Mozart’s masterpiece and the latest creation of famed Omaha artist, Jun Kaneko, is sure to be a sell out! Presently the most performed opera worldwide, The Magic Flute is a lighthearted tale of love and adventure, perfect for the entire family. Kaneko’s talent in opera design is recognized coast-to-coast: Opera Omaha shares this production with San Francisco Opera and Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center.
Production by Harry Silverstein.
By Harry Silverstein
An opera production is a journey: a few travelers set out, they are joined by many more, arriving at the destination that is the performance. It may be begun by an impresario, who trusts an artist to make a thrilling design of one of the greatest operas ever written. They might be joined by a director, conductor, and a staff of theater artists who continue to build a concept based on how the project will look and how the story will be told. The journey certainly would be continued by a brilliant cast, orchestra, and stage crew, all of whom will collaborate to interpret a 221-year-old work of art in a fashion that is vitally interesting for a contemporary audience. As you have no doubt imagined, this is our journey.
My part in it was a marvelous challenge. As a director I hope to understand what the composer and librettist wish to communicate with their original work and then interpret it in a way that is at once vital and clear, as well as exciting and entertaining to the public who come to experience it.
On this project I worked with a spectacularly talented fine artist, Jun Kaneko, and I had two responsibilities-to help inform the design process and its transfer to the stage, and to make certain that the story and music are one with that design. Jun has created a series of fantastic abstract animations, based on his elegant painting style and reflecting the emotions of the music, to create a thrilling setting using the most current projection technology. These animations are truly an innovative way of operatic storytelling, and we have aspired to create staging that is not in contrast or concurrent with the animations, but in concert with them. The goal of each aspect of this production has been inspired by, and, hopefully, in service of the music.
The Magic Flute is also a journey and has a number of stories to tell. A young man is on his quest for maturity, sent by his father to a magical land. He is led and misled, excited by his first experience of love and brushes with death, monsters, and magicians. Mozart and Schikaneder have marvelously imbued all the characters with such humanity. I asked Jun to consider that none of the people in Mozart’s world are either simply good or bad. Rather, their lives and needs have driven them to do what they feel is necessary and correct: Sarastro has committed an abduction, the Queen requires a murder of her daughter, the initiates are old and their order may not endure and they send a young couple through their dangerous trials. In the face of all this, Tamino and Pamina are able to survive their quest for enlightenment and lead humanity to its new future. And as always, Mozart specially loves his peasant couple, Papageno and Papagena, who probably have the best chance of happiness through family, work, and a good glass of wine.
Storytelling exists for a reason. Theater adds the opportunity for us to come together and experience emotion. Jun has captured the humanity, truth, sublime beauty, and comedy of Mozart’s creation in his animations, costumes, and props. It is up to us, his fellow travelers, to build on this very special foundation and create an evolving life on stage that interprets these lessons and humor of the eighteenth century for our modern public, giving us all a journey to take together.
By Nicholas Cleobury
Mozart rose to the new challenges set by Schikaneder's commission, producing a truly modern work, a genuine musical and dramatic hybrid, Shakespearean in its ability to move from the serious to the comic, a mix of opera seria and buffa, songs and church music, and his return to German Singspiel.
Magic operas were popular in Vienna at the time, and Mozart and Schikaneder drew from a number for the MAGIC FLUTE. A book of oriental fairy tales called Dschinnistan, contained a story called "Lulu or The Magic Flute". Wranitzky's opera Oberon and The Philosopher's Stone by Schack (Mozart's first Tamino and himself a flautist) written a little earlier, were particular sources. Schikaneder was an expert actor, particularly famous for his Hamlet and Lear, also a singer, and his troupe were well known for a wide range of repertoire and brilliant productions. They played at the large Theater auf der Wieden where the MAGIC FLUTE was first given on September 30th 1791, Mozart conducting the first two performances and Schikaneder playing Papageno.
Schikaneder's detailed dramatic sense was tailormade for Mozart. As another opera, Kaspar the Bassoonist on the same story, opened in Vienna in June, they may have changed and added to their story, but certainly Mozart wanted to add serious themes, as he and da Ponte had done in Don Giovanni. Certainly the opera takes a weightier turn with the entry of the 3 boys in the Act 1 Finale. He wrote much of it in his rented summerhouse in the Theater grounds Helped by Schikaneder's plentiful wine and oysters he produced a work of great charm, humanity and depth.
The Overture starts in the solemn Masonic world with the 3 trial chords, the Masonic number, in the key of E flat (3 flats), the majestic main key of the opera. The Masons helped Mozart, and after his death Constanze, and 3s dominate the opera. (3 Ladies, 3 Boys, 3 instruments on stage, 3 visits to the altar etc). The main part of the Overture is livelier and more varied, the whole mirroring the serious and lighter themes of the opera.
