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Des Moines Metro Opera Announces 50th Anniversary Season And $15 Million Endowment Campaign

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Des Moines Metro Opera's 50th Season begins on March 5, 2022, with a special family-friendly production of The Magic Flute by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Des Moines Metro Opera Announces 50th Anniversary Season And $15 Million Endowment Campaign

Des Moines Metro Opera's General and Artistic Director Michael Egel announced today the repertory for the company's 50th Anniversary Season alongside the launch of the public phase of a $15 million fundraising campaign, 50 Next: Giving Voice to the Future. "I believe that every arts leader's top job is to create an exciting portfolio of 'wow' projects that will invigorate audiences, expand communities and inspire artists. That's our objective each season, but in curating the slate of works for our 50th anniversary, we'll do so in a major way," said Egel. "With these elements in place, we've seen that loyal and engaged friends and donors have responded positively. The success of the silent leadership phase of our campaign secures the vision of Des Moines Metro Opera for the next generation and allows us to imagine future growth from a position of strength."

The 50th Anniversary Season
Des Moines Metro Opera's 50th Season begins on March 5, 2022, with a special family-friendly production of The Magic Flute by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at the Des Moines Civic Center. This will be the Iowa debut of the Komische Oper Berlin's colorful, projection-based production from the creative minds of Barrie Kosky and Suzanne Andrade. Called "a dazzling and adorable live cartoon" (Los Angeles Times), The Magic Flute utilizes silent film-style projections that interact with the cast in a stunning visual spectacle. For the first time in the organization's history, DMMO will collaborate with the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra in the pit.

The 50th Season continues with the 2022 Summer Festival, featuring four new productions running July 1 through July 24, including the world premiere of A Thousand Acres by Kristin Kuster and Mark Campbell, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Iowa author Jane Smiley; a new production of Benjamin Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream; the Iowa premiere of Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin, DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, and Ira Gershwin in a new production that honors Iowa native and international opera star, Simon Estes, who will sing the role of Lawyer Frazier and serve as Producing Advisor; and a new production of Damien Geter and Lila Palmer's new opera American Apollo about Thomas Eugene McKeller, a Black model who served as inspiration for iconic mural painter and famous portraitist, John Singer Sargent, presented at the Des Moines Art Center in partnership with Pyramid Theatre Company and the Des Moines Art Center.

Full cast and production information can be found below.

50 Next: Giving Voice to the Future
"For 50 years, Des Moines Metro Opera has cultivated a reputation for artistic excellence coupled with fiscal responsibility. Events of the last two years have made clear the need and the opportunity we have to focus on long-term sustainability," said Egel. The goal of the 50 Next fundraising initiative is two-fold: celebrating a milestone achievement through new artistic initiatives while securing the future of the organization and its education and community engagement programming. Funds raised in the campaign will benefit the Des Moines Metro Opera Foundation.

The launch of the public phase comes as DMMO has reached 85% of the $15 million goal. To date, $12.7 million in cash and estate gifts has been raised. The quiet phase of the campaign was conducted during the peak of the pandemic, and leadership gifts were secured from individual and institutional donors who have been long-time champions of the arts in Des Moines. With the launch of the public phase of this campaign, DMMO aims to exceed its goal of $15 million by the opening night of its 2022 Summer Festival Season next July, marking its 50th anniversary.

More than 115 donors have participated to date, exceeding DMMO's goal for the quiet phase of the campaign. This included a $2 million leadership gift from Nix and Virginia Lauridsen, a Des Moines-based couple with a distinguished history of philanthropy throughout central Iowa and beyond. Additional major leadership gifts have been received by Linda and Tom Koehn, who pledged $1.5 million and are serving as Honorary Chairs of the campaign, and long-time opera enthusiast Frank R. Brownell III of Montezuma, who committed $1 million in support of DMMO's acclaimed Apprentice Artist Program for young singers. 11 additional individual donors and family foundations have committed cash gifts of between $100,000 to $500,000 including Charlotte and Fred Hubbell, the estate of Robert L. Larsen, Nancy Main, Dr. Craig and Kimberly Shadur, Harry Bookey and Pamela Bass-Bookey, Janis and John Ruan, Stan and Mary Seidler, Chérie and Bob Shreck, Kate and Tom Carey, Dr. John Graether, Dan and Mary Kelly, and the Daniel J. and Ann L. Krumm Charitable Trust.

In addition, each of the 32 past presidents of the Board of Directors or their family members have made gifts of support for the campaign. "It is my honor to have known each and every one of our Board's past presidents since 1973. That they all continued to be or still are deeply committed to the cause of opera in Iowa throughout their lives and that their family members carry that dedication forward is a tribute to a tremendous legacy of involvement. It is a devotion that is inspiring and humbling," said Egel. The 50 Next: Giving Voice to the Future campaign cabinet was led by Susan Voss, Virginia Lauridsen, Chérie Shreck, Mollie Baker, Nancy Main and Craig Shadur. The Honorary Chairs are Linda and Tom Koehn.

