Opera Saratoga Announces Additional Events and Updated Casting for 2019 Summer Festival

Opera Saratoga Announces Additional Events and Updated Casting for 2019 Summer Festival

Opera Saratoga's Artistic and General Director Lawrence Edelson announced today updated casting and additional events to be featured as part of the company's 2019 Summer Festival, beginning May 25th, 2019 and running through July 14th, 2019. In addition to the three previously announced productions of The Daughter of the Regiment, the world premiere of Ellen West, and Hansel and Gretel, Opera Saratoga will present a new series of master classes; a community symposium on Ellen West at Skidmore College; multiple free concerts for the community; a celebration of the music and lyrics of George and Ira Gershwin; a one-night-only opera in concert featuring the company's first Russian opera, Rimsky-Korsakov's Mozart and Salieri; and Opera on the Lake, the annual Opera Saratoga gala on the shores of Lake George.

Subscriptions, single tickets for all performances and events, as well as complete casting, production detail, and a multi-media preview of the season, are available online at www.operasaratoga.org.

The first opera of the season will be Gaetano Donizetti's sparkling French comedy, La Fille du Régiment (The Daughter of the Regiment), which returns to the company for the first time in 17 years. This new production, directed by Lawrence Edelson, will feature the company debut of Argentinian Bel Canto tenor Santiago Ballerini in the role of Tonio, famous for the bravura aria 'Pour mon âme' in which the tenor sings a succession of nine high Cs in one of opera's greatest showpieces. Two alumni of Opera Saratoga's Young Artist Program return to make their principal artist debuts with the company this season: soprano Keely Futterer as Marie, the Daughter of the Regiment; and Alex Soare as Sergeant Sulpice. Andrew Bisantz (Le nozze di Figaro, 2016; The Consul, 2018) returns to Opera Saratoga to conduct.

Balancing tradition with innovation, the second production of the season will be the World Premiere of Ellen West. Through the evocative poetry of Pulitzer Prize winner Frank Bidart and the beautiful music of Ricky Ian Gordon, this co-commission and co-production between Opera Saratoga and Beth Morrison Projects explores the emotional, psychological and physical challenges of a woman struggling with perceptions of her body, her relationship with food, and the world closing in around her. Inspired by one of the earliest cases of existential analysis, the opera brings the audience into the lives of psychiatrist Ludwig Binswanger and his patient, "Ellen West." Throughout her life, Ellen filled journals and wrote poetry. Frank Bidart's poem, which serves as the primary source for the opera's libretto, juxtaposes the clinical observations of Binswanger with fictitious entries of Ellen's writing, which shine light on her deeply personal struggles. This tour de force chamber opera stars soprano Jennifer Zetlan in her Opera Saratoga debut as Ellen, alongside baritone Keith Phares (Le nozze di Figaro, 2016) as her doctor. The world premiere production is directed by Emma Griffin, also in her Opera Saratoga debut, with Lidiya Yankovskaya (Zémire et Azor, 2016) at the podium.

The third production of the season brings Humperdinck's classic Hänsel und Gretel (Hansel and Gretel) back to Opera Saratoga for the first time in 29 years in a boundary-breaking production by the Chicago-based theater company Manual Cinema, originally created for La Monnaie in Brussels. Manual Cinema combines handmade shadow puppetry and cinematic techniques to create immersive visual stories for stage and screen. Using vintage overhead projectors, puppets, actors, and live feed cameras, Manual Cinema's production of Hansel and Gretel is a remarkable hybrid between attending the cinema and the opera. Opera Saratoga presents the East Coast Premiere of this truly unique version of one of the most beloved operas in the repertoire, featuring members of Opera Saratoga's Young Artist Program in all of the principal roles, with a guest appearance by members of the Children's Chorus of the Glens Falls Symphony.

"The 2019 Summer Festival continues Opera Saratoga's commitment to presenting masterworks from the operatic canon, and to fostering the creation of important new works," explained Edelson. "I am very excited to feature two operas this season that have not been seen in Saratoga Springs for many years. In addition to our productions of more traditional repertoire, over the past four years we have introduced the work of five American composers and one Scottish composer to our audiences, and highly theatrical productions have become part of the identity of Opera Saratoga. While opera entertains, I also believe strongly that it is a lens through which we can look at the world around us. We are thrilled to partner with Beth Morrison Projects to commission and produce the World Premiere of Ellen West, a beautiful and heartbreaking opera by a remarkable pair of artists. Composer Ricky Ian Gordon's career has included critically acclaimed operas, musicals, and songs, performed by a veritable who's who of American singers across the country; and poet Frank Bidart, winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize, has an extraordinary way of entering into the soul with astonishing insight. The World Premiere of Ellen West is not to be missed."

In tandem with the world premiere production of Ellen West this summer, Opera Saratoga is presenting a special, free Community Symposium at Skidmore College's Filene Hall on Monday, June 17th at 7:00pm: Ellen West and Disordered Eating: The Intersection of Art, Understanding, and Empathy.

