Events Archive

Opera Preview – OF MICE AND MEN – SOLD OUT!

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Opera Previews is a series of fun, informative lectures with live musical selections from each opera presented at Chez Zee American Bistro.  Taking place a few weeks prior to the opening of each Austin Opera production, these lively events give attendees an opportunity to learn about the upcoming opera while mingling with other enthusiasts. Space is limited, so reserve your spot today!

Doors always open at 6:30pm for wine and light hors d’oeuvres. Lecture begins promptly at 7:00pm.

Of Mice and Men Opera Preview – SOLD OUT
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
Speakers: Artistic Director of Austin Shakespeare, Ann Ciccolella, and Artistic Director with Principal Conductor of Austin Opera, Richard Buckley

Tickets to each Opera Preview event are $20.

Opera Preview – AIDA

Chez.FORWEB.v2

Opera Previews is a series of fun, informative lectures with live musical selections from each opera presented at Chez Zee American Bistro.  Taking place a few weeks prior to the opening of each Austin Opera production, these lively events give attendees an opportunity to learn about the upcoming opera while mingling with other enthusiasts. Space is limited, so reserve your spot today!

Doors always open at 6:30pm for wine and light hors d’oeuvres. Lecture begins promptly at 7:00pm.

Aida Opera Preview
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Speaker: Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of Austin Opera, Richard Buckley

Tickets to each Opera Preview event are $20. To purchase, please click HERE or call our Patron Services Manager at 512.610.7684.

SEASON OPENING GALA CONCERT

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The 2015-16 season will kick off with a special Season Opening Gala Concert on September 26 that highlights the great talents of the Austin Opera Orchestra. Rising dramatic soprano Heidi Melton will be joined by Rachele Gilmore, and Liz Cass, led by principal conductor Richard Buckley, in selections from beloved operas by Wagner and Strauss including Tristan und IsoldeDer RosenkavalierSalomeDie Meistersinger von Nürnberg & more.

Program:

Wagner – Rienzi Overture
Wagner – Tristan und Isolde, Prelude and Liebestod
Strauss – Der Rosenkavalier excerpts, includes presentation of the Rose and the Trio
Strauss – Salome, Dance of the Seven Veils
Strauss – Salome, Final Scene
Wagner – Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

 

Vocal selections from the Season Opening Gala Concert will be sung in German with the English translation projected above the stage.

Learn more about the featured Season Opening Gala Concert artists in the above “Featured Artists”  and “Q&A” tabs.

Please note: Season subscriptions do not include tickets to the Season Opening Gala Concert. Tickets to the Gala Concert must be purchased separately.

AustinMonthly.SponsorRecognition   KUT.SponsorRecognition

Heidi Melton will make her Austin Opera debut, onstage with Austin Opera principal conductor Richard Buckley, our robust 80-member orchestra, and a full program from Strauss and Wagner. It will be a powerhouse of a performance and season opening.

In anticipation of this one-time event, we sat down with Ms. Melton to learn more about her. She’s truly captivating, and we immediately fell in love.

We know you will too.

Heidi QA1

As a self-identified Wagner-geek, what do you love most about his music?

EVERYTHING. The man knows drama. I find his music is perfectly sculpted. It grabs you from the very first chord and doesn’t release you until the very end. It fills me completely when I sing it.

I think what I love most about Wagner’s music is that it takes everyone prisoner. You can feel a collective sigh at the end of a Wagner Opera. Everyone in the audience has had all of the feelings forced out of them and they aren’t just applauding the artists on stage, but they’re applauding their own experience and journey. It is definitely a group effort. It’s pretty magical.

What attracted you to opera?

My attraction to opera was not an immediate one. I did not grow up listening to or attending opera. It was something that I slowly and deeply fell in love with.

I believe the reason I am so drawn to opera is that it takes me completely out of every day, ordinary life. It is big and brash and beautiful, and it completely consumes me. I don’t know that there is a more complete or comprehensive art form.

What has been your most memorable role?

Oh, I can’t choose! Every role that I do is my favorite for some reason or another while I am singing it.

If I absolutely had to choose, I think at this point it would be Sieglinde. I have sung Sieglinde in San Francisco, Berlin, Toronto, Dallas, Montreal, Glasgow, Valencia, Edinburgh, Baltimore and Karlsruhe. She is an incredibly strong woman and a fighter.

It is always a pleasure to take her journey with her, from a beaten and abused woman to one that is full of love, life and hope…and it doesn’t hurt that she has some of the most beautiful music ever composed!

Do you have a mantra or routine before going on stage?

I don’t know that I have an exact mantra. I try not to have too many habits or needs before I go on stage: being on the road as much as I am, and in many international cities, you are not always guaranteed to have everything you need around you. I always try to have my grandma’s ring with me (either on my finger or in my bra!) and I carry a picture of my nieces with me on stage always.

I definitely get nervous—the music means too much to me not to. So, I always tell myself that I can do it and that I am only human and can only do what I can do in that very instance. If I’m not on my team, how can I expect anyone else to be! And if there is a diet coke around . . . bonanza.

What is your dream role?

Isolde. Brünnhilde. Elektra. Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Fäberin. And if I were a baritone: Scarpia.

As Austin is a major music hub, we’re keen to know what you jam out to?

Anything and everything. If it touches me, I’m game. My music collection is completely crazy.

I don’t really listen to opera, unless I’m studying. In my opinion, it would be like a lawyer listening to tapes of trials. But I listen to lots of different types of music: pop, jazz, rock, classic rock, metal, bluegrass, country, rap, hip hop.

You wouldn’t believe the looks I get when people come into my dressing room, getting down to something that isn’t necessarily classical.

Describe what singing feels like.

Amazing. Terrifying. Exhilarating. Sweaty. It’s a complete full-body experience. It is like everything is vibrating from the inside out. It is one of the most amazing and addicting experiences in the world.

And sometimes, it feels like driving a Mack truck down an icy country lane.

Austin Opera principal conductor Richard Buckley will lead our robust 80-member orchestra through a full program from Strauss and Wagner, including Tristan und Isolde, Der Rosenkavalier, Salome, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg & more. It will be a moving, memorable season opening that everyone will be talking about.

In anticipation of this one-time event, we asked Richard to give us some background to the concert’s conception and highlights. Here’s what he shared.

Richard QA

In opening our 29th the season with a concert, why did you select from Wagner and Strauss?

This concert is part of the expansion of our company’s artistic vision and the first of what we hope will turn into an annual event. Starting in the 2016-17 Season, we will open our season in September with an entire semi-staged opera, which will also be made available on our subscription series. This concert of Wagner and Strauss is a starting point upon which we will build toward these semi-staged productions, which will fill in a gap of operatic repertoire that we have performed less frequently. And it is an excellent way for Austin’s opera aficionados to have a taste of this German Romantic music.

Program selections will come from operas that include Tristan und Isolde, Der Rosenkavalier, Salome, and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. What brought you to these pieces?

I first started my career in Seattle, helping prepare North America’s first full production of “The Ring,” so my musical exposure to Wagner came early. And through my years of symphonic conducting, these overtures and Tristan have been music I have performed frequently. Rosenkavalier is an opera I would love to perform in its entirety. This concert is a way to experience some of this amazing music in a kind of “favorite hits” way.

The orchestra will be 80-members strong, showcased onstage. What is it about the orchestral pieces you’ve selected that they showcase the talent of our orchestra?

All these pieces require great sensitivity, color, dynamics, attention to detail, and emotional involvement for every minute of the concert. The concentration and dedication to pull off this gigantic program has a real adrenalin push to it, and the challenge itself, I predict, will push our orchestra to perform at all-time great levels of artistry.

The evening will also feature Heidi Melton, Rachele Gilmore, and Liz Cass. What were you looking for in the singers that you selected?

Great voices that are new to the scene.

What are some of your favorite parts that we should be listening for?

The amazing brass fanfares in Rienzi; the heart wrenching farewell of Isolde to Tristan and her life, and their love; the great waltzes of Rosenkavalier along with the realization of new love between Octavian and Sophie; the trio, when the Marschallin comes to understand she is at that moment in life where she gives up her youth; Salome’s erotic dance, followed by her childish psycho-sick, perverted fondling of Jochanaan’s head, which she had chopped off; the incredible counterpoint of the Meistersinger overture that has a dark, deep color of string sound, big full brass, and scintillating woodwinds.

Austin favorite Liz Cass will perform onstage with Austin Opera principal conductor Richard Buckley, our powerful 80-member orchestra, and a blockbuster program from Strauss and Wagner.

Ms. Cass shared with us insights to her career and opera’s place in Austin. Not only is she an Austin-based mezzo soprano, she is also the Executive Producer of LOLA – Local Opera Local Artists. Her enthusiasm for the artform is nothing short of irresistible.

Liz QA2

How do you juggle life between your role as a singer and administrator of ACMS and LOLA, plus your other projects?

Great question! I cannot live without my Google calendar, voice lessons, and lists upon lists upon lists. All of these jobs including my voice studio of 30+ students require much time and attention. One thing I tell myself to keep going is, “If you don’t do what is in your heart and mind, no one will”.

What is it like going from the intimate settings of LOLA performances to the auditorium stage? What do you like most about each setting?

