News & Press

Review: In world premiere at Opera Omaha, mythical visuals fuse with transcendent music

Omaha World-Hearld: Posted Saturday, April 27, 2017

Travel 200 years into the past and you might learn where humanity is headed.

For Opera Omaha and the Great Plains Theatre Conference on Friday night, at the world premiere of “Stranger from Paradise,” such a sentiment is appropriate for a discussion of where opera theater is headed. The production, staged at Metropolitan Community College’s South Campus Industrial Training Center, is a stream-of-consciousness biography of English Romantic poet and painter William Blake.

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Review: Characters in Opera Omaha's 'Flight' may 
be grounded, 
but their
 voices soar

Omaha World-Hearld: Posted Saturday, April 22, 2017

In the opera “Flight,” a violent storm strands a disparate group of travelers overnight in an airport.

There’s a couple on their way to a tropical vacation, hoping to revive their relationship. A diplomat who’s headed to an assignment in Minsk with his very pregnant wife, who doesn’t want to go. Two lust-addled airline employees. A people-hating controller who announces flights and takes care of other business. An immigration officer.

And a refugee who appears to live there.

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After debut at Omaha festival, opera set in Nebraska will play in NYC

Omaha World-Hearld: Posted Thursday, April 20, 2017

A work commissioned for Opera Omaha’s new ONE Festival is destined for New York City.

“Proving Up,” about a family’s loss and isolation in rural Nebraska after the Civil War, will be presented by the Miller Theatre at Columbia University after its run in Omaha next year. It was co-commissioned by the Miller Theatre and the Washington National Opera.

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Opera Omaha fellowship program to take arias into more areas

Before long, you might hear a professional opera singer at your neighborhood association meeting or in your company’s breakroom.

Your kids, meanwhile, could learn about opera at the community center or in their after-school program.

Opera Omaha is launching a new initiative — the Holland Community Opera Fellowship — that will facilitate those activities and more.

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Review: Opera Omaha breathes life into 'Cosi' characters

An affectionate audience responded cheerfully Friday night to the witty “Cosí fan Tutte,” composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s final collaboration with librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte.

Opera Omaha presented the piece at the Orpheum Theater under director Andrew Eggert, accompanied by the Omaha Symphony and conductor Steven White.

The principles were remarkable: Jonathan Boyd as Ferrando, Alexander Elliot as Guglielmo, Philip Cutlip as Don Alfonso, Amanda Majeski as Fiordiligi, Emily Fons as Dorabella and Deanna Breiwick as Despina. This was the Opera Omaha debut for all but Boyd, and this cast was cohesive and dynamic.

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Review: Opera Omaha's delightful ‘La Bohème’ is love at first sight

Omaha World-Herald: Posted Saturday, November 5, 2016

It doesn’t get more romantic than “La Bohème.”

A group of starving artists and other bohemians work and play in Paris, the most romantic of cities. Two of them, a writer and a seamstress, meet and instantly fall in love. They quarrel, part and meet again when one of them is dying. A subplot features the rocky relationship between a painter and a flighty singer.

Giacomo Puccini’s masterpiece is one of the most widely known operas of all times. Some say it’s been done to death. But how can you go wrong with romance?

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Debuts aplenty in Opera Omaha’s ‘La Bohème’

Omaha World-Herald: Posted Thursday, November 3, 2016

Some artists are experiencing important firsts in Opera Omaha’s “La Bohème,” premiering Friday at the Orpheum Theater.

The new production of Giacomo Puccini’s 120-year old tragedy marks the first time that New Yorker Crystal Manich has directed for Opera Omaha.

It also will be the first time Atlanta soprano Leah Partridge, 41, sings the much-prized role of Mimi, the female lead.

