Utah Opera to Present Cabaret-Style FATAL SONG, 11/14-17

Utah Opera to Present Cabaret-Style FATAL SONG, 11/14-17

Utah Opera presents a unique, cabaret-style theater experience featuring some of opera's best known arias in Kathleen Cahill's, irreverent Fatal Song onstage at Rose Wagner Theatre.

What Salt Lake Acting Company Resident Playwright Kathleen Cahill imagines what would happen if some of the most famous opera heroines met in an alternative theatrical universe to beg the question: must the diva always die in the end? Her witty and irreverent Fatal Song, where our favorite characters attempt to confront their shared musical mortality by staring death in the face and singing "No!"

Directed by Jim Christian, music professor at Weber State, and featuring Utah sopranos Jennifer Welch-Babidge and Celena Shafer, Fatal Song presents some of the most talented personalities in the state's performing arts scene.

Fatal Song was conceived by author and playwright Cahill's desire to learn more about opera. The 90-minute work was originally commissioned by Leon Major, Artistic Director of the Maryland Opera Studio, for the Women in Opera Conference the University of Maryland. The Conference was attended by performers, producers, musicologists and died-in-the-wool opera fans.

What came of that journey is the satirical, comedic look at operatic conventions as viewed by the ill-fated heroines Mimi, Violetta, Lucia - to name a few, who rail against their abusive treatment (and in most cases early deaths!) by composers Mozart, Verdi, Puccini and the like. A delightful inter-weaving of opera plots takes us on a journey of well-loved, beautiful arias and duets; with some hilarious liberties - including a 'coughing duet' with Mimi and Violetta as a way of poking fun of their tragic fate.

Designed as a unique way to welcome new audiences to the opera house, Fatal Song has enjoyed success with novices and veterans alike. Whether you know every note by heart or are hearing the music for the first time, this experience will feature the greatest melodies ever written and allow you to see the tragic women who must sing them - unto death every night - in a whole new way. Trust us, it's ok to laugh this time!

Add dinner to your night at the opera! For only $20 Utah Opera is offering two themed dinners, one Spanish ("The Carmen") and one French ("The Mimi"), to all performances. Call the Ticket Office at 801-533-NOTE (6683) and order today.

Utah Opera Artistic Director Christopher McBeth will hold a Q&A session, free of charge, immediately following each performance on stage at the Rose Wagner with Librettist and other cast members.

General Admission seats start at only $35. Cabaret tables start at $50. Buy your tickets today at utahopera.org or by calling 801-355-ARTS (2787). Season subscribers can purchase discounted tickets by contacting (801) 533-6683. Those desiring group discounts should call (801) 869-9046. All ticket prices are subject to change and availability, and will increase $5 when purchased on the day of the performance.


Utah Opera presents

Kathleen Cahill's 'Fatal Song'

Jeanné Rose Wagner Theatre, 138 West 300 South, Salt Lake City, Utah

Thursday, November 14, 2013, 7:30 PM to Saturday, November 16, 2013, 7:30 PM

Sunday, November 17, 2013, 4 PM


Written by Kathleen Cahill

Jerry Steichen, Conductor

Jim Christian, Director

Megan Phillips Cash, Soprano

Kirsten Gunlogson, Soprano

Amy Owens, Soprano

Celena Shafer, Soprano

Jennifer Welch-Babidge, Soprano

Christopher Clayton, Baritone

Tyson Miller, Tenor

SYNOPSIS (By Kathleen Cahill): Mimi died in the car on the way to my grandmother's house. I was sitting in the front seat next to Rocko, who worked with my father. On the radio, we were listening to the Texaco Opera Broadcast of La Bohème from the Met. Rocko was telling me the story, and it was so sad and so beautiful at the same time that it made me cry. Violetta died the same winter, and so did Carmen.