Mozart's use of keys, setting the emotional and dramatic terrain, his colours of the canvas, is central to his technique, alongside his word setting, ranging from syllabic for the simpler Papageno, to virtuoso coloratura for the enraged Queen of the Night to lyrical for the love music of Tamino and Pamina. Immediately Tamino enters in c minor, darker and more menacing, the Ladies enter back in E flat, more solemn but optimistic, they go to Papageno's key of G major when they are more playful, ending in bright, ceremonial C major. Vocal line also does this, and immediately he is alone Tamino has a ravishing rising interval (major 6th) to depict his wonder at Pamina's portrait, developed throughout the aria, in the solemn, warm key of E flat. This will be the interval for their coming together at the end of the opera.
Much of the harmonic world of the MAGIC FLUTE is quite simple, so that when more tortured harmonies are used they really tell, such as in the bitter music of the Queen of the Night, whereas the Quintet which begins with Papageno's comical padlock music remains wonderfully simple. The Pamina/Papageno duet (E flat) is Mozart at his multilayered best. A love song not between lovers, Pamina upset, Papageno just wanting a girl!
Mozart's orchestration is exquisite throughout, but nowhere more potent than in the opening of the Act 1 Finale. Separated brass and drums, solemn but somehow eerie. The following scene with the Speaker, arioso or elevated recitative, influenced Verdi and Wagner, Mozart breaking new ground, the orchestra really giving a running commentary on the dialogue. We are then introduced to the stage magic flute in glistening C major, (actually wooden with gold gilt, it has special protective powers and can change sadness into joy.) A contrast to Papageno's more basic pipes and the clanging Glockenspiel which will tame the slaves.
The family of Clarinets was quite new, used wonderfully by Mozart, and the basset horn colouring of the Priest 's music is particularly telling. The emotional heart of Act 2 comes with Pamina's aria "Ach ich fuhl's". The unhappy, tortured key of g minor, the slow heartbeats of the orchestra, the sparing but painful use of the woodwind, and her agonised vocal line, make it a summation of all Mozart's arias for women. In his depicting of the Masonic world, Mozart often goes back to older music, note Sarastro's solemn arias, and most notably in the Bach Chorale and fugal style used for the Armed Men.
So by use of many styles and techniques, he draws together a work of great diversity, makes simple things as important as weightier matters, never taking sides, illuminating the myths and messages which abound in the piece, and with Schikander producing a work of complex simplicity which speaks to us at all levels.
A young prince named Tamino is being chased by a serpent through a valley. After he falls unconscious, three ladies emerge from a temple and kill the snake. Tamino awakens and assumes the snake was killed by a good-natured bird catcher named Papageno who has just arrived on the scene. When Papageno accepts the credit, the three ladies reappear and place a padlock on his lips. They then show Tamino a picture of Pamina, the beautiful daughter of their mistress, the Queen of the Night. He immediately falls in love with her. They then tell him she has been kidnapped by the evil magician Sarastro. The Queen appears and asks Tamino to rescue Pamina, which he agrees to do. The ladies free Papageno and give him a magic set of chimes. They also give Tamino a magic flute and send the two off on their mission.
Pamina is being guarded by a villain named Monostatos, who is attempting to seduce her when Papageno wanders in. Frightened, Monostatos runs off, leaving Papageno to tell Pamina that her rescuer is close by.
Tamino is being led through Sarastro’s realm by three boys. He tries to enter the three temple doors, but is turned away from two. At the third, he is greeted by a priest, who tells him the Queen is really the evil one and the good Sarastro was merely trying to get Pamina away from her mother’s dark influence. Tamino rushes off to find Pamina; a moment later, she and Papageno enter, pursued by Monostatos. Papageno plays his magic bells, rendering the villain and his henchmen harmless. Sarastro enters and tells Pamina she is free to marry but not to return to her mother. Tamino is brought in by Monostatos, who demands a reward from Sarastro but instead gets punished.
Sarastro informs the priests of Isis and Osiris about what is going on and explains that Tamino and Papageno are about to undergo the rites of initiation to determine if they are worthy to enter the Temple of Light. Tamino, who is brave, and Papageno, who is not, receive contradictory counsel from the priests and the Queen of the Night’s three ladies, but they decide to follow the priests, who take away the flute and bells from the pair. Monostatos attempts one last seduction of Pamina, but he is interrupted by the Queen who comes to her daughter and demands that she murder Sarastro. Instead, Pamina goes to Sarastro and begs forgiveness for her mother; he agrees, declaring that only love, not vengeance, will lead to peace and happiness. As part of their tests, both Tamino and Papageno are sworn to silence. An old woman approaches Papageno declaring that she is really eighteen years old and in love with him. She runs away, but three boys appear and give back to Tamino and Papageno the magic flute and bells. Pamina arrives, but she misunderstands Tamino’s silence and is heartbroken. Sarastro reassures her, but she is not comforted. Papageno says that he wants a sweetheart, and the old woman returns and reveals herself to be a young woman in disguise. Her name: Papagena. As soon as she reveals herself, however, a priest orders her away.