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La bohème on the Morning Blend

KMTV: Posted Thursday, October 27, 2016

Bass Christian Zaremba and Baritone Steven LaBrie


Opera Omaha presents “La Boheme” at the Orpheum

 KVNO News: Posted Thursday, November 3, 2016

“You’re going to fall in love for La Boheme, for sure. I did, and I watched it the first time and I was crying and fell in love with the opera saying, “Oh my God, this is so beautiful”.-Cleyton Pulzi

That was tenor, Clayton Pulzi, who will be playing the role of Rodolfo this weekend in Opera Omaha’s production of, “La Boheme”. He talks about his feelings towards his first performance in the states, and why this opera is so special.

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National Opera Week events for all ages celebrate Puccini’s 
‘La Bohème’

Omaha World-Hearld: Posted Thursday, October 27, 2016

Opera Omaha will launch its celebration of National Opera Week on Friday, seven days before the premiere of its season opener, Giacomo Puccini’s “La Bohème.”

The company has several free events planned for the annual observance, many centered on the beloved Puccini work. Opera America coordinates National Opera Week each year, and this year’s honorary chairman is fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi.

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Kids and pros share stage at Opera Outdoors

Some kids from the Omaha Conservatory of Music have been immersed in opera for the past few weeks.

They’re members of the children’s chorus that will perform at Opera Outdoors, the annual Opera Omaha concert at Turner Park.

The kids — between the ages of 8 and 14 — started studying over the summer when they received sheet music and recordings of two songs from Georges Bizet’s “Carmen”: “Avec La Garde” and “Lesvoici.” They will perform both in French, one alone and one with the adult chorus.

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The Wall Street Journal Posted: Monday, April 11, 2016

Opera Omaha is a small company with big ambitions. It is embracing the latest trends in American opera—community engagement, alternative venues, contemporary operas and other kinds of forward-thinking artistic programming—along with standard repertory. Last week, the company announced a new spring festival as part of its 60th anniversary season in 2017-18, featuring the world premiere of an opera commissioned from composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek, the Brooklyn-based creators of the much-anticipated “Breaking the Waves,” slated for Opera Philadelphia this fall. The artistic director of the festival, which will also feature a second opera production and other off-site events, is James Darrah, director and co-founder of the Los Angeles-based design and production company Chromatic. This interdisciplinary artists’ collective has already worked on three productions with Opera Omaha, and the coming festival is being envisioned as a kind of extended artistic residency, with creators from the two coasts meeting in the middle of the country.

This weekend’s production of Handel’s “Semele” demonstrated both Opera Omaha’s ambitions and some of its challenges. Mr. Darrah and his fellow Chromatic members took charge of the staging; Stephen Stubbs, conductor and lutenist, directed the music, importing an admirable cast of young principal singers and eliciting lively, historically informed results from the Omaha Opera Chorus and members of the Omaha Symphony.

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Omaha World-Herald Posted: Monday, April 11, 2016

For its 60th birthday, Opera Omaha is giving local music fans a big present.

The company will launch an annual spring festival in 2018 — its diamond anniversary year — and add a fourth opera to its season each year during the monthlong event.

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Brian Dickie Posted: Saturday, April 9, 2016

Opera Omaha'Semele production opened last night to a full house and an enthusiastic reception from the amazing audience that this company and city have managed to assemble for something that would not normally be regarded as mainstream operatic repertoire - certainly outside the world's major metropolitan areas.  So here is evidence of extremely successful audience cultivation and development.

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Omaha World-Herald Posted: Saturday, April 9, 2016

Myths by their very nature are epic. So, too, are the majority of operas. When director James Darrah takes on both, you get a production that’s a notch above, something that’s beyond epic, extra epic, definitively, decidedly, über epic. For the most part, that’s what alit on the Orpheum Theater’s stage Friday night with Opera Omaha’s performance of “Semele,” George Frideric Handel’s baroque opera that involves powerful gods, jealous goddesses and grasping mortals.

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KVNO News Posted: Friday, April 8, 2016

Opera Omaha describes the show as an opera of unbridled lust, jealousy, and revenge. It’s also features some of Handel’s best orchestral and vocal writing, highlighting the best of the Baroque era. Countertenor Ray Chanez, who plays Athamas in the production spoke about the production’s unique musical style.



