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The Atlanta Opera Releases GLORY DENIED Audio Recording & Short Film in November

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Featuring Julius Caesar, Steve Jobs and more.

The Atlanta Opera Releases GLORY DENIED Audio Recording & Short Film in November

Reflecting its deep commitment and connection to the veteran community, The Atlanta Opera will honor veterans in November with the release of two works centered on Tom Cipullo's Glory Denied, a distinctly American saga about the nation's longest-held prisoner of war, who returns from the jungles of Southeast Asia to a suburban home he barely recognizes.

The company will release the world premiere recording of the fully-orchestrated version of the opera, and will also premiere an 18-minute short film, My Darling Jim, that pulls three arias from the work and brings them cinematically to life. My Darling Jim is co-directed by Emmy-winner Felipe Barral and Tomer Zvulun, The Atlanta Opera's Carl W. Knobloch Jr. General & Artistic Director, who is a military veteran himself.

This follows the company's much-anticipated return to the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre this past weekend, on November 6, launching a season that comprises four colorful, uplifting and escapist mainstage productions: Handel's Julius Caesar in Egypt (Nov 6-14); Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance (Jan 22-30); Rossini's Barber of Seville (March 5-13); and the Southeastern premiere of the Grammy award-winning opera The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, in a new production by Zvulun (April 30-May 8). Finally, the Discoveries Series presents the "Come As You Are" festival (June 2-19), with a new production of the blockbuster musical Cabaret and the critically acclaimed chamber opera As One.

Complementing these season offerings, The Atlanta Opera Podcast features three different series: "Come As You Are," which puts a spotlight on LGBTQIA+ artists with interviews and discussions; "The Business of Opera," an interview series led by Zvulun; and "BlinkOpera," consisting of opera synopses of past, current and upcoming productions in ten minutes or less. More information and specific episodes are available here.

The recording of Glory Denied represents the first to capture Cipullo's score in its full orchestral version, and the composer's own reaction is a testament to the power of The Atlanta Opera's interpretation: "[This is] a stunning, deeply-felt realization of the piece. In each virtuosic performance, at every moment, the storytelling, first and foremost, shines through. I confess I was moved to tears to hear my work performed with such artistry and commitment. The Atlanta Opera has taught me about my own opera, and in so doing, has had a profound effect on my heart." Both the film and the audio release star baritone Michael Mayes, who has won national acclaim for his portrayal of Jim Thompson, the prisoner of war who returns home from Vietnam many years later. On the recording, his wife is portrayed at different stages of her life by sopranos Kelly Kaduce and Maria Valdes, with Nicole Paiement, an internationally recognized specialist in contemporary operatic music, conducting members of The Atlanta Opera Orchestra. In the film, Mayes and Valdes are joined by tenor David Blalock as Young Jim, to piano accompaniment.

Referring to The Atlanta Opera's cancelled 2020 production of the opera, Zvulun said: "I have long wanted to perform Glory Denied for live audiences, but we were stopped by the COVID pandemic. The true stories of our military veterans are seldom told, but they are important to hear. Of all the military stories I've heard, Glory Denied ranks among the most compelling. The pandemic has once again forced us to think about alternative explorations of the work." The Atlanta Opera has a deep connection to honoring the service of America's military veterans and regularly tells their stories. Since 2015, the company has staged several operas telling the stories of men and women who serve, including David T. Little's Soldier Songs, and Kevin Puts's opera Silent Night, about the Christmas Eve truce of World War I.

The company's award-winning Veterans Program has distributed thousands of tickets enabling veterans and the families of active military to attend performances at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre and other venues free of charge. In September, as an extension of the program and in anticipation of the November releases, The Atlanta Opera began offering active and retired military personnel free access to its Spotlight Media streaming platform and digital library of full-length operas, short films and star-studded concerts. Launched last winter, The Atlanta Opera's Spotlight Media digital platform has been reaching new audiences in Germany, Italy, Israel and beyond.

Composer and librettist Tom Cipullo, the winner of a 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship whose music has impressed the American Academy of Art and Letters with its "inexhaustible imagination, wit, expressive range and originality," drew material for his chamber opera Glory Denied from Tom Philpott's 2001 collection of interviews with returning veterans. The opera tells the story of Jim Thompson, the longest-held American prisoner of war in history, and follows his transition from the jungles of Southeast Asia to his almost unrecognizable home in U.S. suburbia.

