‘Figaro,’ ‘Rigoletto’ highlight upcoming San Diego Opera season
Over the past three years, San Diego Opera’s audience has grown accustomed to change as the company downsized, stabilized and refashioned its programming for new audiences.
So they may be surprised at the 2018-2019 season, which was unveiled this morning. While next season’s programming continues to introduce new artists and stretch the boundaries of opera and where the company presents its shows, its lineup is full of classics making long-overdue returns.
The season’s three mainstage productions at the Civic Theatre will be “The Marriage of Figaro,” “Rigoletto” and “Carmen.” Its Detour series of nontraditional work includes another long-absent classic, “Hansel and Gretel,” as well as a chamber opera by returning composer Jake Heggie, “Three Decembers.” Finally, its season-closing recital will feature two singers well-known to local audiences, baritone Stephen Powell and soprano Ailyn Pérez.
“It’s not a consciously conservative or a wild season,” said David Bennett, company general director. “These are operas that I love and that, for the most part, haven’t appeared here for a long time.”
The upcoming season will open Oct. 20 at the Civic Theatre with “The Marriage of Figaro” and will conclude with the recital at the Balboa Theatre on May 15, 2019. The Balboa will also be the home for “Hansel and Gretel,” which will be sung in English and staged in an acclaimed puppet-filled production for families. “Three Decembers” will be presented in a new venue for the company, the recently built PHAME Theatre at Patrick Henry High School in Del Cerro.
Season subscriptions are now on sale, with three-show packages starting at $117, or $192 for the full season. The two-show Detour Series starts at $75. Ticket prices will go up by $1 next season to accommodate an increase in the renovation fund fee for the Civic Theatre. Call (619) 533-7000 or visit sdopera.org.
Here’s a more detailed look at the season:
“The Marriage of Figaro” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Oct. 20, 23, 26 and 28 at the San Diego Civic Theatre
Last seen in San Diego in 2007, Mozart’s 18th-century masterwork returns in a rich, new sculptural production co-owned by San Diego Opera, Kansas City Opera and Opera Philadelphia. The four principals make their company debuts. Bass-baritone Nicholas Brownlee, the 2016 prize winner in both the Belvedere Singing Competition and Operalia zarzeula contest, stars as Figaro, who’s fighting to save his fiancee Susanna (Sarah Shafer) from the amorous advances of his boss, Count Almaviva (John Moore). Metropolitan Opera veteran Caitlin Lynch plays the Countess. Conductor John Nelson, music director for Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, makes his company debut and Stephen Lawless (last here for 2007’s “Il Trovatore”), directs.
“I’m excited to introduce audiences to Nicholas,” Bennett said. “He’s now made his Met debut and is a fantastic actor with a wonderful stage personality.”
“Hansel and Gretel” by Engelbert Humperdinck
Dec. 1, 4, 6, 8 and 9 at the Balboa Theatre
Last seen here in 1999, this family-friendly production of the 1893 operatic fairy tale returns in a visually stunning new production from Vancouver Opera as part of the company’s Detour Series. Flying puppets, papier-mache masks, shadow art, bunraku and more enhance this adaptation sung in English. Soprano Sara Gartland (Musetta in 2015’s “La boheme”) returns as Gretel and mezzo-soprano Blythe Gaissert (Hannah After in this season’s “As One”) plays Hansel. Making their company debuts are conductor Ari Pelto, the music director for Opera Colorado, and director Brenna Corner, who originated this production in Vancouver.
“It’s very intimately staged, very fanciful and very engaging. Families will be very happy,” Bennett said.
“Rigoletto” by Giuseppe Verdi
Feb. 2, 5, 8 and 10 at the Civic Theatre
Last seen here in 2009, Verdi’s 1851 tragedy will star last season’s “La traviata” standout Stephen Powell as Rigoletto, a court jester who plays a horrific price for humiliating his Duke’s courtiers. Coloratura soprano Alisa Jordheim makes her company debut as Rigoletto’s naive daughter, Gilda. Scott Quinn debuts as the Duke, whose bar ditty “La donne è mobile” is one of the most famous tenor arias in all opera. Also making debuts are conductor Steven White and Canadian director Michael Cavanaugh. The traditional period production is newly purchased from Seattle Opera.
“Three Decembers” by Jake Heggie
March 8, 9 and 10, 2019, at Patrick Henry High School’s PHAME Theatre
The Detour series continues with this chamber opera by Heggie, whose past works “Moby-Dick” and “Great Scott” have been produced by San Diego Opera since 2012. Famed mezzo Frederica von Stade (“Great Scott”) stars as Madeleine, an aging Broadway actress estranged over the course of 20 years from her two adult children, played by soprano Kristin Clayton and baritone Steven LaBrie. Von Stade and Clayton reprise the roles they played in the piece’s 2008 premiere at Houston Grand Opera. Conductor Adam Turner (Virginia Opera) and director Karen Tiller (former head of Hawaii Opera Theatre) make their company debuts. It will be the first company production at the new PHAME theater, which Bennett praises for its superb acoustics.
“It’s a gorgeous room with a beautiful sense of silence with a little natural reverb of the voice. We’re incredibly lucky to have it in San Diego,” he said.
“Carmen” by Georges Bizet
March 30, April 2, 5 and 7, 2019, at the Civic Theatre
Although a distilled, small-cast version of the dark tragedy (“The Tragedy of Carmen”) was done last season as part of the Detour series, the full grand opera version returns in 2019 in a production rented from Atlanta Opera. Italian-American mezzo Ginger Costa-Jackson makes her company debut in the title role. Other debuts include tenor Robert Watson as Carmen’s vengeful lover Don José, baritone Scott Connor as bullfighter Escamillo and soprano Sarah Tucker as Don José’s discarded love, Micaëla. Returning are conductor Yves Abel (“Daughter of the Regiment,” 2013) and director Kyle Lang (this season’s “As One”).
“I worked with Ginger in New York and since then she’s gone on to sing Carmen all over the world. She’s a phenomenal singer and stage creature and a beautiful actor,” Bennett said.
“One Amazing Night” with soprano Ailyn Pérez and baritone Stephen Powell
May 15, 2019, at the Balboa Theatre
Powell stars as this season’s Rigoletto. Pérez returns after a recital here in 2014 as well as performances in 2010’s “Romeo and Juliet” and 2011’s “Faust.” Bennett said the concert will focus on music in the Puccini and Verdi repertoire.
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