Frank Bidart's poem Ellen West, upon which the opera is based, was inspired by a real-life, early 20th-century woman who suffered from body dysmorphia and ultimately succumbed to its bedfellow, bulimia. Using "Ellen West" as a pseudonym for his patient, Swiss psychiatrist Ludwig Binswanger published The Case of Ellen West: An Anthropological-Clinical Study in 1944, which remains a well-known and historically important case study in the field today. Dr. Binswanger's paper was among the first to pay attention to a patient's struggle of death anxiety and death obsession alongside the struggle with body image and bulimia.

"One of the most important roles Opera Saratoga plays is to engage with important societal issues through the lens of opera," explained Edelson. "The unique fusion of poetry and music that one finds in opera allows for exploration of a wide variety of deeply relevant subjects for contemporary society. While we know that opera entertains - it can do much more. The poetry and music of opera allow us to look at the world with fresh perspective, find common ground with others, and foster understanding and empathy."

Advance registration is highly recommended as space is limited. Registration is available online at: http://www.operasaratoga.org/ellen-west

In addition to the three fully staged operas this season, Opera Saratoga presents a diverse slate of concerts, along with a new series of master classes that provide the public a unique perspective on how singers learn new music, develop their voices, and prepare their roles for the stage.

Free concerts this season include the fifth annual Stars of Tomorrow on Saturday, May 25th at 7pm at Skidmore College's Filene Hall, which introduces the community to the 2019 Festival Artists selected to participate in Opera Saratoga's prestigious Young Artist Program; and a special Walt Whitman Bicentennial Celebration, featuring poetry by the great American poet and "father of free verse" set to music by a wide variety of composers, presented in partnership with Hubbard Hall on Friday May, 31st at 7pm - the date of Whitman's 200th birthday.

Opera Saratoga returns to The Mansion Inn in Rock City Falls for Gershwin @ The Mansion Inn, a very special concert featuring opera and musical theater selections by George and Ira Gershwin and their many collaborators, including music from Porgy and Bess, Of Thee I Sing, Girl Crazy, Lady in the Dark, Blue Monday, and The Firebrand of Florence, among many others. The Mansion Inn features cabaret style table seating, with a delicious menu of Gershwin inspired food and drink available for purchase from Cordon Bleu trained Executive Chef Rick Bieber. Two performances are presented on Sunday, June 2nd, at 2pm (sold out), and 7pm. Tickets are available for $60.

The 2019 Festival Artists are also featured this season in Mozart and Salieri, on Thursday, July 11th at 7:30pm at The Spa Little Theater. Well before the movie Amadeus, the imagined rivalry between Mozart and Salieri inspired Pushkin's poetry, which Rimsky-Korsakov set as a haunting chamber opera. While there is, in fact, virtually no evidence that the relationship between the two composers was contentious, the death of Mozart at the age of 35 was followed by rumors that he and Salieri had been bitter rivals, which of course makes for great theater. Opera Saratoga presents a one-night only concert of scenes from operas by Mozart and Salieri - showcasing the theatrical music of both composers - followed by a concert staging of Rimsky-Korsakov's psychological drama, the first Russian opera in Opera Saratoga's history. Tickets are available for $95/$72.50/$50.

As we celebrate the return of La Fille du Régiment (The Daughter of the Regiment) to Saratoga Springs this summer, Metropolitan Opera coach Bénédicte Jourdois leads a master class on Thursday, June 6th at 6:30pm with pianist/singer teams from Opera Saratoga's Young Artist Program to explore treasures and rarities from the French operatic repertoire. In tandem with Opera Saratoga's first Russian language opera this summer (Mozart and Salieri), acclaimed conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya leads a master class on Thursday, June 13th at 6:30pm to explore masterpieces from the Russian operatic repertoire. Both of these events are free and will take place at The Saratoga Springs Public Library.

Advance registration for all free events is available online, and is highly recommended due to space limitations at each venue: www.operasaratoga.org/2019-summer-concerts

Tickets for Gershwin @ The Mansion Inn, A Master Class with Ricky Ian Gordon, and Mozart and Salieri are available at www.operasaratoga.org/single-tickets or by calling 518.584.6018.

The company's annual gala, Opera on the Lake, will be held this year on Sunday, June 9th, 2019 at 4:30pm at The Inn at Erlowest on Lake George. The Honorary Chairs for Opera on the Lake are Judy and Jeff Killeen, passionate supporters of Opera Saratoga and champions of the arts throughout the region. The Killeens have been instrumental in the legacy of Opera Saratoga, serving a combined 12 years on the Opera Saratoga board of trustees, and sponsoring numerous individual artists and mainstage productions. Judy and Jeff join Gala Chair Steve Rosenblum in celebrating the important role that Opera Saratoga plays in the artistic and community life of the lower Adirondack and Capital Regions.

Cocktails and dinner overlooking the lake, a live auction of exclusive experiences, a raffle featuring several unique items, and a special program of opera and song will highlight this very special evening, which is Opera Saratoga's most important fundraising event of the year. Net proceeds from Opera on the Lake will benefit Opera Saratoga's extensive community and educational programs, and the 2019 Summer Festival.

Tickets for Opera on the Lake are available for $175, with Honorary Committee tickets available for $300 and $475. For information on Opera on the Lake, or to purchase tickets, visit www.operasaratoga.org/opera-on-the-lake-2019 or call Jonathan Blalock, Development and Patron Services Manager, at 518.584.6018

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