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Boston Lyric Opera to Close Out Season with THE MERRY WIDOW, Today

Boston, MA - April 7, 2016 - Boston Lyric Opera closes its 2015/16 Season with composer Franz Lehár's classic comic operetta The Merry Widow, whose light-hearted fun within the fictional Pontevedrian Embassy in Paris plays out among international diplomats as the dark clouds of World War I gather on the horizon. This new BLO production of The Merry Widowopens April 29 for a five-performance run through May 8 at the Citi Performing Arts CenterSMShubert Theatre in Boston.

The Merry Widow marks the company debut for Canadian soprano Erin Wall as Hanna Glawari, here an ex-Ziegfeld girl and a rich young widow whose countrymen scheme to find her a suitable second husband who will keep her - and her husband's fortune - under the auspices of Pontevedro. Tenor Roger Honeywell makes his company debut as Count Danilo, the Pontevedrian nobleman long in love with Hanna whose family had disapproved of the previously penniless girl. Opera Annex alumnus Andrew Wilkowske (2011's The Emperor of Atlantis) appears as the frivolous and money-driven Baron Mirko Zeta. Tenor John Tessierreturns to BLO as the French military attaché Camille de Rosillon who pursues Baroness Valencienne Zeta, played by BLO 2014/15 Jane & Steven Akin Emerging Artist sopranoChelsea Basler (2015's Don Giovanni).

Based on the original libretto by Victor Léon and Leo Stein, the updated book for this production was conceived by stage director Lillian Groag and BLO Artistic Advisor John Conklin. This Merry Widow conjures Europe at the start of the 20th century, perhaps the last time the continent would be a place for trivial frivolity and noble chivalry. Hanna and Danilo's comedic love story remains despite warning signs of impending dark days ahead; the operetta's lovable characters carry on with disregard for political and social problems bubbling under the sheen of the times. Uniformed dignitaries from many countries populate the Pontevedrian Embassy's stunning Grand Hall and garden, where the action takes place, laying a distinctly edgier political tone on the more playful personal distractions.

BLO's new production boasts lavish and colorful Viennese Art Nouveau-inspired sets designed by BLO Artistic Advisor John Conklin, and conductor Alexander Joel makes his American debut. The production features lighting design by Robert Wierzel, choreography by Kyle Lang, who makes his company debut, and detailed period costumes by acclaimed Boston costume designer Gail Astrid Buckley.

"Lehar's The Merry Widow offers a dazzling range of quickly changing musical colors and plenty of infectious tunes to showcase an impressive line up of singers," says Esther Nelson,BLO's Stanford Calderwood General & Artistic Director. "The sparkling music combined with the witty book, harnessing the Zeitgeist of the end of an era, makes this a timeless masterpiece."

THE CAST

Erin Wall - Canadian soprano Erin Wall makes her Boston opera premiere with BLO's The Merry Widow as Hanna Glawari. Her recent highlights include Boston Symphony Orchestra's Tanglewood 75th anniversary celebration, the title role in Arabella and Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream - both at the Metropolitan Opera - and Elgar's oratorio The Kingdom on the first night of the BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall. Erin's recording of Strauss' Vier Letzte Lieder with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) and Sir Andrew Davis was released in 2014 to critical acclaim and was followed by tour performances with MSO in the Concergebouw and at the Edinburgh Festival.

Roger Honeywell - Canadian tenor Roger Honeywell makes his company debut as Count Danilo, a role he reprises after performing as Danilo at Michigan Opera Theatre in the 2014/15 Season. Roger recently debuted with the Théâtre du Châtelet as Torasso in Sondheim's Passionand appeared in the world premiere of Jennifer Higdon's Cold Mountain in the role of Veasey with the Santa Fe Opera. He also returned to Calgary as Nikolaus Sprink for the Canadian premiere of Kevin Puts' Silent Night and Einstein in Die Fledermaus with Vancouver Opera.

John Tessier - Award-winning Canadian tenor John Tessier returns to BLO to sing Camille de Rosillon, after his recent performance in I Puritani. Recent engagements include two productions at Seattle Opera: Nadir in Les Pêcheurs de Perles, which he also sang at English National Opera, and as Leicester in Maria Stuarda. On the concert stage, highlights include the Mozart Requiem with Jaap van Zweden and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra; Händel's Messiahwith Robert Porco and the Cleveland Orchestra; and Sir Paul McCartney's Liverpool Oratoriowith Ty Patterson conducting the Ottawa Singers.

Chelsea Basler - Boston resident and former BLO 2014/15 Emerging Artist Chelsea Basler plays Baroness Valencienne Zeta. An award-winning soprano, Chelsea last appeared with BLO as Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Flora in La Traviata, Isolt in The Love Potion and Glasha in Kátya Kabanová. She joined BLO as an Emerging Artist in the 2013/14 Season when she appeared as Papagena in Mozart's The Magic Flute and sang the roles of Margret in Lizzie Borden and Countess Ceprano in Rigoletto. Basler was awarded the Richard F. Gold Career Grant by the Shoshana Foundation in 2012 and in 2011 won the Peter Elvins Vocal Competition and Boston University's Kahn Career Entry Award. She recently sang the title role in Pasadena Opera's production of Susannah, and shared the stage with Roger Honeywell in Santa Fe Opera's Cold Mountain as Sara.

