by Georges Bizet

Friday, November 1, 2013, 7:30PM
Sunday, November 3, 2013, 2:00PM


Revel in the spellbinding story of Carmen, a femme fatale gypsy, and Don José, a soldier with a past. Witness their fated – and fatal – collision in this gripping production shown in true verismo style. Given its unrivaled procession of operatic greatest hits and immense cast of soldiers, gypsies, smugglers, and Toreadors, Carmen is a perennial favorite, beloved by opera devotees and newcomers alike.

Conductor Hal France returns to Opera Omaha to lead a distinguished cast of singers. Director Lillian Groag delivers a compelling production worthy of the opera’s celebrated reputation.

By Conductor, Hal France

“ The music seems to me perfect. It comes forward lightly, gracefully, stylishly. It is lovable, it does not sweat. This music is wicked, refined, fatalistic: at the same time it is popular.”  Friedrich Nietzsche

One of the most influential minds of 19th century Europe wrote this account of Carmen after seeing it for the twentieth time.  His enthusiastic response has been shared by millions of people from its premier in 1875 to the present day with one notable exception:  in its initial performances at the Opera Comique, Carmen was dismissed by critics and rejected by the Parisian public. It would take audience reactions to  Carmen’s first tour to Vienna, London, St. Petersburg and New York to set this opera on its record-setting trajectory.

Carmen quickly leapt from the opera ‘pond’ into the ‘sea’ of popular culture. Its story about a Romani woman described as “a wild and savage beauty” has been told and retold, updated and reconfigured by filmmakers, pop singers, flamenco dancers, theater producers and countless others. The character of Carmen continues to fascinate and provoke thought about personal freedom and societal boundaries.

The music of Carmen is bold and brave. From the opening prelude Bizet’s invigorating rhythms pulse with incisive clarity.  Next comes the most pervasive motif, the all-important Fate theme. Well-known arias have earned this opera ‘hit parade’ status, but they also contain the sound bites that Bizet uses so skillfully to create a true musical drama. Carmen makes a convincing case for opera as theater while offering an endorsement for what ETA Hoffmann called, “the secret Sanskrit of nature expressed in tones”……. MUSIC!

Carmen moves seamlessly from pop entertainment to hard-hitting theater. It grows rougher with each act. The energy expresses realities that persist in our world today; physical abuse, stalking, obsession and racism. By design, the drama builds to a tremendous intensity in the brutally honest final scene. Bringing us to life’s precarious edge, Carmen and its composer George Bizet succeed brilliantly!

I’ve had the pleasure of conducting Carmen on a number of occasions including two previous times in Omaha. Roger Weitz’s invitation to join this talented team and the marvelously talented Director, Lillian Groag, for Carmen was wonderful.

We sincerely wish you a dramatic experience today.


By Director, Lillian Groag

When certain operas become so familiar as to become part of our culture, a curious thing happens: we assume a knowledge of them that is far from accurate.  Directors are not immune to this syndrome.  The plots of the handful of operas that form our canon, through overexposure and indiscriminate production habits, become blurred and we end up with approximations of a story we actually don’t know all that well.  How many of us are sure that Don Giovanni begins with the rape of Donna Anna and the murder of her father?  In fact, according to Da Ponte’s libretto, we don’t really know what happened in Anna’s bedroom.  The first time we see her she’s hanging on to Don Giovanni for dear life, trying to prevent him from leaving and, according to the words, it is the Commendatore who attacks Don Giovanni – who is unwilling to fight an old man - and not the other way around, getting himself killed in the process.  And ... just how aware are we that Butterfly, far from being a dewy-eyed innocent, is a Geisha, a professional (yes, at 15) and thus perfectly aware of the terms of marriage contracts with European men, a custom dating at least from the 17th century?  Or that Mimi is a grisette returning to her previous client(s) after her Act III breakup with Rodolfo, which constitutes the reason for his constant jealousy?  Or that our beloved “bohemians” are boys from very good families “slumming” for a while, allowances cut by furious parents, no doubt the fun and games of Act I blatantly advertising major classical educations.  A future with the likes of Mimi and Musetta is as out of the question for them as that between Alfredo and Violetta.  And ... do we realize that it is actually the Ethiopians who are the aggressors and not the Egyptians in Aida?  And so on. 

Which brings us to our Carmen.  Traditionally represented as a facsimile of Rita Hayworth in the eponymous movie, with inevitable red hair, puffy white sleeves off the shoulder (the only concession to gypsy slovenliness) and golden hoop earrings, she is thought of as a “free spirit” cavorting with a sort of wild and crazy band reminiscent of Robin Hood’s Merry Men, causing minimum damage and maximum fun, stomping out vague approximations of flamenco.  And then she gets killed.  Now this story clearly cannot be the one that created the scandal of its opening night (and the weeks that followed) or was that audience smoking something funny? 

