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Friday | Nov 02, 2012

Opera Omaha Week and a Master Class

We are nearing the end of Opera Omaha Week, which is part of National Opera Week. The overall goal of National Opera Week is advocacy for the art form. The week is full of events promoted and arranged by opera companies across the United States. The events are free or very low cost and open to the public. Again, the goal is to engage people who may not otherwise attend an operatic event and give opera a wider public exposure.

Our week of events included a pre-broadcast talk by famed stage director, James de Blasis, at the Film Streams Met HD showing of Othello, a luncheon with Metropolitan Opera star, Peter Volpe, a Halloween party featuring Mr. Volpe and the Opera Omaha Artists in Residence, and, finally, on Saturday, a vocal master class led by Mr. Volpe. All of these events were free and open to the Omaha community and beyond. THIS is the meaning of National Opera Week!

The vocal master class this Saturday, November 3 begins at 1:00pm. Everyone is welcome to attend. Although the name “vocal master class” may sound very formal, the event is relaxed. You are not asked to sing or to participate. Attendees will hear Peter Volpe and our Artists in Residence (Maria Lindsay, Andrew Spady, and Kirk Vaughn Robinson) perform and Mr. Volpe will offer suggestions and information to the Artists in Residence. The audience is welcome to ask questions and you do not have to stay for the entire class.

We want you to join us at our office, 1850 Farnam Street, for entertainment and refreshments this Saturday as we end Opera Omaha Week. Help us celebrate National Opera Week with four magnificent singers in a relaxed, fun atmosphere. RSVP to our Production Coordinator and fabulous Opera Omaha Week organizer, Cammy Watkins, at cwatkins@operaomaha.org. We can’t wait to see you here!

Mr. Volpe’s biography below and the photograph above are from his website.

American bass Peter Volpe continually receives critical and popular acclaim on four continents. Possessing a vast and ever-expanding repertoire of over 80 roles in six languages, his captivating style and interpretive skill embraces the depth of historical and fictional characters. Of a recent portrayal as Prince Gremin in Eugene Onegin, Opera News said he “managed to create in his single aria and scene an impressive dignity. His full-bodied bass and great candor of tone, together with his intelligent interpretation, won him a well-deserved ovation.”

In 2011 and beyond, performances include Angelotti in Tosca, Idraote in Rossini’s Armida and Doctor Grenvil in La Traviata at the Metropolitan Opera, Deguiche in DiChiera’s Cyrano at the Florida Grand Opera, Timur in Turandot at Florentine Opera of Milwaukee, Frere Laurent in Romeo et Juliette at Vancouver Opera, Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor at Austin Lyric Opera, and Ramfis in Aida at Arizona Opera.

Most recent operatic engagements from the past two seasons (2008-2010) include Idraote in Armida at the Metropolitan Opera, Marcel in Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots at the Bard Festival, Gremin in Eugene Onegin at Vancouver Opera and Opera Lyra Ottawa, Timur in Turandot at Opera Lyra Ottawa, Silva in Ernani and Mephistopheles in Faust covers at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Commendatore in Don Giovanni at Palm Beach Opera, Zuniga in Carmen at Arizona Opera, and Sparafucile in Rigoletto with Austin Lyric Opera, Arizona Opera and Portland Opera.

In the 2007-2008 season, Mr. Volpe created the role of Deguiche in world premiere of Cyrano with the Michigan Opera Theatre and Opera Company of Philadelphia, as well as performing Frere Laurent in Romeo et Juliettewith the Baltimore Opera, and Jacqueau in War and Peaceand Frere Laurent cover in Romeo et Juliette at the MET. Operatic engagements from 2006-2007 season include Banquo in Macbeth with Arizona Opera, the title role in Don Giovanni with Florentine Opera of Milwaukee, Frere Laurent in Romeo et Juliette with Atlanta Opera and Michigan Opera Theatre, and Zuniga in Carmen with the Seiji Ozawa Opera Project in Japan.

Mr. Volpe made his notable Metropolitan Opera debut in their new production of Prokofiev’s War and Peace, and has subsequently returned for new productions of Berlioz’ Les Troyen, Strauss’ Salome, Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, as well as Falstaff, Gianni Schicchi, Carmen, Aida, I Vespri Siciliani, Cyrano di Bergerac, and Andrea Chenier, among others. In addition, he has appeared with San Francisco Opera in productions of Salome, Nabucco, and Romeo et Juliette, with the Lyric Opera of Chicago in Falstaff, with Washington National Opera for Britten’s Billy Budd and Tchaikovsky’s Maid of Orleans, as well as Mephistopheles in Faust and Ramfis in Aida with Palm Beach Opera, Mephistopheles in Faust with Vancouver Opera, and a debut with Portland Opera as Banquo in Macbeth.

As a concert soloist, he has performed Verdi’s Requiem with the Philharmonia Orchestra of London at the Chichester Festival, the Manhattan Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall, L’Orchestra d’Imola in Italy, Oberlin Conservatory, Arizona State University, the Indianapolis Symphony, the Queens Symphony, and the Augusta Choral Society. He has also performed Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with the New York Metropolitan Orchestra, Edmonton Symphony and Augusta Choral Society, Handel’s Messiah with Edmonton and Louisville Symphonies, and Mozart’s Requiem with the Choral Society of Philadelphia.

Wednesday | Oct 24, 2012

It’s tomorrow! It’s Monsters and Mayhem with the Greater Omaha Young Professionals.

Don’t forget to register! Your chance to participate in this fun event ends tomorrow. Join us!

“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!

Thursday | Oct 11, 2012

We’re part of Monsters and Mayhem!

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!

Sunday | Oct 07, 2012

Today’s your last chance! See our LA TRAVIATA today at 2pm!

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.

Opera Omaha goes big and bold with lush and lavish ‘La Traviata’

Soprano effortlessly soars to vocal stratosphere

By Todd Von Kampen
World-Herald Corespondent
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.

Thursday | Oct 04, 2012

Meet the Artist: Jake Gardner

“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.

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