Washington National Opera (WNO) continues its annual holiday family opera tradition with The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me, December 14-16, 2018, in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. Based on Jeanette Winterson's award-winning children's book which tells the Nativity story from the donkey's point of view, The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me features music by Tony-award winning composer Jeanine Tesori (Fun Home) and a libretto by the late poet J.D. "Sandy" McClatchy. These performances star current and former members of WNO's Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program.

This production of The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me offers extra opportunities to enhance the whole family's magical experience, including a special sensory-friendly performance onSaturday, December 15 at 2 p.m. Prior to each performance, there will be a "touch cart" in the lobby where audience members will have the opportunity to feel and be exposed to costumes and props featured in the opera. A meet-and-greet with photo opportunities featuring some of the characters in costume follows the weekend matinees on Saturday, December 15 and Sunday, December 16, in the Terrace Gallery.

As the holiday season approaches, an Angel is interviewing all the animals in the community to handle an important job-leading Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. From cats and dogs, hippos and horses to oxen and sheep, the final three candidates are chosen: the Lion, the fearful ruler of the jungle; the Unicorn, a graceful steed; and the Donkey, small and unremarkable. The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me celebrates the underdog and champions the humble as the Donkey is chosen for his sturdy back and sensible ways. While following a starlit sky, the Donkey soon discovers that miracles can happen anywhere-and that no one should be underestimated.

One of the title roles is being performed by the former Young Artist who originated the role:Soloman Howard (Lion / Butcher 2) is a native of Washington D.C. whose star has been on the rise since graduating WNO's Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program in 2014. Most recently, he starred in Turandot at San Francisco Opera and Aida at the Metropolitan Opera. New to this production is the use of a girl soprano, as well as a boy soprano, who will alternate in the role of the Angel. That role is sung by Kylee Geraci of Alexandria, Virginia, who is making her WNO debut, and by "veteran" of the WNO Children's Chorus Holden Browne of Springfield, Virginia, who made his debut last year in WNO's The Little Prince.

The cast also includes current Young Artists, including Alexandra Nowakowski, Alexander McKissick, Hannah Hagerty, Joshua Conyers, Marlen Nahhas, Eliza Bonet, Joshua Blue,Samson McCrady, and Samuel Weiser, and features WNO's Children's Chorus, made up of 16 D.C.-area youth, under the direction of chorus master Steven Gathman.

This production is directed by WNO Artistic Director Francesca Zambello, who premiered the work at the Kennedy Center in 2013. Zambello has a long history of bringing works for children and families to the stage, including the world premieres of Rachel Portman and Nicholas Wright's The Little Prince at Houston Grand Opera (later televised as part of PBS's Great Performances), Ben Moore and Kelley Rourke's Robin Hood and The Odyssey at The Glimmerglass Festival, and Rachel Portman and Donna di Novelli's Little House on the Prairie at Guthrie Theater, as well as the 2008 Broadway musical The Little Mermaid.

Conducted by James Lowe (Broadway's Les Misérables and Anything Goes), The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me's creative team also includes set designer Michael Yeargan (WNO's RingCycle, Tony winner for Broadway's The Light in the Piazza), costume designer Erik Teague (The Glimmerglass Festival's The Flying Dutchman), lighting designer Mark McCullough (WNO's Show Boat and Ring Cycle), and associate director/choreographer Eric Sean Fogel (WNO's Candide).

American composer Jeanine Tesori is known for her award-winning musical theater scores, including five Tony nominations for Fun Home; Shrek The Musical; Caroline, or Change; Thoroughly Modern Millie; and Twelfth Night. This past summer her musical with David Henry Hwang Soft Power earned rave reviews during its world premiere in Los Angeles. Her first opera, A Blizzard on Marblehead Neck, with a libretto by Tony Kushner, had its world premiere at The Glimmerglass Festival in 2011. Recently, Tesori was announced as one of the first female composers to receive a Metropolitan Opera commission for her forthcoming work entitled Grounded.

Over a 20-year career, librettist J.D. "Sandy" McClatchy was a prize-winning American poet and literary critic. His opera libretti included William Schuman's A Question of Taste; Tobias Picker's Emmeline; Lorin Maazel's 1984, co-written with Thomas Meehan; and Elliot Goldenthal's Grendel, co-written with Julie Taymor. He was also the editor and translator of the highly praised Seven Mozart Librettos: A Verse Translation, published by W.W. Norton in 2010. McClatchy passed away in April 2018.

Washington National Opera's 2018-2019 season continues with Tchaikovsky's epic Eugene Onegin (March 9-29, 2019); Gounod's devilishly entertaining Faust (March 16-30, 2019); and Puccini's towering masterpiece Tosca (May 11-25, 2019). The season also features new works to premiere during the American Opera Initiative Festival (January 11-13, 2019); a special Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist performance A Concert of Comic Masterpieces(May 24, 2019); and other exciting vocal events. Tickets are available now.

Photo Credit: Walter McBride / WM Photos

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