The truth is, red-haired gypsies abounding only in opera and Hollywood movies of the 50s, that Carmen’s crowd is a gang of cutthroats who would be garroted on sight, as she herself would, if found in their company.  The troubling gypsy of Mérimée running about in stockings with holes in them and filthy red shoes dressed in a black shabby dress is lethal – as Micaela aptly notes.  Her white-washing in our time is part of the many casualties of the “wink-wink-nudge-nudge” approach in which certain “ladies” have been depicted on the opera stage.  Add Manon, Thais and Nedda among others, to the previous list.  It’s this very attitude that traditionally patronizes opera libretti (you can hear the chuckles during the Saturday afternoon Met Opera Quizzes from participants who claim to be devoted to the medium) and so the evening, conveniently sanitized, and bringing nothing much to think on, is easily put aside as soon as we are done with the pretty music and make our mad dash to the parking lot  lest our car should get away all on its own, like “Christine”, in the cult 70s horror film, and leave us stranded downtown to trudge our way home. 

Now:  why should we give our attention to this dismal story of gypsies and “payos” (Romani for non gypsies)?  Well, the music is fantastic.  It has been called the “perfect opera”, and to many of us, it is.  But there is also a very good yarn to hold it up.  A volatile young man of good family (it’s Don José, after all) finds himself in a god-forsaken garrison in a bad neighborhood of Seville, with a grade (equivalent to “corporal”) unworthy of his birth and station.  There is a tobacco factory there and the “brunes cigarières” (so, mostly gypsies) have means of income other than the making of cigars and cigarettes during factory breaks.  What is this young man doing in an old military outpost so far from home in Navarre, across country, up in beautiful Basque land?  It turns out he’s killed a man already and has been presumably whisked away by his family in order to avoid incarceration or worse.  His mother sends his forgiveness and a lifeline in the form of marriage to the lovely Micaela, but there remains no doubt that José Lizarrabengoa is a very violent man who, true to character, ends up hopelessly entangled with a woman who cohabits with thieves and murderers on the criminal fringes of society.  In contemporary terms, she’d be a gang girl, body pierced and tattooed from head to toe, trafficking drugs across the border.   Twice in the course of the opera José tries to get away (in Acts I and II) and twice something happens to prevent it.  By Act III he is so deeply incriminated in her activities (army desertion and assault on a superior officer, just for starters) that his life is as good as lost.  By Act IV he is delusional, a deranged stalker about to commit yet another crime.  A typical story of sexual obsession and murder such as our fellow Americans watch every night on the TV tabloids.  Their ratings of which are over the top, by the way.  What’s so special about this one?  

Well ... Carmen herself.  At the last possible moment, and just like Don Giovanni, this basically unpalatable protagonist (with the great music) attains enormous stature by throwing the gauntlet down at Death’s feet and daring it to take her.  Of course, Death does.  It always wins.  But there is something about these two (Don Giovanni and Carmen) in their final stand, that makes them impressive and complete and sums up their claims to total freedom (an impossibility in society and to no good end in either case) and touches on that very human demand for “more life” – or as Philip Larkin puts it “this multi-petaled flower of being here”.  Somehow, the naked recall of the Impossible Battle we all lose rings true for us in all its futility.  We love Cyrano and Quixote especially because they are doomed to lose, and perhaps the battle cry of the Romantics in the near century between Giovanni and Carmen is as alive in the dirty gypsy girl as in the libertine aristocrat, both of whom wanted the world to belong to them.  They were wrong, of course, but aren’t they rather grand on their final face-off with the ultimate Enemy, mano a mano, in the empty space of that dusty Plaza de Toros or in the sumptuous dining-room everyone else has fled, making a great big fuss, refusing to give an inch? 

Act I

In Seville by a cigarette factory, soldiers in a garrison comment on the townspeople.  A young girl, Micaela, arrives and asks for a corporal named Don José.  Morales, another corporal, tells her he will return with the changing of the guard.  The relief guard, headed by Lieutenant Zúñiga soon arrives and José learns from Morales that Micaela has been looking for him.  When the factory bell rings, the men gather to watch the female workers – especially their favorite, the gypsy Carmen.  She tells her admirers that love is free and obeys no rules.  Only one man pays no attention to her: Don José.  Carmen throws a flower at him, and the girls go back to work.  Micaela returns with a letter from José’s mother, who lives far away in a village in the Basque country.  As he begins to read the letter, Micaela leaves.  José is about to throw away the flower when a fight erupts inside the factory between Carmen and another girl.  Zúñiga sends José to bring out the culprits.  Carmen refuses to answer Zúñiga’s questions, and José is ordered to take her to prison.  Left alone with him, she entices José with suggestions of a rendezvous at Lillas Pastia’s tavern.  Mesmerized, he agrees to let her get away.  As they leave for prison, Carmen escapes.  Don José is arrested.

