THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST
Music by Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by Guelfo Civinini and Carlo Zangarini
Based on the play, The Girl of the Golden West, by David Belasco
Performed in Italian with English supertitles.
Grit and Grandeur
Set in the saloon of a California mining camp during the Gold Rush, La fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West) has all the grit and grandeur of our greatest western films. Puccini’s soaring melodies provide the heartbeat of a dramatic love story filled with passion, redemption, and forgiveness. This period production will be directed by Lillian Groag (Carmen, 2013) and is sure to be a highlight of Westward O!, a city-wide arts festival celebrating the frontier and American West.
In the 1850s, high in the California Sierras, the bandit Ramírez and his gang are at large, and a reward has been offered for his capture. In a nearby mining camp, the lonely and homesick miners idolize Minnie – the owner of the Polka Saloon and the only woman in the camp – treating her as a surrogate sister, mother, sweetheart and schoolteacher. Her most persistent admirer is Sheriff Jack Rance. A stranger name Dick Johnson arrives, but it turns out Minnie has met him before. Their passion is rekindled, and Rance’s jealousy is ignited. He reveals to Minnie that Johnson is in fact the outlaw Ramírez, and she feels humiliated and betrayed. But when Johnson is shot by his pursuers, Minnie offers him shelter. Rance discovers his hiding place, and Minnie stakes both her honor and Johnson’s life on a game of poker. Johnson escapes, but is again caught and nearly lynched before Minnie can finally save him.
Courtesy of The Glimmerglass Festival.
A mining camp in California during the gold rush, 1849-50. At dusk at the Polka Saloon, Nick, the bartender, pours drinks as the bar fills with boisterous miners ready to gamble. Outside, the distant voice of Jake Wallace, a traveling minstrel, is heard approaching; when he enters, the men join him in a song expressing the miners’ nostalgia for home. One of the younger miners, Jim Larkens, breaks down, homesick and unable to bear the harsh mining life. After the men collect money for Larkens’ passage back home, Ashby, a Wells Fargo agent, arrives to tell Sheriff Jack Rance that he is about to close in on the bandit Ramírez and his gang of Mexican highwaymen. As the bartender, Nick, serves drinks courtesy of Minnie – the Polka’s proprietress and, as the only woman in the camp, the community’s surrogate sister, mother, sweetheart and schoolteacher – Rance solemnly announces that she will soon be his wife. The miner Sonora jealously protests, and the ensuing brawl brings forth Minnie herself, who yanks Sonora’s gun out of his hand. The men calm down and sit to listen to her bible teaching.
Later, alone with Minnie, Rance tells her of his bitter life, empty of love and ruined by cards, and how he would wager everything to marry her. But she is not interested and, recalling her happy childhood in Soledad, explains the kind of love she hopes to find. Suddenly a handsome stranger enters, claiming to be Dick Johnson from Sacramento. Johnson and Minnie recognize each other: they met once on the trail to Monterey. Suspicious, Rance and the miners challenge his presence, but Minnie vouches for Johnson and further infuriates the jealous sheriff by dancing with him.
Just then Ashby drags in Ramírez’s accomplice, José Castro, who, recognizing Johnson, pretends to despise his leader and leads a posse on a false chase to his hideout. Before leaving, he whispers to Johnson—who is in fact Ramírez—that at the signal of a whistle to which Johnson should answer, the gang will attack the saloon and steal the miners’ gold. The men depart with Castro, and Minnie and Johnson are left alone. Minnie tells Johnson about her simple life and that she is still waiting for her first kiss. Nick interrupts and a whistle is heard. Johnson ignores it, for he is already in love with Minnie, who tells him that she would protect with her life the gold the miners have left in her trust. She shyly invites him to visit her in her cabin later that evening and he accepts. After he leaves the saloon, the girl muses ecstatically on his words of love.
In Minnie’s cabin in the mountains, her Native American servant Wowkle sings a lullaby to her baby as the father, Billy Jackrabbit, comes to propose marriage. Soon Minnie enters and excitedly gets dressed for Johnson’s visit. When he arrives, full of compliments and advances, she begs him to slow down, but soon forgiving him, tells him of her joy for life. After Wowkle leaves, he takes Minnie in his arms and kisses her. Johnson, full of doubt as to how to tell her about his true identity, is about to leave, but a mounting snowstorm leads Minnie to suggest that he stays the night. She offers him her bed and prepares a place for herself in front of the fire. When there is a loud knocking at the door, Johnson hides. Rance, Ashby, Nick and Sonora, checking to see that Minnie is safe, tell her that they have discovered that Johnson is Ramírez. Shocked, she claims to know nothing and sends the men away. She then angrily confronts Johnson, who tries to explain what made him become a criminal and declares that when he met her he decided to give up his former life. Deeply hurt, Minnie sends him away. He goes, but a shot rings out, and his body falls against the door. Overcome by pity and love, Minnie drags him back into the cabin and hides him in the attic. Rance returns, convinced that Ramírez is in the cabin, but his search reveals nothing. The sheriff again expresses his love for Minnie and declares no one else will have her. As she defies him, a drop of blood falls on his hand from above. Johnson is forced to surrender, but Minnie, knowing the sheriff’s passion for gambling, challenges Rance to a game of poker. If he defeats her, he wins her honor and her lover’s freedom; if he loses, Johnson goes free. Minnie cheats and wins. Rance leaves.
A clearing in the forest. Johnson has been nursed back to health by Minnie and is now again on the run. By a dawn campfire, Rance, Nick and some miners are waiting while Ashby and the Wells Fargo men track down Johnson in the hills. Rance and Nick discuss bitterly Minnie’s love for the bandit. A group of miners appear, having spotted him trying to make his escape on the other side of the mountain. Ashby and his men bring the bandit to Rance, who decides to hang him. Johnson begs one last favor—that Minnie believe him free and starting a new life elsewhere. Just as the noose is about to be slipped around his neck, Minnie rides to the rescue. Holding the mob at bay, she reminds them of her years of devotion, in return claiming Johnson as her own. As Rance leaves in disgust, the miners give Minnie what she asks. With sadness on both sides, they bid farewell to Minnie and Ramírez, who ride off to start a new life together.
