Wednesday | Mar 17, 2010

Opera in the 21st Century

by Jonathan Stinson

From time to time, ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ and ‘American Idol’ allow an operatic vocalist to sing on their international telecast. Without exception, these operatic performances receive a standing ovation by the sixth note, continuing through the end of the aria. This standing ovation is largely comprised of high school and college students. So why do you think a young audience of teens and twenties would react so positively to a classical singer when they bought tickets hoping to hear the next pop star? Perhaps it’s merely a fascination of the unknown. But why do audiences attend performances of any kind? In the end, ‘American Idol’ audiences are no different than opera audiences. They want to be moved, to be entertained, to connect to the music, to connect to the lyrics, to give their lives over to the performer for an evening of alternate reality.

When I watched Paul Potts’ performance of “Nessun Dorma” on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ (and the standing ovation that erupted within the second phrase), two things came to my mind. First, good for him! Now there is evidence that he had a small operatic career in the past, but as a current mobile-phone salesman, he handled the aria beautifully. But the most important thing for me was that I knew from that day that the future of opera is going to be just fine. The audience LOVED his aria. They could not get over how impressive his performance was. And all this from a mobile-phone salesman. If that London audience was so impressed with Mr. Potts, maybe they should take the tube to Covent Garden and see what they’ve been missing. The young people of today love opera, just don’t know it yet.

We of the Voices in Residence at Opera Omaha represent an extremely small sliver of what will become the future of opera. It is our job not to tell them why they should like opera, but that they already do. We have toured our 45-minute opera gala to several high schools, and the kids are universally amazed at how engaging the art form can be. In short, they leave our concert with a deep appreciation of what we do. If we can reach the youth of Nebraska in the way that Paul Potts reached the youth of England, opera in Nebraska has a very bright future. The youth of America have a hidden passion for opera, and it is our obligation and responsibility to help them discover it.

Jonathan Stinson is touring Nebraska and Western Iowa with Opera Omaha’s Voices in Residence, a series of engaging, interactive, multi-media classroom performances created for students in middle school, high school or college, the performances provide a framework for experiencing the interaction of word s and music – the essence of opera. Mr. Stinson will also appear in Opera Omaha’s celebration of the great American musical So in Love with Broadway.

Jonathan Stinson is enjoying a busy ’09-’10 season as Slim in Of Mice and Men and Peter in Hansel and Gretel for Kentucky Opera, a return to Cedar Rapids Opera for the Nazarene in Salome, and as both Antonio in The Marriage of Figaro and as baritone soloist in the upcoming So In Love With Broadway concert for Opera Omaha.

Mr. Stinson’s ’08-’09 season included appearances in La bohème with Lyric Opera of Kansas City, La traviata with Opera New Jersey and Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Rigoletto with Springfield Regional Opera, Cosi fan tutte with Cedar Rapids Opera, and The Marriage of Figaro for the Bay View Music Festival.

A Regional Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 2006, Mr. Stinson is a graduate of Oberlin Conservatory and Indiana University.

Tickets for So in Love with Broadway start at just $19.

Friday | April 16, 2010 | 7:30p
Sunday | April 18, 2010 | 2:00p

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Friday | Feb 26, 2010

The Adventures of a 10 Year Old at the Opera

by Mark Calvert

My nephew, Jesse, came to visit me last weekend as we were in the thick of final rehearsals for Figaro. This creative and unique little boy lives in a tiny Kansas town (population 1,008) where opportunities to experience opera are non-existent. So, with some parental finagling so that Jesse could play hooky from school, we made arrangements for him to have a front row seat and see how we do it. I arranged to have him watch an orchestra stage rehearsal and – the next day – the piano dress rehearsal. Although I already knew he marches to his own drumbeat, I had no idea if he would like this process or find it boring. Kids do not hide their true feelings (years of performing for children tells me this), and I knew this little guy would be no exception.

He ate it all up! From the moment of the first downbeat of the first rehearsal, Jesse was entranced; not only by the beautiful, lush playing of the orchestra, but also by the singing, the language, and the intricate plot. In fact, Jesse really started to figure things out and began to bury his head in the music score, trying to untangle the new sounds of Italian in his ear. To his credit, by the end of the second day his Italian was shockingly good (kids are sponges for information).

I watched from the stage as Jesse walked through the theater (happily having the entire house to himself), listening and watching from different areas. I couldn’t believe that I ever thought that Le nozze di Figaro would ever be beyond the reach of a child. It is not: the music is complex, yet it leaves listeners of all ages humming the tunes; the story – from a literary masterpiece – has elements of humor, sadness, anger, and forgiveness; and the visual elements of staging, lights, costumes, and sets, only encourage kids to embrace their imaginations.

Jesse spent the second evening’s rehearsal “apprenticing” under the lighting designer, Jim Sale, and the director, Garnett Bruce. He freely offered his young, professional opinions, staked out his territory at the production table in the theater, and managed to stay awake, alert, and entertained through to the final curtain. (It should be noted, though, that the post-rehearsal production meeting immediately put him into deep sleep.)