Act II

Carmen and her friends Frasquita and Mercedes entertain the guests at the tavern.  Zúñiga tells Carmen that José has just been released.  The bullfighter Escamillo enters and tells them all about the pleasures and the dangers of his profession, and flirts with Carmen, who tells him that she is involved with someone else. After the tavern guests have left with Escamillo, the smugglers Dancaïre and Remendado explain their latest scheme to the women.  Frasquita and Mercedes are willing to help, but Carmen refuses because she has other plans. The smugglers withdraw as José approaches.  Carmen arouses his jealousy by telling him how she danced for Zúñiga.  She dances for him now, but when a bugle call is heard he says he must return to the barracks.  Carmen mocks him.  To prove his love, José shows her the flower she threw at him and confesses how its scent made him not lose hope during the weeks in prison.  She is unimpressed: if he really loved her, he would desert the army and join her in a life of freedom in the mountains.  José refuses, and Carmen tells him to leave.  Zúñiga bursts in and in a jealous rage José fights him.  The smugglers return and disarm Zúñiga.  José now has no choice but to join them.


Carmen and José quarrel in the smugglers’ mountain hideaway.  She admits that her love is fading and advises him to return to live with this mother.  When Frasquita and Mercedes throw the cards to tell their fortunes, they foresee love and riches for themselves, but Carmen’s cards spell death – for her and for José.  Micaela appears, frightened by the mountains and afraid to meet the woman who has turned José into a criminal.  She hides when a shot rings out.  José has fired at an intruder, who turns out to be Escamillo.  He tells José that he has come to find Carmen, and the two men fight.  The smugglers separate them, and Escamillo invites everyone, Carmen in particular, to his next bullfight.  When he has left, Micaela emerges and begs José to return home.  He agrees when he learns that his mother is dying, but before he leaves he warns Carmen that they will meet again.

Act IV

Back in Seville the crowd cheers the bullfighters on their way to the arena.  Carmen arrives on Escamillo’s arm, and Frasquita and Mercedes warn her that José in nearby.  Unafraid, she waits outside the entrance as the crowds enter the arena.  José appears and begs Carmen to forget the past and start a new life with him.  She calmly tells him that their affair is over: she was born free and free she will die.  The crowd is heard cheering Escamillo.  José keeps trying to win Carmen back.  She takes off his ring and throws it at his feet before heading for the arena.  José kills her.


Hal France, Conductor

2013 was a season of homecomings to familiar places and old friends. In February, Hal conducted Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath with Stage Director Michael Ehrman at Northwestern University where he received his Bachelor in Music . In April, he joined Samuel Ramey and Kara Shay Thomson for Bela Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle at Opera Omaha and in July, he returned to the Central City Opera at the Denver Performing Arts Center for 7 performances of Jerome Kern’s American classic, Showboat. Hal France currently serves as Special Project Director for Why Arts in his home, Omaha, Nebraska.

During a thirty-year professional career as an opera conductor, Hal France has led organizations and performed with opera companies and symphony orchestras around the United States. While conducting throughout the United States and abroad his activities include speaking and advocating for arts education. He has completed tenures as Executive Director of KANEKO (2008–2012), Artistic Director of Opera Omaha (1995–2005), and Music Director of the Orlando Philharmonic (1999-2006).

Hal France has guest conducted the Royal Philharmonic, the National Symphony, the New Jersey Symphony, the Richmond Symphony and the Jacksonville Symphony. In 1992, he made his European opera debut with the Royal Opera of Stockholm with a production of Maria Stuarda.

Mr. France has collaborated with many of this country’s opera companies. In 1981, he made his professional debut at Washington’s Kennedy Center. He served the Houston Grand Opera first as Associate Conductor and later as Resident Conductor over a four-year span. He has conducted performances for the New York City Opera, Seattle Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Opera Theatre of St.Louis, Santa Fe Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Chautauqua Opera, Minnesota Opera, Cleveland Opera, Opera Carolina, Wolf Trap Opera, Opera Festival of New Jersey, Tulsa Opera, Portland Opera, Kentucky Opera, and Orlando Opera.

Hal France has been involved in numerous community collaborations that include:

BlueBarn Music Festival which presents exceptional talent in the Omaha area in a melting pot of musical styles, visual arts, young talent and fine cuisine,
Habitat for Humanity Omaha’s Multi-Faith Music Festival, celebrating Habitat’s diverse multi-faith family,
National Hunger Awareness Day Convocation, an annual event with leaders from Omaha’s Faith and Social Service Communities and the Omaha Food Bank,
Why Arts, a provider of arts training and entertainment for audiences including seniors, at risk youth and special needs populations,
Omaha Performing Arts 1200 Series Young Artist Nights, showcasing emerging musical talent in a full spectrum of styles,
Kountze Memorial Lutheran Food Pantry, serving Omaha’s growing population in need of additional assistance.

Hal France served as the first Executive Director of KANEKO a non-profit organization founded by the artist Jun Kaneko and his wife Ree in Omaha, Nebraska. During a four-year tenure he was integrally involved in every aspect of the organization’s creativity based programming and infrastructure. He promoted and helped design an extensive number of community partnerships, the Great Minds Lecture series, performances, exhibitions, workshops and educational outreach programs that brought people into a forum of ideas and collaboration.

