Opera Naples Announces Cast of ROMEO ET JULIETTE to Kick Off 2022-23 Season

Performances will take place Dec. 4 and Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m. at Artis—Naples and feature the Naples Philharmonic.

By: Nov. 29, 2022
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Opera Naples, one of Naples' leading performing arts organization, has announced a star-studded cast will kick off the 2022-23 season with a famed production of "Roméo et Juliette" by Charles Gounod, featuring internationally acclaimed soprano Jeanette Vecchione-Donatti, Argentinian tenor Santiago Ballerini and Turkish bass-baritone Burak Bilgili. Three new talented up-and-coming artists will join the cast, including mezzo-soprano Grace Skinner, tenor Steven Ricks and baritone Charles Buttigieg.

Performances will take place Dec. 4 and Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m. at Artis-Naples and feature the Naples Philharmonic conducted by Opera Naples' Artistic and Music Director Ramón Tebar. The production will be directed by Argentinian opera singer and stage director Malena Dayen.

"Our artistic team is dedicated to presenting renowned talent of the highest caliber to our patrons," said Laura Burns, executive director of Opera Naples. "We are extremely excited to have Grace, Steven and Charles join Opera Naples as part of our Resident Artists program. This first production will be a wonderful way for audiences to experience what's to come for the season."

The popular five-act opera portrays the notable tragic love story written by William Shakespeare set to a French libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré. Famed for a series of four romantic duets and the fiery waltz song, "Je veux vivre," the luminous, lyrical music perfectly portrays the desire and liveliness of the tale through its beautiful melodies.

Jeanette Vecchione-Donatti will take on the lead female role of Juliette. In a repertoire that spans from Handel to Bernstein, she has graced the stages of the Vienna State Opera, Theatres des Champs Elysées, Teatro Verdi di Trieste, Teatro Massimo di Catania, among several others, throughout the world. Vecchione-Donatti has performed in a variety of leading roles, from the title role of Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" to the Queen of the Night in Mozart's "Die Zauberflöte." As a soloist, she has appeared in prestigious concert venues such as Carnegie Hall, Philarmoniker Hamburg, NDR Radiophilarmonie and throughout the United States, Europe, South America, Israel and Japan. Vecchione-Donatti had the privilege of studying with notable superstars such as Luciano Pavarotti, Kiri Te Kanewa, Renata Scottish and Natalie Dessay and received a full scholarship to attend The Juilliard School where she graduated with both a bachelor's and master's degree in music.Santiago Ballerini will perform the lead male role of Roméo. He is recognized as one of the leading tenors in the Bel Canto repertoire, having appeared at many of the major opera houses throughout North and South America.

Previous roles include Count Almaviva in "Il Barbiere di Siviglia," Ernesto in "Don Pasquale," Frederic in "The Pirates of Penzance," Duke of Mantua in "Rigoletto," and Contino Belfiore in "La Finta Giardiniera." On the concert platform, Ballerini has sung with the Porto Symphony Orchestra in Portugal and in Carmina Burana with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington D.C. under Gianandrea Noseda.

Burak Bilgili will appear as Frère Laurent. Since his professional operatic debut at the Teatro alla Scala in 2002 as Don Alfonso in "Lucrezia Borgia," he has sung in leading opera houses all around the world, including Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, Den Norske Opera in Oslo, Savonlinna Opera Festival, Grand Théâtre de Gèneve, and more. Beyond acting, he has also performed with distinguished musicians such as Zubin Mehta, Christoph Eschenbach and Sir Andrew Davis, as well as orchestras such as The American Symphony Orchestra, Auckland Symphony, National Symphony, Istanbul State Symphony Orchestra, Turkish Presidential Symphony Orchestra, Borusan Philharmonic and many more.

Grace Skinner will take on the role of Stéphano. Skinner is a recent recipient of the first-place prize in the Seattle Opera Guild Singers' Development Competition. She made her debut role performing The Composer with Vashon Opera and has worked with The Atlanta Opera covering the role of Giulio Cesare, and Utah Festival Opera covering the role of Carmen. Skinner was a vocal fellow of the prestigious young artist programs at the Music Academy of the West and the Aspen Music Festival.

Steven Ricks will appear in the role of Tybalt. Ricks has performed as a young artist with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Palm Beach Opera, Opera Saratoga and Idaho Falls Opera. He received the Encouragement Award from the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in both 2018 and 2019, as well as third place in the Classical Singers Magazine Competition.

Charles Buttigieg will perform the role of Mercutio. Buttigieg relocated from Malta to the United States in 2018 to study at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia as a recipient of a scholarship from the BOV Joseph Calleja Foundation. He has performed such roles as Masetto in "Don Giovanni," Mr. Fogg in "Sweeney Todd" and Spirit in "Dido and Aeneas." In 2019, Buttigieg debuted as Figaro in the "Barber of Seville" at the Opera Philadelphia and was a featured performer in 2021 in a televised concert with the Maltese Philharmonic Orchestra and legendary soprano Diana Damrau. With a voice compared to the legendary Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Buttigieg was an Encouragement Award winner in the Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition in 2021 and has shared the staged with distinct artists such as Joseph Calleja, Diana Damrau, Renee Fleming, Dolores Zajick and more.

In addition to the Resident Artists, 11 students from the Florida Gulf Coast University Bower School of Music & The Arts, one Ave Maria University student and three high school students, two of which are planning to pursue a music degree, will join the Opera Naples chorus for the production.

Tickets for "Roméo et Juliette" range from $28-$143. To reserve tickets, contact 239-963-9050 or visit OperaNaples.org.

Dedicated to presenting high-quality opera productions and concerts featuring internationally renowned performers and directors, Opera Naples is an artistic powerhouse. Since its inception, the company has presented such well-known grand operas as "La bohème," "Carmen," "Faust," "La Traviata," "Madama Butterfly," "Rigoletto," "Tosca" and more. An advocate of community service and education outreach, Opera Naples has introduced opera to more than 60,000 children since its inception through its various programs, including Lee and Collier County in-school programs and performances, the Resident Artists Program and Summer Youth Program. The company is also dedicated to nurturing the region's promising young talent through the Opera Naples Academy led by a faculty of revered opera luminaries who offer an immersive program of vocal instruction, lectures and masterclasses. The company has earned local, regional, and state government support. For more information, visit OperaNaples.org or contact info@OperaNaples.org.


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