Meanwhile, Pamina is about to commit suicide using the dagger her mother gave her to kill Sarastro. The three boys stop her and take her to Tamino, who is about to undergo the final trial. Pamina and Tamino go through the ordeal together, emerging unscathed thanks to the magic flute. Papageno rather reluctantly attempts to hang himself. Seeing this, the three boys suggest he play his magic bells. He does and Papagena appears; the two declare their intent to raise a large family. Meanwhile, Monostatos has joined forces with the Queen of the Night, but their plan to kill Sarastro is foiled by an earthquake. The opera ends with Sarastro, Tamino, and Pamina celebrating the victory of light over darkness.
Garnett Bruce, Stage Director
Born in Washington, DC, Mr. Bruce was a choirboy at Washington National Cathedral where he made his operatic debut in Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream. He holds degrees in English and Drama from Tufts University and has also guest directed on the faculty of Yale University and Westminster Choir College. Initial internships with Harold Prince (Faust, Metropolitan Opera) and Leonard Bernstein (performances and recording of Candide) led to stage management positions at The Santa Fe Opera, Washington National Opera and Opera Colorado and assistant director assignments at The Dallas Opera and Houston Grand Opera, where he assisted (among others) Francesca Zambello, John Copley, Bruce Beresford, David Alden, Michael Blakemore, Harry Silverstein and Anne-Margret Pettersson.
Bruce currently serves on the directing faculties of the Aspen Music Festival and Peabody Conservatory as well as the board of directors for FBN Productions (Opera for Kids).
Garnett Bruce stages Turandot for the opening of the San Francisco Opera's 2011/2012 season as well as for the inaugural production for the Lyric Opera of Kansas City's Kaufmann Performing Arts Center. He will return to the Dallas Opera to stage Lucia di Lammermoor, followed by The Rake's Progress for Peabody Opera Theater, Don Pasquale for Opera Memphis, and his production of La Cenerentola for Madison Opera.
Last season he directed La Traviata for Austin Lyric Opera and Madison Opera, and continued his Da Ponte Cycle with Don Giovanni for Opera Omaha and continued his work as teacher and director at the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University with a double bill of Poulenc's Les mamelles de Tiresias and Ravel’s L'enfant et les sortileges. Mr. Bruce’s rich body of work includes companies across the country such as Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, San Diego Opera, Washington National Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Cincinnati Opera and Utah Symphony & Opera and his European opera debut staging Turandot for the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples. He was the Artistic Adviser and Principal Stage Director for Opera Omaha from 2008-2011.
Nicholas Cleobury, Conductor
Nicholas Cleobury is Artistic Director of Mid Wales Opera, Principal Conductor of the John Armitage Memorial (JAM), Principal Conductor and Founder Director of Sounds New and Principal Conductor of the Oxford Bach Choir. He is Founder Laureate of the Britten Sinfonia.
Cleobury has a wealth of operatic experience, having worked with companies including English National Opera, Glyndebourne and Opera North, Canadian Opera, Chicago Opera Theatre, the Royal Opera Stockholm, Hamburg Opera and Zurich Opera. He has also conducted numerous ballets, including works by Berg, von Bose (World Premiere), Debussy, Glass, Ligeti, Prokofiev and Stravinsky.
He has worked with some of the most prestigious festivals in the world, including Aldeburgh Festival, BBC Proms, English Bach Festival, St Magnus Festival Orkney and the Two Moors Festival.
Noted in particular as an orchestral and choral conductor, Cleobury has conducted all the major orchestras in the UK, Europe, Scandinavia, Singapore, South Africa and beyond, and choirs including the Swedish and Danish Radio Choirs, the Berkshire Choral Festival (UK and USA) and numerous major choirs in the UK, including the Royal and Huddersfield Choral Societies and the BBC Singers.
A regular broadcaster with the BBC, Classic fM and on European radio, his discography includes highly regarded recordings of Mozart Concertos with the Britten Sinfonia and RPO, an award-winning CD of the music of Richard Strauss for EMI, Bridge, Headington, Maw and English Music with the Britten Sinfonia, and many others including the Chopin Piano Concertos.
Highlights this season and beyond include tours with Mid Wales Opera, return visits to orchestras including the RPO, Sonderjylland and Odense, Cape Philharmonic, and engagements further afield in Hong Kong and the USA (with both Opera Omaha and the Omaha Symphony Orchestra).