Mr. France served as Music Director of the Mobile Opera and Lake George Opera Festival and as Music Director of Opera Omaha before assuming the position of Artistic Director. He has been on the music staffs of the Glyndebourne Festival, Aspen Festival and the Netherlands Opera. He has degrees from Northwestern University and the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music and a fellowship from the Juilliard Opera Center. Recently he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and an Admiralty in the Nebraska Navy from the Governor of the state.

Bradley Smoak, Zuniga

“Singing powerfully with a straight-forward, burnished baritone of considerable beauty” according to OPERA TODAY, American bass Bradley Smoak has rapidly emerged as one of opera’s most exciting and sought-after young talents. The 2011/12 season saw him as Zuniga in Carmen with both Opera Charleston and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, along with the King of Hearts in the American Premiere of Chin’s Alice in Wonderland. Of his performance as the King, the CHICAGO CLASSICAL REVIEW lauded “the plush, rolling tones with which he echoed [the Queen’s] orders.” Smoak has become a household name with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, performing in past seasons as Masetto in Don Giovanni, Antonio in Le Nozze di Figaro, 2nd Soldier in Salome, as well as covering such roles as Colline in La Bohème and Prince Gremin in Eugene Onegin. His performance in Don Giovanni was cause for critical acclaim, as THE RIVERFRONT TIMES stated, “The best comic turns are pulled off by Bradley Smoak and his effortlessly elegant bass voice as the peasant, Masetto.” He returns to Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in 2013 to take the stage as the Pirate King in Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance

Past Productions

Mr. Smoak’s 2010 return to Wexford Festival Opera in Ireland saw him in double duty, as OPERA NEWS praised his “handsome, beautifully produced bass” as Matouš in Smetana’s Hubička, while OPERA TODAY hailed his “warm, focused sound” as Uberto in La Serva Padrona. In 2009, Smoak made his international operatic debut with Wexford Festival Opera, playing Suleyman Pasha in Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles as well as Don Alfonso di Pardo in Donizetti’s rarely produced opera Maria Padilla.

The 2009/10 season with Palm Beach Opera also saw many faces of Mr. Smoak, in his performances of Montano in Otello, Masetto in Don Giovanni, Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte, and Zuniga in Bizet’s Carmen. Of his performance in Carmen, the PALM BEACH ARTSPAPER extolled, “Outstanding was Bradley Smoak as Zuniga, who has great acting chops and a chocolate-rich bass that was easy on the ear.” His 2010/11 season with Sarasota Opera also saw bows in Puccini’s La Bohème and Ward’s The Crucible.

Principal credits also include Schlèmil/Wolfram in Les Contes d’Hoffmann with Boston Lyric Opera under famed pops conductor Keith Lockhart, Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte and The Bonze in Madama Butterflywith Opera North, as well performances with Opera Omaha, Colorado Music Festival, and DuPage Opera, among others. Upcoming engagements for Mr. Smoak include the Mad Hatter/King of Hearts in Chin’sAlice in Wonderland with New York City Opera , as well as the Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance with both Opera Roanoke and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Lillian Groag, Director

Lillian’s most recent credits include CARMEN at Opera Omaha; a remount of THE WHITE ROSE for the Teatro Stabile di Bolzano, Italy; FIDELO at Louisville Opera;  LA TRAVIATA,  co-production with Virginia Opera and Des Moines Opera;  WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD (world premiere) at Opera San Jose. She participated as a playwright in Ed Iskandar’s production of THE MYSTERY PLAYS at The Flea in New York City.  

She has directed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Old Globe Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Mark Taper Forum’s Taper Too, New York City Opera, Chicago Opera Theatre, Boston Lyric Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Center Stage, The People’s Light and Theatre Company, Berkeley Repertory, Milwaukee Repertory, Missouri Repertory, Seattle Repertory, Glimmerglass Opera, Asolo Repertory Theatre, San Jose Repertory, A.C.T. in San Francisco, The Juilliard School of Music, Florentine Opera, Kentucky Opera,  Arizona Opera, the Sundance Institute Playwrights’ Lab, the Virginia Opera, Opera San Jose and the Company of Angels. 

Her work abroad includes Mexico City, Junges Theatre in Bonn, Landesbuhne Sachsen-Anhalt in Eisleben, Shauspielhaus in Wuppertal, Hessisches Landestheater in Marburg, Shauspielhaus in Stuttgart, Teatro Stabile di Bolzano, Italy and Tokyo. 

As a playwright her plays THE LADIES OF THE CAMELLIAS, THE WHITE ROSE (AT&T award for New American Plays), THE MAGIC FIRE (Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays), MENOCCHIO and MIDONS have been produced variously by the Old Globe Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Kennedy Center, The Guthrie Theater, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Yale Repertory, Denver Center, The Shaw Festival, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, the Northlight Theatre, the WPA Theatre, Seattle Repertory, the Asolo Theatre, The Wilma Theatre, The People’s Light and Theatre Company, and The Shaw Festival. She has done translations and adaptations of Lorca, Feydeau, Musset, Marivaux and Molnar, produced at the Guthrie, the Mark Taper Forum Taper II and Missouri Rep. 