Omaha World-Herald posted: Thursday, April 7, 2016

Dance isn’t uncommon in opera, but Opera Omaha’s production of George Frideric Handel’s “Semele” is doing some uncommon things with dance.

For starters, two performers are playing Ino, the sister of Semele. Principal dancer Janice Lancaster Larsen portrays her on stage, while mezzo-soprano Peabody Southwell sings her part behind the scenes, a move cast members and producers called an exciting experiment.

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Star 104.5 Posted: Thursday, March, 31, 2016

Tenor Will Ferguson meets with Chris and Ricky of Star 104.5 to talk about Semele.


Semele Morning Blend

KMTV posted: Thursday, March 31, 2016

Mezzo-soprano Peabody Southwell and soprano Liz Lang speak with Mike and Mary of the Morning Blend about Handel's Semele.



Omaha World-Heral posted: Sunday, March 27, 2016

A chilly mist persisted outside, but a rainbow was found inside the Paxton & Vierling Steel Co. factory on the night of the Opera Omaha gala.

About 400 guests attended the March 12 event, which raised about $250,000. The night honored the late Fred Simon, a longtime Opera Omaha supporter who died last year. He served on the organization’s board in the late 1970s and supported the opera with donations and attendance for more than 40 years.

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Omaha World-Herald Posted: Saturday, March 12, 2016

Glittering arts patrons will have to navigate some uneven concrete floors and maneuver past giant spools of steel to get to a fundraising gala tonight.

As they approach the banquet hall, they’ll walk under cranes that can lift up to 45 tons. And where there would be fancy wallpaper and chandeliers in a traditional setting, they’ll see support beams and industrial lights.

These supporters of Opera Omaha know what they’re getting into. In fact, they’re eager to be there: About 400 people bought up all the gala tickets at a minimum of $300 per person not long after they got the black cardboard and silver metal invitations in the mail. Tonight’s event sold out a couple of weeks ago.

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Omaha World-Herald Posted: Monday, February 15, 2016

One of the most beloved works in the opera repertoire will open Opera Omaha's 2016-2017 season.

Giacomo Puccini's "La Boheme," a tragic story of love and heartache among a group of French Bohemians, will premiere Nov. 4 at the Orpheum Theater, with a second performance two days later.

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Review: ‘Golden West’ love tale dazzles

Omaha World-Herald posted: Saturday, February 13, 2016

Bisset’s soaring voice was mesmerizing as she sang of her desire to find a love like her parents had and her elation once she found it. In an interview about “Fanciulla” last week, she jokingly defined dramatic soprano: “It means I’m loud.” But it was so much more than that: Her arias were a joy to hear.

Many men in town would love to court Minnie, but Sheriff Jack Rance (Michael Mayes) hopes he has the upper hand. He tells Minnie he’s never had anyone who cared for him, hoping she’ll be the first. Instead, she chooses Dick Johnson (Dinyar Vania), a stranger. Coincidentally, he appears at the bar at the same time authorities are seeking a mysterious bandit — and as he eyes the miners’ gold, you begin to suspect Johnson is the guy they’re after.

Both male leads are as impressive as Bisset, both for their vocal acuity and their acting skills.

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Mom by day, opera soprano heroine by night

Omaha World-Herald Posted: Thursday, February 11, 2016

In “La Fanciulla del West,” soprano Lee Bisset plays a barkeep who becomes a mother figure to a bunch of miners in 1850s California.

When she’s done with rehearsals for the Opera Omaha show, she goes back to her hotel and assumes the role of mom to Torben, her 6-month-old son. He’s been on the road with Bisset — who’s based in Scotland — since he was 6 weeks old.