Additional production information:

The productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Porgy and Bess and A Thousand Acres will be performed in rotating repertory in the intimate 467-seat Pote Theatre at the Blank Performing Arts Center in Indianola, Iowa. The Magic Flute will be presented at the Des Moines Civic Center and American Apollo will be performed at the Des Moines Art Center. Both productions are part of the Company's popular 2nd Stages Series, an initiative committed to creating collaborative performances designed to engage new audiences in unique spaces. Each opera features English supertitles projected from two locations above the stage. The Des Moines Metro Opera Festival Orchestra, made up of professional musicians from across the country, will accompany all three mainstage productions and American Apollo. The Des Moines Symphony Orchestra will accompany The Magic Flute.

Past subscribers are eligible to renew their Summer Festival Season subscriptions throughout the month of January. New subscriptions will go on sale to the public on February 1. Single tickets go on sale February 15. Full production and ticket information is available at www.desmoinesmetroopera.org. For any questions regarding the 50th Anniversary Season or tickets, call the Des Moines Metro Opera box office at (515) 961-6221.

For more information or to interview DMMO's General and Artistic Director, Michael Egel, please contact Scott Arens at sarens@dmmo.org or 515-961-6221.

* denotes DMMO debut artist

THE MAGIC FLUTE

Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder
Two public performances: March 5 and 6
Sung in German with English supertitles.

A production of the Komische Oper Berlin
Co-Produced by Los Angeles Opera and Minnesota Opera
Production by Suzanne Andrade and Barrie Kosky
Animation by Paul Barrit
Concept by "1927" (Suzanne Andrade and Paul Barrit) and Barrie Kosky
Stage Design and Costumes by Esther Bialas
Original Co-Director: Barrie Kosky*
Original Co-Director: Suzanne Andrade*
Conductor: Christopher Allen*
Revival Director: Erik Friedman*
Tamino: Aaron Blake*
The Queen of the Night: Audrey Luna
Papageno: Andrew Wilkowske*
Monostatos: John Robert Lindsey

"This is not your customary Magic Flute," said Michael Egel, DMMO's General & Artistic Director. "Komische Oper's Barrie Kosky is a visionary who challenges us to think of theatrical spaces differently. His bright, technicolor production combines silent movies with children's cartoons and folk art for a captivating family-friendly experience."

Prepare to be astonished as Mozart meets the movies in this inventive and dazzling celebration of true love conquering all. This charming interpretation of Mozart's most famous opera puts the singers in front of a huge screen, interacting in real time with animations projected all around them, creating the impression that gigantic comic strip collages are coming to life right before your eyes! The fable centers around noble Prince Tamino and bird catcher Papageno's quest to rescue Pamina, the Queen of the Night's daughter. During their journey, the two are tested as they overcome evil to discover the truth and gain enlightenment.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM

Music by Benjamin Britten
Libretto by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, after the play by Shakespeare
Four performances: July 2-23
Sung in English with English supertitles

A new Des Moines Metro Opera production
Director: Chas Rader-Shieber
Scenic and Costume Design: Jacob A. Climer
Oberon: John Holiday
Tytania: Sydney Mancasola
Bottom: Barnaby Rea*
Lysander: Isaiah Bell*
Demetrius: Alexander Birch Elliott
Flute: Karim Sulayman*
Quince: Matt Boehler
Snug: Wei Wu*
Snout: Corey Trahan

Benjamin Britten's opera is based on Shakespeare's popular comedy, following the consequences of a falling-out between the fairy-king Oberon and his queen, Tytania. Mistaken identities, confused lovers and alarming transformations are the result. From the sliding string chords of the magic wood to the rustics' well-intentioned entertainment, Britten's ear for beguiling orchestration and melodic invention will enchant and entice. Countertenor John Holiday and soprano Sydney Mancasola lead the cast in an all-new production created by Chas Rader-Shieber and Jacob A. Climer as we return to a work that stands as one of Des Moines Metro Opera's signature operas.

"Britten's effervescent opera based on Shakespeare's magical story and text has been featured prominently twice before in pivotal seasons. It was our first joint broadcast with Iowa PBS in 1979 and returned for the 35th anniversary season in 2007. In fact, the mischievous character Puck sat atop DMMO's logo for over 40 years! A new production featuring John Holiday and the creative teams behind Rusalka (2018) and last season's brilliant Platée will ensure that Midsummer is a jewel of the 50th anniversary season," said Egel.

