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Festival Opera Presents Bellini's NORMA in July

Norma will have two performances on Friday, July 8 at 7:30pm and Sunday, July 10 at 2:00pm.

Festival Opera Presents Bellini's NORMA in July

Walnut Creek's revitalized Festival Opera, led by General Director Zachary Gordin, continues its 31st season with an all-new production of Bellini's Norma, featuring acclaimed singer Shana Blake Hill (she/her) in the title role, directed by Mark Foehringer and conducted by Bryan Nies, with the Festival Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

Norma will have two performances on Friday, July 8 at 7:30pm and Sunday, July 10 at 2:00pm in the Hofmann Theatre at the Lesher Center for the Arts, located at 1601 Civic Drive in Walnut Creek. Norma will be performed in Italian with English supertitles.

The cast features acclaimed singers Ashley Dixon as Adalgisa (she/her), Dane Suarez (he/him) as Pollione, Kevin Thompson (he/him) as Oroveso, Marcus J. Paige (he/him) as Flavio, and Lily Bogas (she/they) as Clotilde.
Tickets for Norma are available at or by phone at 925-943-7469.

Set against the struggles of culture and religion in Roman occupied Gaul, Norma is an epic story of love, lust, and the struggle for power. The druid high-priestess and daughter of King Oroveso, Norma is secretly in a love affair with a man who should be her enemy; the Roman proconsul Pollione. After years of hiding their affair - breaking Norma's vow of purity - and two children together, Pollione becomes infatuated with a young novice priestess: Norma's confidante Adalgisa.

Norma is now tasked with leading a rebellion against the Roman legions. She is in deep conflict over the fate of her children in the impending war. Adalgisa is torn between love for Pollione, betrayal of Norma and of her own vows. Pollione is driven by his desire for dominance. Betrayal, heartbreak, rage and the clash of cultures weigh heavily on this love triangle. In the end someone will have to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Packed with vocal fireworks, achingly beautiful arias and fierce characters, this iconic opera stands at the pinnacle of the bel canto repertoire. Even Wagner, who didn't like Italian opera, admired Bellini and Norma tremendously as an example of the essence of what opera can emotionally deliver.

The creative team for Norma includes - Director of Production: Frederic Boulay, Scenic Designer: Peter Crompton, Lighting Designer: Matthew Antaky, Costume Designer: Marina Polakoff, Wig & Makeup Designer: Denise Gutierrez, Chorus Master: Bruce Olstad, and Stage Manager Jennifer Hsu.

Festival Opera 's General Director Zachary Gordin, says, "Bellini's Norma will bring a stunning display of vocal fireworks to the Lesher Center for Arts, joined by the forces of our outstanding orchestra and chorus. I'm thrilled to present an incredible cast of principal artists from around the country and introduce our audience to emerging local artists on the path to major operatic careers."

Led by General Director Zachary Gordin, Festival Opera is committed to community building through culturally rich and diverse programming, increased equity and access for underrepresented communities, and producing operatic and vocal masterworks with the highest artistic standards. The company believes in a world where the historic barriers of our theatre are broken down, a world in which they can provide the community with an invitation and a safe space for all people to gather and experience the power of music.

Festival Opera was founded in 1991 by Dr. Theodore Weis, who, twenty years earlier had helped create the Arizona Opera Company in Tucson. Past leadership includes the artistic direction tenures of famed soprano Olivia Stapp, and Maestro Michael Morgan of the Oakland Symphony. Festival Opera is committed to presenting emerging and local artists in compelling and socially relevant productions of new and classic repertoire. Festival Opera gives emerging artists a venue to hone their craft in leading roles with the guidance and collaboration of established professionals - providing a vital launching pad for their professional future. FO alums have gone on to perform in major opera houses and symphony halls around the globe. Memorable past stagings include Mozart's Don Giovanni set in a contemporary nightclub, Weill's Seven Deadly Sins highlighting the human and political struggles we face, Floyd'sSusannah echoing the #metoo movement, and Massenet's Werther set in the 1950s.

Festival Opera's General & Artistic Director, Zachary Gordin, has joined a cadre of cutting-edge visionaries in opera leadership that are giving audiences and artists hope that the art form will survive and thrive in seasons to come. Gordin brings to this new role the artistic experience of a decades-long career as a critically acclaimed baritone, praised for his "arresting musical insights" and a voice that is "commanding and intense without ever descending into coarseness" (The Seattle Times); he brings a proven track record, along with a breadth of experience as an impresario, conductor, educator, artist mentor and organizational consultant. Some of his operatic highlights include Germont in La Traviata, Escamillo in Carmen, and Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor, Silvio in Pagliacci, and many others. On the concert stage, he has been hailed for his interpretations of the masterworks of Brahms, Faure, Handel, and Mozart, the orchestral song cycles of Mahler, and most frequently for Orff's Carmina Burana. His ties to composer Jake Heggie's works include critically acclaimed performances of Dead Man Walking, as the convict Joseph De Rocher, Manfred in For a Look or a Touch, and dozens of his songs performed in recitals around the US.