“Among this country’s most dynamic and versatile conductors” - The Independent
Jun Kaneko, Production Designer
Jun Kaneko was born in Nagoya, Japan in 1942 and by his teens was painting daily with instructor Satoshi Ogawa. This creative passion led him to California in 1963 to continue those studies when his interaction with contemporary sculptural ceramics intrigued him with the medium’s possibilities and he proceeded to study with the pioneers of the movement.
When invited to Omaha in 1981 by his now wife Ree Kaneko to participate in an experimental workshop at a brick factory he created his first large scale Dangos. He later hand-built his largest works at terra cotta factories and continues to work in a variety of mediums at studios internationally. His prolific diverse work appears in numerous international solo and group exhibitions annually and is included in more than seventy museum collections. He has realized over fifty public art commissions around the world and is honored with national, state and organizational fellowships and doctorates.
Jun and Ree Kaneko formed the non-profit scholarly and presenting organization, KANEKO, dedicated to exploring creativity in the arts, sciences and philosophy.
Jun’s production design of Mozart’s Magic Flute is preceded by his design of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly in 2006 and Beethoven’s Fidelio in 2008.
Shawn Mathey, Tamino
Tenor Shawn Mathey performs in the most important and distinguished opera companies and music festivals in the world including the Paris Opera, the Opernhaus Zurich, the Salzburg Festival, Aix-en-Provence Festival, the Theater an der Wien, and the Frankfurt Opera, among many others.
This season marks Shawn Mathey’s return to London for one of his signature roles, Tamino, at the English National Opera. He will reprise this role for further performances of Die Zauberflöte in Charlotte and Omaha. He will also be heard in an Opera Gala Concert at home in Toledo, OH. Further projects include returns to the Washington National Opera and the Cincinnati Opera, both in leading roles.
Last season, Mr. Mathey made auspicious debuts with the San Francisco Opera as Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, the Dallas Opera as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, the Lisbon Opera as Ferrando in Così Fan Tutte and the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome as Lysander in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Corey McKern, Papageno
Award-winning baritone Corey McKern is earning attention and acclaim in his young career. In his 10 performance run as Marcello in La Bohème at the Santa Fe Opera this past summer, the Santa Fe New Mexican said, “Corey McKern’s resolute, robust-voiced and rambunctious Marcello, a perfect picture of a wannabe Parisian painter, was one of the best I’ve ever heard.”
In the current season, engagements include the Count in Le Nozze di Figaro with Michigan Opera Theatre, Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia at the Tulsa Opera, The Shoes for the Santo Nino with the Santa Fe Opera, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly with Pensacola Opera and Syracuse Opera, his role debut as Escamillo in Carmen at Opera Birmingham, Slook in The Marriage Contract at Opera Omaha, and Marcello in La Boheme with Opera Grand Rapids. In the 2012-2013 Season engagements will include his debut with Austin Lyric Opera as Silvio in I Pagliacci, his role debut as Dandini in La Cenerentola with Nashville Opera, and Papageno in Die Zauberflöte with Opera Omaha.
Previous engagements include his Opera Hong Kong debut as Marcello in La Boheme, the Count in Le Nozze di Figaro with Nashville Opera, Opera Cleveland and Opera Columbus, his role debut as Zurga in Les Pêcheurs de Perles with the Syracuse Opera, the Count/Rudolf in Schreker’s Der Ferne Klang in his debut with BARD Summerscape, Papageno in Die Zauberflöte with the Arizona Opera and Tulsa Opera, Silvio in I Pagliacci with Arizona Opera and Central City Opera, Pilot in The Little Prince with Tulsa Opera, Harlequin in Ariadne auf Naxos at the Indianapolis Opera, Valentin in Faust with Opera Carolina, Marcello in La Bohème with the Nashville Opera, and Pish-Tush in The Mikado with Arizona Opera.
With the Santa Fe Opera he has performed Marcello in La Bohéme, Masetto in Don Giovanni, Pallante in Agrippina, the 1st Shepherd in Daphne and has covered the title role of Wozzeck, Valentin in Faust, and Belcore in L’Elisir d’Amore. As house favorite at Opera Birmingham he has performed there Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor, Ping in Turandot, Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, the Count in Le Nozze di Figaro, and with Opera Omaha, John Brooke in Little Women, Ping in Turandot, and Morales in Carmen.
An active concert performer, Mr. McKern made his Carnegie Hall debut in the Faure Requiem, and recently returned to the prestigious concert hall for John Rutter’s Mass of the Children and Mozart’s Requiem. Other recent concert engagements include Mahler’s Ruckert Lieder with the Missoula Symphony, and performances with the New Choral Society in Handel’s Messiah, Brahms’ Requiem and Orff’s Carmina Burana, which he also performed with the Yakima Symphony Orchestra and with the San Juan Symphony in Colorado. His oratorio credits include Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem and a concert of operetta highlights with the Indianapolis Symphony.