Andrew Bisantz, Conductor*
A versatile musician acknowledged for his passionate and commanding leadership from the podium, the exciting young American conductor Andrew Bisantz is quickly building an impressive roster of credits at leading national orchestras and opera companies throughout the country. For his début with Boston Lyric Opera leading The Turn of the Screw, the Boston Globe selected it as one of the ten top Boston classical music events of 2010, and The Boston Musical Intelligencer noted that “Conductor Andrew Bisantz led the small group of instrumentalists with skill and an impeccable ear for balance…in those instances when the players were the focal point, especially the interludes that fall between each scene, the musicianship was effective and inspired.” He subsequently returned for productions of Tosca and Madama Butterfly.
This season, he will be conducting a concert at Florida International University, Le nozze di Figaro at Opera San Jose, Lucia di Lammermoor at Eugene Opera, La Faniciulla del West at Opera Omaha, Eugene Onegin at Eugene Opera, and Don Giovanni at Savannah Voice Festival. In addition, he will conduct and serve as Music Director for the world première of Jan Jirásek’s musical dramatic work R.U.R. aneb Roboti podle Čapka (Robots According to Čapka) with the Státní opera Praha in Prague.
Notable engagements from the past few seasons include returns to Florida Grand Opera for Rigoletto, Menotti’s The Consul, and Die Zauberflöte; A Midsummer Night’s Dream at McGill University; Rigoletto at Opera Coeur d’Alene and Tri-Cities Opera; Verdi’s La traviata for Virginia Opera; and his début with Wolf Trap Opera conducting Don Giovanni. He also conducted Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with the Boston Landmarks Orchestra under the famed Hatch Shell; and sold-out performances of Rhapsody in Blue with Buffalo Philharmonic.
Mr. Bisantz currently serves as Music Director of Eugene Opera, where he has served as principal conductor since the fall of 2008. While at the helm, he has been responsible for the emergence of the company as one of the most noted and important performing arts organizations in the Pacific Northwest. In Eugene, he has conducted Offenbach’s Orphée aux Enfers, Don Giovanni, Le nozze di Figaro, Faust, La bohème, The Mikado, Carmen, Nixon in China, Pirates of Penzance, Dead Man Walking, La fanciulla del West, L’elisir d’amore, and La traviata.
He made his European début conducting symphonic concerts with the Orquestra Sinfónica do Porto in Porto, Portugal, and returned last March, conducting a concert of Bomtempo’s Requiem with the OSP and the Coro Casa da Música. He also recently débuted at the Brevard Music Center, conducting Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore for the Janiec Opera Company.
Mr. Bisantz previously served as Associate Conductor of Florida Grand Opera (FGO). He made his FGO main stage début in the 2005-06 season, conducting Bizet’s Carmen for the company’s historic final performances at Miami-Dade County Auditorium. With FGO, he also conducted Suor Angelica, Pagliacci, La Cenerentola, La bohème, Don Giovanni, and Manon Lescaut. At FGO General Director Robert Heuer’s 25th Anniversary Gala, Maestro Bisantz led the FGO Orchestra in performance with notable artists such as Elizabeth Futral, Katharine Goeldner, Kyle Pfortmiller, and David Pomeroy.
Additional positions held include Assistant Conductor at Glimmerglass Opera, where he conducted Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience and Massenet’s Le portrait de Manon; Apprentice Conductor and Associate Producer of the Buffalo Philharmonic National Public Radio broadcasts; Music Director of the Florida International University Opera Theatre; and faculty member of VOICExperience, a summer voice program created by legendary baritone Sherrill Milnes and soprano Maria Zouves.
Mr. Bisantz earned his Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance from Fredonia State College, where he studied piano with Robert Jordan and conducting with Grant Cooper. He completed his Master of Music degree in Orchestral Conducting at the Cleveland Institute of Music where he studied with legendary conductors such as Carl Topilow, Louis Lane, and current Music Director of New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Alan Gilbert.
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.
John Conklin, Scenic Designer
John Conklin's set and costume designs are seen in opera houses, theaters, and ballet companies across the world. He has designed for Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Kennedy Center, San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Dallas OPera, Seattle Opera, Bastille Opera in Paris, the Royal Opera of London as well as Munich, Amsterdam, and Bologna. Mr. Conklin's credits at the Metropolitan Opera include costumes for Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina, sets and and costumes for John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles, and sets for Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor and Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande. For Glimmerglass Opera, where he served as Associate Artistic Director for 18 years, he designed sets for Puccini's La fanciulla del West and Mozart's Abduction from the Seraglio, and costumes for Richard Rodney Bennett's world premiere, Mines of Sulfur, among many others. Mr. Conklin has designed extensively on Broadway, receiving a Tony Award nomination for his set design for The Au Pair Man. He recently received the Robert L.B. Tobin Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatrical Design and a National Endowment for the Arts 2011 Opera Honor. He serves on the faculty of New York University's Tisch School where he teaches courses in design for stage and film.
Constance Hoffman, Costume Designer
Constance Hoffman has designed costumes for opera, dance and theatre regionally, internationally, and in New York City. Her credits include collaborations with theatre artists such as Mark Lamos, Julie Taymor, Eliot Feld, and Mikhail Baryshnikov, opera directors Robert Carsen, David Alden, Christopher Alden, Keith Warner, and entertainer Bette Midler. Her work has been seen on many stages in New York City, including the Public Theatre, The New Victory Theatre, The Second Stage, The Theatre for a New Audience, Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, The Joyce, and The New York City Opera. On her Broadway debut, she earned a Tony nomination and an Outer Critics Circle Award for her designs for The Green Bird, directed by Julie Taymor.
Hoffman’s collaborations in opera have taken her to the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, the Paris Opera, the New Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv, the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich and The Tokyo Opera Nomori, among others. In the United States, she has designed costumes for the San Francisco Opera, the Santa Fe Opera, the Houston Grand Opera, the Los Angeles Opera, the Minnesota Opera, the Portland Opera, the Opera Theatre of St.Louis, the Lincoln Center Festival, and she has had a long association with the Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown, New York, whose productions have traveled regularly to the New York City Opera. At the New York City Opera, Hoffman’s designs for the critically acclaimed Paul Bunyan, Tosca, and Lizzie Borden have been televised in the Live from Lincoln Center Broadcasts.
Regionally, she has designed in theatres such as the Guthrie, the Hartford Stage, The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC, The Center Stage in Baltimore, The Alley Theatre in Houston, Goodspeed Musicals and the Prince Music Theatre.
