Opera productions and costumes go hand in hand, so it’s no surprise that Opera Omaha is part of TWO Halloween parties this year. The first is a great honor and delight. Our organization was chosen through a competitive application process to be included in the Greater Omaha Young Professionals event, “Monsters and Mayhem”.
“Monsters and Mayhem” is a costume party for a cause. Or, in this case, several causes. The beginning of the evening is the Trick-Serve-Give Nonprofit Fair from 5:30-8:00pm. Attendees pay $10 admission to the event which they then receive back in tokens to be given to the nonprofit fair agency of their choice. The money donated goes directly to the chosen nonprofit and attendees participate in creative booth displays and raffles. The second half of the evening includes a costume contest and party. All of this happens on Thursday, October 25, 2012 at the Scoular Ballroom.
Don’t miss your chance to be part of “Monsters and Mayhem”. More information is on the Greater Omaha Young Professionals website.
More information about our SECOND Halloween party of 2012 will be posted in a follow-up blog entry about Opera Omaha’s participation in National Opera Week. If you want more details now, visit our Facebook page!
Our 2012-2013 season opening production of Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata opened on Friday, October 5 and closes today, Sunday, October 7. Curtain time is 2:00pm. It’s a gorgeous production full of astonishingly skilled singers and other artisans. Don’t miss it!
Tickets start at only $19 and are available at the door or online at Ticket Omaha. The Omaha World Herald review and a lovely production photo are below. Come! Join us! Enjoy the elegance that is a sure harkening to 19th Century French affluence and drama.
Soprano effortlessly soars to vocal stratosphere
By Todd Von Kampen
To better appreciate the significance of Opera Omaha’s newly opened 55th season, imagine if “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Les Miserables” — respectively the top two
musicals in combined Broadway and London performances — were produced at the Orpheum Theater four months apart.
The corresponding worldwide honors in opera belong to Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” which awaits Opera Omaha audiences in February, and Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata,” which opened at the Orpheum on Friday night with a lavish musical and visual telling of the tale of a dying Paris courtesan redeemed by love.
Because of tonight’s John Williams program by the Omaha Symphony (which provided superb accompaniment in the Slosburg Hall pit under conductor Joseph Rescigno), Omahans have only one more opportunity at 2 p.m. Sunday — to experience an opera that struggled for acclaim after its 1853 premiere but features at least two arias that even novice patrons likely have heard somewhere before.
Based on a story by “The Three Musketeers” novelist Alexandre Dumas, “La Traviata” centers on Violetta Valery, whose health is fading from tuberculosis. She’s quite used to losing herself in the refined yet decadent pursuits of wealthy Parisians in the early 1700s. But she doesn’t count on young Alfredo Germont, who sweeps away her cynicism with his devotion — but in the process prompts his father, Giorgio, to demand that Violetta give him up to preserve his family.
All this would be difficult to follow if audiences weren’t blessed with a captioning screen above the stage to translate the opera’s Italian arias and recitatives. Sunday’s audience also will enjoy impassioned acting as well as singing from tenor Joshua Kohl (Alfredo) and baritone Jake Gardner (Giorgio), whose characters both are changed forever by Violetta’s embrace of her last chance to selflessly love another human being.
Soprano Inna Dukach’s portrayal of Violetta seemed to grow as the opera progressed, though that likely can be attributed to the opera’s dramatic arc. Her mastery of Verdi’s vocal demands is evident throughout in her rich vibrato delivery and her seemingly effortless visits to the vocal stratosphere.
By contrast, Dukach’s character seemed dramatically flat in the soiree. Consider, though, the jaded, shallow nature of Violetta’s life up to that point. Dukach’s presentation changes profoundly as Violetta struggles with her reaction to Alfredo’s suit, surrenders to it and then bravely confronts the reality that a fully realized and lived-out love includes periods of suffering as well as times of bliss.
The other singing roles and the chorus shine when given the opportunity, particularly in the soirée scene and a subsequent masked ball featuring depictions of Gypsies, bullfights and flashy flamenco dances. Sunday’s audience also should take note of the dazzling colors in the women’s gowns and the angled set walls and ceiling beams that create the impression of massive mansion rooms.