Of his debut as Festival Opera's Artistic Director, San Francisco Classical Voice wrote: "A gripping production of Carlisle Floyd's tragedy Susannah this past weekend made it clear that Festival Opera has returned to full production in high gear. After several years of reduced offerings, the Walnut Creek-based company, with newly appointed artistic director Zachary Gordin, brought this lush American opera to the Lesher Center with savvy stage direction and first-class music from singers and orchestra." The same publication later named FO "Best New Discovery" in their annual "Best of the Bay" awards. Gordin has since created the Festival Opera Artist Recital Series, where audiences can experience principal artists in an intimate salon setting, featuring innovative and inclusive programming. His promotion to General Director is a harbinger of many more innovations and artistically uplifting seasons for this newly restored cultural asset of the Bay Area.

Bryan Nies, conductor is the Principal Conductor of Festival Opera, former Associate Conductor of the Oakland Symphony, Lecturer at Stanford University, and continues to conduct engaging modern opera and symphonic concerts. He returned to Festival Opera to conduct performances of Mozart's Die Entführung in a Star Trek-themed production in 2016, Weill's Seven Deadly Sins in 2017, and Carlisle Floyd's Susannah in 2019. With West Edge Opera, he conducted the West Coast premiere of Laura Kaminsky's As One and has conducted Erling Wold's last three operas: Queer, Certitude and Joy (World Premiere), and Uksus. In 2012, he completed an eight-year tenure as Principal Conductor of Oakland Youth Orchestra, which he led on international tours including Costa Rica and Australia and New Zealand during the orchestra's 40th season. Nies conducted sold-out performances of Puccini's Turandot, Loesser's The Most Happy Fella, and Bizet's Carmen at Festival Opera to rave reviews that stated, "Nies is undeniably a talent to watch." In addition, he has been a cover conductor for the St. Louis Symphony, conducted performances with Opera Idaho (Cosí fan tutte and Il barbiere di Siviglia), and the Oakland Chamber Ensemble. With Eugene Onegin, Bryan made his Opera San José debut as principal conductor after serving as assistant conductor for 12 company productions between 2003 and 2012: Don Pasquale, Die Zauberflöte, The Crucible, Un ballo in maschera, Manon, La Rondine, Werther, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Die Fledermaus, La voix humaine, Pagliacci, and the West Coast premiere of Anna Karenina, becoming the second conductor to perform the work.

Pursuing an avid interest in all musical genres, Nies has also been an associate music director with American Musical Theater of San José, Theatreworks in Palo Alto, was on the faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and San Jose State University where he was director of orchestras and opera. He regularly performs in recital and has debuted his first recording "Amour sans ailes: Songs of Reynaldo Hahn" on the MSR Classics label which was named "Best Lieder Recording of 2017."

Mark Foehringer, director
Over the past 42 years in the dance industry, Mark Foehringer has created a professional dance organization, directed two pre-professional dance programs and made works for dance companies, directed operas and developed collaborative projects with musicians and other artists. He is a producer, presenter, director, teacher, choreographer and mentor. Foehringer is an internationally active choreographer and dance educator. He has directed his San Francisco based contemporary dance organization, Mark Foehringer Dance Project|SF (MFDP|SF), since 1996. He choreographed and taught throughout the US and abroad, working with organizations that include: Rambert School of Contemporary Dance in London; Ballet Nacional del Perú; Ballet San Marcos of Lima; and Cisne Negro Dance Company of Brazil. Outside of Northern California and the San Francisco Bay Area, Foehringer's company has been seen in Aruba; New York City 1999, 2000, 2005 at Joyce Theater, 2012 at Ailey Theater, 2014 at Peridance Theater, and 2018 at Lincoln Center; Perú 2007, 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2015.

Foehringer is a professor of dance at the School of Music and Dance at San José State University in San José, CA. Additionally, he has taught at Dominican University/Lines Ballet BFA (professor); Stanford University (guest teacher); San Francisco State University(residency) and guested with many companies and schools in the Bay Area. Beyond work for dance companies and educational programs, Foehringer has collaborated on productions with Festival Opera, West Bay Opera, San Francisco Conservatory of Music and Children's Creativity Museum of San Francisco. For Festival Opera, Foehringer has directed productions of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Gounod's Faust, Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, Verdi's La Traviata, Leoncavallo's Pagliacci and Kurt Weill's The Seven Deadly Sins, and Floyd's Susannah.

Tickets: Box office: (925) 943-7469

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