In addition to her Tony Nomination and Outer Critics Circle Award for The Green Bird in 2000, Hoffman was honored in 2001 with The Theatre Development Fund’s Irene Sharaff Young Masters Award, and in 2003, 2007, and 2011 with an invitation to exhibit her work in the Prague Quadrennial.
She is currently engaged at the Tisch School of the Arts as an Associate Arts Professor in the Department of Design for Stage and Film, and holds an MFA as an alumna of that program.
Adam H. Greene, Lighting Designer*
Making his debut at Opera Omaha this season with La Fancuilla del West, Adam H. Greene is thrilled to be working again with Lillian Groag, having previously collaborated on Carmen at Lyric Opera Virginia. Adam has designed lighting for HMS Pinafore directed by Nicola Bowie at Virginia Opera, The Little Prince directed by Katie DeVrie at St. Michael’s Church, NYC, Julius Ceasar directed by Michael Shell at Michigan Opera Theatre, La Traviata directed by Michael Shell at Lyric Opera Virginia. As Resident Lighting Director for New Jersey Association of Verismo Opera, Adam designs include La Boheme, Suor Angelica, Madama Butterfly, Il Trovatore, Tosca, Aida, and Un Ballo in Maschera all directed by Evelyn LaQuaif.
Adam’s career spans across Opera, Theatre, Dance, Television, Fashion and Corporate Events.
Adam H. Greene’s New York theater designs include The Actors’ Gang Embedded at The Public Theater with Writer / Director Tim Robbins, The Taste of It, Broken Fences, and America Amerique (National Tour) directed by Alex Levy for Ballybeg, The Angel of History directed by Matt Torney at HERE Arts Center, Beau Brummel and Cooking for Kings directed by Simon Green at 59E59 Theaters, and CSSA’s Moon Festival at Lincoln Center.
Recent design credits include Dance Bistro Festival for TuTu Foundation, Lucia di Lammermoor for NJ Verismo Opera, and Ash and Honey for Christina Noel & the Creature.
Adam has received The Garland award for his design of Sinan Unel’s Pera Palas directed by Michael Micheti at The Boston Court.
Technical Director: Katherine Pursell
Asst. Director: Jimmy Marcheso
Director's Assistant: Alaina Bartkowiak
Stage Manager: Margaret Kellner*
Asst. Stage Manager: Sarah Bingel
Asst. Stage Manager: Laura Judson
Asst. Technical Director: Mitch Leitschuh
Asst. Lighting Designer: Bailey Costa
Makeup & Hair Design: Ronell Oliveri
Wig & Makeup Assistant: Sarah Opstad
Wardrobe Coordinator: Cheri Sanwick
Properties Master: Ronnie Wells
Fight Choreographer: Christian Zaremba*
Fight Captain: Adam Cannedy
Supertitles: Kelley Rourke
Supertitles Operator / Principal Accompanist: Leesa Dahl*
Production Assistant: Alaina Bartkowiak
Lighting Intern: Sheric Hull
Master Electrician: Collie MacCardell
Master Carpenter: Al Dusek
Lee Bisset, Minnie*
Opera magazine hails Bisset’s “thrilling tone, accurate and colourfully varied in all registers” and “soft singing, just as seductive.” In the 2015-16 season, she returns to America for her first performances of Minnie in La fanciulla del West with Opera Omaha as well as to Opera North for Sieglinde in Die Walküre and Dritte Norn in Götterdämmerung. She also sings excerpts of Tristan und Isolde and Parsifal in concert at the Theatro São Pedro in São Paulo and joins the Orchestra of Opera North for Sibelius’ Luonnotar and Una poenitentium in Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, the latter as part of the Leeds International Concert Season. Her engagements last season included her debut of the title role of Jenůfa in a return to Scottish Opera.
Other recent operatic engagements for Ms. Bisset include Sieglinde in Die Walküre with Opèra São Paulo; Senta in Der Fliegende Holländer to her repertoire with Ópera de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and Dorset Opera Festival; Tosca with Opera Memphis and Northern Ireland Opera; previous performances of Dritte Norn in Götterdämmerung with Opera North; and the tortured and intense protagonist in Nick Fells and Zöe Strachan's Sublimation for Scottish Opera both in Scotland and on tour in Cape Town. She has a strong relationship with the Longborough Festival Opera, where her past performances include the title role of Káťa Kabanová, Sieglinde in Die Walküre, Tosca, Freia in Das Rheingold, and Gutrune in Götterdämmerung. She has also joined English National Opera as Mimi in La bohème, Erste Dame in Die Zauberflöte; Karolka in Jenůfa while a previous member of the company’s Young Singers’ Programme.
The soprano recently joined the Hong Kong Philharmonic for a gala New Year’s Eve concert. Elsewhere on the concert stage, she has sung Mendelssohn’s Elijah with the Brockenhurst Choir, Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder and Strauss’ Vier letzte Lieder with the Wimbledon Symphony Orchestra, Dvořak’s Requiem with the Perth Choral Society, Britten’s Les Illuminations with Cherry Valley Artworks, Verdi’s Requiem with the Buckingham Choral Society, Dvořak’s Stabat Mater with the Dartington Festival, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with the Twickenham Choral Society, and Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 with the MBNA Chester Music Festival.
Born and raised in West of Scotland, Lee Bisset studied in Italy, then at the Royal Northern College of Music and at the National Opera Studio, where she was sponsored by English National Opera. She has won the Joyce and Michael Kennedy Strauss Prize, Webster Booth Award, Dame Eva Turner Award for Dramatic Sopranos, and a Susan Chilcott Scholarship. In 2005 she represented Scotland at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.
Dinyar Vania, Dick Johnson
Dinyar Vania has recently emerged as one of the country’s most exciting young tenors. With a voice which combines both power and beauty, he has earned critical acclaim portraying several of the most beloved roles in opera. In season 2015-16 he makes his Utah Opera debut as Cavaradossi in Tosca and sings Dick Johnson in La fanciulla del West in a return to Opera Omaha.