“Opera is when a tenor and soprano want to make love, but are prevented from doing so by a baritone.” – George Bernard Shaw
In La traviata, the offending baritone is Jake Gardner as Giorgio Germont. Germont is the father of our young tenor, Alfredo, who is in love with our soprano, Violetta. The relationship has caused problems for the Germont family. One of those is the plight of Alfredo’s sister whose fiance will not marry her until her family name is clear. Germont sings a beautiful duet with Violetta and then with Alfredo as he asks the two to end their scandalous relationship and restore honor to the family.
Mr. Gardner’s singing and acting perfectly capture the mood of his character and the scenes. He uses formidable vocal skill to sing a difficult role with finesse and beauty. The relationship between son and father is clear and believable with Mr. Gardner in the role of the elder Germont.
Don’t miss your opportunity to see Mr. Gardner perform the role of Giorgio Germont in Opera Omaha’s October 5 and 7 production of La traviata! Tickets are available online at Ticket Omaha or 402-345-0606.
More information about Jake Gardner is available below and on his website.
Boasting a career which includes performances with major opera companies and orchestras throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia, bass-baritone Jake Gardner remains one of the opera world’s most sought-after singing actors. Reviews continue to garner praise for his “splendid voice and commanding presence” (Syracuse Post-Standard). After recent performances of Michele and Gianni Schicchi in Puccini’s Il Trittico, the Honolulu Advertiser noted, “Words fail with baritone Jake Gardner, who did not play his roles so much as became them – wonderful voice, wonderful actor.”
In the upcoming 2012-2013 season, Mr. Gardner will debut with Washington National Opera as Geronte di Ravoir in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, returns to Virginia Opera as Frank in Strauss’ Die Fledermaus and sings two of his signature roles with Opera Omaha (Giorgio Germont/La Traviata) and New Orleans Opera (Sharpless/Madama Butterfly).
In the 2011-2012 season, Mr. Gardner sang Sharpless in Madama Butterfly at the Arizona Opera, The Mayor in John Mustos’ The Inspector at Boston Lyric Opera, Mayor Shinn in The Music Man and the Judge in Lost in the Stars at Glimmerglass Opera and the Musiklehrer (cover) in Ariadne auf Naxos at Lyric Opera of Chicago. The bass-baritone also returned to his home company, Tri-Cities Opera in Binghamton, NY, to direct Puccini’s Madama Butterfly as well as sing the role of Sharpless.
For the 2010-2011 season, Mr. Gardner returned to New York City Opera to portray Doc in Bernstein’s A Quiet Place, Hawaii Opera Theater to sing Germont in La Traviata and Opera Grand Rapids in his role debut of Geronte de Ravoir in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut. In the summer of 2011, the bass-baritone returned to Glimmerglass Opera to portray Buffalo Bill Cody in Annie Get Your Gun alongside Deborah Voight and to sing the role of Ronaldo Cabral in John Musto’s one-act opera Later The Same Evening. On the concert stage, Mr. Gardner sang Verdi’s Requiem with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra under the baton of new music director Jean-Marie Zeitouni and Bach’s B Minor Mass with the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra.
Noted North American engagements from the past few seasons include Betto in Gianni Schicchi and Hortensius in La Fille du Régiment with San Francisco Opera, Musiklehrer in Ariadne auf Naxos and Scarpia in a concert version of Tosca with Boston Lyric Opera, de Brétigny in Manon for Lyric Opera of Chicago, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly for Florida Grand Opera, Baron Zehta in The Merry Widow with Los Angeles Opera, Jupiter in Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld at Glimmerglass Opera, Horace Tabor in Central City Opera’s The Ballad of Baby Doe, Sharpless in Renata Scotto’s production of Madama Butterfly with Palm Beach Opera, and multiple appearances with Hawaii Opera Theatre, including Wotan in Die Walküre, Bartolo in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Fredrik in Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, Michele and Gianni Schicchi in Il Trittico and Scarpia in Tosca. Mr. Gardner also sang Sharpless with Opera Cleveland and New York City Opera and toured in Japan as Gideon with New York City Opera’s production of Little Women.