Since its 2007 premiere, Glory Denied has received more than 20 productions, besides being issued on a 2014 recording named "Best of the Year" by Opera News. As Opera Today put it, "Cipullo's masterfully taut adaption ... makes a cogent impression in just 75 compact minutes. ... Mesmerizing." Baritone Michael Mayes, star of Atlanta's hit productions of Sweeney Todd and Dead Man Walking, returns as Cipullo's protagonist, Colonel Jim Thompson. A leading exponent of contemporary opera, Mayes has already headlined Glory Denied at Fort Worth Opera, Nashville Opera, Opera Memphis and Des Moines Metro Opera, where he "anchored the evening with a star turn that was simply amazing" (Opera Today). The review continued: "Mr. Mayes not only gifted us with the powerful beauty of his burnished instrument, but he also made my jaw drop with meticulously calculated, wondrously controlled sotto voce effects, including some breathtaking forays above the staff. His complete immersion into the suffering and physical disintegration of his character were as commendable as they were poignant." The Atlanta Opera recording took place in June 2021, with members of The Atlanta Opera Orchestra under the baton of Nicole Paiement, recognized around the globe for her expertise in contemporary operatic music. In addition to Mayes, the cast includes soprano and company favorite Kelly Kaduce as Alyce, Jim's wife who has moved on with her life; Kaduce, recognized for her "powerful voice and impressive acting ability" (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) thrilled Atlanta audiences earlier this year as the bullwhip-brandishing Polly in The Threepenny Opera, and is also known for her memorable turn as Liù in The Atlanta Opera's 2017 Turandot. A "first-rate singing actress" (New York Times), soprano Maria Valdes, a native of Marietta, GA, makes her role debut as Younger Alyce, following previous Atlanta Opera appearances in 2019's Frida and 2018's Charlie Parker's Yardbird. Tenor David Blalock brings his "bright and engaging" voice (Bachtrack) to the role of Young Jim; in 2019, he made his Metropolitan Opera debut in Turandot, having last appeared with The Atlanta Opera in 2016's Silent Night.

Mayes, Valdes and Blalock all also appear in the short film My Darling Jim, which tells the story of Col. Jim Thompson in three arias. Directed by Zvulun and Barral, with creative direction from Brian Staufenbiel, My Darling Jim draws its title from the first of the arias, in which soprano Valdes, as Younger Alyce, writes a letter to her husband, a young officer serving in Vietnam.

My Darling Jim will stream on The Atlanta Opera's Spotlight Media website for free, while the Glory Denied recording will be made available on Apple Music, Spotify and Amazon Music. Members new to Spotlight Media in October and November will receive a code to download the Glory Denied recording. Both the recording and the film will be available mid-November. Monthly memberships to all Spotlight Media content are available for $15 per month, and annual passes are priced at $99 per viewing household. More information is available here.

Mainstage Operas

The mainstage opened this past weekend with the U.S. premiere of Zvulun's staging of Handel's Baroque masterpiece Julius Caesar in Egypt, first created by the director for The Israeli Opera, which performed it in the outdoor setting of a 12th-century crusader's fortress. Conducted by Baroque specialist Gary Wedow making his Atlanta debut, the opera features Daryl Freedman, Jasmine Habersham and Megan Marino.

Seán Curran's rollicking staging of Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera The Pirates of Penzance is on the mainstage in January, featuring Santiago Ballerini, Susanne Burgess, and Craig Irvin. Francesco Milioto, Music Director of Opera San Antonio and conductor of the recent Threepenny Opera, is on the podium.

In March, the company turns to Rossini's perennially popular opera buffa The Barber of Seville, with a revival of the highly stylized staging by Michael Shell that impressed Opera News as "hilariously delightful with every random turn." Starring Stephanie Lauricella, Taylor Stayton and Joseph Lattanzi, the production is conducted by The Atlanta Opera's Music Director Arthur Fagen.

The mainstage season concludes with the much-anticipated Southeast premiere of Zvulun's brand new production of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs. Written by Kennedy Center Composer-in-Residence Mason Bates to a libretto by Silent Night's Mark Campbell, (R)evolution follows the visionary Apple co-founder as he looks back on his life and career and confronts his own mortality. John Moore reprises the title role, which he performed at Seattle Opera in 2019, and Adam Lau, another member of that cast, joins him in the role of Kōbun Chino Otogawa. Rising mezzo-soprano Sarah Larsen sings the role of Laurene Powell Jobs, and the cast is rounded out by Bille Bruley as Steve Wozniak and Elizabeth Sutphen as Chrisann Brennan. (R)evolution is co-produced with Lyric Opera of Kansas City and Austin Opera.