Dinyar Vania’s 2014-15 season included the Duke in Rigoletto with Opera Omaha; a return to Pensacola Opera as Rodolfo in La bohème, also the same role in his Opera Birmingham debut; his Opera Colorado debut as Lieutenant Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly; Cavaradossi in a return to Opera Grand Rapids; and joining the roster of the Metropolitan Opera for its production of La bohème. His engagements in the 2013-14 season included his debuts with Minnesota Opera as Des Grieux in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, with Lyric Opera Baltimore as Cavaradossi, and Virginia Opera as Don Jose in Carmen. In summer 2014 he made his Glimmerglass Opera debut as Pinkerton. Recent successes include his debut with Boston Lyric Opera in 2012-13 as Pinkerton; with Spoleto Festival USA as Roberto in Puccini’s Le Villi; returning to Lyric Opera of Kansas City as Pinkerton; to Pensacola Opera as Cavaradossi; Cassio in Otello in a return to Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, under Fabio Mechetti; Rodolfo in La bohème with Dayton Opera, also in a fully staged production with Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra; Pinkerton with Pensacola Opera; Ettore in the world premiere of Kimmo Hakola’s La Fenice with the Savolinna Festival; and in a concert of arias and ensembles with the Boston Landmarks Orchestra.
Other highlights include Don Jose in Carmen in his debut with Lyric Opera of Kansas City; Duke inRigoletto with Opera Grand Rapids; Rodolfo in La bohème with the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra; a return to the roster of New York City Opera for L’elisir d’amore; soloist in an evening of opera arias with Seattle Symphony Orchestra; in Bach’s Mass in B Minor with the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra; his debut with the Utica Symphony Orchestra as Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana; a return to Sacramento Opera to make his role debut as Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore; to Mercury Opera (Rochester, NY) to sing Alfredo in La traviata, which he reprised in concert with Symphony of the Mountains; to Knoxville Opera as Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor; his role debut as Edgardo with Mobile Opera; his Mercury Opera debut as Cavaradossi in Tosca; a return to Knoxville Opera for his role debut as the Duke in Rigoletto; performing as soloist in Cavalleria Rusticana in concert with the Schenectady Symphony Orchestra; and his return to the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra for concert performances of Tosca.
He has performed with New York City Opera as Rodolfo in La bohème, a role which he has also performed with Madison Opera, Opera Roanoke and Knoxville Opera. He has sung as Cavaradossi in Tosca with Dallas, Sacramento and Toledo operas; Alfredo in La traviata with Opera Cleveland; Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly with Knoxville Opera, and Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor with Syracuse Opera.
He made his Carnegie Hall debut as soloist in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, which he has also sung with the Harrisburg Symphony. Other concert appearances include singing as soloist with the Naples Philharmonic in a gala holiday series, and with the Jacksonville Symphony in an all-Verdi evening.
Mr. Vania was awarded Syracuse Opera’s “Artist of the Year” award, as well as First Place in the Giulio Gari Vocal Competition, Second Prize in the Licia Albanese-Puccini Competition, and was a semi-finalist in Placido Domingo’s Operalia in Madrid, Spain.
Michael Mayes, Jack Rance*
With a “powerful” voice and an “arresting stage presence”, baritone Michael Mayes is known for his consummate portrayals of iconic characters in the operatic repertoire. Originally from Cut and Shoot, Texas, Michael has performed with opera companies across the United States including Cincinnati Opera, Palm Beach Opera, Kentucky Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Arizona Opera, Central City Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, and Fort Worth Opera. Engagements for the 2014-2015 season included Charlie in Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers with UrbanArias, Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus with Syracuse Opera, a return to Michigan Opera Theater for his role debut as Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, Escamillo in La Tragédie de Carmen with Opera Delaware, Marcello in La bohème with Pensacola Opera, a reprise of his acclaimed Joseph De Rocher with Opera Parallèle in San Francisco, Older Thompson in Glory Denied with Opera Memphis, and Lawrence in The Wreckers with Bard SummerScape. The 2015-2016 season includes his debut with Dallas Opera and San Diego Opera in the world premiere of Jake Heggie’s Great Scott, Jack Rance in Opera Omaha’s La fanciulla del West, Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus with Baltimore Concert Opera, and another Dead Man Walking with New Orleans Opera.
In the 2013-2014 season, Mr. Mayes debuted the role of Rigoletto with Boston Lyric to critical acclaim. Additionally, he debuted with the Gotham Chamber Opera in Baden-Baden 1927, Madison Opera in Dead Man Walking, and returned to Pensacola Opera as Escamillo in Carmen. He tackled the role of Joseph De Rocher once again in his return to Central City Opera in the summer of 2014 and created the role of Adam in The Canticle of the Black Madonna with Anima Mundi Productions. The 2012-2013 season saw his Joseph De Rocher with Eugene Opera, Photo-Op with UrbanArias , Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus for Opera on the James, Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia with Pensacola Opera, Don Giovanni with the Green Mountain Opera Festival, and his return to Ft. Worth Opera as Elder Thompson in the critically acclaimed Glory Denied. In the 2011-2012 season Mr. Mayes debuted the role of Joseph De Rocher in Dead Man Walking in a performance described by Tulsa World as “an experience those who saw it will never forget.” Additionally, Mr. Mayes returned to Kentucky Opera as Escamillo in Carmen, Shreveport Opera as Danilo in Merry Widow, Fort Worth Opera as Kinesias in Lysistrata, and debuted with Nashville Opera as Silvio in Pagliacci. He returned to Des Moines Metro Opera in the summer of 2012 in the title role in Don Giovanni. Engagements for 2010-2011 included Valentin in Faust with Opera Birmingham, Marcello in La bohème with Eugene Opera and Des Moines Metro Opera, Silvio in Pagliacci with Kentucky Opera, the title role in Don Giovanni with Shreveport Opera, and Papageno in Die Zauberflöte with Michigan Opera Theater.
Mr. Mayes joined the roster of the Metropolitan Opera in the 2009-2010 season for their production of Gianni Schicchi. Other career highlights include the title role in Don Giovanni and Dandini in La cenerentola with Connecticut Opera, Conte Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro with Des Moines Metro Opera, the title role in Il barbiere di Siviglia for Sugar Creek Opera, Orff’s Carmina Burana with the Oklahoma Ballet and San Antonio Symphony, and Guglielmo in Così fan tutte with Arizona Opera. Marcello in La bohème with Duluth Festival Opera, Shreveport Opera, New Brittain Symphony, Skylight Opera Theater, and Opera on the James, Conte di Luna in Il trovatore with Eugene Opera, Lancelot in Augusta Opera’s Camelot, Top in The Tender Land with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, Mercutio in Roméo et Juliette with PORTOpera, and Peter in Opera Company of Philadelphia’s production of Hänsel und Gretel. In an extension of his involvement with the development of Margaret Garner by Richard Danielpour, Mr. Mayes performed with The Opera Company of Philadelphia the role of Edward Gaines opposite Mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, which he also performed at Opera Carolina with Ms. Graves to critical acclaim.
