The Atlanta Opera Announces 2023-24 Season Inspired by Iconic Literature & Film

Paul Moravec’s The Shining, new production of Die Walküre & much more.

By: Feb. 21, 2023
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The Atlanta Opera Announces 2023-24 Season Inspired by Iconic Literature & Film

The Atlanta Opera has announced its 2023-24 season of performances at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, inspired by the intersecting genres of iconic literature, horror film and fantasy: a kind of season-wide Gesamtkunstwerk for the modern age. Highlighting the season are Paul Moravec's operatic treatment of Stephen King's classic 1977 novel The Shining, performed at the Alliance Theatre as part of the Discoveries series, and Wagner's Die Walküre, in a new production by Carl W. Knobloch Jr. General and Artistic Director Tomer Zvulun. Greer Grimsley returns as Wotan after making his company debut in the present season's production of Das Rheingold, joined now by Wendy Bryn Harmer in her company debut as Brünnhilde. The Discoveries series continues with an innovative production just in time for Halloween: an opera-film newly composed by Michael Shapiro to the 1931 film version of Mary Shelley's classic novel Frankenstein, performed live to picture. The season also includes a surrealism-inspired take on Verdi's Rigoletto, starring George Gagnidze in the title role and Jasmine Habersham as Gilda; Puccini's La Bohème, with acclaimed Chinese tenor Long Long making his company debut as Rodolfo; and Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream, featuring the company debuts of countertenor Iestyn Davies and soprano Liv Redpath. All productions will be filmed for release on The Atlanta Opera's Spotlight Media platform.

The Spotlight Media streaming platform is just one of the creative ways The Atlanta Opera rose to the occasion of the pandemic with innovations of lasting value and importance to future operations. It was, in part, these innovations - highlighted by PBS NewsHour in a TV broadcast feature story entitled, "The show will go on! Performing arts pivot during the pandemic" - that left the company an industry leader in terms of growth. Zvulun elaborates:

"This season is one of the richest ones we have ever programmed for Atlanta and it represents a real leap in the quality of our productions and the caliber of singers that are attracted to Atlanta. From the new Shining with the Alliance Theatre to a new Walküre alongside well-loved masterpieces like Rigoletto, Bohème and our first-ever Midsummer Night's Dream, this is a truly epic season."


Fall productions inspired by classic horror and surrealist films

The Atlanta Opera Discoveries series, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this season, has been widely recognized for presenting new works, new ideas and fresh perspectives, as well as for performances in alternative venues that bring opera to new audiences across the Atlanta metro area. To open the 2023-24 season, The Atlanta Opera returns to the Alliance Theatre to co-present eleven performances of Paul Moravec's The Shining, with a libretto by Mark Campbell based on the iconic 1977 novel by Stephen King. Premiered at Minnesota Opera in 2016, this new production of The Shining - with a reduced score for chamber orchestra - comes from San Francisco's Opera Parallèle and is directed by Brian Staufenbiel, a specialist in multimedia, immersive and interdisciplinary productions. The Shining will feature Kearstin Piper Brown and Kelly Kaduce - veterans of the San Francisco and Minnesota productions respectively - sharing the role of Wendy Torrance, with Aubrey Allicock as Dick Hallorann (Sep 15-Oct 1, with an Atlanta Opera opening night celebration on Sep 23).

Continuing the cinematic theme of the season and getting into the Halloween spirit a few days early, The Atlanta Opera Discoveries series brings a new innovation to the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre with the opera-film Frankenstein. Composer-conductor Michael Shapiro wrote the score for this operatic adaptation of James Whale's 1931 film version of Mary Shelley's horror classic, which starred Boris Karloff as the monster. Shapiro conducts the Atlanta Opera orchestra and five soloists live to picture in a score that Cashbox magazine found "hypnotic." The review continued: "The audience was riveted to their seats. ... His score is majestic and flowing when set against the flickering image on the screen, touching during tender moments, harrowing during disturbing ones" (Oct 28).