There is nothing quite like either experience. As a trained opera singer, to perform with a skilled professional orchestra is like nothing else on planet earth. In the best cases it feels like I am a piece in a  jigsaw puzzle that is falling into place. Maestro Buckley is incredibly sensitive to that balance of powers between the human voice and orchestra. Austin is in for such a treat with this season opener!

Performing in more intimate settings brings an immediacy to the action and story telling that can be very exciting and raw. Whether in a large hall or a smaller space, it is all about the quality of the story telling and the musicianship. Both offer opportunities for experiencing the totality of the human experience.

Why is opera so special to you?

Opera has grown on me. Ha! That’s a funny thing for an opera singer, right?  I grew up in a classical music home, but I wasn’t smitten with opera. I have always loved singing; the study of it and the teaching of it. Until I was in my mid twenties, I wouldn’t listen to opera for fun or go to the opera for fun, it was always for study. But over time I have come to see that opera is everything!  All that human beings experience on an emotional, cerebral, physical, and spiritual level is found here. Opera was born in the spirit of bringing together all of the art forms and it remains loyal to its mission to this day.

What are some of the more interesting places you’ve performed and what is your favorite role?

Each year, I sing in Antigua, Guatemala at the Casa Santo Domingo which began as a monastery in 1538 and is now a 5-star hotel with several museums and art gallaries. They have done a beautiful job of preserving the ruins. We perform in front of an ancient chancel at night, it is pure magic. Antigua, Guatemala, is a Unesco World Heritage Site and should without a doubt be on any world traveler’s list.

My favorite roles are Komponist from R. Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Hermia from Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Sophisticated, human, redemptive.

What are the differences in singing German repertoire versus Italian and French?

Aside from a few consonants and umlauts, nothing.

Why is opera important to Austin?

We are lucky to live in a city whose citizens are interested in experiencing the broad spectrum of the arts. Because opera is the totality of the human experience, it is vital to a city whose heart beats the rhythm of music and humanity.

We are thrilled to be featuring coloratura soprano Rachele Gilmore onstage with Austin Opera principal conductor Richard Buckley, our powerful 80-member orchestra, and an incredible program from Strauss and Wagner.

We had a moment between rehearsals to ask Ms. Gilmore a few questions about her artistry. Want to know what it feels like to sing in the stratosphere? Read on. We cannot wait to hear her live.

Rachel QA

What are the differences in singing German repertoire versus Italian and French?

I would say mostly the way the language feels in your mouth. There is a certain way that consonants need to be approached when singing in German which takes some time to get used to. To some, German can seem like a harsh sounding language, but it is actually very beautiful to sing in, and there are so many expressive colors you can make using the words

What attracted you to opera?

I had a fantastic choir director in high school who introduced me to classical music. There was just something about it that spoke to me, I guess more of a feeling than anything. I also loved the challenge of it as opposed to other styles of music I had sung before, especially learning vocal technique and singing in different languages.

What has been your most memorable role?

It’s hard to choose just one, but I would say Lucia di Lammermoor. It’s the role I feel most at home in, and I also met my husband singing Lucia!

How did you get your start?

I moved to New York city after school, and it was basically just a few years of a lot of persistence and A LOT of auditions.

What is your mantra before going on stage?

This was passed on to me by another singer who attributed it to James Levine: Just keep breathing!

What is your dream role?

I’ve been fortunate to have already sung so many of my dream roles, but if there is one I haven’t yet it is La Fille du Régiment, which I happen to be performing next season!

Austin loves its music. So we’re keen to know what you jam out to?

I mostly listen to older music. A few of my favorite artists are Led Zeppelin, Joni Mitchell, Queen, Pearl Jam. I also love listening to Jazz.

What does it feel like to sing in the stratosphere?

Well, sort of a whole lot of nothing! My brain just sort of empties when I sing a really high note and I can’t think about too much. It always takes a few seconds for me to regain focus after a particularly long one. Maybe too much blood rushing to the head!

 

 

THE BARBER OF SEVILLE

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Austin Opera culminates its 2015-16 Season with one of Gioachino Rossini’s perennial favorite, The Barber of Seville, support provided by the Georgia B. Lucas Foundation Fund at Austin Community Foundation.

Rossini’s beloved comic opera returns to the repertoire with a cast that is sure-to-please. Jennifer Rivera as Rosina, Troy Cook as Figaro, and Patrick Carfizzi as Dr. Bartolo will charm and dazzle you with their Rossinian vocal fireworks. And we’re thrilled to welcome back Jamie Offenbach as Don Basilio, following his wonderful performance as Mephistopheles in Faust. Rossini’s musical wit glints through every scene of this delightful comedy, one of the most playful and popular ever written!

Stage director Alain Gauthier has found success with his recent production of Dead Man Walking at l’Opera de Montréal where he won the Opus Award for the “Event of the Year”. Gauthier will bring his artistic and directorial strengths to the Long Center stage to emphasize the opera’s beautiful music and hilarious comic timing.

The Barber of Seville features the Austin Opera Chorus and the Austin Opera Orchestra.

An Opera in two acts, sung in Italian with English translations projected above the stage.

Learn more about the artists, production team, and the synopsis.

Watch as Debut Artist Troy Cook performs a “Largo al factotum” from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville (starting at 5:05). Austin Opera is proud to bring the talents of Mr. Cook whose rich vocal inflections will surely enhance this beloved opera classic.


Cast:

Count Almaviva – Juan José de León*
Figaro – Troy Cook*
Dr. Bartolo – Patrick Carfizzi*
Rosina – Jennifer Rivera*
Don Basilio – Jamie Offenbach
Berta – Lisa Alexander

* Austin Opera debut


Production:

Composer: Gioachino Rossini | Libretto: Cesare Sterbini| Conductor: Richard Buckley | Stage Director: Alain Gauthier | Chorus Master: Julian Reed | Scenic Designer: Peter Dean Beck | Costume Designer: Susan Memmott Allred | Lighting Designer: Kathryn Eader


More about our Principal Artists:

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Troy Cook, baritone singing Figaro – American baritone Troy Cook recently debuted with the Hamburgische Staatsoper as Marcello in La bohème, where he also performed his first Ford in Falstaff in the spring of 2010, and the Royal Opera, Covent Garden as Guglielmo in Così fan tutte.  His first  recording was just released by the Opera Rara Label, singing the role of Lusignano in Donizetti’s Caterina Cornaro to rave reviews.

Recent appearances include performances as Paolo in Simon Boccanegra with Kentucky Opera, Riccardo in Boston Lyric Opera’s I puritani, Marcello in La bohème with Pittsburgh Opera and North Carolina Opera, and the Marquis de la Force in Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites with Opera Theatre of St. Louis. Mr. Cook also appeared in concert this season with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra and Winston Salem Symphony. Future seasons include performances with Opera Philadelphia, San Diego Opera, and Dallas Opera.

CRITICAL ACCLAIM:

Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Les pêcheurs de perles– “But the opera belonged to Cook, whose Zurga seemed like the only human being onstage. His resplendent baritone is always a pleasure, but beyond that you really believed in the complexity of his character. Most of all, his simple act of sacrifice becomes the agent of sanity in this insane but oddly rewarding piece of musical theater, and in his bracing final aria you realized that “Pearl Fishers” is really just a love triangle in which somebody had to give in for sake of friendship.”  – Paul Horsley, The Kansas City Star

Central City Opera, Show Boat – “Cook is a commanding presence as the flawed romantic lead, gambler Gaylord Ravenal, capable of switching quickly from high comedy to heartrending pathos and again to suave romance. Gorgeously presenting several signature songs, including “Make Believe,” Cook is always the center when onstage.”  – Kelly Dean Hansen, The Daily Camera

Jennifer Rivera, mezzo-soprano singing Rosina – Has earned a spot as one of the most sought after and versatile lyric mezzo-sopranos of her generation by consistently delivering exceptional vocalism, superb musicianship, and a powerful stage presence. Her successful European debut as Sesto in La clemenza di Tito with the Teatro Regio di Torino directed by Graham Vick and conducted by Roberto Abaddo was followed by her debut with the Berlin Staatsoper as Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia, and Nerone in a new production of Agrippina conducted by Rene Jacobs. She was then invited to sing Licida in L’Olimpiade by Pergolesi at the Innsbruck Early Music Festival, and returned to the Berlin Staatsoper as both Rosina, and as Ismene in a new production of Antigone by Traetta conducted by Maestro Jacobs.

Jennifer Rivera has received prizes in several competitions, including the Operalia Competitionheld in Madrid, Spain, in which she was a finalist who performed in the Gala Concert conducted by Placido Domingo; the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in which she was the winner of the Eastern Region and a national Semi-Finalist; the George London Foundation, the Opera Index Competition, the Gerda Lissner Foundation, the Licia Albanese Puccini Competition, and the Richard F. Gold Shoshana Foundation Career Grant. She attended Boston University for her undergraduate degree and The Juilliard School for her Master’s degree. She is a native of California, and currently resides in New York City.

