We would have placed lots of money on the chance that a production of Carmen features prominently in the new season. It's one of the most popular of all operas, and it hasn't been performed by the AO since 2004, and that was at the (shudder) Civic Center. Atlanta's ready for another production, we figured. Imagine our self-congratulatory satisfaction at being proved totally right when Atlanta Opera General Manager Dennis Hanthorn unveiled the first show of the season: Carmen. AO owns a traditional production, and it will be at the Cobb Energy Centre in early November. Debuting with The Atlanta Opera is mezzo-soprano Maria José Montiel, who will be singing the role of Carmen. Mexican tenor Fernando de la Mora returns to the Atlanta Opera stage to take the role of Don José.
We felt like we'd picked the Powerball when Hanthorn moved on to unveil the second opera of the season: La Traviata. It was 1998 when Atlanta Opera did its last Traviata, and we figured that was a pretty safe bet, too. AO likewise owns a traditional production which will run at Cobb Energy in March of 2013. In her Atlanta Opera debut, soprano Mary Dunleavy will be singing the role of Violetta, and playing Alfredo is Russian tenor Boris Rudak, in his American and Atlanta Opera debut.
Creative Loafing caught up with mezzo-soprano Abigail Nims who plays Veruca in the Atlanta Opera's production of The Golden Ticket, the new operatic version of Dahl's beloved children's story which opens at the Cobb Energy Center on Saturday, March 3, to get the low-down on playing the ultimate diva.
An opera based on "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" seems likely to draw a lot of people who don't normally go to the opera: fans of the book, fans of the films, kids dragged there by their parents. Is it an opera that can appeal to non-opera fans?
I think that's exactly what it is. Being an opera singer I'm so used to coming in to various cities and people asking what opera I'm performing in: I tell them and then the conversation stops immediately. But when I tell them I'm performing The Golden Ticket based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, their faces just light up and they say, "Hmm. Maybe I should go see that. I've never been to an opera." I think it's absolutely perfect for people who have never been to the opera before. It's in English, and it's a story everyone knows. It incorporates so much of the book, and visually it's a fabulous production. The costumes and sets are wonderful. It's a richly varied score musically. The music is complicated, but the beauty of it is that it doesn't sound that way to the audience. It's quite accessible music with a lot of beautiful melodies. There's a lot of variety in that the characters all have their own musical language.
Contestants selected to compete in the Atlanta Opera's 24-Hour Opera Project this weekend will have to do just that. Composers and lyricists from Atlanta and across the country will converge this weekend for the contest, now in its second year. Paired randomly, they'll have exactly 24 hours to compose, stage, and rehearse a 10-minute opera.
The kick-off event takes place on Friday, January 20, at 5 pm at the First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta, 1328 Peachtree Street. Participating composers and lyricists will be randomly paired together, and then they'll have exactly 12 hours to write an opera scene. At the end of 12 hours, the pieces will be assigned to a stage director, who will draft singers from a pool of applicants, and with the remaining 8 hours the scene will be rehearsed before being presented in a showcase-concert exactly 24 hours after the project begins.
The big performance of the operas takes place on Saturday, January 21, at 7 pm at The Atlanta Opera Center, 1575 Northside Drive, Bldg. 300, Suite 350 at 7 pm. The event is open to the public and free of charge, and you can also tune in to a live webcast at atlantaopera.org and even vote for “Audience Favorite” via Twitter (@TheAtlantaOpera) or Facebook.
Lucia di Lammermoor tells the Romeo and Juliet-like story of a young girl in Scotland who falls in love with a mystery man who turns out to be from a rival family. Her brother tricks her into marrying the rich groom he's picked out for her, and their wedding night ends up as, well, something of a bloody mess. Donizetti's famous bel canto score has a drive and beauty that keep the tension at a constant boil, and Erhard Rom's set designs for the Atlanta production have a wonderful cinematic flare with a suggestive and totally original hint of Southern Gothic. Soprano Georgia Jarman's voice, though she's new to the role, is up to the hefty task, and she isn't afraid to show off some impressive vocal gymnastics when they're called for. Baritone Stephen Powell as Lucia's brother Enrico and bass Arthur Woodley as the chaplain Raimondo are standouts in the cast, and the chorus and orchestra sound polished, supple and lively.
If you crave original, transportive and dramatic performances, get to the show this weekend. Think of it as "last call." 2011 is all Sugar Plum Fairies and Tiny Tims from here on out.
The Atlanta Opera performs Donizetti's “Lucia di Lammermoor” on Friday, November 18, at 8 pm and Sunday, November 20 at 3 pm at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit Atlanta Opera.
No, this isn't the backstory to Netherworld. It's actually what's going on right now in the rehearsal rooms of the Atlanta Opera. As Halloween approaches, the AO is busy preparing for up-coming performances of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, opening Saturday, November 12. We caught up with Houston-based soprano Georgia Jarman who will play Lucia to chat about the slightly creepy task of taking on the role of opera's maddest and most murderous bride.
The work is the brainchild of Atlanta Opera's Director of Education Emmalee Iden who wanted to have an original work the company could use to bring opera to area school children. The task of writing the libretto fell to Atlanta playwright Madeleine St. Romain, who says she used the opportunity to explore some of the lesser known Br'er Rabbit tales and to incorporate a number of rabbit fables from around the world. “The Rabbit trickster is a common African story motif and folk hero,” she says. “That's where the Br'er Rabbit stories come from.” The new work—which features several stories within a larger framework—utilizes tales from African, Cajun, Native American, and French-European traditions.
In 2005, the Atlanta Opera chorus caught the attention of directors at Paris' Opéra Comique, and the chorus was asked to participate in that theater's production of Porgy and Bess in 2008. Although individual opera singers routinely travel the world performing on various stages as a part of their job, an entire chorus touring for an opera is relatively rare. Nonetheless, directors at the Opéra Comique felt so strongly about the Atlanta Opera chorus they deemed it worthwhile to bring the entire crew over to Paris. The cast shared suites at a hotel in the 11th Arrondissement for six weeks while they rehearsed and performed at Paris' historic Opéra Comique theater, one of the most famous opera stages in the world.
The AO knew since Stewart's death in December of 2010 at the age of 67 that they had been bequeathed in some way, but only found out this morning about the enormous generosity of the gift. “There are hardly words to express the gratitude and appreciation we feel at this moment,” said general director of The Atlanta Opera Dennis Hanthorn. “This gift is truly humbling.”
All the familiar elements of the classic story will be there: the chocolate river, a chorus of Oompah-Loompahs, Willy Wonka, Mike Teavee, Veruca Salt (the ultimate diva?), Violet Beauregard, Augustus Gloop. Most of the golden ticket winners are played by adults, but AO Director Dennis Hanthorn says that a nationwide search will be conducted for a child singer to play Charlie (Wow, life really does imitate art).
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Finally - common ground!
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