The Atlanta Opera's mainstage season begins with Verdi's Rigoletto, directed by Zvulun in a co-production with Houston Grand Opera and Dallas Opera. Inspired by German surrealist painters Otto Dix and George Grosz and their cinematic successors Fellini and Buñuel, the stark, monumental sets, designed by Zvulun's frequent collaborator Erhard Rom, hearken back to fascist Italy in the 1920s and '30s, as well as evoking the gritty and grotesque atmosphere that prevails in Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather trilogy, while Jessica Jahn's costumes emphasize the idea of literal and figurative masks. The production is also conceived as an allegory of class division: Rigoletto, Sparafucile and Maddalena represent characters on the fringe of society, while the Duke and his cronies embody power and privilege, with Gilda trapped in the struggle between them. Georgia native and The Atlanta Opera regular Jasmine Habersham, who most recently sang Cleopatra in Zvulun's staging of Handel's Giulio Cesare and was a member of the Company Players earlier in the pandemic, returns to sing the role of Gilda. Celebrated Georgian baritone George Gagnidze portrays the title character, a signature role he has sung more than 100 times, 25 of them in two different stagings at the Metropolitan Opera. Korean tenor Won Whi Choi, praised by the New York Observer for a "big, virile sound that rocketed fearlessly up to a high C," sings the Duke of Mantua, and Roberto Kalb, music director of Detroit Opera, is on the podium. Rigoletto is a co-production with Houston Grand Opera and Dallas Opera (Nov 4-12).

Spring productions: dreams, fantasy and storytelling

Later this season, The Atlanta Opera presents an ambitious production of Das Rheingold starring Greer Grimsley as Wotan. Next, the company returns to Wagner's Ring cycle in spring 2024 with Die Walküre. Grimsley reprises his role as Wotan, joined by the "big, radiant voice" (Seattle Times) of Wendy Bryn Harmer as Brünnhilde and Russian-American tenor Viktor Antipenko as Siegmund. Like Rheingold, this new Atlanta Opera production is directed by Zvulun in collaboration with scenic and projections designer Erhard Rom and lighting designer Robert Wierzel, with costumes by European Opera Prize-winner Mattie Ullrich. The Atlanta Opera's Carl & Sally Gable music director, Arthur Fagen, will conduct (April 27-May 5, 2024).

The celebrated and longstanding collaboration between Zvulun, Rom and Wierzel has resulted in a body of work that also includes Puccini's La bohème, first produced at Seattle Opera in 2013, which bows on the stage of The Atlanta Opera in early 2024. Featuring the Atlanta Opera debut of Chinese tenor Long Long - credited by Bachtrack with "a glorious voice, even across all registers with an ideal combination of ardour and flexibility" - as Rodolfo, the production also stars Zachary Nelson, cast as the dwarf Alberich in Das Rheingold, in the role of Marcello, and young soprano Madison Leonard, a 2018 winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, as Musetta. Calgary Opera's music director, Jonathan Brandani, will conduct the production (Jan 20-28, 2024).

Grammy-winning countertenor Iestyn Davies, also the recipient of two Gramophone Awards, a Critics Circle Award and an MBE for services to music in the Queen's New Years Honours List 2017, makes his Atlanta Opera debut next spring in the role of Oberon in Benjamin Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream. His counterpart Tytania will be sung by soprano Liv Redpath, who is scheduled to sing the same role at Glyndebourne this summer. A trio of Atlanta Opera favorites are also featured: mezzo-soprano Megan Marino and bass Kevin Burdette, both of whom performed as members of The Atlanta Opera's Company Players at the height of the pandemic, perform the roles of Puck and Bottom, respectively, and soprano Susanne Burgess, most recently seen as Mabel in Pirates of Penzance, sings Helena. Rising young conductor Louis Lohraseb will be on the podium (March 2-10, 2024).

Subscriptions and more information are available now at atlantaopera.org.

About The Atlanta Opera

The Atlanta Opera's mission is to build the major international opera company that Atlanta deserves, while reimagining what opera can be. Founded in 1979, the company works with world-renowned singers, conductors, directors and designers who seek to enhance the art form. Under the leadership of internationally recognized stage director and Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. General & Artistic Director Tomer Zvulun, The Atlanta Opera expanded from three to four mainstage productions at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre and launched the acclaimed Discoveries series. In recent years, the company has been named among the "Best of 2015" by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, been nominated for a 2016 International Opera Award, and won ArtsATL's 2019 Luminary Award for Community Engagement in recognition of its successful Veterans Program in partnership with the Home Depot Foundation. In addition, The Atlanta Opera was featured in a 2018 Harvard Business School case study about successful organizational growth, and Zvulun presented a TEDx Talk at Emory University titled "The Ambidextrous Opera Company, or Opera in the Age of iPhones." At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Atlanta Opera was one of the only companies in the world to create a full, alternative season, consisting of no fewer than 40 live performances in two different outdoor venues, including a revolutionary custom-designed circus tent. The company tripled its fundraising goal and created four new productions, each of which employed 150 cast members, crew and staff. The critically acclaimed productions and concerts were streamed in HD on the newly created streaming platform "Spotlight Media," allowing The Atlanta Opera to reach a global audience. National media coverage of the "pandemic season" included features in the Wall Street Journal and on PBS NewsHour. For more information, visit atlantaopera.org.




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