Friday | Feb 19, 2010

A tale of two political views

By Shannon Brogan

Last weekend marked the Star Dinner (a benefit of Council Level Membership with Opera Omaha), a function where the board and donors of Opera Omaha meet the cast of Figaro. I had the very fortunate experience of speaking with two attendees back to back, one being probably the most liberal person in the room and the other perhaps the most conservative. Both were outspoken, articulate and ardent in their beliefs and, while we spoke of social and political issues in fairly general ways with widely varying perspectives, what I heard in the conversations was the common ground they shared. Fundamentally both people and both ideologies wanted to create brighter futures for the individual and society and, at that very moment, both of those individuals were there to support music and the role that music played in creating moments of respite in the craziness of the world.

It was very interesting to superimpose the night’s conversations on the work we are performing. The Beaumarchais play on which Figaro is based is laden with political commentary but concludes in a moment of singular human vulnerability-the need for forgiveness.

I find the older I get the more I search for that which unifies. Plurality of opinion leads to stronger truths and better solutions. The reflection of such beliefs in art gently teaches us how to live. In Figaro, the ability to forgive publicly and privately is the hope of a time past and the possibility of a brighter future.

Making her Opera Omaha debut as Marcellina, Shannon Brogan will be seen onstage at the Orpheum Theater in Mozart’s Comic Masterpiece, The Marriage of Figaro.

Ms. Brogan is pleased to return to the stage after taking a brief respite for the birth of her two daughters. Brogan started her performance career early as a pianist, violinist and actor transitioning to classical vocal music at Northwestern University where she gained a particular love for recital and concert work. Brogan has had the opportunity to sing a variety of operatic roles, recitals and concert engagements in the US and Europe.When not making music, she spends her time sculpting, writing and hamming around with her family. She is thrilled to be making her debut as Marcellina at Omaha Opera.

Tickets start at just $19.

Friday | February 26, 2010 | 7:30p
Sunday | February 28, 2010 | 2:00p

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Wednesday | Feb 17, 2010

“At Home”

by Kevin Short

One of the pleasures of my uncertain and sometimes lonely lifestyle is to return to companies such as Opera Omaha. Companies that balance a familial and supportive environment with professionalism and efficiency.

This production of The Marriage of Figaro will mark my 6th production here in Omaha since 1999. There have been 2 different productions of Aida, a Samson and Delilah, a Turandot, and the Abduction from the Seraglio.

Since my debut I’ve developed lasting friendships with my wonderful and gracious hosts Bill and Sandi Bruns, and the excellent staff and administration here.

So, in my peripatetic world I am once again “at home”, and involved in yet another memorable musical experience with Opera Omaha.

I’m also stocking up on lots of Vic’s popcorn.

Kevin Short makes his sixth appearance with Opera Omaha as Dr. Bartolo in Mozart’s Comic Masterpiece The Marriage of Figaro.

Versatile bass-baritone Kevin Short is thrilling audiences around the globe in a vast amount of repertoire ranging from Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio and Monteverdi’s Coronation of Poppea to Verdi’s Attila, Amonasro in Aida, and Escamillo in Carmen.

In North America Kevin has performed with the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Washington Opera, Canadian Opera, Vancouver Opera, and Edmonton Opera.

His European credits include performances with Paris’ Opera Comique, Oper de Stadt Koeln, Staatstheater Stuttgart, Teatro di San Carlo, Teatro Comunale di Bologna, and important festivals in Aix-en-Provence, Bregenz, Austria, Matsumoto, Japan (Saito Kinen) and Valencia, Granada, and Santiago di Compostela, Spain.

Kevin also enjoys an active concert schedule and has sung with the Boston Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Czech Philharmonic, Holland Radio Philharmonisch Orkest, Swiss and Italian RAI Orchestra, Radio France Orchestra, New Japan Philharmonic, and Hiroshima Symphony.

Kevin received his training at Morgan State University, the Curtis Institute of Music, and the Juilliard School of Music

Tickets start at just $19.

Friday | February 26, 2010 | 7:30p
Sunday | February 28, 2010 | 2:00p

Click Here for Tickets

Friday | Feb 12, 2010

Cell Phones

by Jason Hardy

I’m always amused by the rush to the cell phones with stage management announces “please take a 10-minute break” in rehearsal. Within moments, singers reach for their various devices and are whisked away to another part of the world. Some may laugh while exchanging text messages from friends while others make a quick call to see how their kids are doing. We check our email, give our regularly-scheduled status updates on our Facebook or Twitter page, or perhaps do a bit of web surfing. We can check the NBA scores from last night, get movie showtimes, find out how much snow has fallen back home, and find out what new life-altering technology is about to be released by Apple.
And we can do all of this from our cell phones!