Mr. McKern is a former grant recipient from the Sullivan Foundation, as well as the first place winner of Opera Birmingham, Shreveport Opera, and Mobile Opera competitions of 2005. He holds a Master of Music degree from Indiana University, and Bachelor of Music Education from Mississippi State University. As former member of the Seattle Young Artist Program, Mr. McKern sang his first performances of Papageno and Marcello.
Monica Yunus, Pamina
Equally at home in concert, recital or on the operatic stage, Monica Yunus is quickly establishing herself as one of America's most promising young sopranos. She has been called “especially winning” by The New York Times, and commended for her “rich and sensuous voice [that] was utterly captivating,” by the Charleston City Paper. Her performance as Gilda in Rigoletto was applauded by Opera Online as “a performance that was quintessentially, Gilda. Her delivery was sweet, strong, smoothly evocative of the moment she was singing and most importantly, flexible and dynamic."
Ms. Yunus is the Co-Director of Sing for Hope (www.singforhope.org), a non-profit organization that mobilizes artists in volunteer service to benefit communities in need. For her contributions to the field of arts activism, Ms. Yunus has been honored to give special performances at The United Nations and the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit, and received a 2009 DOHA 21st Century Leader Award in the category of Outstanding Humanitarian. Born in Chittagong, Bangladesh and raised in New Jersey, Ms. Yunus is the daughter of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus.
Soprano Monic Yunus joins The Metropolitan Opera as Yvette in their production of La Rondine, Opera Omaha as Pamina in The Magic Flute, and The Wichita Symphony performances of Carmina Burana during the 2012-2013 season. Recent engagements include Norina in Don Pasquale with Opera Memphis, Oscar in Un Ballo in Maschera with Washington National Opera, Zerlina in Don Giovanni with Austin Lyric Opera, Countess Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro with Opera Omaha, Gretel in Hansel and Gretel with Palm Beach Opera, and Adele in Die Fledermaus with Nashville Opera. She has joined The Metropolitan Opera for numerous productions including The Enchanted Island, Le Comte Ory, Die Zauberflöte, Manon, and Don Giovanni. Recent concert performances include engagements with Andrea Bocelli in Lajatico, Italy, with José Carerras at The Zouk Mikael International Festival in Lebanon, and with Plácido Domingo at The Jordan Festival in Amman, Jordan.
During the 2010 - 11 season the soprano joined The Metropolitan Opera, singing Alice in Le comte Ory and covering the role of Despina in Così fan tutte, and made her Washington National Opera debut as Oscar in Ballo in Maschera, where IonArts.com wrote that hers was the “standout performance of the evening” and that she made “an impressive WNO debut.” Concert engagements during the season included performances with the Syracuse Symphony, New Choral Society, and Idaho State Civic Symphony, among others.
Ms. Yunus returned to The Metropolitan Opera during the 2009 – 10 season as Novizia in Suor Angelica and Papagena in Die Zauberflöte, joined Opera East Texas as Adina in L’Elisir d’Amore, made her debut with Opera Omaha as the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro, and joined the Spoleto Festival USA singing Baucis in Hadyn’s Philemon and Baucis, for which The New York Times praised her ”vibrant soprano.”
During the 2008 - 09 season, she joined The Metropolitan Opera for their 125th Anniversary Gala as Poussette in Manon, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, and Yvette in La Rondine. In addition, she sang in concert at the Tilles Center in New York as well as at the University of Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala City, and offered recitals throughout the United States and abroad.
The 2007 - 2008 season found Ms. Yunus performing with Plácido Domingo in concert at The Jordan Festival and returning to The Metropolitan Opera as Papagena in Die Zauberflöte, as well as singing the role of Norina in Don Pasquale with the Syracuse Opera in a performance hailed by The Post Standard as a “superior vocal and comic performance. Her light, strong and flexible voice ascends to dizzying heights with security and a fine sense of sound, as well as a superb sense of character. Rarely has an ingenue received or deserved so many laughs for her playing of a demure young maid who instantly morphs into a spendthrift termagant.” In addition, she opened The Al Bustan International Festival of Music and Arts in Beirut, Lebanon, with a gala performance, and offered recitals in Sarasota, Florida and at The River to River Festival in New York City.
In the 2006-2007 season Ms. Yunus was Papagena in Die Zauberflöte at The Metropolitan Opera, Zémire in Zémire et Azor with Arizona Opera, Lucia in the North American Premiere of Zandonai's La Farsa Amorosa with Teatro Grattacielo at Alice Tully Hall in New York, and returned to the Spoleto Festival USA as Argentine in the American Premiere of Gluck’s L’Ile de Merlin and for a concert performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4. She offered recitals in the Berkshires; in Little Rock, Arkansas, under the auspices of The Marilyn Horne Foundation; at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway; as well as at the Russian Consulate in New York City.