A graduate of the University of North Texas, Mr. Mayes has appeared internationally in conjunction with La Fenice in Castel-Franco Veneto, Italy. Mr. Mayes’ honors include 3rd place winner at the Metropolitan National Council Auditions in Chicago, the Entergy Young Texas Artist Competition Vocalist Award, John Alexander Award, the John Moriarty Award, and an advanced division winner at the Anton Guadagno Vocal Competition.
Levi Hernandez, Sonora
With a velvety tone and a stage presence which exudes confidence and charm, baritone Levi Hernandez is gaining momentum as a sought after artist on the operatic stage. Mark Thomson Ketterson of Opera News declared of his principal debut with Lyric Opera of Chicago as Dandini in La cenerentola,“Young baritone Levi Hernandez’s intelligent Dandini displayed a most impressive knack for subtle text-painting within a pristinely negotiated coloratura line…”
Recently, the El Paso native made his Houston Grand Opera debut as Sharpless in Madama Butterfly next to Ana Maria Martinez and Joseph Calleja. He also joined the rosters of San Francisco Opera and the Metropolitan Opera in their productions of Puccini’s Il trittico and Fanciulla del West. His 2014-2015 season included a return to the Metropolitan opera to cover the title role in The Death of Klinghoffer and Dancaïre in Carmen, his Opera Roanoke debut as Dandini in La cenerentola, the title role in Gianni Schicchi with Intermountain Opera, and Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in his debut with Pine Mountain Music Festival. The 2015-2016 season sees debut with Arizona Opera as Alvaro in Florencia en el Amazonas, and returns to Opera Omaha as Sonora in La fanciulla del West, Opera Roanoke as Germont in La traviata, and Opera Theatre of St. Louis as the Music Master in Ariadne auf Naxos.
The 2013-2014 season featured returns to the Metropolitan Opera for Die Frau ohne Schatten, Opera Omaha as Don Magnifico in La cenerentola, Opera Theatre of St. Louis as Papageno, the Philadelphia Ballet for Carmina Burana, and Intermountain Opera Bozeman for Germont in La traviata. In the 2012-2013 season, Mr. Hernandez returned to the Metropolitan Opera for Carmen, revisited Sharpless with Nashville Opera, appeared with Opera Memphis as Marcello in La bohème, sang Handel’s Messiah with the El Paso Symphony, and performed the role of Guglielmo in Puccini’s Le Villi with the Spoleto Festival, USA.
Other recent engagements include his European debut with Komische Oper Berlin’s Pique Dame in the role of Tomski, Tobias Mill in Rossini’s La cambiale di matrimonio with Opera Omaha, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly with Minnesota Opera, Intermountain Opera, Virginia Opera, Lake George Opera and Cedar Rapids Opera, his debut with the Opera Theatre of St. Louis as Leporello in Don Giovanni, Dandini in La cenerentola with Opera North, Marcello in San Antonio Opera’s La bohème, Schaunard in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s La bohème, Valentin in Faust with The Kalamazoo Symphony, and Don Lucas in Luisa Fernanda, Sciarrone in Tosca, and Crébillon in La rondine with Los Angeles Opera.
An alumnus of the Lyric Opera center for American Artists, Mr. Hernandez made his Lyric Opera main stage debut during the 2004-05 season. During his tenure at Lyric he was also seen as Marullo in Rigoletto, Sciarrone in Tosca, the Innkeeper in Manon Lescaut and the Bartender in the world premiere of William Bolcom’s A Wedding. A versatile actor as well as a fine singer, Hernandez portrayed the title role in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi at the 2004 Grant Park Music Festival. Other career highlights include Marcello La bohème for El Paso Opera, Papageno with Madison Opera in their Die Zauberflöte, performances in Boston Lyric Opera’s productions of Carmen and Il barbiere di Siviglia, and Count Ceprano in Rigoletto, Moralès in Carmen, and Haly in L’italiana in Algeri, all with Opera Company of Philadelphia.
Mr. Hernandez has been seen on the concert stage as a soloist in Handel’s Messiah with the Charlotte Symphony, the Phoenix Symphony, the Pennsylvania Ballet, and Cheyenne Symphony and in Orff’s Carmina Burana with the Pennsylvania Ballet. A 2002 Metropolitan Opera National Council Awards finalist, his many awards include a Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation grant as well as being a 2002 OPERALIA competition finalist. After receiving his undergraduate degree at Westminster Choir College, Mr. Hernandez attended the prestigious Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia where he performed a number of leading roles including Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Marcello in La bohème, Ford in Falstaff, Gugliemo in Così fan tutte, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, Vicar in Albert Herring and Falke in Die Fledermaus.
Matthew Treviño, Ashby
A former member of the San Francisco Opera's prestigious Merola Opera Program and recipient of the “Best Singer Award” by the 2011 Austin Critics’ Table for his performance in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Matthew Treviño is proving to be one of today's most sought-after young basses. The San Francisco Chronicle described his recent performances as Don Basilio (Il barbiere di Siviglia) as “sonorous and neatly malevolent” with The New York Times praising his “delightfully unctuous portrayal.” Highlights for the 2014-2015 season included Count Ribbing/Tom in Un ballo in maschera and the duke in Roméo et Juliette with Austin Lyric Opera, Monterone in Rigoletto with Opera Omaha, the role of Eddie in Carly Simon’s opera Romulus Hunt in Nashville, and the role of The Ghost in Gordon Getty’s new opera The Canterville Ghost in Leipzig.
Recent highlights include Mr. Treviño’s company debut as Hobson (Peter Grimes) and as Sparafucile (Rigoletto) with the English National Opera, Colline (La bohème) for the Florentine Opera, Dr. P (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat) with the Nashville Opera, Leporello (Don Giovanni) for Opera Colorado, Sparafucile and Monterone (Rigoletto) for the Lyric Opera Baltimore and Opera Memphis, and a debut with the Saint Louis Symphony (Messiah) under Christopher Warren-Green.