Technology is so cool. Except when it isn’t.

I hate my cell phone. A few days ago, I had just finished a conversation with my kids when my “smartphone” became totally useless.
Let me tell you – nothing gets the brain more focused on logistics than figuring out when and where one can go to get a cell phone fixed or replaced. What a hassle!!!!

My phone is my constant companion, and it’s moments such as these that I realize just how much I rely on this little bit of technology. How else can I get a play-by-play about a family wedding I missed , find out how many girl scout cookies my daughter sold, or hear details of my son’s audition for the school play.

On the road we miss a lot of holidays and special events, taking comfort in that voice or those thumbs on the other end of our cell
phone. This weekend is Valentine’s Day, for instance. However, it
just so happens that this time, thanks to ANOTHER marvel of engineering and technology, my Valentine is flying here to see me this weekend. In fact, she arrives this afternoon!

So I’ve gotta run to rehearsal. During my first break, you can bet I’ll be checking the latest weather forecast, track the real-time status of her flight , and figure out showtimes for our movie date tonight.

I love my cell phone.

Jason Hardy appears with Opera Omaha as Figaro in The Marriage of Figaro, Mozart’s Comic Masterpiece.

Mr. Hardy was most recently seen in the title role in Le nozze di Figaro with Opera Cleveland, Cadmus/Somnus in Semele with Florentine Opera, Leporello in Don Giovanni with Connecticut Opera, Colline in La Bohème with Nashville Opera, and as the bass soloist in Stravinsky’s Les Noces with the New York City Ballet, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. 2009-2010 engagements include Leporello in Don Giovanni with Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro Opera Birmingham, and a return to Atlanta Opera as the Speaker in Die Zauberflöte. Concert engagements include Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass with National Philharmonic, the Mozart Requiem with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Handel’s Messiah with the Richmond Symphony, and a recital under the auspices of the Marilyn Horne Foundation.

Tickets start at just $19.

Friday | February 26, 2010 | 7:30p
Sunday | February 28, 2010 | 2:00p

Click Here for Tickets

Wednesday | Feb 10, 2010


by Maureen Francis

At home, I’ll study my score while working out on the eliptical. While walking to the train station for an audition I’ll go over the recitative with my imaginary Figaro, ignoring the curious glances of neighbors. While at my son’s wrestling tournament I had my Mozart on my lap in the bleachers, making sure I looked up in time to see his match! While folding laundry and emptying the dishwasher, I’ll test my knowledge of the Act 2 finale and see if the movement does not distract me from an entrance. Until finally my six year old yells, “Enough Mozart Mom!!”

Little does he realize that before he arrived, I was on a stage, that I was very pregnant with his older brother while singing Rosina (our Countess in her younger years – and quite a reach as she was a virginal teenager) and that he himself was a stowaway during a Carmina Burana in Washington DC. I practice at night because the music helps them to fall asleep, or in the quiet afternoon when they are in school. In any case, I felt my Susanna was ready for Omaha. I had done my homework and now I can focus on my music for one entire month – ah, life finally simplified. Or is it?

Susanna is a role I’ve wanted to do for some time and I am thrilled to finally have the opportunity, but I am discovering that her chaotic life is not so different from my own. Our fantastic director Garnett Bruce brings his great perspective to the table and then lets the singer contribute so that it really is a communal process of creation. And this woman is the mulit-tasker. She consoles, avoids, schemes, cleans, makes tea, plays dress-up with Cherubino, hides evidence, reveals evidence, oh, you get the idea. And beautiful artists with incredible stage instincts surround her!

At home, I rarely sit down. It’s a waste of time, because inevitably someone will need something as soon as I do. Susanna rarely sits. Perhaps for a minute until she realizes she needs to hide in a closet. I was beginning to wonder if my character shoes were too small, until I realized Ms. Susanna doesn’t really rest the tootsies. At the end of the day, I go back to my hotel, rest my feet and smile because it is the exact same feeling I have when I’m home. I am contributing to a wonderful masterpiece; I am in awe of Mr. Mozart and the divine within him. At the end of the day, my husband and I will take a deep breath after our little “master”pieces are finally tucked in bed. I am dying to put my feet up with Michael and my boys will call out, “Mom, are you gonna practice?” It is the only proven tactic to guarantee that they will fall asleep and not get out of bed 15 times. And it’s God’s little way of reminding me of the beauty in multi-tasking.

