Renée Fleming, World Premieres, And More Set For Santa Fe Opera 2019 Season
Santa Fe Opera's General Director Charles MacKay and General Director Designate Robert Meya announced today the repertory, principal singers, conductors, directors, and designers for the company's 63rd season in 2019, along with updates to the 2018 season, which opens June 29. Joining MacKay and Meya were Santa Fe Opera Board of Directors President Susan G. Marineau, and Director of Education and Community Programs Andrea Fellows Walters.
The President gave a brief report on the status of the Setting the Stage Campaign, "I am thrilled to announce that we have reached our overall goal of $45 million for the 'Setting the Stage Campaign.' $1.15 million remains to be raised toward our $38 million cash goal. We hope to achieve this, in part, through the Opera's ongoing Seat Naming Campaign, which so far has amassed over $1 million. We look forward in a future season to acknowledge these donors electronically with a new seat back title system, which is currently in development."
Marineau also shared, "Thanks to friends across the country, we have established the Charles MacKay Fund for Debut Artists, with a goal of raising $1 million to sustain in perpetuity Charles' extraordinary legacy of providing debut opportunities for singers, conductors, directors, designers, and choreographers at The Santa Fe Opera. To date, $785,000 has been raised through our Gala last month in New York at The Metropolitan Club, and through gifts directly to the fund."
Marineau closed, "Finally, and on behalf of the Board, I thank the untiring diligence of our search committee - Susan Morris, Sarah Billinghurst, Peter Townsend, and Chuck Moore - who reviewed and interviewed an incredibly talented pool of candidates in the search for the next General Director of The Santa Fe Opera. Robert Meya is the best qualified successor to the legacy set before him by John Crosby, Richard Gaddes, and Charles MacKay. The Santa Fe Opera's Board of Directors looks forward to the bright future of the company in the trusted hands of Robert Meya, and in his appointment of our first Artistic Director, Alexander Neef, and our Music Director, Harry Bicket."
On behalf of the Opera for All Voices consortium, the Opera's Director of Education and Community Programs Andrea Fellows Walters announced two more commissions selected via an invitational process, moderated by Kip Cranna, Dramaturg at San Francisco Opera, and adjudicated by a panel of jurists with a diverse and accomplished background working in opera. The commissioned teams are composer David Hanlon and librettist Stephanie Fleischmann with The Pigeon Fancier, and composer Chandler Carter and librettist Diana Solomon-Glover with This Little Light of Mine. Development continues on the two works that launched the initiative, Postville by composer Laura Kaminsky and librettist Kimberly Reed, and Sweet Potato Kicks the Sun by composer Augusta Read Thomas and librettist Lesley Dunton-Downer with beatbox sensation Nicole Paris joining the production as lead artist. In keeping with the theme of "all voices" it was announced that episodes of Key Change, a podcast created for Opera for All Voices, will be available for download starting June 29."
The 2019 season presents five operas in 36 performances, a special recital by celebrated American soprano Rene?e Fleming with the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra, and two Apprentice Scenes performances, running from June 28 to August 24, 2019. The Opera's 63rd season, the first to be led by incoming General Director Robert Meya, Artistic Director Alexander Neef, and Music Director Harry Bicket, will explore classic works of the repertory as well as operas new to the Santa Fe Opera and the world's stage.
The seamstress and the poet. The singer and the painter. The musician. The philosopher. Young and poor and consumed with love, they led "charming and terrible lives" in 19th-century Paris. They lived in Latin Quarter garrets, furnished mostly with hope for the future. They fraternized with famous writers and artists at the Cafe? Momus, finding a place in a rapidly changing society. They tasted the freedom and perils of a freelance economy; and endured epidemics of passion and jealousy, hunger and disease.
Puccini's boisterous and poignant score is both an evocation of youth and a reminder that our rose-colored glasses may need a stronger prescription.
Here's how director Mary Birnbaum describes her team's approach to this new production: "A lot of times La bohe?me feels like, 'Here are the four bohemians ... and their girlfriends.' It was very important for us to figure out who these women would have been in this 1830's world. Mimi? is an archetypal grisette, someone who was often an artist's muse and expressed her sexuality in a transactional way (although not as a prostitute). Musetta is a lorette, a bit higher up socially, and in our production, she straddles the line between what women wear and what men wear, to see how much more power she can have. As a woman, I'm thrilled to direct this, because I want the women to be complete characters, not symbols, who have a whole journey towards and away from social conventions."
