Tulsa Opera Announces 2019/2020 Season

By: Feb. 15, 2019

Tulsa Opera Announces 2019/2020 Season

General Director Ken McConnell and Artistic Director Tobias Picker today announced Tulsa Opera's 72nd season comprising classics such as Bizet's Carmen and Puccini's Madama Butterfly, and a new production of Mr. Picker's 1996 opera Emmeline, to be performed in Oklahoma for the first time, and led by Mr. Picker in his opera-conducting debut.

We are pleased to present a season of three operas that showcase fiercely determined and strong female central characters, including Emmeline composed by our own Artistic Director Tobias Picker, said Ken McConnell. Tulsa's opera audience continues to grow and our community engagement is stronger than ever. This season we continue our mission to present operas of the highest artistic quality that also resonate deeply with our public.

Mr. Picker said, I'm excited to build on our current season's theme of inclusion by turning the spotlight to extraordinary female characters and the artists that will portray them in the 2019-2020 season. Three fascinating women making three very different and fateful choices form a unifying theme in the coming season; and to bring their emotional stories to life, we have engaged many of the finest singers, conductors, and directors of our time, including 23 artists who will make their Tulsa Opera debuts and 12 returning artists.

All performances will be held in the Chapman Music Hall at the Tulsa Preforming Arts Center. Carmen opens the season on October 25 and 27, 2019, followed by Madama Butterfly on February 28 and March 1, 2020, and Emmeline on May 1 and 3, 2020.

Friday, October 25 and Sunday, October 27, 2019

Georges Bizet's four act opera Carmen, one of the most popular and frequently performed operas in the classical canon, returns to the stage having been last performed at Tulsa Opera in 2014. Performing some of the best known of all operatic arias the Haba era and Toreador Song are American mezzo-soprano Sarah Mesko, who makes her Tulsa Opera debut as Carmen, and former Tulsa Opera Young Artist, Alexander Birch Elliott in the role of Escamillo. Adam Smith also makes his Tulsa Opera debut as Don Jos , the na ve soldier who is seduced by the wiles of the fiery gypsy Carmen, and soprano Colleen Daly makes her company debut as Micaela, Jos 's abandoned childhood sweetheart.

Composer: Georges Bizet
Librettist: Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Hal vy
Conductor: Roberto Kalb
Director: Harry Silverstein

Carmen: Sarah Mesko *
Don Jos : Adam Smith *
Escamillo: Alexander Birch Elliott
Micaela: Colleen Daly*
Zuniga: Rhys Lloyd Talbot *
Morales: Gideon Dabi *
Frasquita: Nicole Haslett *
Mercedes: Alice Chung *

Madama Butterfly
Friday, February 28 and Sunday, March 1, 2020

Last presented by Tulsa Opera in 2012, Francesco Zambello's production of Madama Butterfly returns to the stage with notable artists making their company debuts including soprano Maria Natale as the geisha Cio-Cio San, tenor Matthew White as the United States Navy lieutenant Pinkerton living in Japan, and mezzo-soprano Ren e Rapier as Cio-Cio San's faithful attendant. Baritone Aleksey Bogdanov returns to Tulsa Opera as Sharpless.

Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Librettist: Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa
Conductor: James Lowe
Director: John De Los Santos *

Cio-Cio San: Maria Natale *
Pinkerton: Matthew White *
Sharpless: Aleksey Bogdanov
Suzuki: Ren e Rapier *

Friday, May 1 and Sunday, May 3, 2020

Tulsa Opera presents a new production of Tobias Picker's first opera, Emmeline, in its Oklahoma premiere. Originally set in mid-19th-century Maine, this new production by director Tara Faircloth updates the opera for a contemporary audience by setting the story in modern times. Mr. Picker makes his opera-conducting debut leading a cast that includes soprano Madison Leonard as Emmeline and tenor Jonathan Johnson as her son Matthew Gurney, both in their Tulsa Opera debuts.

Based on a true story and the book Emmeline by Judith Rossner also inspired by the real-life events, the opera tells the story of Emmeline Mosher, who gives her illegitimate son up for adoption. Twenty years later the two meet and marry; when they discover the secret, Emmeline is abandoned by her son and shunned by her community. She fiercely chooses to live out her life on her own terms.