Internationally, Mr. Gardner’s career spans most of Europe having begun as the principal baritone at Oper Köln in Germany where he appeared in a vast number of operas including the title roles in Don Giovanni and Gianni Schicchi, Lescaut in Manon Lescaut, Germont in La Traviata, and Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, to name a few. While in Cologne he appeared in Shostakovich’s The Nose in a new production directed by Harry Kupfer. He has sung Don Alfonso in Cosí Fan Tutte with Deutsche Oper am Rhein, and performed in a new production of the same opera directed by Trevor Nunn at the Glyndebourne Festival under the baton of Simon Rattle. Other international opera credits include appearances with the Wexford Festival, Budapest Festival, Théâtre du Châtelet, Komische Oper Berlin, and with opera companies in Bonn, Dresden, Vienna, and the Netherlands.
Additional noted engagements throughout North America include Jules Goddard in the premiere of Bolcom’s A Wedding at Lyric Opera of Chicago; Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor with San Francisco Opera; Count in Le Nozze di Figaro and Publio in La Clemenza di Tito at New York City Opera; Ashby in La Fanciulla del West, Marquis de la Force in Dialogues des Carmélites and Jupiter in Offenbach’s Orpehus In The Underworld with Glimmerglass Opera; Albert in the premiere of Hans-Jurgen von Bose’s Die Lieden des jungen Werther with Santa Fe Opera; Musiklehrer in Ariadne auf Naxos with Opera Colorado; and Slim in Of Mice and Men with both Vancouver Opera and Cleveland Opera. Mr. Gardner also appeared with the San Diego Opera in gala performances of Die Fledermaus with Dame Joan Sutherland. His Lincoln Center debut was in a nationally televised ‘Live from Lincoln Center’ concert with Dame Joan Sutherland, Marilyn Horne, and Luciano Pavarotti. He appeared twice in the same season at Carnegie Hall in concert performances of Massenet’s Le Cid with Placido Domingo and Grace Bumbry which was recorded live by CBS/SONY.
Mr. Gardner also enjoys a successful career of concert performances, including Mahler’s Das klagende Lied with the New York Philharmonic under James Conlon and Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass with Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic. He also sang the role of Wotan in Jonathan Dove’s arrangement of Das Rheingold directed by Christopher Alden with the EOS Orchestra. He appeared with the Mostly Mozart Festival to sing Mozart’s Thamos, King of Egypt and later returned for performances of Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast. He appeared as soloist in the Proms to perform an evening of music by Kurt Weill and his contemporaries and gave a much-acclaimed Lincoln Center performance of Handel’s Saul, which he later repeated at the San Antonio Festival. He most recently performed Verdi’s Requiem with both Bel Canto Chorus and Highland Park United Methodist Church, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass and Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, and Messiah with the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra.
In addition to the CBS/SONY recording of his ‘Live at Lincoln Center’ concert, Mr. Gardner can be heard on a recording by BMG of Thea Musgrave’s Mary, Queen of Scots, which he also performed at the San Francisco Opera, Scottish Opera, Edinburgh Festival, Stuttgart Opera, and Virginia Opera. Another Musgrave work, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, which was broadcast over BBC and subsequently aired throughout the United States on National Public Radio, was released commercially in April 2011 by NMC Recordings, Ltd. He may also be seen in the original 1983 released film version of Peter Brook’s La Tragedie de Carmen and on the CD entitled Afrika Songs composed by Wilhelm Gross with the Matrix Ensemble conducted by Robert Ziegler.
Tenor James Benjamin Rodgers sings the role of Gastone in Opera Omaha’s production of La traviata. Gastone is a bit of a matchmaker. He leads Violetta and Alfredo into a situation where they begin their affair. Gastone knows that Alfredo admires Violetta and that Violetta will return his affections. He also runs interference between Violetta’s current lover, Baron Douphol, and Alfredo. As Gastone, James Benjamin Rodgers sings and acts his part with perfection.
A native of New Zealand, Mr. Rodgers lives and works in New York City with engagements around the world. More information about him is available in the biography below and on his professional website. Join us for La traviata and see Gastone in action!
Go online to Ticket Omaha or call 402-345-0606 to buy tickets to our October 5 and 7 production of Verdi’s great drama, La traviata. James Benjamin Rodgers as Gastone awaits!