 

CRITICAL ACCLAIM:

Inssbruck Early Music Festival, La Stellidaura Vendicante – “Jennifer Rivera sang the title role with a luminous mezzo-soprano and reacted keenly to the opera’s swiftly changing moods. She made a standout of an aria about a tormented lover in which graceful melodic sequences anticipate the tuneful Neapolitan style to come.” – George Loomis, The New York Times

Boston Baroque, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria – “Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Rivera sang the role of Ulisse’s faithful wife Penelope. She demonstrated a powerful sound in the role’s low tessitura and her warm-timbred voice suited both Penelope’s mournful languishing and steadfast character.” – examiner.com

Juan Jose de Leon

Juan José de León, tenor singing Count Almaviva- Juan José de León is capturing the attention of audiences and critics alike. Hailed for his “big voice,” and “versatility,” (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) the young tenor is rapidly-bursting onto the operatic scene. In the 2012-13 season Mr. de León completed his residency with the Pittsburgh Opera where he appeared as Matteo Borsa in Rigoletto, Paolino in Il Matrimonio Segreto, and Don Ramiro in La Cenerentola.

Mr. de León also joined The Wolf Trap Opera in the summer of 2013 where he performed the roles of Count Libenskof in Il Viaggio a Reims and Dr. Caius in Falstaff. Concert work this season includes the I Sing Beijing American Debut at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center accompanied by The New York City Orchestra as well as the tenor soloist in Rossini’s Stabat Mater with the Erie Philharmonic.

He opened the 2013-14 season making his Metropolitan Opera company debut with the American premiere of Nico Muhly’s new work, Two Boys (American Congressman).

CRITICAL ACCLAIM:

Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, The Magic Flute – Juan José de León sang a wonderful Tamino. The tenor has already shown a big voice and versatility as one of Pittsburgh Opera’s resident artists. His Mozart was stylishly heroic as well as tender of heart” –Mark Kanny, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

the piercing power of Byers made for a spectacular conclusion that provoked a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience. – See more at: http://www.austinpost.org/article/vai-tosca#sthash.opCHB3Zn.dpuf
the piercing power of Byers made for a spectacular conclusion that provoked a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience. – See more at: http://www.austinpost.org/article/vai-tosca#sthash.opCHB3Zn.dpuf
the piercing power of Byers made for a spectacular conclusion that provoked a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience. – See more at: http://www.austinpost.org/article/vai-tosca#sthash.opCHB3Zn.dpuf
the piercing power of Byers made for a spectacular conclusion that provoked a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience. – See more at: http://www.austinpost.org/article/vai-tosca#sthash.opCHB3Zn.dpuf
the piercing power of Byers made for a spectacular conclusion that provoked a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience. – See more at: http://www.austinpost.org/article/vai-tosca#sthash.opCHB3Zn.dpuf

Act I
Seville. Count Almaviva comes in disguise to the house of Doctor Bartolo and serenades Rosina, whom Bartolo keeps confined to the house, beneath her balcony window. Figaro the barber, who knows all the town’s secrets and scandals, arrives. He explains to Almaviva that Rosina is Bartolo’s ward, not his daughter, and that the doctor intends to marry her. Figaro devises a plan: the count will disguise himself as a drunken soldier with orders to be quartered at Bartolo’s house so that he may gain access to the girl. Almaviva is excited and Figaro looks forward to a nice cash pay-off.

Rosina reflects on the voice that has enchanted her and resolves to use her considerable wiles to meet its owner, whom the count leads her to believe is a poor student named Lindoro. Bartolo appears with Rosina’s music master, Don Basilio. Basilio warns Bartolo that Count Almaviva, who has made known his admiration for Rosina, has been seen in Seville. Bartolo decides to marry Rosina immediately. Figaro, who has overheard the plot, warns Rosina and promises to deliver a note from her to Lindoro. Bartolo suspects that Rosina has indeed written a letter, but she outwits him at every turn. Angry at her defiance, Bartolo warns her not to trifle with him.

Almaviva arrives, creating a ruckus in his disguise as a drunken soldier, and secretly passes Rosina his own note. Bartolo is infuriated by the stranger’s behavior and noisily claims that he has an official exemption from billeting soldiers. Figaro announces that a crowd has gathered in the street, curious about the argument they hear coming from inside the house. The civil guard bursts in to arrest Almaviva but when he secretly reveals his true identity to the captain he is instantly released. Everyone except Figaro is amazed by this turn of events.

Act II
Bartolo suspects that the “soldier” was a spy planted by Almaviva. The count returns, this time disguised as Don Alonso, a music teacher and student of Don Basilio. He announces he will give Rosina her music lesson in place of Basilio, who, he says, is ill at home. “Don Alonso” tells Bartolo that he is staying at the same inn as Almaviva and has found a letter from Rosina. He offers to tell her that it was given to him by another woman, seemingly to prove that Lindoro is toying with Rosina on Almaviva’s behalf. This convinces Bartolo that “Don Alonso” is indeed a student of the scheming Basilio, and he allows him to give Rosina her music lesson. She sings an aria, and, with Bartolo dozing off, Almaviva and Rosina express their love.

Figaro arrives to give Bartolo his shave and manages to snatch the key that opens the doors to Rosina’s balcony. Suddenly Basilio shows up looking perfectly healthy. Almaviva, Rosina, and Figaro convince him with a quick bribe that he is sick with scarlet fever and must go home at once. While Bartolo gets his shave, Almaviva plots with Rosina to elope that night. But the doctor overhears them and furiously realizes he has been tricked again. Everyone disperses.

Bartolo summons Basilio, telling him to bring a notary so Bartolo can marry Rosina that very night. Bartolo then shows Rosina her letter to Lindoro, as proof that he is in league with Almaviva. Heartbroken and convinced that she has been deceived, she agrees to marry Bartolo. A thunderstorm rages. Figaro and the count climb a ladder to Rosina’s balcony and let themselves in with the key. Rosina appears and confronts Lindoro, who finally reveals his true identity as Almaviva. Basilio shows up with the notary. Bribed and threatened, he agrees to be a witness to the marriage of Rosina and Almaviva. Bartolo arrives with soldiers, but it is too late. Almaviva explains to Bartolo that it is useless to protest and Bartolo accepts that he has been beaten. Figaro, Rosina, and the count celebrate their good fortune.

The Barber of Seville is a romantic comedy about the beautiful Rosina, pursued by the dashing Count Almaviva, who is determined to rescue her from the captivity of Doctor Bartolo. As Rosina has recently inherited a fortune, Bartolo selfishly attempts to win Rosina for himself. Only the crafty Figaro, a local barber from Seville, can hatch a clever plan to ensure that Almaviva wins Rosina’s hand.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to introduce you to some of the lively and interesting characters who populate the world of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.  We’ve asked Austin Opera’s Artistic Director & Principal Conductor, Richard Buckley, to answer some key questions about each of them.

Here are his thoughts about Figaro, the barber of Seville:

small.Figaro.web1. What are some interesting things that audience members should know about Figaro?

Figaro, a barber, is extremely bright and always working to control situations that unfold, but from behind the scenes. Because of this, he’s able to walk not only among people of his societal stature, but among royalty and the wealthy. He’s trying to be a social climber, but from a servant’s position in the world.

2. How does Figaro feel about the activities that are happening around him?

The events that transpire in the piece allow him to help Rosina, his friend, make money and gain influence with Count Almaviva. Being able to manipulate various situations with Dr. Bartolo, whom he does not respect, gives Figaro lots of control and satisfaction.

3. What are some words you would use to describe Figaro?

Smart, inventive, creative, opportunistic, self-assured and kind.

4. What is a typical reaction that Figaro has to things that happen in the piece?

He thinks quickly when the unexpected happens, always working to turn the current situation into an outcome he wants.

5. What is the most interesting thing to note about this particular operatic character?

“Largo al Factotum” is the famous aria that Figaro sings in the piece. It is known worldwide, and was featured in some of the Warner Brothers’ Bugs Bunny cartoons in the 1950s. Listen for it and you’ll know it immediately!

Small.Bartolo.WebHere are his thoughts about Dr. Bartolo, the antagonist of the opera:

1. What are some interesting things that audience members should know about Dr. Bartolo?

Dr. Bartolo is set up as a classic comic figure.  He thinks he’s in control of what’s going on around him, but everybody else really is.  He also thinks that he’s still handsome enough to win Rosina’s hand in marriage.  He isn’t!

2. How does Dr. Bartolo feel about the activities that are happening around him?

He feels that he is always right, and that the world is wrong.  Various situations transpire in the opera that he attempts to deal with in a rational way, but they turn comic because he’s looking at a very skewed view of the world.

3. What are some words you would use to describe Dr. Bartolo?

Angry, suspicious, fumbling, egotistical, and stubborn.

4. What is a typical reaction that Dr. Bartolo has to things that happen in the piece?

His typical reaction is to yell at the world when things don’t go his way.

5. What are some things to note about the singer who portrays Dr. Bartolo in the opera?

The singer portraying this role must be a great bass who can sing many fast notes (which is the style of Rossini).  In addition to vocal agility, he also has to be able to play the comic.  This is what separates good singers/actors from great ones in this particular role.  Happily, we have a great one!

small.web.almavivaHere are his thoughts about Count Almaviva, the leading man of the opera:

1. What are some interesting things audience members should know about Count Almaviva?

Even though he’s royalty, he’s very comfortable interacting with the common man.  He’s willing to put himself into situations in which a nobleman often wouldn’t, which adds to the fun of the piece.  He very much turns out to be the comedian in the opera.