She is an Associate Artist of the Old Globe Theatre. THE LADIES OF THE CAMELLIAS, BLOOD WEDDING, THE WHITE ROSE and THE MAGIC FIRE have been published by Dramatists Play Service.  She holds Master’s and PhD degrees from Northwestern University in Romance Languages and Literature and an Honorary PhD from Lake Forest College.

Adam Cannedy, Morales and Fight Captain*

Hailed for his “sonorous and secure voice” (Opera Today), bass-baritone Adam Cannedy is quickly making his way on opera stages across the country. He has appeared with companies including New York City Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, The Atlanta Opera, Tanglewood Music Center, Central City Opera, Opera North, and Lyric Opera Virginia, and Wexford Festival Opera in Wexford, Ireland. A champion of modern music, Adam has collaborated with and performed for living composers including Carlisle Floyd, William Bolcom, Stephen Paulus, Richard Wargo, Peter Ash, Simon Sargon, Oliver Knussen, Ned Rorem, and Philip Glass. Most recently he performed in the world premiere of Peter Ash’s The Golden Ticket with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and again in its European premiere in Wexford, Ireland. Last year, Adam performed Schumann’s Dichterliebe as a part of Jon Maran’s play Old Wicked Songs at The Marcella Sembrich Opera Museum’s concert series at Lake George, New York. In 2011 he completed 2 years as a resident artist at The Opera Institute at Boston University where he performed leading roles including Frank Chambers in Stephen Paulus’ The Postman Always Rings Twice, Olin Blitch in Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah, Don Alfonso in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, Lord Capulet in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette, and Chucho in the staged premiere of William Bolcom’s Lucrezia

Leann Sandel-Pantaleo, Carmen*

During the 2013-2014 season, Ms. Sandel-Pantaleo returns to the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and also performs the title role in Carmen with both Opera Omaha and Tulsa Opera.

During the 2012-2013 season, she joined Lyric Opera of Chicago, to cover the Witch in Hänsel und Gretel, and make returns to Teatro alla Scala and the Berlin Staatsoper as Siegrune in Die Walküre, and to North Carolina Opera, as Amneris in Aida.  

Other recent performances of note include: Verdi’s Requiem at Carnegie Hall; Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana with Chautauqua Opera; Carmen with Utah Opera and North Carolina Opera; Judith in Bluebeard’s Castle with Fondazione Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi; Ursule in Béatrice et Bénédict with Houston Grand Opera; Carmen with Hawaii Opera Theater and a return to the Metropolitan Opera to reprise Siegrune in Die Walküre.

Maria Lindsey, Frasquita

Soprano Maria Lindsey recently covered the role of Micaëla in Carmen as a Gerdine Young Artist with Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and in 2011 was an apprentice with the Santa Fe Opera, covering Sardula in The Last Savage and singing Semele in the SFO Opera Scenes. In 2009 as an apprentice with the Santa Fe Opera, she sang Juliette from Roméo et Juliette in the Opera Scenes. Roles include Gretel in Hansel and Gretel with Opera Omaha, the title role in Susannah, Julie in Carousel, and Miss Wordsworth in Albert Herring with the University of Colorado—Boulder Opera.  She will be singing Zerlina in Don Giovanni with Opera Colorado in 2013.

Jonathan Burton, Don Jose

American tenor Jonathan Burton has been praised for having “thrilling power and beauty” (Baltimore Sun) and for being “the real find in this engaging all-around singer with a powerful, full-bodied sound.” (Opera News)  During the 2012-2013 season Mr. Burton can be heard as Cavaradossi in Tosca with Kentucky Opera, Calaf in Turandot with Sarasota Opera and Rodolfo in La bohème with the Royal Opera House Muscat in Oman where he “was charming as Rodolfo. His voice was strong and passionate, and as Rodolfo he was smitten and sweet.” (Times of Oman)  Upcoming seasons include roles with the Castleton Festival and Dayton Opera, among others.  Engagements for the tenor during the 2011-2012 season included Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly with Opera on the James and with Shreveport Opera, and Cavaradossi in Tosca with Opera New Jersey and the Utah Festival Opera where The Deseret News reported “Burton’s tenor dynamics throughout the production are particularly noteworthy. He sings to be felt. Burton and Hanson could both give lessons on singing with passion and heart and not just to hit the right notes.”  With Lyric Opera of Virginia he sang Don Jose in Carmen and with the Castleton Festival he portrayed Rodolfo intheir production of La bohème.  Recent engagements for this Ohio native include Cavaradossi in Tosca with Annapolis Opera and Opera on the James, Don José in Carmen with Central City Opera and Opera Omaha, Rodolfo in La bohème with Palm Beach Opera, Canio in Pagliacci with Annapolis Opera, and Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly with Phoenix Opera.  In addition, he has performed numerous supporting roles with Florida Grand Opera, Opera Omaha, and Palm Beach Opera.  On the concert stage he has been engaged by the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra to sing Rene Clausen’s A New Creation, the Lexington Philharmonic for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Southern Ohio Symphony Orchestra for Handel’s Messiah and Mendelssohn’s Elijah, and the Springfield Symphony Orchestra for Verdi’s Requiem.  His formative years included engagements with the Southern Ohio Light Opera Company where he performed over twenty leading roles with the company, including Alfred in Die Fledermaus, Camille in The Merry Widow, and Caliph in Kismet.   Mr. Burton studied at Westminster Choir College and the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati and was a member of Florida Grand Opera’s Young Artist Program.