Other appearances have included Pistola (Falstaff) for Opera Cleveland, Nourabad (Les pêcheurs de perles) for Syracuse Opera, Sparafucile (Rigoletto) for San Antonio Opera, and Colline (La bohème) for Opera Carolina, Lyric Opera of Kansas City and Fresno Grand Opera. He has performed the roles of Angelotti (Tosca), Ramfis (Aida), and Commendatore (Don Giovanni), and, under the auspices of the San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program, Simone (Gianni Schicchi), Basilio (Il barbiere di Siviglia) and Don Alfonso (Così fan tutte). Most recently he appeared as Timur (Turandot) at Austin Lyric Opera, the King (Aïda) for Arizona Opera, Baron Douphol (La traviata) at Nashville Opera, Sarastro (Die Zauberflöte) with the Opera Theatre Company in Ireland and he made his role debut as Don Giovanni with Opera Naples.
Highly regarded for his acting and in particular for his comedic Gilbert and Sullivan performances, Mr. Treviño has appeared as Dick Deadeye (H.M.S. Pinafore) at Lyric Opera of Kansas City and at Opera Carolina and the Sergeant of Police (The Pirates of Penzance) at the Fresno Grand Opera.
Mr. Treviño is a graduate of Baylor University in Waco, Texas and was a finalist in the Loren L. Zachary Foundation Competition, Dallas Opera Guild Competition, Fort Worth Opera’s McCammon Voice Competition, Shreveport Opera’s Singer of the Year Competition, and the recipient of the Thomas Stewart Award for Vocal Excellence at Baylor University.
Norman Shankle, Nick*
American Tenor Norman Shankle is currently enjoying worldwide acclaim for his portrayals of Mozart’s most famous tenors. The Boston Globe called Shankle “a real find, a singer of elegance, grace and conviction,” and the San Francisco Chronicle praised him equally as “clearly a singer to watch.” This season, Shankle sings Nick in La fanciulla del West with Opera Omaha, and returns to Phoenix Symphony for Händel’s Messiah and Haydn’s Nelsonmesse.
Recent performances include joining The Metropolitan Opera as the Quartet Tenor and to cover the role of Demetrius in The Enchanted Island as well as for their production of Parsifal; Count Almaviva in Il
barbiere di Siviglia with New Orleans Opera and the Orlando Philharmonic; Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor with Opera Saratoga; Tamino in Die Zauberflöte with the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra; Ramiro in La Cenerentola with the Green Mountain Opera Festival; a concert of arias and duets at the Kennedy Center; Messiah with Pacific Symphony and Phoenix Symphony, Mozart’s Requiem with the City Choir of Washington; and Prunier in La rondine with Skylark Opera.
Other recent successes include Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia in his Dresden Semperoper début with subsequent performances in following seasons; the title role of Idomeneo and Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni with Staatstheater Stuttgart, the Opera Festival at Verona, and Reggio Emilia; Tamino in Die Zauberflöte with Michigan Opera Theatre; Ferrando in Così fan tutte with the Netherlands Opera, Palm Beach Opera, and Opera Grand Rapids; Belfiore in La finta giardiniera with Opernhaus Zurich; Gomatz in Zaide with Vienna Festwochen and the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York; Ernesto in Don Pasquale and Renaud in Gluck’s Armide with the Komische Oper Berlin; Ernesto in Don Pasquale in his Dallas Opera début and with Le Grand Théâtre de Genève; Cassio in Otello with Palm Beach Opera; Admete in Alceste with Opera Boston; and Orfeo in Orfeo ed Euridice at the Haydn Festival.
Norman’s vast international concert experience includes Carlo in Rossini’s Armida and Laios in Oedipe at the Edinburgh International Festival; Händel’s Saul conducted by René Jacobs at Palais de Beaux Arts, Brussels; Tito in La clemenza di Tito with the Münchener Kammerorchester in Amsterdam; and Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn & Strings with the International Bach Akademie. US symphonic engagements include Messiah with the Cincinnati Symphony and Houston Symphony Orchestra; Britten’s War Requiem with the San Francisco Choral Society; as well as appearances with the Essen Philharmonic, Choral Arts Society of Washington, and New Century Chamber Orchestra. In coming seasons, Mr. Shankle will perform tenor solos in Mozart’s Requiem with City Choir of Washington and Händel’s Messiah with Phoenix Symphony.
Elise Quagliata, Wowkle
Elise Quagliata, mezzo-soprano, has gained notice over the past decade for the rich, unique beauty of her voice, her musical intelligence, her theatrical range and her riveting effect on audiences everywhere.
Having made a name for herself in contemporary as well as in traditional works, Elise recently stunned audiences with her heart-rending performance of Sister Helen in Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking with Union Avenue Opera. The Saint Louis Dispatch remarked that with her "dark, expressive voice" the artist gave the role an "authentic strength and humor," while the final confession scene was performed with "throat-grabbing" intensity. She was also praised by The New York Times for her "rich, expressive voice and passionate delivery" of Mr. Heggie's song cycle on Sister Helen's prayers, The Deepest Desire, performed in Los Angeles and New York with the composer at the piano and flutist Carol Wincenc. She once again performed with Heggie in his newest cycle, The Breaking Waves, as part of a special concert of the composer's works for Opera America in New York City.
Elise's busy schedule this past season included Olga in Eugene Onegin for Des Moines Metro Opera, Fricka in Das Rheingold for Union Avenue Opera, Mrs. Lovett inSweeney Todd for Pensacola Opera, Emilia in Otello with the Jacksonville Symphony, Lola in Cavalleria Rusticana with New Jersey State Opera, and recitals in New York and Pennsylvania. In the spring of 2013 she repeated her success as Sister Helen Prejean in Dead Man Walking with The Modern American Music Project and was called "vibrant" by The New York Times in Justine Chen's The Turing Project with the InsightALT Festival in New York City. In the summer of 2013 she sings the VerdiRequiem with Orquestra Filarmônica de Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte and Sao Paulo, Brazil and portrays Fricka once again with Union Avenue Opera, this time in Die Walküre.
She appeared as Jo in Mark Adamo's Little Women with Pensacola Opera, described as "a vocal tour de force of amazing power, beauty, and dexterity." Other new works have included Sheila Silver's 2010 opera The Wooden Sword, where she debuted the lead role of Anya, and Peter Ash's The Golden Ticket of 2009 with American Lyric Theater, where she sang the role of Candy Mallow. In 2008, Elise sang Cornelia with a "graceful presence" and "a rich mezzo voice" (The Miami Herald) in Handel'sGuilio Cesare with Florida Grand Opera, and Carmen in La Tragedie de Carmen with Opera Omaha. Her 2006 performance of Carmen with Pensacola Opera captivated critics and audiences alike, with reviewers describing her as "one of the finest Carmens I have ever seen" (Mobile Register), "simply riveting" (Pensacola News Journal) and ready to "spontaneously combust; the girl is on fire" (The Independent News). Her "striking, bold tone, superb diction and excellent acting" was also noted in her performance of the Muse/Nicklausse in Les contes d'Hoffmann for Des Moines Metro Opera (Des Moines Register).