Emmeline was premiered by Santa Fe Opera in 1996, and was subsequently televised nationally on PBS' Great Performances. The opera received its East Coast premiere by New York City Opera in 1998, and in 2015, Opera Theatre of St. Louis mounted a major new production that was praised as a work of gripping emotional intensity and extraordinary musical expressivity (Dallas Morning News), one of the best operas written in the past 25 years (Wall Street Journal), and the greatest American opera of the 20th century (St. Louis Post-Dispatch).

Composer/conductor: Tobias Picker
Librettist: J. D. McClatchy
Director: Tara Faircloth
Sets: Cameron Anderson
Costumes: Macy Lyne

Emmeline: Madison Leonard *
Matthew: Jonathan Johnson *
Mr. Maguire: Steven LaBrie
Aunt Hannah Watkins: Margaret Lattimore *
Henry Mosher: Harold Wilson
Mrs. Bass: Jennifer Roderer *

* Tulsa Opera debut

Tulsa Opera's 2019-20 subscriptions will be available beginning Monday, February 18, 2019. Visit the Tulsa Opera website at www.tulsaopera.com for further information.

Tulsa Opera
Formed in 1947, Tulsa Opera is the first performing arts organization established in Oklahoma and the 12th oldest opera company in North America. The company excels at producing bold, brave, and fresh productions of opera classics, and accomplishes this by identifying excellent young singers, then pairing them with conductors and stage directors who can improve their artistic talents. In addition to presenting a main stage season, the company fosters young talent through its Tulsa Youth Opera and Young Artist programs and promotes music education through outstanding initiatives such as Raise Your Voice!, a partnership with Tulsa Public Schools that brings music back into classrooms where music programs have been discontinued. Tulsa Opera, throughout its history, has articulated the desire of local leaders to create and maintain a world-class city. Opera is in Tulsa's DNA, and communication with opera patrons confirms that the Tulsa community has a robust and now reinvigorated commitment to the company's success.

Ken McConnell, General Director
Mr. McConnell joined Tulsa Opera in 2014, after seeing the company's Carmen. From the cast and the orchestra, to the stage, set, and the dressers everything drew him into the world of opera, and he's been devoted to the art form ever since. Prior to his current position, Mr. McConnell served as Tulsa Opera's Chief Administrative Officer, managing a multi-million-dollar budget, a staff of ten, plus the scores of people needed to bring an opera to life. In 2016, Tulsa Opera ended its fiscal year with its lowest debt a decade, and for the last three years the company has operated on a surplus. During Mr. McConnell's tenure at Tulsa Opera, the company has presented nearly 30 productions across the main stage operas and Tulsa Youth Opera and Tulsa Opera's Young Artist presentations.

Tobias Picker, Artistic Director
Mr. Picker has served as Artistic Director of Tulsa Opera since 2016. His operas have been commissioned by Santa Fe Opera (Emmeline), Los Angeles Opera (Fantastic Mr. Fox), Dallas Opera (Th r se Raquin), San Francisco Opera (Dolores Claiborne), and The Metropolitan Opera (An American Tragedy), and have gone on to be produced by numerous distinguished companies in the United States and Europe. Mr. Picker's symphonic works, including three symphonies, four piano concertos, concertos for violin, viola, cello, oboe, song cycles, and tone poems, have been commissioned and performed by the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, and major orchestras throughout the world. Mr. Picker is a lifetime member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His music is published exclusively by Schott Helicon Music Corporation.

Performer Biographies

Tulsa Opera Debuts

Korean American mezzo-soprano Alice Chung (Mercedes, Carmen) is a Resident Artist at The Academy of Vocal Arts, and former Young Artist at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, where she performed the role of Madame Larina in the new production of Eugene Onegin and Sister Lillianne in Dead Man Walking. Additional credits include appearances with the Merola Opera Program, Chautauqua Opera, OperaWorks, Pasadena Opera Guild, and Opera Santa Barbara. She has performed in several chamber music groups and concerts, and has collaborated with several composers in new music concerts.

Baritone Gideon Dabi (Morales, Carmen) has performed across the United States, Israel, and Italy. He has performed with the Rochester Philharmonic, Opera Colorado, Sarasota Opera, and the Charlottesville Opera, among others. Mr. Dabi, a first generation American fluent in Hebrew, was also a soloist for Naxos' Grammy Award-winning Anthology of Jewish-American Composers recordings. He received his undergraduate degree in Voice Performance from Rutgers University and his Masters in Music from Manhattan School of Music.