The soprano made her critically acclaimed Metropolitan Opera debut as Barbarina in Le nozze di Figaro, conducted by James Levine, and joined the company as Poussette in Manon, as well as for performances in Die Frau Ohne Schatten, Le Rossignol, and The Queen of Spades. She debuted with both Austin Lyric Opera and Anchorage Opera as Zerlina in Don Giovanni, and reprised that role with the PORTopera as well as for a return engagement to the Spoleto Festival USA. She was Gretel in Hansel and Gretel with the Palm Beach Opera under the baton of Julius Rudel, Adele in Die Fledermaus and Gretel with the Nashville Opera, and made her role debut as Gilda in Rigoletto with Granite State Opera. She portrayed the role of Servilia in La Clemenza di Tito and Polly in Die Dreigroshenoper with the Pittsburgh Opera Center, was Oscar in Un Ballo in Maschera with the Palm Beach Opera, and Fleurette in Offenbach’s Bluebeard while a member of the Young American Artist Program at Glimmerglass Opera. Ms. Yunus made her European operatic debut as Oscar in Un Ballo in Maschera with Mecklenburgisches Staatstheater Schwerin, where she also appeared with one day's notice as Amor in Orfeo ed Euridice.
Ms. Yunus’ many concert and recital appearances include recitals in Dhaka, Bangladesh, at Carnegie Hall's Weill Hall, Alice Tully Hall, New York's Cooper-Hewitt Museum, Spain's Manuel De Falla Hall, the Los Angeles Da Camera Society (under the auspices of the Marilyn Horne Foundation), and Madrid's Auditorio Nacional, with her majesty Queen Sofia in attendance. She sang Mahler's Symphony No. 4 with New York City's MetroChamber Orchestra, and the role of Laurie in the World Premiere recording of Copland’s The Tender Land Suite on the KOCH International label.
Ms. Yunus, who earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from The Juilliard School, has won The Florida Grand Opera Competition, Palm Beach Opera Competition, the Lee Schaenen Foundation Award, the Sullivan Foundation Award, and The Mirjam Helin International Competition in Helsinki, Finland, among many others.
Emily Hindrichs, Queen of the Night
Emily Hindrichs is emerging as one of the most important coloratura sopranos of our time. In the spring 2009, she made her English National Opera debut in Die Zauberflöte as Queen of the Night, and reprised the role this past season at the New Orleans Opera and Seattle Opera. Upcoming and recent performances include the Queen in her Oper Frankfurt debut, with Nashville Opera, the Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe, and Opera Omaha; the role of Anne Trulove in The Rakes Progress with Opera de St. Etienne, her debut at Oper Köln as Adina in L'Elisir d'Amore, and her debut in the role of Konstanze in Mozart's Die Entführung au dem Serail with the Connecticut Early Music Festival. Concert performances include Wang Jie’s From The Other Sky at Zankel Hall and Bach’s B Minor Mass with the National Chorale at Avery Fisher Hall. Last season, Ms. Hindrichs also joined the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster to cover ten performances of the Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte.
Tom McNichols, Sarastro
Described by the NY Times as an “oceanic bass” Tom McNichols continues to garner praise for work ranging from internationally acclaimed premiers to standard concert repertoire. In the last six years, his voice has been heard on five continents in live performance, live and recorded radio broadcasts and eight studio recordings in work ranging from the narration of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” with the Boston Pops to world premieres of new operatic work.
Following the premier of Death and the Powers at Opera Monte Carlo in September of 2010 in which Musical America praised him for a “powerful sonorous bass.” Tom covered the role of Bustamente in La Navarraise with the Opera Orchestra of NY at Carnegie Hall. 2011 begins with a revival of Death and the Powers by Tod Machover with The American Repertoire Theater and The Chicago Opera Theater and a recording of the opera for a 2012 release. Additionally, 2012 will see him as Sarastro in Die Zauberfloete with Opera Grand Rapids and with Trenton’s Boheme Opera. He makes his Opera Omaha debut in 2013 also as Sarastro.
The 2010 season included the premier of the role of “Inquisitor Felletti” in Francisco Calluffo’s Il Caso Mortara followed by “Bonze” in Madame Butterfly and the bass soloist in Donizetti’s Requiem, all with The Di Capo Opera.
Tom is most at home with the Basso Profundo and Basso Cantante repertoire including Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte, Seneca in L’incoronazione di Poppea, Osmin in Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail and Sparafucile in Rigoletto.
