ceballos to create murals inspired by the music and themes in West Side Story. Fusing creative worlds, the artists will bring a modern-day lens to social themes present in the show such as gang violence, racial unrest, and police brutality that still resonate today. The murals will be on display in the Cobb Energy Centre Lobby during the performances. The effort is part of a traveling exhibition from Houston Grand Opera and Lyric Opera of Kansas City that will continue to grow and evolve as it travels to other cities for this production.
The Atlanta Opera is one of the finest regional opera companies in the nation. In 2013, the company recruited internationally recognized stage director Tomer Zvulun as the Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. General & Artistic Director. In the 2014-2015 season, the company launched the acclaimed Discoveries series of operas staged in alternative theaters around Atlanta. The program was recognized by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as part of its Best of 2015 awards and the company was nominated for the International Opera Awards in London in 2016. The Discoveries series has grown from three to sixteen performances in the past four seasons. In the 2016-2017 season, the company expanded its mainstage season from three to four productions at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. The Opera works with world-renowned singers, conductors, directors, and designers who seek to enhance the art form
and make it accessible for a sophisticated, 21st century audience. The Atlanta Opera was founded in 1979 and to this day adheres to its mission to enrich lives through opera.
Running time is approximately 2 hours and 25 minutes, including 1 intermission.
The Atlanta Opera recognizes The Home Depot Foundation as a production sponsor and sponsor of the company's Veterans ticketing program, and Coca-Cola as the opening night sponsor.