Rocko and I listened to the radio and he told me the stories of the operas with tears running down his face. It was because of those afternoons with Rocko that I went to graduate school to learn how to write librettos and the books to musicals. (I like to say I have a master's degree in show tunes.) A few years after I graduated, I was commissioned by the director of the Maryland Opera Studio, Leon Major, to write something for his voice students which could be performed at an upcoming conference on "Opera and Its Heroines and Divas." He bought me a copy of Kobbe's Opera Guide, a hefty tome of over 1400 pages of small type. "This should fill you in," he said.

With the Guide under my arm, I took up residence in the music library at the local college where I listened to over thirty operas. I emerged buzzy, dizzy, and instead of being moved, I was annoyed with the librettists who kept killing off the heroines. Only Mozart's librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte -- who, after working with Wolfgang, left Europe for New York City where he sold fish on the lower east side ---didn't rely on female death to inspire the composer. But for librettists who worked with Puccini, Massenet, Donizetti, Verdi and Bizet (among others) a beautiful, impassioned, thwarted, and emotionally off-balance female whose greatest moment is her last breath, was a staple of their plot.

Was this because so many women died in childbirth in the 19th century? Because female sacrifice was a cultural value? Because composers like to write music for sopranos? After listening to so much opera in such a short amount of time, I began to imagine what would happen if all these doomed females got together back stage and started to figure out what was going on. For a start, they might ask "Who's responsible for the death of all these wonderful women?" A movie called Fatal Attraction was a hit at this time. It's about a beautiful, impassioned, thwarted and emotionally off-balance female who dies in the end. The movie inspired my title. But I owe a debt of gratitude to those 19th century librettists. They inspired me to write FATAL SONG.


Jennifer Welch-Babidge Depina, Mimi, Pamina

Megan Philllips Cash Violetta, Desdamona, The Countess Rosina

Kirsten Gunlogson Carmen, Manon Lescaut, Giulietta, Dorabella

Amy Owens* Susanna, Cunegonde, The Queen of the Night

Tyson Miller* Des Grieux

Celena Shafer Lucia, Manon, Olympia, Fiordiligi

Christopher Clayton Master of Ceremonies/Count Almaviva

* Utah Opera Resident Ensemble Artist


Director Jim Christian

Conductor Jerry Steichen

Costume Designer Patricia Campbell

Lighting Designer Nicholas Cavallaro

Wigs and Make-up Designer Yancey J. Quick

Stage Manager Joseph Killian

Musical Preparation Carol Anderson


Kathleen Cahill, playwright

Kathleen Cahill has received many awards for her work, including the Jane Chambers Playwriting Award, a Connecticut Commission on the Arts Playwriting Award (twice), a Massachusetts Artists Foundation Award, a Rockefeller Grant, a National Endowment for the Arts New American Works Grant, a Drama League Award and two Edgerton Awards.

Her plays include "The Still Time" (Georgia Rep/Porchlight Theatre, Chicago), "Women Who Love Science Too Much" (Porchlight), "Henri Louise and Henry" (Cleveland Public, Firehouse Theatre, Massachusetts), "Slam" (Plan-B Theatre, UT), "Charm" (SLAC, Kitchen Dog Theatre, Dallas, Orlando Shakespeare), "The Persian Quarter" (SLAC, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, Massachusetts) and "Course 86B in the Catalogue" (SLAC). "Charm" and "The Persian Quarter" are published by Dramatic Publishing. She wrote the screenplay "Downtown Express", a film for David Grubin Productions in NY which began a limited commercial release at the Quad Theatre in New York City in the spring of 2012.

Her musicals include book and lyrics for "The Navigator, Friendship of the Sea" (developed at the North Shore Music Theatre), "Dakota Sky" (Olney Theatre), "Water on the Moon" (Signature Theatre readings), "Captivated" (Kennedy Center New Works Festival), "Perdita", (in progress) the operas "Clara", "Fatal Song", and "A Tale of Two Cities: Paris and Berlin in the Twenties" (all premiered at the Maryland Center for the Performing Arts). She is listed among the top 25 song writers in the new Directory of Contemporary Musical Theatre Writers.

