Wednesday | Oct 03, 2012

Meet the Artist: James Benjamin Rodgers

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 Rodgers

A 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

Wednesday | Oct 03, 2012

Meet the Artist: Leah Wool

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.

Monday | Oct 01, 2012

Meet the Artist: Patricia Soria Urbano

In La traviata, Annina is Violetta’s trusted maid and frequent companion. The role of Annina is challenging and important. She fulfills the role of confidant and messenger and does it well.

Patricia Soria Urbano is our Annina. Ms. Urbano is a director and performer at San Francisco Parlor Opera. The organization’s current season includes a production of Susannah by Carlisle Floyd. The multi-talented soprano has a warm, melodic voice and sings the role of Annina with all the concern and care required. This is a performance not to be missed!

If you don’t yet have your tickets, go online to Ticket Omaha or call 402-345-0606 today! Don’t miss your chance to see Patricia Soria Urbano sing the role of Annina. Join us!

Ms. Urbano’s biography is below and you can find more information about the San Francisco Parlor Opera on the organization’s website.

Patricia Soria Urbano, Mexican Soprano, has been lauded as having …’rich, powerful vocals and feisty acting…’ (SF Weekly).  Ms. Urbano is an alumnus of the New England Conservatory of Music where she studied under Metropolitan Opera Soprano Ms. Patricia Craig.  Some of Ms. Urbano’s roles include Susannah in Susannah, Antonia, Giulietta, and Stella in Les Contes d’Hoffmann,  Tosca in Tosca , Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Thais in Thais, Marguerite in Faust,  Fiordiligi in Cosi Fan Tutte,  Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, and Pamina in The Magic Flute .  Ms. Urbano has worked with distinguished opera companies in California which include West Bay Opera covering the leading soprano role, Euridice in Orfeo ed Euridice and Pocket Opera‘s  Emperor Norton as Diana.  Ms. Urbano was the recipient of the Mim Babin Scholarship Award from the American Musical Theatre as well as Redwood City’s Concerto Competition Winner.  She is delighted to be joining Opera Omaha this season.

Friday | Sep 28, 2012

Meet the Artist: Joshua Kohl

The primary love affair and focus of the storyline in La traviata is the forbidden relationship between Violetta and Alfredo Germont. Alfredo is passionate about Violetta from the beginning of the opera and they leave Paris for the French countryside to be together. But, as often happens when a soprano and a tenor fall in love and want to be alone, a baritone (in this case, Alfredo’s father, Giorgio Germont) comes along and tears them apart.

Joshua Kohl is Alfredo in Opera Omaha’s production of La traviata. The young tenor sings and acts the part in perfect keeping with the role. He is every bit the devastated young lover, torn between Violetta and the demands of his father and society.

Join us on October 5 or 7 and see Mr. Kohl as Alfredo. Don’t miss it! Go online at Ticket Omaha or call 402-345-0606 for tickets today.

More information about Mr. Kohl, including the biography quoted below, is available on his website.

American tenor Joshua Kohl was called a “tenor to watch” by The Boston Herald and was recently singled out for his “glorious, relaxed performance” by Opera News. The Salt Lake Tribune said of his performance in Macbeth that he “nearly steals the show with his impassioned portrayal of Macduff. The young tenor brings a jolt of urgency to every scene he’s in, and the aria in which Macduff expresses his grief over his family’s murder is arguably the emotional high point of the evening.”

During the 2012-13 season the tenor will be heard as Alfredo in La Traviata with Opera Omaha, Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor with Dayton Opera, Chevalier in Dialogues of the Carmelites with Hawaii Opera Theatre, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly with Opera Southwest, and finally Nanki-Poo in The Mikado with Lyric Opera of Kansas City. On the concert stage he returns to the New Haven Symphony for performances of Carmina Burana.