LES PE?CHEURS DE PERLES (THE PEARL FISHERS)
For his first stage success, the 25-year-old Bizet blended the best elements of grand opera - including extensive use of the chorus and a plush orchestration - with extraordinarily lyrical arias and duets. The story is set in ancient times on the shores of Ceylon, where Zurga, ruler of the pearl fishers, is reunited with his long-lost comrade Nadir. Their friendship duet, which recounts a mutual passion for the heavenly Lei?la, is the epitome of bromance in music. Both men renounced her to save their friendship, but her unexpected return soon traps them again in "the accursed snares of love."
The late Lee Blakeley's production premiered in 2012 and garnered virtually universal critical praise:
"During the somber overture, the pearl divers came onstage carrying their dead chief, presumably a casualty of their hazardous profession. It was a small touch, but emblematic of Lee Blakeley's smart production, the best of this summer's season. Suddenly, the contrived plot made sense ..." The Wall Street Journal
"Lee Blakeley directed the production with ceaseless respect, never allowing the work's shortcomings to obscure its strengths ... [The sets, costumes and lighting] yielded a stunning succession of stage images." The Santa Fe New Mexican
"Sometimes a straightforward staging - one that is true to the letter and spirit of the work - can be all that's needed for a successful opera performance ... Such is the case with Bizet's The Pearl Fishers ... which sets forth the Carmen composer's earlier stage success with admirable clarity." Chicago Tribune
COSI? FAN TUTTE
Mozart and Da Ponte's final collaboration has delighted, confounded, and rewarded viewers ever since its 1790 premiere in Vienna. Their "School for Lovers" sports a highly experienced faculty and a progressive curriculum - required reading and written papers have all been replaced by experiential learning. There's a devil of a final exam, though, especially for two young couples about to be married. It's a lab project in which they dissect the question, "Are you in love, or in love with the idea of love?" They're also required to change partners, and much to their surprise, they discover that being engaged to someone special doesn't preclude being especially attracted to someone else.
Mesmerizingly beautiful music and a profound understanding of the heart illuminate this all-too-human situation, in which we can see ourselves onstage, to both our discomfort and our delight.
"For years Cosi? was dismissed as a minor Mozart work, but for me it is a masterpiece," wrote Music Director Harry Bicket. "The poignancy of Mozart's own autobiographical connection with the opera (he married the sister of the woman he was in love with), coupled with some of the most profound and touching music he ever wrote, makes it a timeless exploration of how we learn to love (and lose) each other."
The Santa Fe Opera first staged Cosi? fan tutte in its 1957 inaugural season, and has produced it ten times since then. It can also be credited as the opera that shaped the Santa Fe Opera's artistic identity. In 1951, the young John Crosby became a conducting student at Columbia University. He was already a devoted fan of musical comedy and he started attending Metropolitan Opera performances as well. They were staged in the old-school, "park and bark" tradition, with one exception - a Cosi? fan tutte directed by actor Alfred Lunt. Here Crosby saw "a carefully, brilliantly rehearsed evening with six superb singing actors." This was the seed that led to the Santa Fe Opera's identity, as an ensemble company that gives equal weight to musical and theatrical values.
All eyes in the village are on Jenu?fa. Her fiance? sees only a trophy wife. Her rejected suitor sees a chance to avenge the most cutting wrongs in his past. Her righteous stepmother sees her own life's tragedy about to recur in her stepdaughter. The results are two unspeakable crimes which ultimately lead to the opera's true theme - that the wounds of troubled lives can be assuaged through acceptance, forgiveness, and hope. Jana?c?ek's pioneering score pulses with vibrant rhythms, pungent harmonies, and lyrical declamation.
The composer's career path is unique in opera history. Jenu?fa, his first success, did not receive a major staging until Jana?c?ek was 61. Over the next 12 years a flood of masterpieces followed, including Ka?t?a Kabanova?, The Cunning Little Vixen, and The Makropoulos Case.
David Alden's staging of Jenu?fa won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Opera Production when it was first produced at English National Opera, and its revival there in 2016 received more critical acclaim:
"The sexual, emotional and religious resonances in Jana?c?ek's work are fully explored in a deeply humane production strong on psychological detail." The Guardian
"David Alden's staging ... takes this coruscating music-drama a notch higher, turning the screw of the drama inexorably, shatteringly, ultimately movingly. Janacek's uplifting conclusion ... is one of the most beautiful 'happy ends' in opera." The Sunday Times
"A brilliantly effective production." The Independent
THE THIRTEENTH CHILD
Forget about magic beans and bowls of porridge - this fairy tale is a "down-to-the-wire" thriller, inspired by The Brothers Grimm. A paranoid king banishes his twelve sons in favor of Lyra, the thirteenth child. When Princess Lyra learns about her long-lost brothers, she embarks on a quest to find them. And then, like all the best fairy tales, it has an enchanted forest, riddles, a handsome prince, an ogre, a horrible mistake and a nearly impossible feat for Princess Lyra to perform if everything is to be put right.