PORGY AND BESS

Music by George Gershwin,
Lyrics by Ira Gershwin
Libretto by DuBose Heyward
Premiered 30 September 1935
Seven performances: July 1-24
Sung in English with English supertitles

A new Des Moines Metro Opera production. Company premiere.
Director: Tazewell Thompson*
Conductor: Michael Ellis Ingram*
Producing Advisor: Simon Estes*
Scenic Design: R. Keith Brumley
Lighting Designer: Robert Wierzel*
Porgy: Kevin Deas*
Bess: Michelle Johnson*
Serena: Leah Hawkins*
Crown: Norman Garrett
Sportin' Life: Jermaine Smith*
Lawyer Frazier: Simon Estes*

Hailed as the first American opera, Porgy and Bess has garnered critical acclaim and inspired passionate reactions since its premiere. Featuring some of the most beautiful and beloved songs ever written, a wealth of musical excellence pours out of a neighborhood that oppression can't keep down. Porgy and Bess shines a light on a chapter from our past as culturally challenging as its songs and characters are universally cherished. The work sparks conversations that are as passionate and relevant today as ever. Our production will be offered in collaboration with and in honor of Iowa's own international opera star Simon Estes on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of his historic Metropolitan Opera debut. He will serve as Producing Advisor for the Iowa premiere of what is perhaps the greatest American opera, work that began over three years ago. In addition, Estes has also agreed to appear in the opera, singing the role of the Lawyer Frazier who has a single, memorable song midway through the opera. "I have performed Porgy and Bess on 4 different continents and at the Metropolitan Opera house in New York. This is the greatest American opera ever composed. I feel very blessed that Michael Egel has asked for my advice regarding the production," said Estes. An event honoring Simon Estes will coincide with opening night of the production on July 1, 2022.

A THOUSAND ACRES

Music by Kristin Kuster; Libretto by Mark Campbell
Based on the novel by Jane Smiley
Five performances: July 9-22
Sung in English with English supertitles

A world premiere production.
Conductor: David Neely
Director: Kristine McIntyre
Scenic and Projection Design: Luke Cantarella*
Lighting Design: Kate Ashton
Costume Design: Valérie T. Bart*
Ginny: Elise Quagliata
Rose: Sara Gartland
Caroline: Grace Kahl
Larry: Roger Honeywell
Ty: Keith Phares
Jess: John Moore
Marv Carson: Wei Wu*

A Thousand Acres is family drama writ large. It is a story of great scope and broad appeal with distinctive characters. It explores ideas of family conflict, patriarchy, legacy and the strength and fragility of the ties that bind us together. This powerful reimagining of Shakespeare's King Lear, set on an Iowa farm in the late 1970s, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Ambassador Book Award for Fiction. When Larry Cook, a prominent farmer, announces at a family gathering that he has decided to divide the family's thousand acres among his three daughters, it sets off a series of events that culminate in dramatic reckoning where all the buried family secrets are finally laid bare. "As this seminal novel approaches its own 30th anniversary later this year, the occasion is right to bring the words of a major American novelist to life on the opera stage," said Egel. "The choice of A Thousand Acres for an opera company in Iowa is the perfect melding of subject and locale and an ideal one for us to develop and produce in celebration of our 50th Anniversary. The novel is perfectly placed in history to receive an operatic treatment - modern enough that we know these characters and their stories but just distant enough to provide some perspective and lend the story a universality that will make it an enduring contribution to the American repertory." This world premiere opera will have its debut on July 9, 2022, and author Jane Smiley will be in attendance that evening.

AMERICAN APOLLO

Music by Damien Geter; Libretto by Lila Palmer
Three performances: July 20-23
Presented in collaboration with Pyramid Theatre Company and the Des Moines Art Center

A new Des Moines Metro Opera production. Company premiere.
Conductor: David Neely
Thomas McKeller: Justin Austin*

American Apollo is a new opera based on a story forged at the crossroad of celebrity, class, race, and power in America, giving voice to a pivotal figure in American art: Thomas Eugene McKeller, a Black model who served as inspiration for the famous portraitist, John Singer Sargent. With special contributions from Sargent scholar Nathaniel Silver and drawing on the recent Gardner Museum exhibition Boston's Apollo, this tale of individual courage and breathtaking vulnerability peels the varnish off venerable historical figures to reveal the beating heart and simmering desire beneath Sargent's only uncommissioned monumental male nude. A short performance, discussion, and lecture with Gardner curator Dr. Nathaniel Silver will be presented in July 2022 in collaboration with the Des Moines Art Center and Pyramid Theatre. "American Apollo is a piece that delves into issues related to race, class, and sexuality, which were glossed over during Thomas McKeller's lifetime," said composer Damien Geter. "Given the climate and conversations happening today, it is our hope that we might give the characters in this opera the opportunity to reckon with these issues, even if only in spirit. The opportunity to revisit and expand this work allows us to more deeply consider their situations with the hope that we will be able to express that which makes us more alike than different, more human than not."


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