Elisabeth Bieber, Mercedes

Mezzo-Soprano, Elisabeth Bieber, has been noted for her “spine-tingling” performances and her “warm, fluid [tone]… even in scale from top to bottom.” Holding degrees in both English and Music, Ms. Bieber’s love of poetry and story makes her a compelling singing-actor.

Elisabeth Bieber, mezzo-soprano, returned to Opera Omaha for her second Jun Kaneko designed production, after performing the role of Kate Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly in 2011.  In 2012, Elisabeth returned to Omaha as the alto soloist in Omaha Symphony's Choral Collaborative Concert of Mendelssohn's Elijah. 

Elisabeth's operatic stage experience includes the roles of Dorabella in Cosi fan tutte, Maddalena in Rigoletto, Elizabeth Proctor in The Crucible, Desiree Armfeldt in A Little Night Music and the title roles in The Rape of Lucretia and La Cenerentola.  Equally comfortable on the concert stage, she has been seen with the symphonies of Omaha, Waterloo-Cedar Falls, and Orchestra Iowa.  Elisabeth has served apprenticeships with Des Moines Metro Opera, Bel Canto at Caramoor, Opera Santa Barbara and Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre.  Holding music degrees from Luther College and the University of Iowa, Elisabeth currently lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa with her husband and two children.

Past Productions

For the 2008-09 season, Ms. Bieber made her debut with Orchestra Iowa in their first production following the Cedar River flood as alto soloist in Handel’s Messiah. She returned to Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre for their HD broadcast production of Madama Butterfly (Kate Pinkerton) and later that spring for Cosi fan tutte (Dorabella). Last summer, she was a Bel Canto Young Artist with Caramoor International Music Festival where she covered the role of Arsace in Rossini’s Semiramide.


Ms. Bieber was a first place winner at the 2007 Minnesota District Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. In 2006, she was a ational Semi-Finalist for the NATS American Artists competition and an Encouragement Award winner at the Upper Midwest Regional Met Auditions.