2. What does Count Almaviva think about all of the situations that are developing around him?

He is totally blinded by his infatuation for – and love of – Rosina.  Because of this, he doesn’t think.  He just pursues his goal with relentless abandon.

3. What are some words you would use to describe the Count?

Straight-forward, romantic, untrusting (of another character in the opera), and a trickster

4. What really drives him to take the actions that he does in the piece?

He sincerely wants a relationship based upon love, and that drives everything he does.

5. What are some things to note about the singer who portrays Count Almaviva in the opera?

The singer portraying him must be vocally agile, and able to convey different emotional points-of-view quickly.  Given the multiple “roles” he plays (in various disguises) in the piece, he must both be believable as the person he really is, and as the person (or persons) he is pretending to be.

small.web.rosinaHere are his thoughts about Rosina, the heroine of the opera

1. How does Rosina grow as a character throughout the story?

Rosina is first introduced to us by her singing the aria, “Una Voce Poco Fa.”  In this aria, she tells of seeing Lindoro (who is really Count Almaviva in disguise) and decides that he will be hers.  Given this, she must outwit her guardian, Dr. Bartolo.  Rosina is always clever and capable of manipulating the situation at hand.

2. What do you think Rosina might think of the activity that is swirling around her in the opera?

Rosina will always get her way.  She is amazed that Dr. Bartolo is attempting to control her, but she takes comfort in the fact that Figaro, the barber, is a good friend who will come to her aid.  She mistrusts Don Basilio, the music teacher, and enjoys plotting against Dr. Bartolo.  Through all of this, she continues to be infatuated with Lindoro.

3. What five adjectives would you use to describe her?

She’s smart, sassy, coquettish, pretty and quick.

4. How does Rosina relate to the other characters in the piece?

She’s a friend to Figaro, who helps her gain access to the outside world.  She deals with Dr. Bartolo as an overprotective parental-style guardian.   She distrusts Don Basilio, because she knows that he schemes with Dr. Bartolo, and that he’s always swayed by money.  Her favorite character, of course, is Lindoro (Count Almaviva), with whom she is head over heels in love.

5. What, in your opinion, makes Rosina a “stand out” in the opera?

The use of coloratura in her aria, and the speed of it, is dazzling.  She also must have an evenness of tone and vocal color in all ranges.

PURCHASE OPERA TICKETS

For Season Ticket renewals, please contact Patron Services Manager, Dianne Van Hulle, at 512.610.7684.

 

 

 

OF MICE AND MEN

OM&M.Event

Austin Opera continues its long-standing commitment to American and English-language opera with Carlisle Floyd’s operatic rendition of John Steinbeck’s iconic novella, Of Mice and Men, foundational support provided by the Georgia B. Lucas Foundation.

Based on John Steinbeck’s novella “Of Mice and Men,” this riveting American opera is a faithful retelling of one of America’s most celebrated works of literature. Carlisle  Floyd vividly captures the lives of the characters, the feel of the era, the bunkhouse, the depressed economy, and Lennie’s tragic story.

Stage director Kristine McIntyre, known for her visually stunning and emotionally rich productions, has directed more than 50 operas throughout the United States at The Metropolitan Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Arizona Opera, Dallas Opera, and many others. McIntyre’s “canny ability to meld visual and musical elements” will seamlessly allow Floyd’s score and libretto full voice to clearly communicate the work’s central theme — that personal relationship, however tenuous, is far superior to solitary existence.

Of Mice and Men is an important work of theater, literature, film and, of course, opera. Its plea for compassion and hope is as timely now as when John Steinbeck wrote the novella on which the opera is based. Visit our OF MICE AND MEN – COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS page for a complete list of Austin Opera educational activities surrounding this iconic work in partnership with local cultural organizations including the University of Texas Humanities Institute, Blanton Museum of Art, Austin ISD, Round Rock ISD, Austin Public Library Foundation, and the Paramount Theatre. Each partner event will provide a different perspective on Steinbeck’s classic work, and explore its relevance today.

Of Mice and Men features the Austin Opera Chorus and the Austin Opera Orchestra.

An Opera in three acts, sung in English with lyrics projected above the stage.

Learn more about the artists, production team, and the synopsis.

By arrangement with Boosey & Hawkes, Inc. publisher and copyright owner.

Watch as Stage Director Kristine McIntyre describes her experience with new American Opera and directing Of Mice & Men. Austin Opera is proud to welcome back Ms. McIntyre to the Long Center stage, where she will no doubt bring Of Mice and Men and it’s rich history to a dramatic and beautiful crescendo.


Cast:

Lennie Small – Corey Bix*
George Milton – Matthew Burns
Curley – Ryan MacPherson*
Curley’s Wife – Julia Taylor*
Candy – Thomas Hammons
Slim – Andrew Lovato*
Carlson – Brent Turner*
A Ballad Singer – Daniel Shirley*

* Austin Opera debut


Production:

Composer: Carlisle Floyd | Libretto: Carlisle Floyd | Conductor: Richard Buckley | Stage Director: Kristine McIntyre | Chorus Master: Julian Reed | Scenic Designer: Vicki Davis | Costume Designer: Susan Memmott Allred | Lighting Designer: Nicholas Cavallaro


More about our Principal Artists:

Corey Bix.small

Corey Bix, tenor singing Lennie Small-  praised for his “clear sense of drama and self-possession, exhibiting sturdy, unwavering control, flinty resonance and confident high notes” Bix makes his Austin Opera debut in this familiar role, as he recently completed Of Mice and Men with the Tulsa Opera. Future engagements include his debut with Virginia Opera as Erik in Der fliegende Holländer, and a return to San Francisco Opera for Augustin Moser in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Last season, he sang Sir Edgar Aubry in Der Vampyr with New Orleans Opera, returned to The Glimmerglass Festival for Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos as well as to the role of Erik in Der fliegende Holländer with Arizona Opera.

Mr. Bix is the 2008 winner of the Robert Lauch Memorial Grant from the Wagner Society of New York and the 2007 winner of the George London/Kirsten Flagstad Award for a singer with potential for a Wagnerian career as well as the foundation’s prestigious Vienna Prize. Additionally, he has been a prizewinner in both the New England and Southeast regions of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. He is a former member of the apprentice programs of the Santa Fe Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, and Des Moines Metro Opera and earned a Master of Music from New England Conservatory and his Bachelor of Music from Simpson College.

CRITICAL ACCLAIM:

Tulsa Opera, Of Mice and Men – “[Bix] conveys this character’s vulnerability in the way he can send high notes floating, in the bright openness of the duet extolling how he and George will “live off the fat of the land,” in the way he transitions from mournful to panicked in the aria that follows his accidental killing of Curley’s Wife.”  -James D. Watts, Jr., Tulsa World

American Symphony Orchestra, Notre Dame – “Corey Bix, whose sturdy tenor immediately took on a correspondingly brighter coloration when Esmeralda appeared, revealed an impressive range — a baritonal strength in his lower register, plus ringing, sweet-spot high notes in the love music.”  -Joshua Rosenblum, Opera News

Matthew Burns

Matthew Burns, bass-baritone singing George Milton- Declared as “having a beautiful bass-baritone voice” by the New York Times, Matthew Burns is a dynamic performer known for his unique portrayals of opera’s most acclaimed bass-baritone roles spanning the repertoire from dramatic roles to buffo roles, and everything in between. Last season, Mr. Burns delighted audiences in the role of Leporello in Don Giovanni. He will also appear as Sir John Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor at Fargo Moorehead Opera, he will perform in Wuthering Heights at Florentine Opera, and sing Rambaldo in La rondine at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. In concert, he’ll sing the baritone solo in Händel’s Messiah with Rhode Island Philharmonic and appear in American Opera Projects’ Composers & The Voice series.

Mr. Burns is recipient of the Richard F. Gold Career Grant for Singers from the Shoshana Foundation and a 2006 Richard Gold Career Grant from New York City Opera, presented to an artist whose performance demonstrates great promise in the opera world. He is featured as the bass soloist on a recording of Kirke Mecham’s The King’s Contest with the Commonwealth Singers of Richmond, Virginia.

REVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

Utah Opera, Of Mice and Men: “Bass-baritone Matthew Burns gives the opera its moral center with his portrayal of George. He sings with power and assurance from the top to the bottom of his vocal range, and he invests the character with intelligence and integrity while traversing an equally impressive emotional range.” –Catherine Reese Newton, Cleveland Plain Dealer

Le nozze di Figaro, Virginia Opera: “Matthew Burns’ Figaro retains the former barber’s sunny character and adaptable wit, lightening even the heaviest scenes he blunders into…. Better yet, Mr. Burns’ flexible bass-baritone seems to wrap itself deftly around the mood of each scene as he alternates moments of great vocal bravado to mocking bars of falsetto when he’s joking about one of the female character’s latest moves.” –Washington Times

Ryan MacPherson.small

Ryan MacPherson, tenor singing Curley- MacPherson, one of the most highly sought tenors of his generation,  is well known for his captivating stage presence, as well as his expertise in modern and contemporary music. His 2014-15 season engagements included a return to Portland Opera as Alfred in Die Fledermaus, singing Frederic in The Pirates of Penzance for Pensacola Opera. He makes his company and role debut as Gérald in Lakmé with Baltimore Opera and Delaware Concert Opera, followed by a return to Colorado’s Central City Opera as Alfredo in Verdi’s La Traviata. This year’s concerts include performances with the Delaware Symphony, the Cleveland Pops, and Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra.