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Opera Omaha Brings Out the Original Western

KVNO News Posted: February 11, 2016

When I entered the studio to interview a lead actor and singer for Opera Omaha’s upcoming production of The Girl of the Golden West, my first thought was, “This guy has a fantastic beard!” followed directly by “He looks like he could star in a John Ford film.” 



How the West 
was sung: Italian opera goes Americana ...

Omaha World-Herald Posted: Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Some people might wonder how an opera by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini could be set during the American gold rush.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

That’s the case with “La Fanciulla del West,” the next Opera Omaha production, opening Friday at the Orpheum Theater. It’s the story of Minnie, a female barkeep in an 1850s California mining town. She becomes a surrogate mom and sister to the men who have left their families to travel cross-country seeking fortune.

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Fanciulla Morning Blend

KMTV posted: Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Tenor Dinyar Vania and Bass Matthew Trevino speak with Mike and Mary of the Morning Blend about The Girl of the Golden West.


Opera News: The Barber of Seville Review

Opera News posted: January 2016

OPERA OMAHA's fifty-eighth season opened on October 14 with Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Sivigliain a staging by Michael Shell that was hilariously delightful with every random turn. Set in Spain during the Seville Fair, the highly stylized production, previously seen in Philadelphia and Saint Louis, is more like a Mexican comic variety show than the Almodóvar films that supposedly inspired it; the staging featured high-energy fun with a string of random events and characters. There was a clown on stilts aptly placed for Figaro’s “una la volta,” a bumbling chorus, cross-dressers, naughty nuns, and the obligatory randomly appearing chicken. 

The creative driving force behind all this random ridiculousness was the thoughtful and detailed score study of director Shell. Every “bit” was so perfectly timed and drawn from the score that Shell’s masterful storytelling obliterated the need for the supertitles, allowing the audience to sit back, relax, and enjoy this exhilaratingly funny production. And, like all great storytellers, he kept you energized, engaged, and wanting more. The set design by Shoko Kambara was efficient and whimsical, and provided the perfect backdrop to the ensuing comedy. Costumes, designed by Amanda Seymour, featured random styles from the early 1800s to modern day, adding playfulness and color. The whole extravaganza was brilliantly lit by lighting designer Driscoll Otto.


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Omaha World-Herald Posted: Sunday, December 20, 2015

If Omaha Performing Arts fulfills its dream of expanding toward the river and opening a new space for shows, it will join a crowd of fine arts halls in the metro area. The spaces offer a variety of programs, from Broadway musicals to choir concerts, dance recitals to lectures and one-man shows.

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Omaha World-Herald Posted: Friday, December 11, 2015

Paxton & Vierling Steel Co. will be the site of the 2016 Opera Omaha gala, opera officials announced Thursday.

The unconventional venue is part of a recent tradition for the opera company. Last year’s gala was in a closed-off wing at Crossroads Mall; the year before, it was at Omar Baking Co.

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Opera Omaha offers series of free shows

Omaha World-Herald Posted: Saturday, October 24, 2015

Opera Omaha is planning a series of free events across the metro area to celebrate National Opera Week.

About 200 opera companies in North America will mark the occasion, which actually spans 10 days. It began Friday and runs through Nov. 1.

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Review: Comic romp starts Opera Omaha season with much glee

Omaha World-Herald Posted: Thursday, October 15, 2015

Opera Omaha opened its 2015-2016 season Wednesday night with a witty, whimsical production of Rossini’s “Barber of Seville,” one of opera’s best-known and most beloved productions. It’s almost 200 years old, but the romantic comedy remains as fresh, funny and farcical as it did in the 19th century, many thanks to Michael Shell’s quick-paced directing, razor’s edge sense of zany comedic timing and a somewhat befuddled butler.

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Behind the Scenes with the Barber

WOWT Posted: Monday, October 12, 2015

A twist on a classic - The Barber of Seville - is expected to capture the interest of even those who don’t consider themselves fans of the opera.

When you hear the voices and see the show you can get swept away at the ease and grace of it all. It’s easy to forget that it all starts long before the performance.

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