Poul Ruders is one of today's most highly acclaimed composers. His operatic setting of The Handmaid's Tale has been hailed as "an outstandingly effective piece of music theater" by Opera News and as "a riveting, kaleidoscopic score" by The New York Times. The Thirteenth Child is Ruders' fifth opera and the Santa Fe Opera's sixteenth world premiere.
"In 2010, I finished what I thought would be my last opera," said composer Poul Ruders. "But being a composer, I knew that somewhere there was a subject lying in wait for me to put my paws on. For a Dane to do a Hans Christian Andersen story would be too obvious! So I went for The Brothers Grimm instead. In reading through their stories, I kept coming back to this one, which I think is emotionally very potent.
"As opposed to The Handmaid's Tale, which is an opera for grown-ups, I would say that The Thirteenth Child is good for all ages, including children, who I hope will find it kind of scary. If not, I haven't done my job very well. I think if you can sit through a Harry Potter movie and enjoy it and not have to leave the bedroom light on at night, you'll love this!
"I am overwhelmed with joy and pride and humility that my fifth opera will be premiered at this fantastic venue next summer."
RENE?E FLEMING SINGS LETTERS FROM GEORGIA WITH THE SANTA FE OPERA ORCHESTRA
Renowned American soprano Rene?e Fleming makes her Santa Fe Opera debut on Saturday, August 10, 2019. The Santa Fe Opera Orchestra, under the baton of Music Director Harry Bicket, collaborates with Ms. Fleming on Kevin Puts' Letters From Georgia and Richard Strauss' Vier letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs).
Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for his debut opera Silent Night, Kevin Puts has been hailed as one of the most important composers of his generation. Critically acclaimed for a richly colored, harmonic, and freshly melodic musical voice that has also been described as "emotional, compelling, and relevant," his works, which include three operas, four symphonies, and several concertos, have been commissioned, performed, and recorded by leading orchestras, ensembles, and soloists throughout the world. Letters from Georgia was commissioned by the Eastman School of Music with generous support from Bette and Joseph Hirsch.
In a review of Letters performed by Ms. Fleming and the Eastman Philharmonia at Alice Tully Hall in November 2016, Berkshire Fine Arts wrote: "Puts goes inside the words to find his matching notes and phrases. He, with Fleming as his interpreter, takes us inside O'Keeffe's heart and soul. This is where Puts stands out. While moving, big stories are chosen by other composers for their songs and operas, Puts limits his landscape and goes to the depths of the volcano, before the roaring hot lava of his notes erupt."
"It will be a thrill and an honor to share my music - through the brilliant artistry of Rene?e Fleming - with the audiences at Santa Fe Opera," wrote composer Kevin Puts. "Ms. Fleming and I worked together closely on this exploration of the letters of American icon Georgia O'Keeffe from the very start. Our collaboration continues to be an immense joy, and I believe her voice and artistry truly inspire my best work."
Twice recorded by Rene?e Fleming, Richard Strauss' cycle Vier letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs) has become one of the most widely performed works of her repertory. Also of great significance to the company, this piece was last performed by the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra at founder John O'Hea Crosby's memorial service in 2003. These two great forces combine to perform Strauss' resplendent and serene union of music and poetry.
"Richard Strauss wrote his first song when he was 6 years old, and he continued to write songs all of his life," wrote Ted Libby for NPR. "His Four Last Songs, written just a year before his death at age 85, is an intentional summary of his life and work. When it came close to the end, it was fitting that Strauss would look back over his career - in which he had carried on a love affair with the soprano voice - and write songs for soprano and orchestra. The last two of the Four Last Songs are called "Beim Schlafengehen" (Going to Sleep) and "Im Abendrot" (At Twilight). The poetic impulse in these songs speaks of the ends of things, but it also looks out over the horizon of eternity."
"My Santa Fe Opera debut is exciting for me on a number of levels," wrote Rene?e Fleming. "I'll be singing two great, contrasting orchestral works with conductor Harry Bicket and The Santa Fe Opera Orchestra. The first is the transcendant Four Last Songs of Strauss, a work I've sung more than anything else and never tire of. Its epic poetry, mirroring the stages of life, is a perfect fit for the stunning scenery of Santa Fe. The other piece is Kevin Puts' Letters from Georgia, inspired by a Santa Fe icon, Georgia O'Keeffe. She was an original thinker and groundbreaking artist, forging her own path at a time when women weren't given that opportunity. It will be a powerful experience to sing her own words in the landscape that she loved."