Soprano Colleen Daly (Micaela, Carmen) is a young artist whose resume already encompasses a wide variety of roles, from Musetta in La boh me (Annapolis Opera, Lyric Opera of Baltimore, and Des Moines Metro Opera) to Persephone in Julian Wachner's Rev. 23, a role she created when the opera premiered at the Boston New Music Festival in 2017. Additional recent performances include Violetta in Opera Delaware's production of La traviata, which she also covered at New York City Opera; Fiordiligi in Cos fan tutte with Intermountain Opera; and the title role of Tha s at Opera Company of Middlebury.

Soprano Nicole Haslett (Frasquita, Carmen) recently joined the Metropolitan Opera for its production of Iolanta and sang with Heartbeat Opera. She was a 2014 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions grand finalist, a 2015 second place winner of the Gerda Lissner International Vocal Competition, and Encouragement Award winner of the George London foundation Competition. She holds a Master of Music in vocal performance from the Manhattan School of Music and a Bachelors of Music from New York University.

This season, American tenor Jonathan Johnson (Matthew, Emmeline) makes his debut in the title role of Candide with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, Utah Symphony Orchestra, and Des Moines Metro Opera. Recent engagements include performances with the Canadian Opera Company, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the San Diego Opera, among others. He is a graduate of the Ryan Opera Center at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and holds a Master's degree and Professional Artist Certificate from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He also enjoys a touring relationship with Chris Botti, which has taken him to many cities in the U.S. and abroad.

Grammy-nominated mezzo-soprano Margaret Lattimore (Aunt Hannah Watkins, Emmeline) is one of the most versatile mezzo-sopranos performing today. She began her career singing the works of H ndel, Rossini, and Mozart, and has expanded her repertoire in recent seasons to include the works of Mahler, Verdi and Wagner. Additional roles this season include Dame Marthe in Faust, which she sings in her Houston Grand Opera debut; Gertrude in The Metropolitan Opera's new production of Romeo et Juliette; and Jocasta in Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex with the Washington Chorus at The Kennedy Center.

Soprano Madison Leonard (Emmeline, Emmeline) is a 2018 winner of the Metropolitan National Council Auditions. Previously this season, she joined the Washington National Opera as a member of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program. She was formerly a member of San Francisco Opera's Merola Program and the young artist program at Des Moines Metro Opera. She has received the Women's Voice Fellowship from the Luminarts Cultural Foundation, and scholarships from the Lynn Harvey Foundation and the Musicians Club of Women, as well as was awarded first place in the Houston Grand Opera Eleanor McCollum Competition. She has a Master of Music degree from Northwestern University and a Bachelor of Arts from Pepperdine University.

American mezzo-soprano Sarah Mesko (Carmen, Carmen) returns to the Metropolitan Opera to sing Merc d s in Carmen and Arsace in Semiramide this season. She also makes her Canadian debut as Isolier in Le comte Ory with Edmonton Opera and her Opera Theatre of Saint Louis debut as Ottavia in The Coronation of Poppea. Ms. Mesko has appeared at the Metropolitan Opera as the Second Lady in Die Zauberfl te, and Ines in Il trovatore while covering Le Prince Charmant in Cendrillon. She recently made her New York Philharmonic debut and her Cincinnati Opera debut as Ottavia in Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea.

Soprano Maria Natale (Cio-Cio San, Madama Butterfly) recently made her Opera San Jose Opera d but as Nedda in Pagliacci and returns to the company to sing the role of Cio-Cio San this season. Other engagements include Violetta in La traviata at Opera Maine as and her Sarasota Opera d but as Li in Turandot. She is the recipient of numerous awards and grants from prestigious vocal competitions including 1st prize in the National James Collier Vocal Competition, 2nd Prize and Audience choice in the Elizabeth Connell Prize, and second place in the Gerda Lissner International Vocal Competition.

American mezzo-soprano Ren e Rapier (Suzuki, Madama Butterfly) recently appeared in a new production of John Cage's Europeras 1&2 with the LA Phil in collaboration with The Industry and Yuval Sharon. She has performed Suzuki at Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Seattle Opera, and Opera San Jose, where she also made her critically-acclaimed debut as Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia; and has sung Cherubino in both Le Nozze di Figaro and John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles at LA Opera, with a recording of the latter winning two Grammys. She made her Opera San Antonio debut as Mrs. Fox in Tobias Picker's Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Roderer (Mrs. Bass, Emmeline) is known for her performances of both the classic and contemporary operatic repertoire. This season, she performs the role of Giovanna in Rigoletto at The Metropolitan Opera. In 2017, she made her house debut at the Met as La du gne in Alfano's Cyrano de Bergerac, and has covered roles for the company since 2015. She also performed twice this season at Carnegie Hall, singing Marfa in Rothschild's Violin with the American Symphony Orchestra a solo part in Mahler's Symphony No. 8 with the Canterbury Chorale.