An appearance as a grand semi-finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 2008 led Tom to resign his tenure with CANTUS, a position he held for four seasons. Among other engagements, those years included full time touring, live and studio recordings, live broadcasts via NPR, APM and the EBU and performances in all the nation’s coveted concert halls including Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, Spivey Hall and the Library of Congress.
Tom holds a MM from The Peabody Institute and currently studies with Michael Paul in NYC.
Julius Ahn, Monostatos
This versatile Korean-American tenor began his 2012-2013 Season via a highly acclaimed debut as Pang in Puccini’s Turnadot with Seattle Opera. Additional engagements in 2012-2013 Season include Goro in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly with Nashville Opera, Mark in Tippett’s The Midsummer Marriage with Boston Modern Orchestra Project in concert at Jordan Hall, and Monostatos in Mozart’s The Magic Flute with Opera Carolina.
Also as part of the 2012-2013 Season, Ahn will perform the lead role of Guang in Stuck Elevator by B. Au Yong and A. Jafferis – the role which Ahn also helped develop and workshop as a participating artist with the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab in its world premiere at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.
Ahn’s other recent engagements include Padre Ruffano in Musto’s The Inspector with Boston Lyric Opera , Basilio and Curzio in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro with Lyric Opera Baltimore.
Jamie-Rose Guarrine, Papagena
In the 2011-12 season, Jamie-Rose sang the role of Olympia in Les contes d’Hoffmann with Wolf Trap Opera Company, Papagena in Die Zauberflöte with Austin Lyric Opera, Maria Celeste in Galileo Galilei with Madison Opera, Cis in Albert Herring with Los Angeles Opera, and Xanthe/Aphrodite in Lysistrata with Fort Worth Opera. She was a featured soloist in the 2011 Christmas Spectacular with Madison Symphony Orchestra, and Brahms’ Requiem with the Santa Fe Orchestra. In the 2012-2013 season she reprises her Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro for both Florentine Opera and Austin Lyric Opera. Additional engagements for the upcoming season include Papagena with Opera Omaha and her debut with Memphis Opera as Judy Atkins in Lee Hoiby’s This is the Rill Speaking.
With the Santa Fe Opera Ms. Guarrine has appeared as Barbarina in Le nozze di Figaro, Papagena in Die Zauberflöte and Cis in Albert Herring. Additional recent highlights include Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance with Kentucky Opera, Susanna in Utah Opera’s Le nozze di Figaro, Nella in Gianni Schicchi and the roles of Fire, Nightingale and Princess in L’Enfant et les Sortileges with Opera Company of Philadelphia, and concert appearances with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, St Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica.
Bradley Smoak, Speaker
“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
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.
Diana McVey, First Lady
The versatile soprano is an artist whose consummate skills as both a singer and an actress have made her highly visible in opera, oratorio and as soloist with symphony orchestras. The beauty of her voice and intelligent artistry have also made her a much sought after artist for both the standard repertoire and new works. She has become known for her riveting and moving portrayals of Violetta in La Traviata and Lucia in Lucia Di Lammermoor. She has sung leading roles with Opera Tampa, Opera Columbus, Lake George Opera Festival, Jacksonville Lyric Opera, Treasure Coast Opera, Opera Naples, Light Opera Oklahoma, Ocean State Lyric Opera, the Salt Marsh Opera Company, Boston Academy of Music, Rhode Island Philharmonic and Opera Providence among others.
She was an apprentice artist with both the Sarasota Opera Company, where she covered the role of Olympia in The Tales of Hoffman, and the Lake George Opera Festival where she covered the role of Konstanze in The Abduction from the Seraglio. She has appeared as a soloist with the Florida West Coast Symphony, the Pioneer Valley Symphony, the Longwood Symphony, the Rhode Island Philharmonic, the Albany Symphony, the New Bedford Symphony and the Rhode Island Civic Chorale and Orchestra, among others.
In June 2006 Ms. McVey made her Carnegie Hall debut singing Mozart’s Requiem and Coronation Mass, and traveled to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, for a production of Carmen. Recent engagements include a full recital on the Plymouth State University Silver Center concert series, La Traviata at the Belleayre Music Festival, Cosi fan tutte with Opera Providence, La Traviata with the Pioneer Valley Symphony, Faure’s Requiem at Carnegie Hall, productions of La Rondine and The Merry Widow with Opera Tampa and Maestro Anton Coppola, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass with the Rhode Island Civic Chorale & Orchestra, as well as at Carnegie Hall, Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor with Salt Marsh Opera and Treasure Coast Opera, a production of Die Fledermaus with Jacksonville Lyric Opera, productions of Candide and Pirates of Penzance with Light Opera Oklahoma, Opera Galas with the Hartford Festival Orchestra and Opera Naples, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 the New Bedford Symphony, productions of La Cenerentola and Turandot with Opera Columbus, Carmina Burana and Bachianas Brasileiras No.5 for soprano and eight cellos with the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra, a Gilbert & Sullivan Revue with Lake George Opera Festival, and the Four Last Songs of Strauss with the Greater Bridgeport Symphony. Upcoming engagements include Sir Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time with the Rhode Island Civic Chorale & Orchestra, The Merry Widow with Opera Providence, Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 with the Helena Symphony, La Bohème with the Belleayre Music Festival, a concert appearance with the New Bedford Symphony, a production of Die Zauberflöte with Opera Omaha, and Le Nozze di Figaro with Florentine Opera.