Andrew Wilkowske - Known for his versatility, baritone Andrew Wilkowske returns to BLO as Baron Mirko Zeta and was seen at BLO last as Emperor Overall in the 2011 critically-acclaimed, Opera Annex production of The Emperor of Atlantis. Andrew's voice was recently showcased in Verdi's King for a Day as La Rocca at Glimmerglass Festival. This season, he was seen twice at Minnesota Opera, first as Geronte in Manon Lescaut followed by Papageno in The Magic Flute as well as Ponchel in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Silent Night with Cincinnati Opera, a role he created in 2011 with Minnesota Opera. In addition, Andrew performed in the critically-acclaimed rock recital Guns N' Rosenkavalier with the Milwaukee Opera Theatre and Glimmerglass Festival, a project he created with composer John Glover.

THE CREATIVE TEAM

Lillian Groag (Stage Director) - Argentinean-born director Lillian Groag brings BLO a brand new book with The Merry Widow. Lillian recently directed The Girl of the Golden West for Opera Omaha, War Music at the American Conservatory Theater, Figaro for Opera San Jose and contributed to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's project Play on! 36 playwrights translate Shakespeare. In addition, she directed Tosca and La Bohème with Virginia Opera, and her written works include The Ladies of the Camellias, The Magic Fire and The White Rose. Her previous work at BLO includes Madama Butterfly and Idomeneo.

Alexander Joel (Conductor) - Alexander Joel, who grew up in London and Vienna, makes his North American debut with Boston Lyric Opera. He recently debuted with Opéra de Marseille (Manon), Opernhaus Zürich (Turandot). He regularly conducts at Grand Théâtre de Genève, and returned to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, for his third season with Carmen, having conducted La Traviata and La Bohème. On the concert platform, his highlights include his symphonic debut with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande

John Conklin (Set Designer/BLO Artistic Advisor) - John Conklin has designed sets on and off-Broadway, at the Kennedy Center, and for opera companies around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Bastille Opera in Paris, and The Royal Opera, among others. Locally, his work has been seen in Boston Lyric Opera's Werther (2015), I Puritani (2014), The Magic Flute (2013), Madama Butterfly (2012), and Macbeth (2011), as well as at the American Repertory Theater and Boston Ballet. Additionally, Mr. Conklin develops lecture series and community events for BLO that enrich the audience experience and strengthen the presence of opera in Boston's arts community. He is on the faculty at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and was a recipient of the 2011 NEA Opera Honors.

Robert Wierzel (Lighting Designer) - Robert Wierzel returns to Boston Lyric Opera after having worked with artists from diverse disciplines and backgrounds in opera on stages throughout the country and abroad. Productions with the opera companies of Paris Palais-Garnier, Tokyo, Toronto, Folk Opera in Sweden, New York City Opera, Glimmerglass, San Francisco, Houston, Chicago Lyric, Vancouver, Portland, among others. Robert is currently a faculty member of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, Department of Design for Stage & Film in New York City.

Kyle Lang (Choreographer) - Kyle Lang's career includes directing operas around the country and choreography, having performed as a soloist and in the corps de ballet with The Metropolitan Opera, among others. This season, Kyle choreographed The Merry Widow with Utah Opera, which he also assistant directed for San Diego Opera. He recently directed La Bohème for Virginia Opera, L'Enfant et Les Sortileges and Gianni Schicchi at Simpson College, Don Quixote and the Duchess at Central City Opera and Dead Man Walking for Opera Fayetteville.

Gail Astrid Buckley (Costume Designer) - Boston-based costume designer Gail Buckley has worked with BLO for nearly 20 years in a number of capacities, and The Merry Widow marks her debut as solo costume designer. Her recent work includes The Christmas Carol at The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts, Casa Valentina with SpeakEasy Stage Company, My Fair Lady at Lyric Stage Company of Boston and Sweet and Sad at Gloucester Stage Company. Gail has earned two "Small Theater: Best Costume Design" awards from The Independent Reviewers of New England and a win for "Outstanding Design, Midsize, Small or Fringe Company" from The Ellie Norton Awards.

PERFORMANCE AND TICKET INFORMATION

Boston Lyric Opera's The Merry Widow runs April 29, May 1, 4, 6 and 8 at the Citi Performing Arts CenterSM Shubert Theatre, 265 Tremont Street, Boston, with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 3 p.m.

Tickets are $25-$175 and are available online at blo.org/ tickets, by phone at 866.348.9738(TTY 888.889.8587), and in person at the Citi Performing Arts CenterSM Box Office at 270 Tremont Street, Boston. The Box Office is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 12 noon to 6 p.m. and at the Shubert Theatre one hour before curtain. Group and student tickets are available through BLO Audience Services at 617.542.6772 or boxoffice@blo.org. Learn more at blo.org.

Pre-Performance Talks are given one hour before each performance and are free to all ticket holders. Explore the production's history and how music and design interact to create dynamic performances, while hearing about performance highlights and unique BLO touches to watch for.

New season subscriptions will be available in May through blo.org/subscribe, or by contacting BLO's Audience Services at 617.542.6772 or boxoffice@blo.org.



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