Austin Opera Announces 2019-2020 Season: RIGOLETTO, EVEREST, and TURANDOT
Austin Opera today announces its 2019-2020 Season of programming at the Long Center, which includes Verdi's Rigoletto; the company premiere of Joby Talbot and Gene Scheer's Everest, the tale of one of the worst years in the famous mountain's history; and Puccini's final opera, Turandot.
Austin Opera opens its season with Verdi's Rigoletto, which hasn't been seen in Austin in 10 years. The tragic story revolves around the unscrupulous Duke of Mantua, his jealous court jester Rigoletto, and Rigoletto's innocent daughter Gilda, who pays the ultimate price for her father's thirst for revenge. Verdi's gripping drama features dramatic sets from New Orleans Opera and costumes from Utah Opera, and includes an all-star cast: Michael Chioldi as Rigoletto, back for his sixth role with the company; Kang Wang as the Duke, returning to Austin following his debut in La bohème later this season; and Madison Leonard, winner of the 2018 Metropolitan Opera's Competition, as Gilda in her Austin Opera debut. Tara Faircloth makes her directorial debut and conductor Robert Wood makes a company debut leading the Austin Opera Orchestra.
Everest, based on the true story of one of the deadliest years in recorded history at Mount Everest (1996), makes its Austin Opera premiere featuring the music of Joby Talbot and the libretto of Gene Scheer. The opera, in which climbers struggle to overcome the elements in their quest for survival, takes audiences on a white-knuckle journey unlike any other. Austin Opera's cast features three of the stars of the Dallas Opera world premiere in 2015. Making their company debuts are bass-baritone Kevin Burdette as Texas native Beck Weathers and tenor Andrew Bidlack as expedition leader Rob Hall. Baritone Craig Verm returns to Austin Opera for his fifth role as doomed climber Doug Hansen. Rounding out the group of adventurers is soprano Heather Johnson, performing Hall's wife, Jan Arnold. Renowned director Leonard Foglia leads this innovative production, which makes use of cutting-edge projection technology and places the Austin Opera Orchestra center stage, between the mountain and the fully costumed climbers. Conductor Joseph Mechavich makes his Austin Opera debut.
The season concludes with Puccini's Turandot, the tale of a beautiful princess with a heart of ice, who meets her match when the prince Calàf dares to answer her deadly riddles with the promise of love. A selfless sacrifice by Calàf's faithful servant Liù finally awakens true emotion in Turandot, proving that in the game of love, you can't win without first giving away your heart. Puccini's final masterwork features one of the most iconic arias in all of opera, "Nessun dorma." Starring in the title role is soprano Alexandra Loutsion, making her Austin Opera debut, who is no stranger to this demanding role - garnering praise for her portrayal of the ice princess around the country. Her heroic prince is performed by tenor Jonathan Burton, who returns to Austin following an acclaimed run as Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos. Completing the trio as Liù is Cecilia Violetta Lopez, in her company debut. Directing this production is Garnett Bruce, an Austin Opera favorite, returning to Austin after last directing Madama Butterfly in 2017.
Current Artistic Advisor Timothy Myers will conduct Turandot while continuing to serve in his current role, working with General Director & CEO Annie Burridge and Director of Artistic Operations Nathan DePoint on repertoire planning, casting, and music administration.
"Next season continues the excellence that our audiences have come to expect-pairing beautiful productions of classic works with the thought-provoking voices of the new masters of 21st-century opera," said Annie Buridge, General Director & CEO of Austin Opera. "We remain dedicated to showcasing the best rising stars alongside established favorites. Together with the outstanding contribution of our orchestra and chorus, the 2019-2020 season is full of thrilling drama and memorable musical moments worthy of Austin's reputation for having the best live music in the world."
Austin Opera also announced today the launch of a formalized partnership with the University of Texas at Austin Butler School of Music, beginning with the Butler Opera International Competition in September 2019 and continuing with the Austin Opera Masterclass series. The Butler Opera International Competition brings five of the world's most gifted pre-professional singers ready to launch their careers in opera to Central Texas for a concert in which they receive cash prizes and professional marketing materials to assist in launching their careers. The Masterclass Series pairs Austin Opera stars with the talented young singers at the Butler School, and covers subjects like musicality, performance, and the mechanics of singing. Additionally, guest lecturers from the Butler School's musicology department will share their expert insights at the pre-performance Opera Overtures events and at the Sunday Brunch Series.
Austin Opera's 2019-2020 Opera ATX series, which expands the company's programming footprint beyond the Long Center to offer unique, immersive experiences in unexpected venues around the city, will be announced in April, surrounding the launch of Opera ATX: Soldier Songs at the Paramount Theatre.