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Pittsburgh Festival Opera Announces 2020 Season

Pittsburgh Festival Opera has released the details of its 2020 schedule. Productions this season include classic opera, one world premiere, one Pennsylvania premiere and the conclusion of Pittsburgh's Ring Cycle with scenes from Siegfried and Twilight of the Gods in concert. The Festival also presents a wider breadth of programming in different venues to include lectures, a poetry reading, two concerts by its Young Artists Program and festival favorite Daphne Alderson. The Festival runs from July 11 until July 26, 2020.

New for 2020, the Pittsburgh Festival Opera summer season will kick off with a gala benefit concert and celebration at the award winning Pittsburgh Playhouse at Point Park University on Saturday, June 20, 2020. Gathering of the Goddesses will feature a gala concert performance with Pittsburgh Festival Opera's new Artistic Director and world renown mezzo-soprano Marianne Cornetti and two of today's most in-demand dramatic sopranos Christine Goerke and Alexandra Loutsion. The summer solstice celebration benefits the Pittsburgh Festival Opera's Young Artists Program.

The centerpiece of the 2020 summer festival is Ruggero Leoncavallo's famous one act tragedy Pagliacci. With a nod to the circus and commedia dell'Arte, Pagliacci will be preceded by an original staging of Igor Stravinsky's Pulcinella Suite complete with circus performers and vocalists. Opening Saturday, July 11, 2020 and running for four performances at the Pittsburgh CAPA Theater downtown, the title role will be sung by American operatic tenor Carl Tanner, a regular performer at the world's leading opera houses. Stage director Chuck Hudson will make his Pittsburgh Festival Opera debut in a new production.

In 2014, Pittsburgh Festival Opera launched its Music that Matters series with the goal of commissioning new operas that address important social issues and how those issues affect the people of western Pennsylvania. The world premiere of Virgula Divina, a one-hour chamber opera by composer Karen Brown and Librettist Jessica Lanay is the next in this series of commissions. The opera will be performed in the Richard E. Rauh Studio Theatre on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh starting on July 18, 2020. Tickets for Virgula Divina are "Pay what you can" at the door or can be purchased in advance.

Virgula Divina presents a post-apocalyptic future world in which the composer and librettist explore their own personal feelings about being demographically marginalized women in society. Focused on creating a sense of immediateness for the audience and the performers, the opera was written with three different endings, randomly selected by software written by the composer. The cast of three including Anqwenique, Courtney Porter and Edward Washington II will navigate this first-of-its-kind music drama where no two performances of the work could be the same. The all-female production team includes Ellen Jackson, stage director and Michelle Rofrano, conductor, both making their Pittsburgh Festival Opera debuts.

The 2020 Young Artists Program has been transformed into a professional opera training program for young singers who are paid a stipend to participate in a five-week intensive of vocal coaching, role preparation, master classes and a vigorous rehearsal schedule leading up to a brand new production and the Pennsylvania premiere of composer Mark Adamo's Lysistrata, or the Nude Goddess running for two back-to-back performances at the Ace Hotel Pittsburgh on July 22-23, 2020. Lysistrata was written after Aristophanes' comic tragedy on love and war. It received its world premiere at Houston Grand Opera in 2005. Mark Adamo also created the lyrics. Two concerts of arias and scenes will also feature the Young Artists Program during the sixteen day summer festival.

Derrick R. Brown, last seen at the Festival in 2019 as stage director of Gianni Schicchi, returns to Pittsburgh as stage director and production designer. Robert Frankenberry conducts the two hour opera featuring each of the thirteen singing members of the Young Artists Program and a new orchestration for fifteen players. Pittsburgh Festival Opera is also partnering with its East End neighbor The Ellis School on an engagement project that helps community organizations with problems that would lend themselves to the design of a physical solution. For Pittsburgh Festival Opera, Ellis students will design a prototype acoustical treatment that will enhance the audience enjoyment of the opera. The Ellis School educates girls and young women to become bold, authentic, and intellectually vibrant changemakers; a mission that links with the Festival's Music That Matters initiative.

In 2018, Pittsburgh's Ring Cycle began its revival run at the Festival. This summer, the Festival will end the cycle with a concert performance of scenes from the final two installments Richard Wagner's epic operas Siegfried and Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods). This version uses British composer Jonathan Dove's brilliant reduction of the massive score and will feature international Wagnerian superstar Jane Eaglen singing the famous 'Immolation Scene'. She will also be the stage director of the concert with Walter Morales conducting members of the Pittsburgh Festival Opera Orchestra at the award-winning Pittsburgh Playhouse at Point Park University for one night only, Friday, July 24, 2020. Two Ring Cycle lectures including one pre-curtain lecture will feature Michael Bolton, Vice President of Community Initiatives at Opera Philadelphia. Renowned for his educational opera presentations, Mr. Bolton has lectured for Opera Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Orchestra, the Curtis Institute of Music, Academy of Vocal Arts, University of Pennsylvania, American Association of University Women, among many others. He has curated opera programming at the African American Museum of Philadelphia, Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, The Barnes Foundation, National Museum of American Jewish History, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology.

In 2020, festival programming will be expanded with the addition of pre-performance lectures at every performance and with two special events intended to create conversation about contemporary issues. The first will spotlight Pittsburgh-based poet Cameron Barnett in a reading from his award winning book, The Drowning Boy's Guide to Water, which serves as inspiration behind a new song cycle commissioned by Pittsburgh Festival Opera to premiere in the 2021 season. The 2019 Carol Brown Award winning poet will read selected work and participate in a moderated discussion at the Dance Alloy Studios on Sunday, July 12, 2020. Internationally acclaimed opera singers Marianne Cornetti and Jane Eaglen will sit down with WQED-FM's Jim Cunningham on Monday, July 20, 2020 at the WQED Fred Rogers Studio in The Diva's Dish, stories and insights from the world's stages.

For the youngest audience members, the children's opera Rusalka: A Mermaid's Tale will premiere on Saturday, July 11, 2020 at the Dance Alloy Studios and performs every Saturday morning of the Festival. Directed by Seamus Ricci, a cast of four will perform the opera throughout the City of Pittsburgh as part of the company's flagship education program Opera in the Schools in the spring, leading to the fully staged version during the summer festival. The colorful production was created by Opera for the Young in Madison, WI and follows the tale of Rusalka the Mermaid finding her voice in the world using arrangements of music from Dvorak's opera Rusalka. It is appropriate for all audiences and especially children.

Finally, perennial festival favorite Daphne Alderson presents a one-night only engagement titled Daphne...These Days at WQED's Fred Rogers Studio on Saturday, July 25, 2020. Daphne weaves her stylish interpretations and unforgettable stories into a musical odyssey of love and loss while discovering the quirkiness of faith. Featuring the music of Clyde Otis, Alex North, Nico, and Freddie Mercury plus original songs by Daphne and the St. Michel Band, this evening of unexpected renditions will delight and inspire.

Performances of the Pittsburgh Festival Opera season will take place July 11-26, 2020. Subscriptions go on sale February 17, 2020.

Single tickets go on sale March 2, 2020.

Ticket prices range from $10-$50

All seats for all performances are general admission.

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