In previous seasons, Elise has sung Suzuki in Madama Butterfly with Pensacola Opera, Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia with The National Philharmonic, Washington DC and Rockland Opera, as well as Bertha in Barbiere with Pensacola Opera. Other roles have included Dorabella in Così Fan Tutte, Arsamenes in Xerxes, Lisak in The Cunning Little Vixen, Thisbe in La Cenerentola, Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro, Kate Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, Rosine in Signor Deluso and Cecily in La Divina.
Elise Quagliata's solo orchestral credits include Prokofiev's cantata Alexander Nevsky with the Jacksonville Symphony; Mozart's Requiem with the New River Valley Symphony; Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius with the Savannah Philharmonic; Mahler's Rückert Lieder with Reno Philharmonic; the New York premiere and recording of Henry Cowell's Atlantis with the American Symphony Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall; Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with the Santa Barbara Symphony, Reno Philharmonic and Westfield Symphony; Verdi's Requiem with the Westfield Symphony, Brahms' Alto Rhapsody and Mozart's Solemn Vespers with the Buffalo Philharmonic; Montsalvatge's Cinco Canciones Negras with the Pensacola Symphony; DeFalla's El Amor Brujo with the New Hampshire Symphony and DeFalla'sSombrero Tres Picos with the Virginia Symphony.
An impressive recitalist, the artist has performed recitals in Miami, New York and Pensacola (where she welcomed the King and Queen of Spain with DeFalla and Obradors), on university recital series in Illinois, Connecticut and Florida, as well as in concert venues in Switzerland and Italy. Adept in a variety of repertoire from contemporary to early music to jazz and cabaret, Elise has been especially lauded for her exceptional performances of American, Czech, German and Spanish works, and praised for the "glorious grace" which has characterized her interpretation of standards from Cole Porter to Kurt Weill.
In 2007, Elise Quagliata was among four winners in the Liederkranz Society's Lieder Competition, and performed in recital with other winners at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall. She was also the 2005 winner of the Metropolitan Opera's District Auditions for New York City.
She began her career as a Studio Artist with Chautauqua Opera and continued as an Apprentice and Ensemble Artist with Des Moines Metro Opera, Resident Artist with Opera Iowa, Resident and Mainstage Artist with Pensacola Opera, Young American Artist with Glimmerglass Opera, and a Resident Artist with Florida Grand Opera. Holding named scholarships, Elise graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Michigan and the University of Connecticut.
Christian Zaremba, Jake Wallace*
Praised by the New York Times as “a stage animal with a big bass voice,” in the 2015-16 season the young American bass, Christian Zaremba, will appear as Jake Wallace in La fanciulla del Westwith Opera Omaha and as Commendatore in Don Giovanni with Chicago’s Venture Opera. In the summer of 2015, Mr. Zaremba performed the roles of Il Re in Aida and Bartolo in Le nozze de Figaro with Wolf Trap Opera.
As a resident artist with Minnesota Opera, Mr. Zaremba’s performances included General Tracy in the world premiere of The Manchurian Candidate, Sarastro and Sprecher in Die zauberflöte, Ashby in La fanciulla del West, Zuniga in Carmen, Count Lamoral in Arabella, and The Lawyer inDream of Valentino.
Mr. Zaremba’s recent opera performances also include David Lang’s The Little Match Girl Passion with Glimmerglass Opera, The Porter in Massenet’s Manon at the Metropolitan Opera, Don Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia with Long Island Opera, and Pistola in Falstaff for the Martina Arroyo Foundation.
As a concert soloist, Christian Zaremba has performed Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s St. John Passion with Annapolis Chorale, Mozart’s Requiem with St. Cloud Orchestra, and repertoire of Henry Purcell with Metamorphoses Orchestra.
Branch Fields, Jim Larkens / Billy Jack Rabbit*
Branch Fields, whom Opera America describes as “a bass of resonant richness,” and The New York Times declared to be “a gifted young bass,” is delighting audiences and critics alike, whether it be in opera, concert, or musical theater. He has sung with Santa Fe Opera, New York City Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Opera Carolina, Michigan Opera Theatre, Utah Opera, Opera San Jose, and many other regional companies throughout the U.S. In concert, Branch has performed with the Munich Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, Santa Fe Symphony, Colorado Springs Philharmonic, and the American Symphony Orchestra. Branch’s versatility as a singing actor led to his Broadway debut in SOUTH PACIFIC, understudying the role of Emile de Becque in the Lincoln Center Theater production, which won 7 Tony Awards.
This past season, Mr. Fields was engaged by Opera in Williamsburg as Raimondo in LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, and by Virginia Opera as 2nd Soldier in SALOME. In December, he was asked to be the guest artist for the Williamsburg Community Chapel Christmas Concerts, attended by 8000 people, and performed the bass solos in Handel’s Messiah at the Williamsburg UMC and at the Sandler Center with Symphonicity. 2015 began with the Mozart Requiem, again with Symphonicity, and Verdi’s Requiem in Ft. Meyers, Florida with the Gulf Coast Symphony. He reprised Sarastro for Anchorage Opera’s MAGIC FLUTE; and was Father Truelove in Stravinsky’s THE RAKE’S PROGRESS with Utah Opera. The season ended with a reprise of Raimondo at Opera Fort Collins. Mr. Fields spent the summer close to home in a 34 performance run of his critically acclaimed portrayal of Emile de Becque in SOUTH PACIFIC for Virginia Repertory Theater. He has been nominated for a 2015 RTCC Artsie Award in the “Best Actor in a Musical” category for his performance of Emile de Becque for Va. Rep.