I will go out on a limb and speak for myself and my fellow singers. When we are on stage in the middle of a performance, we love to hear the honest and spontaneous reactions from children (laughter, applause, booing the bad guy, etc.).

So, my suggestion is this: save the money on a baby sitter, spend five minutes to explain the plot of Le nozze di Figaro to your child, and treat your 10 year old to some Mozart.

Appearing before audiences of all ages at the Orpheum Theater, Mark Calvert will play the dual roles of Don Basilio and Don Curzio in Mozart’s Comic Masterpiece, The Marriage of Figaro.

American tenor Mark Calvert has performed to critical acclaim with numerous European opera companies, including productions with the Stadttheater Gieben, the Schlossfestspiele Heidelberg, the Theater der Stadt Heidelberg, and the Kammeroper Konstanz. Between 2006 and 2009, he was an ensemble member of the Landestheater Linz (Austria), where his repertoire ranged from baroque to contemporary operas. He made his Italian debut with the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi in Kurt Weill’s
The Seven Deadly Sins, and more recently, he sang Vašek in The Bartered Bride with the Aargauer Symphonie Orchester in Switzerland. A native of Wichita, Kansas, Calvert earned his degrees from Yale University School of Music and Lawrence University in Wisconsin. He received his early training with The Santa Fe Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Seattle Opera, Aspen Music Festival, and Pittsburgh Opera, where he was awarded the 2000 Richard F. Gold Career Grant from The Shoshana Foundation.

Tickets start at just $19.

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

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Tuesday | Feb 23, 2010

On Being a Man

by Daniela Mack

“Be a man” is a very commonly-used phrase. Everyone has heard it thrown around at some point or other, and maybe someone has even said it to some of you (ouch!). But, as far as I can recall, nobody has ever said it to me, and with good reason: I’m a girl. But, this month, I’m a girl, portraying the role of a teenage boy (Cherubino) in The Marriage of Figaro.

Just a little background on this boy: cute and spirited as can be, he has the capacity to get himself into trouble just by breathing! He’s playfully mischievous, wildly hormonal, and a huge flirt. He’s a poet, full of innocent love and passion that he’s too young to understand, but certainly not too young to feel. He’s also the essence of youthful vigor and innocence that most of the older characters in the piece may have lost. And so, since he’s young and inexperienced, devoid of inhibitions, lacking any semblance of a reliable verbal filter, and sometimes, of any common sense, he is in perpetual trouble with someone! Picture him as one of those little sparkly, rubber bouncy-balls; he travels fast, knocks things over, and wreaks havoc, all while trying his luck at being charming and adorable. He just can’t help himself!

For the singer/actor, this translates into a lot of running and rolling around, hiding in corners, crawling under things, ducking frequent slaps, and acquiring many bumps and bruises along the way! (For those of you interested in the rehearsal process, knee-pads are lifesavers!!! Padding-up for the knees, and, in my case, padding-down for my not-so-boyish curves.) And, of course, the final step in my transformation from girl to boy: amazing costume and makeup! It’s the magic of the theater!

As for “being a man”, Cherubino looks to several models around the household for inspiration: the Count is a perfect example not only of physical posture and demeanor, but, perhaps more importantly for the young boy, of how to seduce women; he watches Figaro to learn ingenuity and resourcefulness; and from Basilio, he learns how to sneak around the house without being seen. And after combining all of his newly-acquired “expertise,” he tries his luck with any woman he can find: namely Barbarina, Susanna, and even that angel-on-earth, the Countess (even though she’s way out of his league).

This boy hopes you will join us for the ride this Friday and Sunday, and even though you know he’s a girl… don’t tell!

Daniela Mack will be making her (his?) Opera Omaha debut as Cherubino at the Orpheum Theater in Mozart’s Comic Masterpiece, The Marriage of Figaro.

In the 2009-2010 season, mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack, a native of Buenos Aires, will return to the San Francisco Opera for her second and final year in the Adler Fellowship Program, where she will participate in
Suor Angelica and sing the role of Siebel in Faust. Previous performances in San Francisco include Idamante in Idomeneo, and Lucienne in Die Tote Stadt, which was her house debut. Additional engagements for the 2009-2010 season include a debut with the Deutsche Oper Berlin as Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro, as well as with Opera Omaha. In concert, she will make her Canadian debut with the Edmonton Symphony in performances of Messiah.

Recent notable engagements include her debuts with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis as Tamiri in Il Re Pastore, and with Opera Cleveland as Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, both in 2009, as well as a recital sponsored by the Shoshana Foundation, and concerts with the EOS ensemble. In 2007, as a member of the Merola Opera Program, Ms. Mack performed the title role of Rossini’s La Cenerentola.

Tickets start at just $19.

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

Click Here for Tickets

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

Click Here for Tickets

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



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