James Benjamin RodgersA native of New Zealand, James Bejamin Rodgers has performed at the Kauffman Center, Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Trinity Wall Street, Riverside Church, (le) Poisson Rouge and the renowned Joe’s Pub in New York City. He has appeared with such organizations as The Ravinia Festival, Joy in Singing, Southern Opera, Toledo Opera, The Southern Sinfonia, The Little Orchestra Society of New York, The Orpheus Choir, The Merola Opera Program, The Schwabacher Recital Series, The Banff Centre, The Mac-Haydn Theatre, The NBR New Zealand Opera, Opera on the Avalon, The Bannf Center, The Opera Company of Middlebury, Red Light New Music, Stage Time Collaborative and The Japan Society of New York.A graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, James was the Orvis Foundation Scholar and received the Janet D. Schenck Award for his distinguished contribution to the life of the school. He has studied voice with Joan Patenaud-Yarnell, Neil Rosenshein and Emily Mair.In 2011 James has performed with Toledo Opera, Opera on the Avalon and The Banff Center’s Opera as Theatre program. He created the role of Marco Polo in the world premier of Christopher Cerrone’s Invisible Cities, an opera based on Italo Calvino’s novel. A passionate performer of art song, this season James performed Schumann’s Dichterliebe with pianist Jillian Zack, and Liszt’s Tre Sonetti di Petrarca with pianist Liza Stepanova. James also appeared with the Mac-Haydn Theater as the title character(s) in Jekyll an Hyde the Musical.In 2012 James has appeared in the premier performance of Matthew Welch’s opera Borges and the Other at Roulette, Brooklyn and took the role of Tommy Albright in the Mac Haydn Theatre’s production of Brigadoon. Later in 2012 he performs a series of concerts in New Zealand with pianist Jillian Zack. This program focuses on the life and works of Kurt Weill. James also returns to the Southern Sinfonia as the tenor soloist for the world premiere of John Drummond’s The Journey Home. He will then perform the role of Gastone in Omaha Opera’s production of La Traviata, and will make his Avery Fisher Hall debut as the tenor soloist in The Messiah.James has performed numerous roles in both opera and musical theatre including creating the role of Marco Polo in Christopher Cerrone’s Invisible Cities in 2011. He is a passionate performer of the art song repertoire and a champion of new music. His awards include: An Arts Excellence Award from the Malvina Major Foundation (2010), Winner of the Joy in Singing Competition (2008), Winner of the Lotte Lenya Competition (2007), Wellington Rotary Scholarship, Marie D’Albini Scholarship, Bell Gully Travel Award, Sir Henry Cooper Memorial Scholarship in Music, grants from the Lankhuyzen/Whetu Kairangi Masonic Trust and the Malvina Major Foundation.James recently completed his debut recording with renowned pianist Kenneth Merrill. The disc, “Exiled” The Extrication of Kurt Weill, will be released in 2012.James resides in New York City.
All Rights Reserved © James Benjamin Rodgers. 2008
Mezzo-soprano Leah Wool is Flora in La traviata. Flora is a party girl. One of Opera Omaha’s staff described her as Violetta’s “frenemy”. Wikipedia says that the word is a portmanteau of “friend” and “enemy” that can refer to either an enemy disguised as a friend or someone who’s both a friend and a rival. This seems accurate for Verdi’s character and Leah Wool’s current role, Flora.
Ms. Wool plays the role with joy and skill. Her velvety mezzo-soprano and marvelous acting skills convey the impression that she is a friend with a past and an agenda. Join us for La traviata this weekend and see Ms. Wool as Verdi’s party girl, Flora.
La traviata is at Omaha’s beautiful Orpheum Theater on October 5 and 7. Need tickets? Visit the Ticket Omaha website or call 402-345-0606.
Leah Wool’s biography is printed below. This information and more is available on her website.
Mezzo-soprano Leah Wool has been hailed by Opera News as “among the more distinctive and accomplished artists of her generation,” with a “distinguished, lovely timbre.”
Ms. Wool’s 2012-2013 season includes appearances with Portland’s prestigious Chamber Music Northwest, both Nashville Opera and Knoxville Opera as the title role in La Cenerentola; Sacramento Opera, as Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia; and as Flora in La traviata with Opera Omaha.