In 2003, Ms. McVey was a finalist in the New England Regional Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and was heard on WGBH, Boston.
Leah Wool, Second Lady
Mezzo-soprano Leah Wool has been hailed by Opera News as "among the more distinctive and accomplished artists of her generation," with "a voice of truly beautiful timbre."
Ms. Wool's 2012-2013 season includes appearances with both Nashville Opera and Knoxville Opera as the title role in La Cenerentola; Sacramento Opera, as Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia; and Opera Omaha as Second Lady in The Magic Flute. The 2013-2014 season will feature a return to Boston Baroque.
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.
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.
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, appearanced with Portland's prestigious Chamber Music Northwest, 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. Additionally, 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 previous seasons, 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, the title role in La Cenerentola with Orlando Opera, Meg in Little Women with Syracuse Opera, and Amastre in Xerxes with Boston Baroque. In the summer of 2009, Ms. Wool made her debut with Glimmerglass Opera as the Secretary in Menotti's The Consul.
Notable past performances also include the Second Novice in Suor Angelica at the Metropolitan Opera (company début) as well as Marshal Murat's Adjutant in War and Peace at the famed company; the title role in La Cenerentola with both Opera New Jersey (role début) and Opera Fairbanks, and an alumni concert at Weill Recital Hall as part of the inaugural "Yale at Carnegie" series. Ms. Wool sang 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, 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 by Naxos Records.
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.
Elisabeth Bieber, Third Lady
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, is excited to return to Opera Omaha for her second Jun Kaneko designed production, after performing the role of Kate Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly in 2011. Last fall, 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.
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.
Edwin Vega, Priest/Armored Man #1
Tenor Edwin Vega recently made his debut with the English National Opera debut as Molqi in Death of Klinghoffer followed by his role debut of Goro in Madama Butterfly with Nevada Opera. This past summer Mr. Vega returned to the Santa Fe Opera as a Servant (Arabella) and King Edrisi understudy in Szymanowski's King Roger. Mr. Vega recently returned to the dell'Arte Opera Ensemble performing the roles of Tanzmeister and Brighella in new production of Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos, and to Chicago Opera Theater for the Chicago premiere of Charpentier's Medee. Last season he was featured as Rubens Barrichello (the title character's protégé) in the Metropolitan Opera's new opera workshop of Michael Torke's Senna. Mr. Vega made his Carnegie Hall debut in Jerry Springer - The Opera starring Harvey Keitel and sang Rinuccio in the summer of 2010 with the dell'Arte Opera Ensemble’s new production of Gianni Schicchi.
Darik Knutsen, Priest/Armored Man #2
Darik Knutsen, baritone from McLean Va, began singing as a boy soprano with the National Cathedral Boys' Choir when he was 9 years old. He is excited to make his Omaha Opera debut in the Magic Flute. Earlier this season Mr. Knutsen made his international debut singing Marcello in La Boheme under the baton of Lorin Maazel at the Royal Opera House of Muscat, Oman.
This past summer Mr. Knutsen was a part of the 2012 Castleton Music Festival. There he starred as Fredrik in Sondheim's A Little Night Music. Also at Castleton he understudied the role of Figaro in The Barber of Seville, and sing the role of Le Dancaïre in Carmen.
Previous operatic experience includes; Inquisitor Galileo Galilei with Madison Opera 2012, Wagner in Faust with The Santa Fe Opera 2011, Arcas in Médée with Chicago Opera Theater 2011, Schlemil in The Tales of Hoffmann SFO 2010, Charlie understudy in Three Decembers with COT 2010, and the title role of Eugene Onegin at the Chautauqua Institute of Music 2009.
Mr. Knutsen is the recipient of numerous awards including 2nd Place Winner in the Central Region Finals of the Metropolitan Council Auditions 2010, Winner of the American Opera Society Scholarship 2011, and 1st Place in the Bel Canto Foundation of Chicago 2011. He is a 2011 graduate of Roosevelt University's AD Program under David Holloway, and graduate of Northwestern University where he studied under Sherrill Milnes.