Maureen Francis, Soprano, appears as Susanna in Opera Omaha’s production of Mozart’s Comic Masterpiece The Marriage of Figaro.

Fondly remembered for her Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance, Maureen Francis returns this season as Susanna. Following Omaha, Francis travels to Italy where she takes on the role of Morgana in Handel’s Alcina followed by operetta concerts in Asheville, NC and concerts throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania. As a frequent guest of Chattanooga Symphony and Opera, she recently added the role of Musetta in La Bohème. Other roles include Oscar in Un Ballo in Maschera with Bergen Opera in Bergen, Norway, the title role in Massenet’s Cendrillon, Gilda in Rigoletto, Julie Jordan in Carousel, and Gretel in Hänsel and Gretel. She has debuted with Los Angeles Opera in the world premiere of Elliot Goldenthal’s opera Grendel singing the role of Dargonette directed by the world-renowned Julie Taymor. Her signature role, Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, became the vehicle for her European debut at the Festival Lecco, Italy.

Tickets start at just $19.

Friday | February 26, 2010 | 7:30p
Sunday | February 28, 2010 | 2:00p

Click Here for Tickets

Monday | Feb 08, 2010

Mozart in a Winter Wonderland!

by Kelly Markgraf

Since arriving in Omaha, I’ve been struck by — or at least reminded of –two things. The midwestern snow, and the undeniable genius and beauty of Mozart. The former I knew well growing up, as a native of Wisconsin. The latter I’ve certainly been acquainted with for some time, but this is the persistently pleasant way in which Mozart surprises you: no matter how well you think you know the music (or your role; I’ve performed this one with three other companies), you are, without fail, caught up in the radiant beauty of a moment you’ve never quite noticed before. Creeping up on you, the power of the music in Le Nozze di Figaro is that it is at once so simple and multi-layered. It speaks directly to the heart of listeners, both newcomers and veterans, and we walk away from the performance feeling illuminated.

For me this last week of rehearsals has been like a warm blanket. Coming back to a role that l love dearly during a full year of living on the road out of suitcases is like coming home. The trials of this vagabondian experiment have left my wife and I longing for a place to hang our hats — other than our storage unit in Manhattan. We thought, “Sure, let’s do it! We’re young, we’ll save money on rent, and just live wherever the jobs are.” Fast forward nine months and we’re aching for just the psychological comfort of being able to picture Home.

Fortunately, I’ve found myself in the company of a stellar cast, led by a trailblazing stage director and an unflappably creative conductor. This is one show that won’t have any of the characteristics that have been the bane of opera over the last few generations: poor acting, or “park ‘n’ bark” singing. You’ll find attractive young singers that can move and act just as well as they sing. With a plot that centers around a lecherous upper-class guy attempting to sleep with his servant’s fiance on the same day as their wedding, imagine something more along the lines of “Desperate Housewives” or “Nip and Tuck” — yes, really. Populate an incredible comic drama with performers like this, and you’ve got one memorable night in the theatre. I hope you’ll join us!

Kelly Markgraf, Baritone, is playing the adulterous Count Almaviva in Opera Omaha’s production of Mozart’s Comic Masterpiece The Marriage of Figaro.

Praised by the New York Times for his “charismatic” and “heart-stirring” singing, Baritone Kelly Markgraf makes his Opera Omaha debut with this season’s Nozze di Figaro. This past Fall brought his debut with New York City Opera as Masetto in their new production of Don Giovanni. Recent successes include Mamoud in a staged concert version of John Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer, conducted by the composer, and Ford in Verdi’s Falstaff (Juilliard Opera Center), as well as his Carnegie Hall debut in the West Side Story portion of the all-Bernstein program that opened the 2008-09 season and was nationally televised, under Michael Tilson Thomas. Also in the 2008-09 season, Mr. Markgraf debuted with Pittsburgh Opera as Ragged Man in Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath (a role he created in the World Premiere at Minnesota Opera in 2007), and sang the role of the Bosun in Paul Curran’s production of Billy Budd at Santa Fe Opera, under the baton of Edo de Waart. A winner of numerous prestigious awards, including the top prizes in the Opera Index and Sullivan Foundation competitions, he maintains an active concert schedule, recently making his Carnegie Hall recital debut under the auspices of the Marilyn Horne Foundation. In March 2010 he returns to Pittsburgh Opera as Escamillo in Carmen, and will return to Opera Omaha in 2011 for the title role in Don Giovanni.

Tickets start at just $19.

Friday | February 26, 2010 | 7:30p
Sunday | February 28, 2010 | 2:00p

Click Here for Tickets



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