In the 2011-2012 season, Leah Wool returned to the San Francisco Symphony as the second mezzo-soprano in Debussy’s Le Martyre de St. Sébastien, bowed in Glass’ Kepler and in recital at Spoleto Festival USA, appeared with Gloria Musicae for Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ, and sang Handel’s Messiah with both the Kansas City Symphony and the Cincinnati Symphony.
Her 2010-2011 season included returns to Gotham Chamber Opera as the title role in Montsalvatge’s El gato con botas and Utah Opera as Hänsel in Hänsel und Gretel, Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia with Opéra Louisiane , and the Mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors with The Little Orchestra Society at Avery Fisher Hall. On the concert stage, she returned to Avery Fisher Hall in Copland’s In the Beginning and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, debuted with the San Francisco Symphony for the Duruflé Requiem, and sang the roles of Dido and also the Sorceress in concert performances of Dido and Aeneas with the Portland Baroque Orchestra and the Oregon Bach Festival.
In the 2009-2010 season, she sang Hänsel with Kentucky Opera, Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia with Knoxville Opera, and added three roles to her repertoire: the title role in Handel’s Amadigi di Gaula with Boston Baroque, Isabella in L’italiana in Algeri with Utah Opera, and Betty in Flora at the Spoleto Festival USA. On the concert stage, she performed Händel’s Messiah with the Utah Symphony and the Rochester Chamber Orchestra, and Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle with the Gloria Musicae.
In 2008-2009, Ms. Wool sang the title role in La Cenerentola with Orlando Opera, Meg in Little Women with Syracuse Opera, Amastre in Xerxes with Boston Baroque, and returned to the Metropolitan Opera to cover Myrtale in Thaïs. In the summer of 2009, Ms. Wool made her debut with Glimmerglass Opera as the Secretary in Menotti’s The Consul.
In previous seasons, Ms. Wool appeared at the Metropolitan Opera in performances of the Second Bridesmaid in Le Nozze di Figaro and Marshal Murat’s Adjutant in War and Peace, bowed as Angelina in La Cenerentola with both Opera New Jersey (role début) and Opera Fairbanks, and joined fellow Yale Opera alumni in concert at Weill Recital Hall as part of the inaugural “Yale at Carnegie” series.
Notable past performances also include the Second Novice in Suor Angelica at the Metropolitan Opera (company début), the title role in Massenet’s Cendrillon and Erika in Vanessa with Central City Opera, Hansel in Hansel and Gretel at Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Stéphano in Roméo et Juliette with Toledo Opera, Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia with the Newton Symphony, Delia in Il Viaggio a Reims at New York City Opera, Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Utah Opera, and Léoena in La Belle Hélène with Santa Fe Opera. Ms. Wool was one of a select group of Yale Opera alumni invited to record the complete song collection of Charles Ives, which was released in 2008 on Naxos Records.
Sought after on the concert stage, she has appeared as mezzo-soprano soloist for works including Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor with Gloria Musicae, Haydn’s Theresienmesse with the New Jersey Symphony, Handel’s Messiah with the Utah Symphony, Duruflé’s Requiem with the Greenwich Choral Society, Vivaldi’s Gloria with the New Haven Symphony, Bruckner’s Missa Solemnis with the Manchester Symphony, and Bach’s Magnificat, Stravinsky’s Les Noces, and Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass at Yale University.
A two-time Regional Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, she is also a 2008 Winner and a 2004 Encouragement Grant recipient of the Sullivan Foundation Awards. Ms. Wool was a Second Place Winner in the 2005 Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation International Vocal Competition and subsequently made her Alice Tully Hall debut in the Foundation’s gala concert, receiving praise from Opera News as “the afternoon’s most arresting voice.” Other honors include a 2008 Encouragement Award from the Gerda Lissner Foundation, a 2007 Grant from the Giulio Gari Foundation, and the 2003 Judith Raskin Memorial Award from Santa Fe Opera. She was also the 2002 recipient of the Presser Award, a prestigious study grant from The Presser Foundation and the Yale School of Music.
Ms. Wool has been a Young Artist at Santa Fe Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Utah Symphony & Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Opera North, and the Caramoor Festival. She holds an Artist Diploma and Master of Music from Yale University and received her Bachelor of Music magna cum laude from Westminster Choir College. Ms. Wool is a native of Long Island, New York.
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