Recent highlights include Alfred in his Virginia Opera debut; a return to Long Beach Opera and his Chicago Opera Theater debut as Roderick Usher in their co-production of Glass’ The Fall of the House of Usher; his debut in the United Kingdom as Wilhelm in Ambroise Thomas’ Mignon; Alfred (Fledermaus) with Opera Memphis, Alfredo (La Traviata) Opera Santa Barbara and Opera Tampa; Curley in Carlisle Floyd’s Of Mice and Men in a return to Utah Opera.  His contributions to New York City Opera, which include Così fan tutte, Vanessa, Little Women and the world premier of  Haroun and the Sea of Stories, were recognized when he received the Richard F. Gold Career Award.

CRITICAL ACCLAIM:

Portland Opera, Turn of the Screw – Ryan MacPherson’s pure, yearning tenor brings a much-needed sensuality to the role of Peter Quint, and it’s a pleasure to hear. He especially shines on the melismatas in Act I, when he calls out to Miles.-John Minervini, Willamette Weekly

Pensacola Opera, The Pirates of Penzance  “Ryan MacPherson plays opposite Mabel as Frederick, that ever-so-earnest ‘Slave of Duty.’ He has the tenor voice and frightfully sincere demeanor to more than make this character work. He and [Mabel] shine brightly on the duet ‘Stay, Frederick, Stay’ … I did not want them to stop singing!” –Andy Metzger, Pensacola News Journal

the piercing power of Byers made for a spectacular conclusion that provoked a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience. – See more at: http://www.austinpost.org/article/vai-tosca#sthash.opCHB3Zn.dpuf
the piercing power of Byers made for a spectacular conclusion that provoked a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience. – See more at: http://www.austinpost.org/article/vai-tosca#sthash.opCHB3Zn.dpuf
the piercing power of Byers made for a spectacular conclusion that provoked a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience. – See more at: http://www.austinpost.org/article/vai-tosca#sthash.opCHB3Zn.dpuf
the piercing power of Byers made for a spectacular conclusion that provoked a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience. – See more at: http://www.austinpost.org/article/vai-tosca#sthash.opCHB3Zn.dpuf
the piercing power of Byers made for a spectacular conclusion that provoked a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience. – See more at: http://www.austinpost.org/article/vai-tosca#sthash.opCHB3Zn.dpuf

taylor131

Julia Taylor, soprano singing Curley’s Wife – Taylor, was recognized as Best Singer of 2014 by the Austin Critics’ Table Awards for her role as Mimi in La Femme Boheme™.  She will reprise the role of Mimi in an all-female cast with the LOLA Opera Company during the 2015-16 season.  In addition, she will perform as soprano soloist with the Miró Quartet in Ginastera’s String Quartet No.3 and as soprano soloist in Handel’s Messiah in Guatemala City.   In addition, she will sing the role of the Beatrice with the University of Texas’ Butler Opera Center in a production of Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers.

Past performance credits include Cinderella in Sondheim’s Into the Woods, Micaela in an adaptation of Bizet’s Carmen with the LOLA Opera Company, Cabaret de Carmen, Donna Elvira in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, Pamina in Die Zauberflote, Giannetta in Gianni Schicchi, Adele in Die Fledermaus, Baby Doe in The Ballad of Baby Doe, and Josephine in HMS Pinafore.

Ms. Taylor has twice been a regional finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.  She holds a BM in vocal performance from Baylor University and an MM in vocal performance from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

CRITICAL ACCLAIM:

“As Mimi, Julia Taylor sang with beautiful tone and expression…”- Jeanne Claire van Ryzin, austin360

“Julia Taylor as waitress Micaela has a gift of a comic look, and played it perfectly.  She too had some evocative singing in the most delicate of sections.”- Luke Quinton, austin360

Of Mice and Men is based on John Steinbeck’s tragic tale of two migrant ranch workers in pursuit of a simple dream: to own a small house and farm of their own.

George and his traveling companion Lennie, who has the physique and strength of a giant, a child’s mind, and a love for soft things he can stroke and pet, have constant problems with their employers, as Lennie unknowingly creates difficulties for George and himself. George is frequently exasperated, but forgives Lennie and is sustained by their dream.

Hired by contentious ranch-owner Curley, who is frequently at jealous odds with his wife, George and Lennie are joined in their plans for a home by the old ranch hand Candy, whose savings bring them near their goal. Suddenly, however, they lose all prospects: Curley’s wife invites Lennie to stroke her soft hair, but when he does not stop she begins to scream in terror. Fearing he will get into trouble again, Lennie tries to stifle her screams and unwittingly kills her. George, while placating Lennie with thoughts of their long-held dreams, shoots his friend to save him from a brutal lynching.

PURCHASE OPERA TICKETS

For Season Ticket renewals, please contact Patron Services Manager, Dianne Van Hulle, at 512.610.7684.

 

 

AIDA

Aida.Event

CRITICAL REVIEW

Austin Opera’s Aida: This production of Verdi’s Egyptian tragedy delivers on the pomp and pageantry, but what makes the deepest impressions are the personal moments – Robert Faires, Austin Chronicle

Music review: Austin Opera’s “Aïda” – Luke Quinton, Austin360

Beauty of Life, Library Foundation, ‘Aida’ and Andy Roddick – Michael Barnes, Out and About Austin360

Austin Opera launches its 2015-16 season with the masterful grand opera of Verdi’s Aida, foundational support provided by the Georgia B. Lucas Foundation.

Famous for its Triumphal March and soaring arias, Verdi’s Aida is an intimate story of a love triangle between enemies during the times of war between Egypt and Ethiopia. Graced with some of Verdi’s greatest music, it’s a tour de force of choral scenes, dance, massive sets, and vocal power. Issachah Savage and Karen Slack will make their Austin Opera debuts in this beloved story of ill-fated love and betrayal.

Stage director Brian Deedrick, former Artistic Director of the Edmonton Opera, will bring Verdi’s spectacular opera to life with powerful vocals, themes of patriotism and betrayal, and sets dominated by a looming Sphinx-like stone face that changes from blood-red at sunset to a ghostly shadow peering from the gloom of the final duet.

The key to the staying power of “Aida” for more than 140 years since its premier has been the human story under it all. At the heart of this opera is the story of an Ethiopian slave and secret princess Aida, her powerful Egyptian mistress, Princess Amneris, and their shared love for the ambitious soldier Radames. Their love story, wrapped in complex themes of loyalty, longing, nation and regret, is told in four acts using some of the most intricate and complicated music that Guiseppe Verdi ever wrote, with voices blending like ribbons of sound.

Aida features the Austin Opera Chorus and the Austin Opera Orchestra.

An Opera in four acts with intermissions after Act II and Act III, sung in Italian with English translation projected above the stage.

Learn more about the artists, production team, and the synopsis.

Watch as Debut Artist Karen Slack performs a “Dear Husband” from Kirke Mechem’s Songs of the Slave. Austin Opera is proud to welcome Ms. Slack whose lustrous voice will surely astonish and amaze Austin audiences with its extraordinary beauty and artistry of great dramatic depth.


Cast (in order of vocal appearance):

Ramfis – Peter Volpe
Radames – Issachah Savage*
Amneris –  Tuija Knihtilä*
Aida – Karen Slack*
The King of Egypt – Tom McNichols*
Messenger – Soonchan Kwon*
Priestess – Mela Dailey
Amonasro – Donnie Ray Albert

* Austin Opera debut


Production:

Composer: Giuseppe Verdi | Libretto:  Antonio Ghislanzoni| Conductor: Richard Buckley | Stage Director: Brian Deedrick | Chorus Master: Julian Reed | Scenic Designer: Robert Oswald | Costume Designer: Annibal Lapiz | Lighting Designer: Michael Baumgarten


More about our Principal Artists:

Karen Slack.small

Karen Slack, soprano singing Aida – Hailed for possessing a voice of extraordinary beauty, a seamless legato and great dramatic depth, young American soprano Karen Slack was most recently heard in the title role of Tosca and as Leonora in Il trovatore with Arizona Opera, Mahler Symphony No. 2 with The Latvian National Symphony, Beethoven Symphony No. 9 with Alabama Symphony, as Aida with West Bay Opera,  and her featured role in Tyler Perry’s movie and soundtrack “For Colored Girls” as the Opera Diva.

Ms. Slack made her Carnegie Hall debut as Agnes Sorel in Tchaikovsky’s Maid of Orleans, a role she also performed with the San Francisco Opera, and has sung the title role in Aida with Lyric Opera of Kansas City.  She made her Metropolitan Opera and international radio broadcast debuts in the title role of Verdi’s Luisa Miller.  Last season saw her as Sister Rose in Dead Man Walking with Madison Opera and Des Moines Metro Opera. Engagements for the 2014-2015 season include company debuts as Serena in Porgy and Bess with Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Quad City Symphony, and Tosca with the New Philharmonic. Future seasons will see her return to Arizona Opera. Additionally, she will make her debut with Opera Parallèle, and join the Lexington Philharmonic and the Back Bay Chorale.

