Opera Saratoga Announces Free Refugee Voices Programs

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Opera Saratoga's Artistic and General Director Lawrence Edelson today announced Refugee Voices, two special events to complement the company's new production of The Consul by Gian Carlo Menotti.

When The Consul originally premiered on Broadway in 1950, the New York Times hailed it as "an opera of eloquence, momentousness, and intensity of expression...written from the heart, with a blazing sincerity and a passion of human understanding... It is torn out of the life of the present-day world, and poses an issue which mercilessly confronts humanity today." Almost 70 years later, Menotti's riveting opera still delivers a punch as powerful and timely as its subject matter - the struggle for freedom against oppression, and the maddening nature of unrelenting bureaucracy. Set in an unnamed European city, political dissident John Sorel is on the run from the secret police. After he escapes the country, his devoted wife Magda clashes with the bureaucracy at the Consulate while trying to obtain an exit visa for her family.

"As the national conversation has recently become increasingly focused on immigration and refugees, the contemporary relevance of The Consul is easy to see," Edelson said. "The bureaucracy that refugees have experienced throughout history is brought to the fore so poignantly in Menotti's masterpiece. America is a country of immigrants, yet today, refugees and immigrants continue to experience extraordinary challenges as they attempt to move - or in some cases, flee - to the United States. Once they arrive here, they often encounter additional unexpected challenges. These experiences vary based on many factors, including what country they are leaving, their religion, and the ever-changing political climate in Washington."

Opera Saratoga has a strong commitment to not only producing operas that are deeply relevant to local communities, but also to creating opportunities for the public to engage in meaningful dialogue around the themes explored in these productions. Leading up to and during the production, Opera Saratoga will offer free community engagement programs related to The Consul in both Albany and Saratoga Springs. Two free events are scheduled in Albany explore themes in The Consul through distinctly different lenses.

The first event, on Sunday, June 17th at 7:00pm at Picotte Recital Hall, Massry Center for the Arts, College of St. Rose (432 Western Avenue, Albany, NY), will be a free concert featuring music by refugee composers - artists who had to flee from their home countries due to religious or political persecution. This concert will also include short presentations by the singers on the context of each composer's journey from their homeland. Refugee composers highlighted on this free concert include Gaetano Donizetti, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Darius Milhaud, Paul Hindemith, Erich Korngold, Irving Berlin, Béla Bartók, and Kurt Weill. Advance online registration for this free event is highly recommended, at www.eventbrite.com/e/refugee-voices-tickets-46051572493

The second event, on Monday, July 2nd at 7:00pm in the Community Hall at Albany Unitarian Universalist (405 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY) will be a free symposium on the contemporary immigrant and refugee experience. This event will bring together a group of people from different countries who have made their homes in the Capital Region to share their journeys, including Rifat Filkins (Pakistan), Francis Sengabo(Rwanda), Muthana Alkhazraji (Iraq), Ali Amjadi (Sudan), and Lily Htoo (Mammary, via Thailand). The discussion will shed light on the difference between the experience of immigrants versus those who are specifically refugees, and Albany's role as a Sanctuary City. Presented in partnership with RISSE (Refugee and Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus), the forum will be moderated by Seth Leech, a partner with Whiteman Osterman & Hanna, whose primary practice area is immigration law including family-based immigration and asylum. Advance online registration for this free event is also highly recommended, at www.eventbrite.com/e/refugee-voices-a-symposium-tickets-46740449944

In Saratoga Springs, prior to each performance of The Consul (July 7th, 9th, and 15that The Spa Little Theatre in Spa State Park), Artistic and General Director Lawrence Edelson will also moderate a series of "Behind the Spotlight" events, which are free to all ticket holders for each performance. These discussions will feature artists involved in the creation of the new production, providing insight into the creative decisions that were informed by both the historical context of the opera, and current events. The new production is directed by Edelson, and conducted by Andrew Bisantz. The production features two distinguished alumni of Opera Saratoga's Young Artist Program who have become fast-rising stars: soprano Meghan Kasanders, and mezzo soprano Jennifer Panara. Critically acclaimed artists making their debuts with Opera Saratoga in this production include mezzo soprano Deborah Nansteel, tenorTyler Nelson, and baritone Wes Mason.