Leah Partridge, Micaela

Soprano Leah Partridge has received consistent praise world-wide for her compelling stage presence and intelligent interpretations of opera’s most beloved characters.  Opera Magazine admired her for her “clarity, accuracy and poise,” and the Detroit Free Press hailed her for her “lovely presence and shining voice.”  Since making her debut in 2003 as Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, Ms. Partridge has had a career full of remarkable milestones.  Her Metropolitan Opera debut came in 2008 as the First Niece in Peter Grimes followed by a return engagement as La Charmeuse in Thaïs.  Both roles were part of the MET’s Live in HD broadcasts and were released on DVD (EMI).  In 2010, Ms. Partridge performed Marie in La fille du Regiment with The Metropolitan Opera to great acclaim as a last minute replacement, which was captured live on Sirius Satellite Radio.  In 2012, the soprano’s recording Finding Home, a collection of American songs where she is accompanied by Ricky Ian Gordon and Jake Heggie, was released.During the 2012 - 13 season Ms. Partridge offers a role debut as Musetta in Opera Company of Philadelphia’s production of La bohème, and joins the Springfield Symphony in performances of Mozart’s Requiem.  Upcoming seasons include roles with the Seattle Opera and Washington National Opera, among others.During the 2011- 12 season the soprano portrayed Leila in The Pearl Fishers with both the Pittsburgh Opera and Michigan Opera Theatre, where her “beautiful soprano bounces from pillar to pillar of the Detroit Opera House, making Leila’s voice as beautiful as the actress.” (The Daily Tribune)  European engagements included La Contessa di Folleville in Rossini's Il Viaggio a Reims with the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence, and the role of Adina in L’elisir d’amore with the Folies Lyrique in Montpellier, France.  During the 2010 - 11 season she made her debut at the Semper Oper in Dresden, Germany as Violetta in La Traviata and returned to Florida Grand Opera to reprise the role of Roxane in David DiChiera's Cyrano, a role she created for the 2007 World Premiere in Detroit.  South Florida Classical Review raved of her Roxane that she spent “much of the opera in the vocal ionosphere where she is clearly comfortable, easily spinning out high notes in DiChiera’s long, arching melodies.”  In addition, she traveled to Eisenstadt, Austria where she performed with Mezzo-Soprano Elina Garanca in an outdoor concert with conductor Karel Mark Chichon, and offered a series of recitals of American Songs by Heggie, R.I. Gordan, Larsen, Corigliano, and Michael Tilson Thomas.  During the 2009 - 2010 season the soprano was heard as Adina in L’elisir d’amore with Atlanta Opera, returned to The Metropolitan Opera for productions of La fille du regiment, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and Hamlet and made her company debut to great acclaim as Violetta in La Traviata with The Opera Company of Philadelphia.Ms. Partridge opened the 2008–2009 season at Deutsche Oper Berlin singing Gilda in Rigoletto,  and joined Washington Concert Opera to sing the title role in Maria Padilla, The Metropolitan Opera as La Charmeuse in Thaïs, Opera North as Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and Florida Grand Opera in the title role of Lakmé prompting Opera News to write that “Partridge's bell song was a little bit of magic: patient and confident, the whole of it was imbued with an air of mystery, intriguing nuance and rubato.”  In addition, she joined Marcello Giordani in a Superstar Series concert.  A highlight of the soprano’s 2007 - 2008 season included her debut with The Metropolitan Opera where she sang the First Niece in a new production of Britten’s Peter Grimes.  In addition she joined Michigan Opera Theatre as Roxane in David DiChiera’s Cyrano for its World Premiere production, and Florida Grand Opera as Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare.  Concert appearances during the season include Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 with the Augusta Symphony Orchestra, Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with the Macon Symphony Orchestra, and a concert in Dresden, Germany.  A favorite among South Florida audiences, she has had a long relationship with the Florida Grand Opera performing such diverse roles as Violetta in La Traviata, Gilda in Rigoletto, Amina in La Sonnambula, Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare, the title role in Lakmé, and Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor.The Miami Herald praised her performance of Lucia as “a singular triumph” and the Sun-Sentinel wrote that, “The charismatic singer has undeniable star quality… [her] precise high notes and subtle acting wedded pyrotechnics with dramatic truth in a way few artists can accomplish.”Additional operatic highlights include her debut at the Atlanta Opera as Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Leila in Les pêcheurs de perles with Madison Opera, Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail with Michigan Opera Theatre, as well as Contessa di Folleville in I Viaggio a Reims, Leonore in Charles Dibdin’s The Padlock and Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail all with Chicago Opera Theatre.  Other recent engagements have included Cunégonde in Candide at Teatro Carlo Felice di Genova, Lucia at Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires, and Susanna in concert performances of Le nozze di Figaro with the Atlanta Symphony, conducted by Robert Spano.As a concert soloist, Ms. Partridge has sung Handel’s Messiah with the Cleveland Orchestra, San Diego Symphony, and Atlanta Symphony.  She returned to Atlanta for a performance entitled Bernstein’s Broadway, featuring some of Leonard Bernstein’s greatest stage music with the Atlanta Symphony under Robert Spano.  She also appeared as a guest soloist in Atlanta Opera’s spring gala.  In addition to an extensive oratorio repertoire, she has been heard in concert performances of arias with orchestras including the North German Philharmonic, South London Philharmonic Orchestra, Gibraltar Philharmonic and Opera Omaha.A native of Georgia, Ms. Partridge earned her Bachelor of Music degree from Mercer University and her Master of Music degree from Indiana University, where she received the prestigious Wilfred C. Bain opera fellowship.  She won first place in the vocal competitions of Palm Beach Opera and Opera Birmingham and in 2004 was a National Semi-Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera Competition.

John E. Orduna, El Dancairo*

Omaha native John Orduña recently received the Performer’s Certificate in Voice from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Praised for his robust yet flexible baritone voice, Orduña was last seen as a Young Artist with the Glimmerglass Festival where he covered the role of La Rocca in Verdi’s Un Giorno di Regno. This winter he was a Studio Artist with Sarasota Opera. Orduña was a regional finalist in the 2012 Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions where he represented the Nebraska District. Featured operatic roles include: Figaro Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Mercutio Romeo et Juliette and Marcello La Boheme. Recent concert performances include Britten’s War Requiem with the Monterrey Chamber Orchestra, a tour of Bach’s Missae Breves with the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra and Orff’s Carmina Burana with the Richmond Symphony. He holds degrees from Indiana University, Florida State University and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. 

Marcelo Guzzo, Escamillo*

Uruguayan Baritone Marcelo Guzzo is been hailed as one of the most outstanding singers of his generation, he has been noticed by critics as “strong and charming” singing with “idealistic pathos in a smooth baritone” (New York Times). His performances have been noted as “honest, heartfelt and rich in tone” (Chicago Tribune).

In 2013 Mr. Guzzo will debut the role of Wolfram in Wagner’s “Tannhausser” conducted by Mtro. Gustavo Dudamel; Escamillo in “Carmen” at Omaha Opera; Payador in “Maria de Buenos Aires” by Piazzolla with Opera Hispanica in NYC, and headlines a multi-city concert tour of China. He will perform the lead role of Mussolini in the world premiere opera by Garcia Vigil.

