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Berkshire Opera Festival Returns to the Stage With an Expanded Summer 2021 Season

Productions include Falstaff, Glory Denied and more.

Berkshire Opera Festival Returns to the Stage With an Expanded Summer 2021 Season

After Summer 2020's pandemic cancellations and virtual programs, Berkshire Opera Festival looks ahead with cautious optimism to its grand return to the stage in Summer 2021. In addition to its signature Mainstage performance, free concert, and impressive casts of rising stars and luminaries, the season is notable for an exciting expansion of its offerings: its first Second Stage production, which kicks off the season on July 22 and 24 at Bard College at Simon's Rock in Great Barrington with Tom Cipullo's powerful Glory Denied. The opera is based on the gripping true story of America's longest-held prisoner of war. Next, the Festival heads to The Mount (Edith Wharton's Lenox estate) on August 11 for a free concert, Much Ado About Shakespeare, exploring the world's most famous playwright's influence on opera and song. Its celebration of the Bard culminates with the season's crown jewel-BOF's mainstage production of Verdi's Falstaff August 21-27 at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington. This opera-Verdi's last, and one of the world's greatest comedies-will also feature the Berkshire Opera Festival Orchestra and Chorus.

From Berkshire Opera Festival Artistic Director and Co-Founder
Brian Garman:

"We were determined to come back from last season's cancellation stronger than ever, and I'm thrilled with what we have in store for 2021. Our mainstage production, Verdi's Falstaff, is one of opera's greatest masterpieces and a hilarious comedy. Verdi turned to Shakespeare for this, his final opera, and the result is nothing short of genius. For the first time in BOF history, this season will see the addition of a second-stage production. We've chosen Tom Cipullo's gripping Glory Denied for this important occasion. Sung in English, it tells the true story of Colonel Jim Thompson, the longest-held American prisoner of war. These exceptional works, along with the return of our annual free concert, make for a season that can't be missed."

"There is no substitute for experiencing the power of the live, unamplified human voice," says Jonathon Loy. "I'm incredibly excited at the prospect of returning to live opera in 2021, and with none other than the greatest operatic comedy ever composed, Verdi's Falstaff."

Garman and Loy have been friends for over 20 years since their early career days at Pittsburgh Opera, with combined experience at the Metropolitan Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Seattle Opera, and New York City Opera. Loy has deep family ties in the Berkshires, and the Iowa-born Garman credits Loy for convincing him to take root in the bucolic Berkshires, finding the area revelatory in its beauty and depth of culture. In September 2019, Abigail Rollins joined the leadership of BOF in the role of Executive Director, helping Loy and Garman realize their dream and build on it year by year, carefully and with purpose.

The 2021 Season


August 21, 24, 27
A comic opera by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi
Location: Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, 14 Castle Street, Great Barrington, MA

Baritone Sebastian Catana - Sir John Falstaff
Soprano Mathilda Edge - Mrs. Alice Ford
Baritone Thomas Glass - Ford
Mezzo-soprano - Catherine Martin - Mrs. Quickly
Soprano Jasmine Habersham - Nannetta
Tenor Jonas Hacker - Fenton
Tenor Keith Jameson - Bardolfo

Creative Team:
Conductor Brian Garman
Stage Director Jonathon Loy

On the mainstage this coming season will be Giuseppe Verdi's brilliant comic opera FALSTAFF, which was adapted by Arrigo Boito from Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV. One of only two comedies written by Verdi and his final opera (written when Verdi was almost 80 years old), Falstaff tells the story of Sir John Falstaff's fruitless search for money by writing love letters to wealthy women.

Three performances will take place at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington. The superb cast stars the BOF return of Sebastian Catana. One of the world's most sought-after Verdi baritones, this marks Catana's debut in the role of Falstaff. After his memorable performance in the title role of BOF's Rigoletto in 2018, Opera News wrote "Catana, a Romanian baritone who has sung Schaunard and Valentin at the Met, has genuine Verdian amplitude and attack that few in the world today can match." Seen and Heard International wrote that "his characterization of the hunchbacked court jester was shattering in its intensity."

The cast also features one of the country's leading character tenors, Keith Jameson (Bardolfo); and two singers on the brink of huge careers: baritone Thomas Glass and soprano Mathilda Edge (Ford and Alice).


Second Stage
July 22 & 24
The story of Colonel Jim Thompson, America's longest-held prisoner of war
by Tom Cipullo
A two-act opera with no intermission
Location: Bard College at Simon's Rock - Daniel Arts Center, McConnell Theater
84 Alford Road, Great Barrington, MA

Baritone Daniel Belcher - Older Jim
Soprano Caroline Worra - Older Alyce
Tenor John Riesen - Younger Jim
Soprano Maria Valdes - Younger Alyce

Creative Team:
Conductor Geoffrey Larson
Stage Director Sarah Ina Meyers

Berkshire Opera Festival will mount its inaugural Second Stage production: GLORY DENIED by 2012 Guggenheim Fellow Tom Cipullo. A two-act opera scored for four singers and sung in English, Glory Denied tells the true story of Colonel Jim Thompson, America's longest-held prisoner of war, and is based on the eponymous book by journalist Tom Philpott. Written in 2007, this dynamic opera confronts Thompson's difficulties during the Vietnam War, and those that followed him after his liberation. The opera has been described by Opera News as "intimate in its presentation...and epic in its scope and effect," and has been produced more than 20 times to great critical acclaim.

It is scheduled to premiere at Bard College at Simon's Rock - Daniel Arts Center, McConnell Theater in Great Barrington, MA. The cast stars the Grammy Award-winning baritone Daniel Belcher as Older Jim. Belcher was recently seen in Philip Glass's Akhnaten at the Metropolitan Opera and came to international attention in creating the role of Prior Walter in Peter Eötvös' Angels in America for the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, for which he was hailed by The Guardian as "possessing the kind of powerhouse stuff that indicates a star in the making."

BOF will welcome back rising star soprano Maria Valdes as Younger Alyce. Valdes melted hearts as Gilda in BOF's 2018 Rigoletto. "Ravishing," wrote Parterre Box. "She was absolutely radiant, singing in lustrous tones," praised Seen and Heard.

The cast also features BOF alums soprano Caroline Worra as Older Alyce and tenor John Riesen as Younger Jim. The two wowed audiences in 2019 in BOF's American opera recital, "Ain't it a Pretty Night."


Free Concert
August 11
The Bard's influence on opera and song
Location: The Mount, 2 Plunkett Street, Lenox, MA

Berkshire Opera Festival continues its tradition of offering an annual free concert to the public. This season, it will be held for the first time at The Mount in Lenox, MA., the home of noted American author Edith Wharton, who designed the house and its grounds at the turn of the century. The estate is now a National Historic Landmark. The program, titled MUCH ADO ABOUT SHAKESPEARE, explores the enduring power and poetry of Shakespeare's language and its influence on opera and song over the centuries, and will feature members of the cast of Falstaff.


Berkshire Opera Festival will continue monitoring COVID-19 and heed all necessary safety precautions. BOF's Executive Director Abigail Rollins states: "We at BOF look optimistically to Summer 2021 which will mark our grand return to the stage with an expanded season of live, in-person performances. We are aware, however, that there are still many unknowns related to the future trajectory of the pandemic, and an ever-evolving understanding as to what precautions must be taken in every aspect of daily life in order to protect ourselves and those around us. Rest assured, we will return in a way that keeps the entire BOF community safe, both onstage and off. We will continue monitoring the evolution of the pandemic over the coming months, and announce detailed safety protocols based on the most current information from state and local officials as our festival season draws nearer."

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