Mr. Kohl began the 2011-12 season at Nashville Opera portraying Alfredo in their production of La Traviata, and followed that engagement portraying the role of Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor with the Sarasota Opera before returning to Opera Saratoga as the Duke in Rigoletto for which the Albany Times-Union said that his “singing revealed the fullest emotional range of the principals — joy, rapture, rage.” In addition, as tenor soloist in Carmina Burana in his debut with the Hartford Symphony, he “conveyed the roasting swan’s plight with poignancy and humor” (In the Spotlight), making the passage “otherworldly and nightmarish.” (Hartford Courant)

During the 2010-11 season Mr. Kohl sang Alfredo in La Traviata with Tulsa Opera, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni with Sarasota Opera, West Side Story Suite in concert with the Lexington Philharmonic, and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 2 with the New Jersey Symphony. During the previous season, he joined the Dallas Opera as Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly for student matinee performances, Sarasota Opera as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte which was “sung suavely” (Herald-Tribune), Lake George Opera as Don José in Carmen, the Commonwealth Opera as Ferrando in Così fan Tutte, and Utah Opera as Macduff in Macbeth. On the concert stage he was an Artist-in-Residence with Opera Theatre of St. Louis and sang Handel’s Messiah with the New Haven Symphony.

During the 2008-09 season, the tenor sang Rodolfo in La Bohème with the Pittsburgh Opera in a student matinee performance, and made debuts with Opera Theatre of St. Louis as First Jew in Salome and with the Virginia Opera as Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore. His Nemorino was praised for his “sincere and touching performance. The young tenor displayed a bright voice of great size, yet capable of movement and nuance.” (Portfolio Weekly) On the concert stage he presented a recital under the auspices of the Upper Ohio Valley Opera Guild, joined Yale University for a performance of Stravinsky’s In Memoriam Dylan Thomas, and appeared with
both Opera Providence and Connecticut Concert Opera.

Thursday | Sep 27, 2012

Meet the Artist: Director, James de Blasis

How many people can say that they’ve directed opera for more than 40 years? How many of those individuals are still directing world-class, professional opera? How many of those still have new ideas that inject excitement into the classics? After narrowing that down, you’ve got a short list of people that includes our La traviata Director, James de Blasis.

Mr. de Blasis does all of those things and more. He is a force of nature in the rehearsal hall creating moods and scenes for the audience that few others could devise. Opera Omaha is thrilled to welcome Mr. de Blasis for a repeat appearance with the company.

Please take a few moments to read Mr. de Blasis’ biography and get to know a little more about this incredible artist.

James de Blasis has been an active Producer, Stage Director and Dramatic Operatic Role Coach all over the United States.  After a professional debut starring Richard Tucker in La Boheme his career flourished with a New York City Opera debut in Carmen, starring Placido Domingo and Beverly Wolff.  After that came came debuts in San Francisco, Houston, Philadelphia, Hawaii, Pittsburgh, Palm Beach, Tulsa, San Diego, Portland, Memphis, Harford, The Schubert Opera and Opera Canada.
Jim took over the Cincinnati Opera as both General and Artistic Director leading that company to international acclaim with productions of rarities like Zaza and Risurrezione, a US premiere, repertoire of vast diversity and discovery of young artists who made major international careers.  He received the Post Corbett Award in Cincinnati as Artist of the Year, The Ohio Governors award for Artistic Administration, served on both the Opera and  National Panels for the National Arts Endowment and received the Opera America Citation for 25 years of Outstanding Leadership of Cincinnati Opera.
Recommended by Beverly Sills and Norman Treigle, Jim became National Consultant to The Corbett Foundation giving financial assistance to28 Opera Companies in America, including the first grants to the then OMAHA OPERA in the early 1970’s.  He is also remembered locally having directed Beverly Sills in Lucia di Lammermoorwhich opened the restored Orpheum Theater in 1975.
His operatic repertoire consists of 64 differing operas from L’Incoronazione di Poppea to Boris Godonov. Jim has a special affinity for French repertoire scoring huge successes in Faust, Manon, Romeo et Juliette, Werther, Carmen and Pearl Fishers.
His famous Wild West Elixir has been seen all over the U.S. to great acclaim, and shown on National Television along with his Hansel & Gretel.
Jim says his favorite work is the “one-on-one” coaching of artists with special emphasis on character discovery thru the score and constant work on meaning of the music thru the bel-canto emphasis on text.


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