CRITICAL ACCLAIM:

West Bay Opera, Aida – “Karen Slack’s deeply felt AIDA seemed modeled on Leontyne Price’s glorious assumption – dramatic in tone, generous in volume, flexible in tempo and luminous on top. Slack paid great attention to the meanings of words, accenting them with an emotional commitment that made her character’s passions believable.”  -Jason Victor Serinus, Opera News

Arizona Opera, Il Trovatore – “Karen Slack who sang the role of Leonora, the much sought after heroine, has a voluptuous soprano voice with silvery top notes and a formidable chest register. She seemed to throw care to the winds as she successfully navigated her music’s many pitfalls. The result was an exciting performance of this difficult role.”  -Maria Nocklin, Opera Today

Issachah Savage

Issachah Savage, tenor singing Radames – Praised for his “impressive natural instrument” with “trumpet-like, clear, open-throated, powerful” singing, Mr. Savage is the winner of the 2012 grand prize with the Marcello Giordani International Competition and the 2014 Seattle International Wagner Competition earning the main prize, audience favorite prize, orchestra favorite prize, and a special honor by Speight Jenkins.

Mr. Savage made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Don Riccardo in Verdi’s Ernani under James Levine and covers Siegmund in Die Walküre at the Canadian Opera Company in the 2014 – 2015 season. In the 2013 – 2014, season, Issachah Savage made his Houston Grand Opera debut as Radames in Aida opposite Liudmyla Monastyrksa and Dolora Zajick. In the summer of 2013, Mr. Savage participated in San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program for gifted young singers singing the finale to Wagner’s Lohengrin at the Merola Grand Finale concert.

CRITICAL ACCLAIM:

Washington Chorus, The Essential Wagner – “There was an extra thrill in the final selection, most of the last two scenes of ‘Meistersinger,’ with tenor Issachah Savage singing the famous Prize Song….I wasn’t prepared for the easy, rich, warm sound that poured out of him in one of the most beautiful arias in the repertory.” -Anne Midgette, The Washington Post

Canadian Opera Company, Die Walküre: “When Savage sang the opening line of yesterday’s Die Walküre, we immediately knew that we were in store for something quite different. Instead of the usual tenor with baritone colouration and vocal heft, we had a lyric, unforced dramatic tenor, lighter in colour and yet powerful. Savage was careful to pace the first two acts in which he appears – building from strength-to-strength…The roaring ovation that greeted him when he walked out on stage for his curtain call was of a quality and pitch usually reserved for only the greatest of singers.” -Neil CroryMusical Toronto

TuijaTuija Knihtilä, mezzo-soprano singing Amneris – Finnish mezzo-soprano Tuija Knihtilä is, with lightning speed, gaining a worldwide following. Of her Amneris in Aida, Thomas Michelsen exclaimed “It was first and foremost an experience at the international level, nothing less, to hear Finnish mezzo, Tuija Knihtilä. What a voice! What control!”

In recent seasons Ms. Knihtilä’s performed Komponist in Ariadne auf Naxos and Venus in Tannhäuser,  both with Oslo Opera; made her debut as Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde in Weimar and participated in the world premiere of Kimmo Hakola’s opera La Fenice. After her return to Oslo as Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana and Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde, she made her Italian debut at the Teatro la Fenice in Venice, in a production of Myung Whun Chung. Further highlights of the recent past include her debut as Brangäne in Chemnitz and performances as Amneris in Sao Paulo and Venus in Copenhagen. Her stunning interpretation of Ortrud in Lohengrin in Savonlinna in summer of 2013 received great acclaim from public and critics alike.

Tuija Knihtilä is also a sought-after concert singer. She has worked with Leif Segerstam, Esa Pekka Salonen, Mikko Franck and many leading Scandinavian and European orchestras, including the Helsinki, Tampere and Turku philharmonic orchestras, the Malmö, Lohja and Kuopio symphony orchestras, Kymi and Västerås sinfoniettas, Finnish Baroque Orchestra, Orchestra of the Finnish National Opera, and the State Orchestra Darmstadt (Germany), among others.

CRITICAL ACCLAIM:

Malmö Opera, Aida – “With a wonderfully clear and strong voice, Tuija Knihtilä combines the naturally superior attitude of the Princess Amneris with the uncertainty of a woman in love. In a priceless scene, she has twenty-some dresses to choose from but annoyed she rejects one after the other.” -Bo Löfvendal, Svenska Dagbladet

Malmö Opera, Aida – “The most interesting protagonist is Amneris. Finnish mezzo, Tuija Knihtilä, makes a magnificent portrait of the initially stubborn and cold princess. In one of the more elaborately directed scenes, Ameneris arrogantly picks and chooses from twenty-four different, shiny gold dresses brought forth by twenty-four slaves in identical pale green cotton dresses. Soon, however, Amneris’ feelings and understanding deepen. The tragic becomes palpable as we watch her compromise herself in desperate love for Radames. Knihtilä is impressive in the role. Her dramatic mezzo is passionately effective and immensely focused.” -Åsa Mälhammar, Sydsvenskan

Peter Volpe in Romeo and Juliet

Peter Volpe, bass singing Ramfis – American bass Peter Volpe is a consummate artist of today’s operatic world whose acclaimed vocal and acting ability captivates audiences and critics across four continents. Mr. Volpe’s inspired style and interpretive skill enlivens his repertoire of more than 100 roles in six languages, including signature roles of Don Giovanni, Mephistopheles, and Prince Gremin in Eugene Onegin. Of a recent portrayal as Prince Gremin, Opera News wrote that he “managed to create in his single aria and scene of impressive dignity. His full-bodied bass and great candor of tone, together with his intelligent interpretation, won him a well-deserved ovation”

Recent highlights of Mr. Volpe’s career include three broadcasts for the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series: Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi (with Il tabarro and Suor Angelica), Rossini’s Armida, and Verdi’s La Traviata, the Verdi Requiem at the Chichester Festival in Chichester, England, and the popular French grand opera Les Huguenots in the role of Marcel at the Bard Festival; the first time the opera was staged in America since the Metropolitan Opera’s production 95 years earlier

CRITICAL ACCLAIM:

Vancouver Opera, Faust – Bass Peter Volpe, proved to be an excellent Mephistopheles, both vocally and dramatically, shining from his first big moment – Le veau d’or est toujours debout – onward. Volpe balanced the demonic and comic elements of his character, and the audience responded to his sardonic wit with outbursts of laughter.” -The Globe & Mail

Portland Opera, Lucia di Lammermoor – “The best solo singing, strong and beautiful, came from bass Peter Volpe as a compassionate Raimondo who seemed to foresee events. When Raimondo sorrowfully reported the murder and madness, Volpe joined with Portland Opera’s outstanding chorus in a scene that was richly sung indeed.” –David Stabler, The Oregonian

the piercing power of Byers made for a spectacular conclusion that provoked a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience. – See more at: http://www.austinpost.org/article/vai-tosca#sthash.opCHB3Zn.dpuf
the piercing power of Byers made for a spectacular conclusion that provoked a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience. – See more at: http://www.austinpost.org/article/vai-tosca#sthash.opCHB3Zn.dpuf
the piercing power of Byers made for a spectacular conclusion that provoked a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience. – See more at: http://www.austinpost.org/article/vai-tosca#sthash.opCHB3Zn.dpuf
the piercing power of Byers made for a spectacular conclusion that provoked a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience. – See more at: http://www.austinpost.org/article/vai-tosca#sthash.opCHB3Zn.dpuf
the piercing power of Byers made for a spectacular conclusion that provoked a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience. – See more at: http://www.austinpost.org/article/vai-tosca#sthash.opCHB3Zn.dpuf

Act I
Egypt, during the reign of the pharaohs. At the royal palace in Memphis, the high priest Ramfis tells the warrior Radamès that Ethiopia is preparing another attack against Egypt. Radamès hopes to command his army. He is in love with Aida, the Ethiopian slave of Princess Amneris, the king’s daughter, and he believes that victory in the war would enable him to free her and marry her. But Amneris loves Radamès, and when the three meet, she jealously senses his feelings for Aida. A messenger tells the king of Egypt and the assembled priests and soldiers that the Ethiopians are advancing. The king names Radamès to lead the army, and all join in a patriotic anthem. Left alone, Aida is torn between her love for Radamès and loyalty to her native country, where her father, Amonasro, is king. She prays to the gods for mercy.

In the temple of Vulcan, the priests consecrate Radamès to the service of the god. Ramfis orders him to protect the homeland.

Act II
Ethiopia has been defeated, and Amneris waits for the triumphant return of Radamès. When Aida approaches, the princess sends away her other attendants so that she can learn her slave’s private feelings. She first pretends that Radamès has fallen in battle, then says he is still alive. Aida’s reactions leave no doubt that she loves Radamès. Amneris, certain she will be victorious over her rival, leaves for the triumphal procession.