In 2012/11 he performed the title role of Don Giovanni at the Solis Theater, the Count of Almaviva in “Le Nozze di Figaro” and Marcello in “La Boheme” at the Theatre of Bellas Artes in Colombia. Mr. Guzzo joined the National Tour of the Tony Award winning Lincoln Center production of “South Pacific” in the leading role of Emile De Becque.

Guzzo made his first National Broadcast live by WQXR radio where he sang the world premiere of “De Deo” by Prestini with the New York City Opera.

Other important engagements include Sharpless in “Madama Butterfly” with the Dallas Opera; the Count in “Le Nozze di Figaro” at the Theater Solis in Uruguay, Marcello in La Boheme with the Princeton Festival and Fresno Opera.

In 2009, Marcelo Guzzo’s career began to rise when he sang Alfio in concert performances of “Cavalleria Rusticana” with Andrea Bocelli and Veronica Villarroel at the San Antonio Opera. This led to him the engagement for the same role opposite Chiara Taigi at the Taormina Festival in Italy after which he traveled to Tel Aviv to sing Germont in La Traviata.

Marcelo Guzzo made his debut at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall in the fall of 2004 as a guest artist in the Puccini Foundation.

Mr. Guzzo attended the Mannes College of Music in New York where he sang the title roles of Don Giovanni, Gianni Schicchi and Figaro in “Le Nozze di Figaro”. He studied at the Schools of the Arts in the College of Charleston where he sang at the Piccollo Spoletto Festival. He also graduated from the National Lyric Arts School in Uruguay where he was declared the “Best Uruguayan Lyric Voice of 2001” at the Giuseppe Verdi International Singing Competition.

He has performed in numerous concerts and recitals throughout the United States, France, Italy, Spain, Israel and Uruguay.

Drew Duncan, El Remendado

Drew Duncan, originally from Milford, IA, is thrilled to return to Opera Omaha this fall as Le Remendado in Carmen. This last summer he also returned to Ash Lawn Opera performing Mr. Snow in Rodger and Hammerstein’s Carousel. Recently Mr. Duncan as been seen at Virginia Opera as Don Basilio in Le Nozze di Figaro, Young Collector in A Streetcar Named Desire, Ivan in Die Fledermaus, the Reporter in Orphée, and A Messenger in Aida and at Opera Omaha as The Witch in Hansel and Gretel.  Previously Mr. Duncan has sung with Lyric Opera of Chicago, Des Moines Metro Opera, Sarasota Opera, Castleton Festival, Chicago Opera Theater, Opera Omaha, Ash Lawn Opera, Opera for the Young, Dubuque Symphony Orchestra, and in 2010 was a Central Region Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. 

Darin Anderson
Schuyler Arnold
Jesan Barnes
Todd Brooks
Colin Brown
Elijah W. Brown
Matthew Brown
Mary Carrick
Tara Cowherd
Ryan Daly
John Dart
Bethany Eckloff
Elmer Ellefson
Jonathan Fischer
Lauren Hackenmiller
Angie Heim
Becca Jackson
Brian Jay
Janeen Jensen
Cadie A. Jochum
Mary Hannah Keith
James C. Little
Becky Lowe
Eric Micks
Eduardo MilláN
William A. Miller
Anne L. Miller
Cheyenne Nelson
Sharon North Jones
Edward Perini
Brette Petersen
Nora Ryan
Jon Ryba
David Schaefer II
Susan Seamands
David Shellenberger
Sean Stephenson
Judi Torneten
Lauren Henderson Turner
Sara Warner
Camellia Yvonne Watkins

Assistant Children’s Chorus Conductor, Nicole Chapman

Kira Belik

Lauren Brownrigg

Kyle Cassidy

Liam Corcoran

Eva Ellefson

Keanu Ellefson

Quincy Ellefson

Gabrielle Goodwin

Hannah Healy

Ann Hula

Jenny Hula

Payton Johnson

Olivia Kisicki

Ben Kramer

Jenna Kramer

Bethany Krichau

Christopher Lin

Piper Monson

Xander Monson

Ryan Morgan

Grace Stannard

Erika Overturff, Founder & Artistic Director
Matthew Carter
Ryan Christopher
Vivi DiMarco
Natasha Grimm-Gregory
Alberto Liberatoscioli
Katie Van der Mars
Bret Samson
Kelsey Schwenker
Sasha York




Friday, November 1, 2013, 7:30PM
Sunday, November 3, 2013, 2:00PM

Orpheum Theater
Map Location


Asst. Director & Choreographer: Kyle Lang*
Fight Director: Robert Ruffin*
Principal Accompanist: Marcie Richarson
Set Designer: Paul Shortt
Costume Designer: Eduardo V. Sicangco*
Lighting Designer: Bradley King*
Makeup & Hair Design: Elsen & Associates Inc.
Chorus and Children's Chorus Master: J. Gawf
Stage Manager: Angela Turner

* Opera Omaha Debut


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