Jennifer Welch-Babidge, soprano

Hailed by critics worldwide for her complete performances as both singer and actor, the American soprano Jennifer Welch-Babidge is in constant demand for her sparkling vocal technique, her natural stage presence, and both her dramatic and comic acting ability.

Appearances have included the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor at the New York City Opera, concert performances at Carnegie Hall with the Metropolitan Chamber Ensemble, and the roles of Chloe in The Queen of Spades and Freia in Das Rheingold, among other roles with the Metropolitan Opera. She appeared with Utah Festival Opera as Gilda in their production of Rigoletto, in the course of a busy career that has brought engagements in principal roles throughout the United States and abroad. Jennifer Welch-Babidge is a recipient of many awards, including the 2001 ARIA Award and the 2001 Richard Tucker Career Grant. She was also a winner of the Metropolitan Opera's National Council Auditions in the spring of 1997.

She is a graduate of the Met's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. A native of Aulander, North Carolina, she is a graduate of the North Carolina School of the Arts with a master's degree in vocal performance. Among her honors, she received a Sara Tucker Study Grant from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation and an award from the William Mattheus Sullivan Foundation.

Celena Shafer, soprano

After two summers as an apprentice at the Santa Fe Opera, the career of Soprano Celena Shafer was launched to critical raves as Ismene in Mozart's Mitridate, Re di Ponto. Anne Midgette in the New York Times wrote, "It takes the debutante Celena Shafer, an alumna of the apprentice program here, to show how it should be done, singing the Oriental princess Ismene with flair, vocal balance and great cadenzas."

Since that breakthrough debut, Ms. Shafer has garnered acclaim for her silvery voice, fearlessly committed acting and phenomenal technique. She spends much of her time on the concert stage where she appears regularly with orchestras in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Los Angeles and with leading conductors such as Christoph von Dohnanyi, Alan Gilbert, Loren Maazel, Bernard Labadie, Nicholas McGegan, Kent Nagano, Donald Runnicles, Michael Tilson Thomas, David Robertson and Sir Andrew Davis.

In her home state of Utah, Ms. Shafer frequently performs with the Utah Symphony & Opera where she appears this season as Rosina in their staging of IL Barbiere di Siviglia. She returns to the Phoenix Symphony for performances of Carmina Burana with music director Michael Christie and to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for Bach's Mass in B Minor led by music director Robert Spano.

Some of her operatic highlights include Johanna in Sweeney Todd for the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Aithra in Die ägyptische Helena with the American Symphony Orchestra recorded for Telarc, Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos at the Concertgebouw, Nanetta in Falstaff with the Los Angeles Opera, and Gilda in Rigoletto with the Welsh National Opera. She has returned several times to the Santa Fe Opera, most recently as Miss Wordsworth in Albert Herring.

As Marie in La fille du régiment with Cincinnati Opera, she was hailed for her "agile coloratura" and "ravishing tone" (The Cincinnati Post). In Die Fledermaus, her performance was "the embodiment of Viennese style and the binding ingredient of the production" (The Vancouver Sun). For her role in Die ägypstiche Helena, Ms. Shafer "was brilliant as Aithra, a sorceress, singing with bright, focused sound and utter confidence." (The New York Times)

About Utah Symphony | Utah Opera

Utah Symphony | Utah Opera connects Utah communities through great live music, serving as the premier local provider of orchestral and operatic art forms. The Utah Symphony, which performs at Abravanel Hall, is one of the nation's only year-round orchestras. Together with Utah Opera, which performs at the Capitol Theatre, USUO reaches 450,000 citizens in Utah and the Intermountain region with educational outreach programs serving more than 200,000 students annually. The organization employs 57 staff and 85 full-time musicians, presenting four full operas and more than 70 symphony performances in each regular season as well as community concerts throughout Utah and an annual summer series - the Deer Valley Music Festival - in Park City, Utah. For more information, visit www.usuo.org.