At the city gates the king and Amneris observe the celebrations and crown Radamès with a victor’s wreath. Captured Ethiopians are led in. Among them is Amonasro, Aida’s father, who signals his daughter not to reveal his identity as king. Radamès is impressed by Amonasro’s eloquent plea for mercy and asks for the death sentence on the prisoners to be overruled and for them to be freed. The king grants his request but keeps Amonasro in custody. The king declares that as a victor’s reward, Radamès will have Amneris’s hand in marriage.

Act III
On the eve of Amneris’s wedding, Ramfis and Amneris enter a temple on the banks of the Nile to pray. Aida, who is waiting for Radamès, is lost in thoughts of her homeland. Amonasro suddenly appears. Invoking Aida’s sense of duty, he makes her agree to find out from Radamès which route the Egyptian army will take to invade Ethiopia. Amonasro hides as Radamès arrives and assures Aida of his love. They dream about their future life together, and Radamès agrees to run away with her. Aida asks him about his army’s route, and just as he reveals the secret, Amonasro emerges from his hiding place. When he realizes that Amonasro is the Ethiopian king, Radamès is horrified by what he has done. While Aida and Amonasro try to calm him, Ramfis and Amneris step out of the temple. Father and daughter are able to escape, but Radamès surrenders to the priests.

Act IV
Radamès awaits trial as a traitor, believing Aida to be dead. Even after he learns that she has survived, he rejects an offer by Amneris to save him if he renounces Aida. When he is brought before the priests, he refuses to answer their accusations and is condemned to be buried alive. Amneris begs for mercy, but the judges will not change their verdict. She curses the priests.
Aida has hidden in the vault to share Radamès’s fate. They express their love for the last time while Amneris, in the temple above, prays for Radamès’s soul.

KarenQA-web

A voice that is “dramatic in tone, generous in volume, flexible in tempo and luminous on top.”
– Opera News

Karen Slack “has a voluptuous soprano voice with silvery top notes and a formidable chest register.”
– Opera Today

In less than three weeks, Karen Slack makes her Austin Opera debut at the upcoming production of Aida. Like you, we are over-the-moon excited! With over 200 cast, crew, and orchestra, this will be opera at its finest, most dazzling and epic.

Since Karen and the other principals are now in town for rehearsal, we sat down with Ms. Slack to learn more about her. Simply said: She’s just as lovely and extraordinary as her voice.

What first attracted you to opera?

I was first introduced to opera by my Choral teacher, the late David King at the Philadelphia HS for the Creative and Performing Arts. In the 9th grade we had a music aesthetics class and he played recordings of Maria Callas singing Casta Diva and Jessye Norman singing Isolde’s Liebestod — and I was hooked! That was the day I fell in love with opera. Then in the 10th grade I saw the final dress rehearsal of Bizet’s Carmen with Denyce Graves at the Opera Company of Philadelphia. After that performance, I knew opera was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life!

Why is opera special to you?

On a personal level, opera is special to me because it changed my life. I have seen the world, met incredible artists, some whom have become like family, and have had the pleasure of meeting and singing for celebrities and important world leaders. Never in my parents’ prayers for my life did they ever imagine I would do all the things I’ve been blessed to do.

On a practical level, opera is special because it is larger than life and incorporates all the arts into one: vocal, instrumental, creative writing, visual arts, dance (in some cases), and drama. You need everyone to make this incredible art form possible!

How did you get your start?

After deciding I wanted to be an opera singer at 16 years old, I attended the Hartt School of Music for one year. Under the guidance of my voice teacher in college, I entered and won 1st prize in the Rosa Ponselle International competition in NYC at Alice Tully Hall. The prize was $50,000 and two years of study in NYC under the Rosa Ponselle Foundation auspices.

I moved to NYC, took private voice lessons three times a week, movement class, Italian language, piano lessons: It was all very old school. After I completed the two years, I scheduled to make my big NYC recital debut. Much to their disappointment, I decided that I was not ready for a career at 20 years old and applied to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where I  spent the next six years. After graduating from Curtis, I went on to the Merola Opera Program at San Francisco Opera, was awarded an Adler fellowship, and spent two years at SFO.

What are you most looking forward to in your role as Aida?

This is such a special occasion for me, first to have the opportunity to perform under Maestro Buckley who has a rich history in Verdi and is one of the best American conductors around.

Also, I have the pleasure of not only singing a role I love, but perform it with the incredible baritone Donnie Ray Albert as my father. I have admired him since my early years as a student listening to his Grammy award-winning recording of Porgy hundreds of times.

What an honor to share the stage with him and my high school class mate Issachah Savage. We’ve come so far and I can only imagine how proud our music teacher Mr. King must be of both of us. I know he is beaming and smiling down from heaven.

What is your dream role?

My two angels: Ariadne and Aida.

How would you describe your own voice—and how does it feel to sing?

Beautiful, rich, very expressive, and shimmery like silver but warm as rose gold. When I hear a cello, it reminds me of what I want my voice to sound like: rich, deep, and expansive.

Singing for me just makes my soul feel good. It’s work, yes, as we are always trying to make it better. But in the few times in our vocal lives when all the stars are aligned, and the breath is working brilliantly, and your throat is free and open…it can feel like magic!

That is what we are always striving for: Not perfection, but magic! HA! Keep searching!

TuijaQA

In just 10 days, Tuija Knihtilä makes her Austin Opera and U.S. debut on November 7th at the Opening Night of Verdi’s epic Aida. We are thrilled to host this talented soprano’s first visit to Texas.

Along with over 200 cast, crew, and orchestra members, Tuija is deep into preparations for one of Verdi’s biggest and most spectacular operas.

Even given her extremely busy schedule, she was able to find a moment to speak with us so that we could learn more about her transformative first experience of opera, her favorite character to portray, and why Amneris is such a profound role to sing.

What first attracted you to opera?

The first opera I ever saw was Magic Flute on the television at the age of five or six. I was mesmerized, and immediately after insisted that my mother call the television company so they would show it again.

Why is opera special to you?

Opera is a wonderful art form because it combines singing, acting, beautiful music, and storytelling.

How did you get your start?

Even though I studied ballet and the piano, I always loved singing. As soon as it was possible, I started vocal lessons and changed my major at the music school I attended from piano to voice.

What are you most looking forward to in your role as Amneris?

Amneris is a role I’ve performed quite a few times, and I love to sing it. It is not only because I find Verdi’s music very powerful, but also because the character of Amneris is extremely interesting.

She develops from a young, spoiled daughter of Pharaoh, to a woman in love who is rejected and ends up betraying her great love and regretting it immensely. What a wonderful storm of emotions to convey every evening!

What are some of the more interesting places you have performed?

A few of my favorite opera houses in the world are La Fenice in the magical city of Venice, Italy and Oslo National Opera in Norway, with its wonderful acoustics and the view of the sea from its cafeteria. I also very much enjoy the Savonlinna Opera Festival stage in Finland. It is an old partially-ruined castle where seagulls sometimes participate in the performance by flying above the stage.

What is your favorite role?

My favorite role is usually the one I’m currently singing. But, in the future, I would love to perform Kundry in Wagner’s Parsifal.

What are you most looking forward to in your first visit to Texas?

I am looking forward to the warm and sunny weather, because it has been between 38-54F in Helsinki and, sooner than I care to think, the days will be shorter and shorter. Also, I’m very excited to work with the Aida team and have a great working process with everyone!

Brian QA-TIX

When we decided to bring Aida back to Austin for the first time in 15 years, we knew that we would need a stage director with immense talent, charm, and vision. Enter Brian Deedrick from Edmonton, Alberta. Of course, he’s immersed in preparation for this Saturday’s opening night (we can’t wait!), but Brian did take time with us to answer a few questions. He’s irresistibly insightful and hilarious, and we hope that you enjoy what he has to say.

Why is opera special to you?

The German’s have this fantastic word: Gesamtkunstwerk. It means “the totality of art,” the bringing together of everything. I think opera, more than any other art form, does that. You have design and visual components, the aural and oral, drama, and theatre. It all comes together. And, you get to play in the biggest sandbox of all. With opera, you could have 100 people onstage. I just love that size and scope. The passion lifts you up to the same levels as the size and scope of the opera.

What did you just finish directing, and what is next after Aida?

I just finished Boito’s one and only opera Mephistopheles for Knoxville Opera. It is definitely unique. Next up will be playing tour guide in Berlin. It’s fun. At about the point when you’re so tired of working on these great big operas, you go back to Berlin to spend many weeks explaining its glories. And, just about the time you get tired of silly questions like, “Why did Hitler build the Berlin Wall?” it’s time to come back to opera. It’s a really healthy schizophrenia.

What do you love about the story of Aida?

People will often say about Aida that the first half is all about pageantry. But after the first intermission, the opera really begins. That is when you get into the relationships and the deepening of the characters, the world that opera is really about. One of the great things about opera being such an elevated art form, it also means the relationships are bigger: Man vs Nation vs Universe. It’s appealing. Boy oh boy, does it do this in Aida. But, when it comes right down to it, when you strip everything away, it’s so immensely popular because it is a completely accessible story. Two women are in love with the same man. He can only love one of them. And the other one obviously decides he made the wrong choice! It’s straightforward, and people can respond to that.