The complete performance schedule for Opera Saratoga's 2018 Summer Festival, which also includes new productions of The Merry Widow, and a double bill featuring Vinkensport, or The Finch Opera (Little/Vavrek) and the American Premiere of Rocking Horse Winner (Williams/Chatterton), is available online. Subscription Packages and Single Tickets are now on sale. For more information, please visit www.operasaratoga.org



Since its unveiling, the Massry Center for the Arts has been hailed as a Capital Region treasure-a creative showcase not only for the Saint Rose community, but for distinguished artists, musicians, vocalists, and orchestras from around the world. Its 46,000 square feet include, among many other features: the acoustically superior Kathleen McManus Picotte Recital Hall; The Esther Massry Gallery, with natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows illuminating exhibits in painting, sculpture, illumination, and other media; 21 soundproof practice rooms in the William Randolph Hearst Music Wing; and smart classrooms throughout the Center. Mirroring the Victorian administration building next door, the Massry Center was designed to meet the second highest rating of the United States Green Building Council: the LEED Gold standard. The geothermal heating and cooling help make the Center 48 percent more energy-efficient than a comparable, conventionally constructed building. Opera Saratoga's Refugee Voices concert is presented at the Massry Center for the Arts in partnership with the Department of Music at the College of St. Rose. For more information, visit www.strose.edu


Albany Unitarian Universalist celebrates Unitarian Universalism--a liberal, non-creedal faith tradition that is based on a free and responsible search for truth and meaning and the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Unitarian Universalists draw meaning from many faith traditions, embrace scientific reasoning, and express their beliefs through acts of social justice and compassion. For the second time in its history, Albany Unitarian Universalist has declared itself a Sanctuary congregation, repeating the action taken in 1984 in response to refugees fleeing violence in Central America. Albany Unitarian Universalist welcomes everyone. Opera Saratoga's Refugee Voices symposium is presented in partnership with Albany Unitarian Universalist. For more information, visit albanyuu.org



Located in the Pine Hills neighborhood of Albany, NY, RISSE is a family-based center that supports newcomers in building sustainable lives in the United States. RIISE's mission is to equip refugees and recent immigrants to build sustainable, independent lives by offering language and literacy instruction, as well as support with life skills and integration into U.S. culture and community. RISSE was founded in 2007 to assist refugees fleeing from the Congo. The initial goal was to help these refugees find housing, jobs, and resources and to advance their education. An after-school program was established for children; then came English as a Second Language (ESL) classes for adults. Volunteers, many of them immigrants and members of the Emmaus United Methodist Church in Albany, played a key role in the early success of RISSE, led by then- pastor Reverend Denise Stringer. An early partnership with The College of Saint Rose and its art education, counseling, literacy, and community service programs provided expertise and volunteers that supported the growth of RISSE services. RISSE has continued to grow, evolving from a small outreach program to a community-strengthening development center. In 2012, RISSE was recognized as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt nonprofit organization. RISSE works in partnership with the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), which services refugees and immigrants for their first 90 days in the U.S. RISSE also continues to enjoy thriving partnerships with The College of Saint Rose and Emmaus UMC. Opera Saratoga's Refugee Voices symposium is presented in partnership with RISSE. For more information, visit risse-albany.org


Opera Saratoga, formerly known as Lake George Opera, began with a production of Die Fledermaus at the Diamond Point Theatre on July 5, 1962, playing to an audience of 230. The Company now calls Saratoga Springs home and performs for more than 25,000 people annually. Opera Saratoga serves the communities of Saratoga Springs, the Lower Adirondack and New York State Capital areas by providing access to world-class opera through the production of an annual Summer Festival, as well as year-round activities including extensive educational programs, mentorship of emerging operatic artists, and unique opportunities for the public to experience opera in both our home theater and non-traditional venues that leverage and embrace the unique cultural, historic, and natural resources of the area. To date, the Company has performed over 90 different fully-staged works by over 50 different composers, including thirty-five works by American composers and eight world-premiere productions. Throughout its history, the Company's success has been shaped by visionary leaders, talented artists, and critically acclaimed productions. In July 2014, Lawrence Edelson became Opera Saratoga's Artistic and General Director. Edelson's leadership marked a new chapter in the company's history, with increased emphasis on community partnerships throughout the year, diversification of the company's repertoire, and a reaffirmed commitment to both the presentation of American opera and the mentorship of emerging artists as core activities in the company's programs each season. The 2018 Summer Festival will be the fourth season under his leadership. For more information, visit operasaratoga.org

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