British tenor Adam Smith (Don Jose, Carmen) won First Prize, Audience Prize, Critics' Prize, and the prize for The Best Tenor at the 2015 Ferruccio Tagliavini International Singing Competition in Austria. Appearances this season include three role and house debuts: Rodolfo in La boh me at Dorset Opera Festival, the Duke in Rigoletto at Scottish Opera, and Don Jos in Carmen with Seattle Opera.

Welsh-American Bass Rhys Lloyd Talbot (Zuniga, Carmen) received his Bachelor's degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Northern Iowa and his Master's degree in Vocal Performance from UMKC. A former Apprentice Artist with Lyric Opera Kansas City, Mr. Talbot is an alumni of young artist programs across the country including the Merola Opera Program in San Francisco, The Glimmerglass Festival, Des Moines Metro Opera, The Ravinia Steans Music Institute, Houston Grand Opera Young Artist Vocal Academy, the studio program at Wolf Trap Opera, and the Central City Opera Studio.

Tenor Matthew White (Pinkerton, Madama Butterfly) recently made his debut as Pinkerton with the Princeton Festival. Upcoming debuts include leading roles with Dallas Opera and Edmonton Opera. Highlights of recent seasons include Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor, the title role in Massenet's Werther, Avito in Montemezzi's L'amore dei tre re, and Faust in Lili Boulanger's Faust et Helene at the Academy of Vocal Arts; as well as debuts with Opera Maine, Palm Beach Opera, and Vero Beach Opera.

Returning Artists

Baritone Alexander Birch Elliott (Escamillo, Carmen) made his Metropolitan Opera and Houston Grand Opera debuts as Zurga in Les P cheurs de Perles this season. A frequent performer on concert stages he also made his debut with the Cleveland Orchestra, and returned to the Pittsburgh and Indianapolis symphonies. He made his principal artist debut at Tulsa Opera as Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, having previously sung the roles of the Corporal in La Fille du R giment and the Postman in Loesser's Most Happy Fella as a 2012-13 studio artist. Alexander is also a graduate of San Francisco Opera's Merola program.

Russian-American baritone Aleksey Bogdanov (Sharpless, Madama Butterfly) recently appeared as Nourabad in Les p cheurs de perles with Tulsa Opera. This season he makes his debut with Maryland Lyric Opera as Jack Rance in La fanciulla del West; at the Chicago Opera Theater as Starbuck in Moby-Dick; and returns to Washington National Opera (where, as a young artist he has sung numerous roles in over 100 performances) as Lieutenant Horstmayer in Silent Night. He has also appeared as soloist with the San Francisco Symphony conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, as well as with Arizona Opera, Commonwealth Lyric Theater, Sarasota Opera, Boston's Odyssey Opera, Opera North, Opera Carolina, and at the Colorado Music Festival.

Baritone, and Dallas, TX native Steven LaBrie (Mr. Maguire, Emmeline) made his Tulsa Opera debut as Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia this season. Recent engagements include his debut with San Diego Opera as Charlie in Three Decembers and a return to Opera Omaha as Belcore in L'Elisir d'Amore. In concert, he has performed Elijah and Carmina Burana with the San Antonio Symphony and Brahms's Requiem with the Tulsa Symphony. He has performed the baritone solos of Estancia with the New York City Ballet both in New York City and on tour in Paris; and made his Carnegie Hall debut as the soloist in Matthias Pintscher's Songs from Solomon's Garden with the American Composers Orchestra.

Bass Harold Wilson (Henry Mosher, Emmeline) is an artist who is equally comfortable on the opera and concert stages. This season, he returns to the Metropolitan Opera, singing Bertrand in Iolanta and covering Fasolt in Das Rheingold. He also appears with Opera Southwest as King Heinrich in Lohengrin and with Dayton Opera as Sparafucile in Rigoletto. He recently sang the bass solo in Beethoven's 9th Symphony with the Tulsa Symphony. He earned his Master's Degree from Indiana University, where he studied with renowned bass Giorgio Tozzi.


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