What is your favorite scene in Aida and why?

I would have to say it’s the boudoir scene, the huge encounter between Amneris, Queen of Egypt, and Aida, Queen of Ethiopia, disguised and enslaved in Egypt. It’s just the two of them. I love that collision and clash – the battle between two incredibly strong women. It’s the first scene that’s really “opera” in the First Act. And it’s always fun to do when you have two great singers like we do – Karen Slack who plays Aida, and Tuija Knihtilä as Amneris – when they really dig into it and they see it in a whole different way. I love that scene.

Tell us about the set, have you worked with it a lot?

I’ve worked with the set a lot. It was originally built in Brazil and the directions and drawings were in Portuguese. When it came to the U.S., Opera de Quebec had purchased all these great storage containers sight-unseen. I was there to help them unpack, and it turned out that there were not only all these great set pieces and props, but costumes, too. And, of course, the astonishing sphynx head. It’s breath-taking. It’s an overwhelming statement of the symbolism dominating the stage. You get the sense that Egypt dominates this world, and poor Aida is against the forces surrounding her.

The set has gone through several other companies, and it is now with Opera Carolina. That’s part of the thing with Aida: It’s such a huge monster piece to produce, that to find a set that makes it affordable is hard to do. If you ask any city that hasn’t had Aida in a while, it’s usually their answer as to why they haven’t done it —cost. But, this set was done in a style that makes it an affordable and attainable production.

Our production of Aida will require over 200 cast, crew, and orchestra members. What’s the secret to turning all these working parts into one seamless unit?

It’s all about working with very good people and being as organized as humanly possible. You don’t have the opportunity for a lot of improvisation or inventiveness. With Aida, you have to come in ready to hit the ground running. With all departments, we’re all storytellers, from makeup to crew, the conductor and singers, we’re here to tell the story from our own angles—with the challenge of balancing both the intimate story of these characters set against an immense and exotic landscape of Egypt. But, the ones really putting it out there are the cast members. So, you’re thankful when you have a fantastic, very large team like this one helping put it together.

If you could sit Aida’s three lovers down and give them advice, what would you say?

I’d tell them to get over themselves, you know? Amneris, find a new guy on Tinder. Radames, make up your mind: do you want to be the great soldier, or do you want to find the great love of your life? Aida, hurry! I hear there’s a Greyhound bus leaving for Ethiopia. Be on it.

If you had to participate in stage animal gags, which animal(s) would you tolerate having onstage?

I have participated! For one show, we had a great big horse. I was against the idea, and I did not want to do it. Absolutely, at the peak of the Triumphal Scene, the horse rode out on stage center and it did exactly what horses do on stage center. The audience was convulsed with laughter, the stage had to be cleaned, and no one could carry on. So, out comes the guy with the shovel, and that started them laughing all over again. I’m pretty sure we went into overtime that night.

Animals I would tolerate: The best Aida I have ever seen was done by Buchanan Park Elementary School in Hamilton, Ontario. Their headmistress always condenses down whichever opera is in town— La Bohème, Carmen, and the whole school gets involved. When we were in town for Aida, the cast was invited to attend. It was the most fantastic privilege. In preparation, they had learned all about Egypt and had cooked Egyptian food. But, they couldn’t have the whole school in the opera. So, for the Triumphal March, they invited first and second graders to bring their pets from home. Sure enough, all of a sudden at the point of the Grand March, in come these little boys and girls with their pets! One kid had a gold fish in its bowl, and another kid had his pet lizard. A little girl had a little kitten in her arms. There were a few terrified dogs being dragged along the slippery gym floor. And oh, there was a little boy holding this big tortoise. It is the single most beautiful, touching, and heartwarming thing I have ever seen. It was the perfect engagement of audience and those kids—there has never been a prouder performer on any stage.

So, if you will provide me with 50 First and Second Graders who have brought their pets from home, I will happily deal with animals.

 

 

 

Opera Preview – Don Giovanni

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You’re invited to experience an exclusive Opera Preview for Don Giovanni!

Please join us for an informative discussion exploring Mozart’s greatest opera, Don Giovanni, with the Director of the Butler Opera Center, Dr. Robert DeSimone. These lively events give attendees the opportunity to learn about the upcoming opera while mingling with other opera enthusiasts. Austin Opera is committed to fostering a deeper connection with the community through programs that entertain as they educate.

Dr. Robert DeSimone combines an active career as Stage Director, Pianist, Coach, and Administrator. Originally a pianist, he received his musical education in Switzerland, Italy, University of Southern California, Manhattan School of Music, and Music Academy of the West. He studied piano with Emanuel Bay, Paul Stoye and John Crown. A protégé of Nora Quarrie, Sadler Wells Theatre in London, he spent four years training in the tradition of England’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. His opera studies include work with stage directors Hans Zimmerman, Herbert Graf, coach/conductor Luigi Ricci, Sergius Kagen and Hans Willi-Hausselein.

He has worked with major theatres in Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Mexico, Brazil, and Panama.  His work has been seen at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Los Angeles Music Center, Lincoln Center and opera companies throughout the States.

Arts administration posts include: Administrative Director- Music Center Opera Association Los Angeles, Director-City of the Angels Opera, Executive Director- Visual Arts Center of Alaska, Co-Director-Academia Vocale di Lucca in Italy, Artistic Director- Opera Panama.

A recipient of awards from the Adolph’s Foundation, National Thespian Society, Italian Government, National Association of Piano Teachers, Austin Circle of Theatres, he received  special commendation from the National Association of  Teachers of Singing for his work in contemporary opera. Host for the cablevision series “Encore”.  He is an active lecturer and presents  Master Classes in Opera.

Dr. DeSimone is Director of the Sarah and Ernest Butler Opera Center and Associate Director for External Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

Bring a friend and enjoy a night of food, fun and enlightening presentations!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Cocktail Reception at 6:30 pm
Lecture begins at 7:00 pm

Chez Zee American Bistro
5406 Balcones Dr.
Austin, Texas 78731
Click HERE for a map

Opera Previews are $20 a person

For tickets, please contact Dianne Van Hulle, Patron Services Manager, at 512.610.7684 or at dvanhulle@AustinOpera.org

For information about additional Austin Opera educational and community outreach programs visit our Education & Community Program Page or Contact Erin Horan, Education & Administrative Coordinator, at 512.610.7689 or at ehoran@AustinOpera.org
Still need tickets for Don Giovanni, April 25, 30, and May 3?
It’s not too late to get great seats. Tickets start at just $24, with student tickets at $15.

 

An Intimate Affair

Austin Opera is thrilled to partner with KLRU to present an unforgettable night of opera and modern classics on April 13, 2015. This extraordinary evening will feature David Miller, starring tenor of the 26-time platinum selling opera crossover group Il Divo, singing alongside his multi-talented wife, Sarah Joy Miller, star of New York City Opera’s Anna Nicole, based on the life of Anna Nicole Smith. David and Sarah Joy Miller will be joined on stage by pianist Audrey Saint-Gil, assistant conductor of Los Angeles Opera.

The program will feature music from West Side StoryLa BohèmeLes MisérablesFaustMy Fair LadyThe Music Man, among others.

Studio 6A, an Austin landmark known for housing the illustrious Austin City Limits television program from 1976-2010, will serve as the perfect backdrop for this special event.

Tickets start at $75. There are a limited number of premium $250 tickets available which include complimentary valet and an opportunity to attend an exclusive after-party with the artists. Seating will be based on a first-come, first-served basis.

For additional information, please contact Brittney Snyder, Director of Development at Austin Opera at bsnyder@austinopera.org or by phone at 512.610.7672.


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Opera Preview – Romeo & Juliet

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You’re invited to experience an exclusive Opera Preview for Romeo & Juliet!

Austin Opera is committed to fostering a deeper connection with our community through programs that entertain as they educate. Please join us for a fun, informative discussion of Gounod’s Romeo & Juliet featuring Ann Ciccolella, Artistic Director of Austin Shakespeare and Richard Buckley, Artistic Director & Principal Conductor of Austin Opera.

This lively discussion about Gounod’s Romeo & Juliet will explore the adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays to the opera stage. Dramatic and musical performances from both companies will spark your imagination and deepen your enjoyment of this classic tale.

Bring a friend and enjoy a night of food, fun and enlightening presentations!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Cocktail Reception at 6:30 pm
Lecture begins at 7:00 pm

Chez Zee American Bistro
5406 Balcones Dr.
Austin, Texas 78731
Click HERE for a map

Opera Previews are $20 a person

For tickets, please contact Dianne Van Hulle, Patron Services Manager, at 512.610.7684 or at dvanhulle@AustinOpera.org

Save the Dates:

After this event, there is only one more Opera Preview date for the 2014-15 season. Don’t miss this exciting opportunity!

Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Opera Preview – Wednesday, April 8, 2015

For information about additional Austin Opera educational and community outreach programs visit our Education & Community Program Page or Contact Erin Horan, Education & Administrative Coordinator, at 512.610.7689 or at ehoran@AustinOpera.org
Still need tickets for Romeo & Juliet, January 24, 29, & February 1? It’s not too late to get great seats. Tickets start at just $24, with student tickets at $15.
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