Discoveries Series "Come As You Are" Festival

Dedicated to mounting adventurous new productions in alternative spaces, the Discoveries Series was the inspiration for the Big Tent-hailed by ArtsATL as "a welcome breath of fresh air, literally and figuratively"-that returns this season as the venue for Cabaret. Commenting on the "come as you are" theme for the Discoveries Series productions, Zvulun says: "We believe that what unites us is far greater than what divides us. Cabaret and As One take place a century apart: one in the early 20th and the other the early 21st. But they are about the same theme: we are all different, but as human beings we are much more similar than we are sometimes told. History proves again and again that great dangers await us if we choose to focus on what separates us rather than what unites us." The Atlanta Opera's production of Cabaret is adapted from the 1998 Broadway revival that ran for more than 2,377 performances at Studio 54 in New York. Zvulun will direct and Francesco Milioto, also conducting Pirates of Penzance this season, will lead members of The Atlanta Opera Orchestra. Award-winning set designer Alexander Dodge will transform The Atlanta Opera's Big Tent into the Kit Kat Klub, a decadent cabaret where singer Sally Bowles entertained Berlin's elite in the 1930s. A versatile performer equally capable in opera houses and on Broadway, Curt Olds-hailed by Opera News as "a wonderful singing actor, as adept in pointing dialogue as in phrasing song"-will sing the role of the flamboyant Emcee. Erik Teague, the designer responsible for the whimsical costume designs in the spring production of Threepenny Opera, will handle the costumes.

Running parallel to Cabaret will be the Atlanta premiere of the critically acclaimed chamber opera As One by Laura Kaminsky, "one of the top 35 female composers in classical music" (Washington Post), presented at Atlanta's Out Front Theatre, founded in 2016 with a focus on the voices of the LGBTQIA+ community. Kaminsky's music is set to a libretto by Mark Campbell and transgender filmmaker-librettist Kimberly Reed, who also created the multimedia opera's film. In the opera, two voices-Hannah After (mezzo-soprano) and Hannah Before (baritone)-share the part of a sole transgender protagonist. Transgender baritone Lucia Lucas-recognized as a "rising star" (The Guardian) with "a voice that can rattle the rafters with its power, without ever sacrificing subtlety of expression" (Tulsa World)-sings the role of Hannah Before. Lucas sang the title role in Don Giovanni with Tulsa Opera in 2019, becoming the first trans woman to sing a principal opera role on an American stage. Blythe Gaissert, an American mezzo-soprano and expert in new classical music, will sing Hannah After, a role that she has sung in eight previous productions, including the 2019 version at New York City Opera. Known for her "rich, earthy voice and dramatic skills" (Broadway World), as well as impeccable musicianship and technical prowess, Gaissert is "impossible to ignore" (Denver Post).

During the "Come As You Are" festival, the Big Tent will be pitched on the grounds of The Atlanta Opera offices at 1575 Northside Drive, less than a half-mile off of I-75. Tickets for Cabaret start at $50 while tickets for As One start at $15. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at atlantaopera.org or by calling 404-881-8885. Both operas will be performed in English with English supertitles.

The Big Tent Series is sponsored by the Molly Blank Fund.

Outstanding Success of 2020 Season

The Atlanta Opera met the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic with an outburst of creativity and innovation that not only permitted continuing engagement with audiences when many companies around the world were dark, but also promises to profoundly affect the future of the company. The "Big Tent" series- an outgrowth of the Discoveries series that was already mounting adventurous new productions in alternative spaces-saw the creation of four new productions in two different outdoor venues, as well as a number of concerts. The "Company of Players" was created from an impressive pool of world-class Atlanta-area talent, including Jamie Barton, Daniela Mack, Morris Robinson, and many others, even while the newly created streaming platform, Spotlight Media, and the creation of The Atlanta Opera Film Studio allowed The Atlanta Opera to reach a global audience. Early in the pandemic the company even partnered with Atlanta's Grady Health System to create thousands of masks and hospital gowns in its costume shop, as well as offering Singing Telegrams to those in hospitals and nursing homes who were isolated from their loved ones. As the Wall Street Journal reported, The Atlanta Opera's productions "demonstrate[d] how imaginative direction can harness COVID restrictions for artistic effect." Paying tribute to the company's spirit of innovation and perseverance, PBS Newshour highlighted The Atlanta Opera in a TV broadcast feature story entitled, "The show will go on! Performing arts pivot during the pandemic."


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