Mr. Fields’ 2013-14 season included a live European radio broadcast of CANDIDE from Leipzig, Germany with Mitteldeutcher Rundfunk (MDR) led by Kristjan Järvi. He made his Canadian debut as the 5th Jew in SALOME at Edmonton Opera, and a return to Carnegie Hall with the American Symphony Orchestra, in R. Strauss’ FEUERSNOT. He reprised Emile de Becque for Piedmont Opera in March, then was part of the April Cutting Edge Concert at Symphony Space in NYC, presenting new scenes from Victoria Bond’s CLARA, portraying Robert Schumann. Branch helped organize Williamsburg Symphonia’s Opera Night, joining Metropolitan Opera artists Audrey Luna and Lauren McNeese for the gala. He also sang Elijah in a performance of Mendelssohn’s oratorio at the newly opened Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech. In the summer, Branch sang 42 performances of Emile de Becque for Drayton Entertainment in Drayton and Grand Bend, Ontario with Broadway/Stratford Festival star Chilina Kennedy as Nellie, and was at Opera North through August playing Frank in Kurt Weill’s STREET SCENE and Alfred P. Doolittle in MY FAIR LADY. He also returned to Martha’s Vineyard for a vocal ensemble arrangement of Goldberg Variations #26 and #31 as part of the art exhibit “Still Point” by Claudia Miller, with Wendy Taucher Opera and Dance.
Mr. Fields is a native of Texas, born in San Antonio at Lackland Airforce Base. He spent his youth in Little Rock, Arkansas, then moved to Williamsburg, Virginia, which is the place he now calls home with his wife and 3 children. His talent for singing was discovered at Virginia Tech while doing undergraduate work in chemistry. Upon completing his undergraduate degree, Branch was accepted into the Master of Music program at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, where he was awarded the Cole and Kate Porter Memorial Scholarship, and studied voice with the great Metropolitan Opera bass, Giorgio Tozzi. Branch was a member of The Singing Hoosiers, through which he garnered the attention of Maestro Erich Kunzel during their concerts and recordings with the Cincinnati Pops. He can be heard on the Cincinnati Pop’s album Puttin’ On the Ritz (TELARC). Branch was later granted a coveted spot at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, a full scholarship institution, where he studied with Met baritone Louis Quilico, and participated in summer opera programs in Chiari, Lucca, and Rome, Italy.
In New York City, he was placed in the studio of bass specialist Armen Boyajian, voice teacher of Samuel Ramey and Paul Plishka. He won 1st prize in the Bel Canto Vocal Scholarship Competition, 2nd in the NJAPA Vocal Competition, and was a prize winner in the Liederkranz Foundation Competition.
Tyler Nelson, Trin*
Tyler Nelson is one of America’s most promising young tenors. Already enjoying success in a wide variety of concert repertoire, his recent engagements have included performances of the Britten Serenade with the Utah Valley Symphony, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Saginaw Bay Symphony, Mozart’s Requiem and Bach’s St. John Passion with Salt Lake City Choral Artists, and Orff’s Carmina Burana with the California and Reno Symphonies. He has also appeared as a soloist on the stages of the Kennedy Center and at Carnegie Hall. Upcoming engagements for the 2015-2016 season include debuts with the Utah Symphony & Opera as Le théière/ Le petit vieillard in L’enfant et les sortileges, Opera Naples as Alfred in Die Fledermaus, Opera Omaha as Trin in La fanciulla del West, and in Handel’s Messiah with Augustana College.
Mr. Nelson has a wide range of operatic experience. During successive seasons with Ohio Light Opera, Arts blog CoolCleveland.com commented of his performance: “Tyler Nelson, as that erstwhile clergyman, could steal the show if he tried. As it was, he nearly brought down the house with I Aim to Please.” Opera News, reviewing a recording of Maytime, called his singing “mellifluous”.
A frequent performer at the Castleton Festival, Mr. Nelson has performed Gonzalve in L’heure espagnole, and under the baton of Maestro Lorin Maazel: Male Chorus in Rape of Lucretia, Gherardo and Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi, the Mayor in Albert Herring, Maese Pedro in El retablo del Maese Pedro, Father in 7 Deadly Sins, La Rainette in L’enfant et les sortilèges, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, and Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia, which he performed at the Castleton Festival and with the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing, China.
His international debut was in Mazatlan, Mexico, performing the role of Shallow in Gordon Getty’s Plump Jack, under the direction of the composer. Robert Commanday of San Francisco Classical Voice said of Mr. Nelson’s performance: “Tyler Nelson, a young tenor living in Florida, did a captivating number on Justice Shallow. His diction was impeccable and his animation as the silly, ridiculous squire won for him alone laughs that were independent of the lines. His bright, keenly focused, vibrant tenor invites Mozart. He has a big future.”
Recent seasons have included debuts with Chicago Opera Theater in the role of Delfa for their production of Giasone, and a return for their production of Médée. Of his performance in Giasone, Mark Thomas Ketterson of Opera News commented: Tyler Nelson was hilarious as a travesti Delfa, managing the passaggio of his tenor with notable skill and looking for all the world like Mollie Sugden's Mrs. Slocombe on Are You Being Served?” Venus Zarris of Chicago Stage Review stated: “Tyler Nelson commits comic operatic highway robbery by embodying all that is hysterical about drag, as Delfa the maidservant to Medea, while simultaneously delivering some of the production’s most superb singing.”
Joshua Zink, Sid*
Rising young baritone, Joshua Zink, is beginning to make a reputation on the stage, in the concert, and recital hall. Recent operatic engagements have included: The Band Leader in John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby at Opera Omaha, Marullo in Verdi’s Rigoletto with Nashville Opera, and Don Giovanni on tour as a Mary Ragland Young Artist. Other recent operatic engagements have included The Mikado and Die Entführung aus dem Serail with Opera New Jersey. As an advocate for new works Zink worked with composer Michael Ching to workshop a new opera, A Midsummer Night’s Dream; an a-capella opera which was showcased by Opera America/Opera New Jersey in New York City. At Dayton Opera, Zink was an Artist in Residence where he covered Belcore in L'elisir d'amore and performed Kromov in The Merry Widow. Joshua also performed as a Resident Opera Artist at Pine Mountain Music Festival. In a summer tribute to Leonard Bernstein works included Trouble in Tahiti and Candide. Other recent roles include Pandolfe in Cendrillion, and Snooks in William Bolcom’s A Wedding.
In 2015 Joshua will perform Mozart’s Mass in C with the Fresno Master Chorale and orchestra, where he also recently performed Robert Cohen’s Alzheimer’s Stories. Recently on the concert platform Joshua has sung with the Dayton Bach Society and Philharmonic members in Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, Bach’s St. John Passion; also as a soloist in Handel’s Israel in Egypt. Additional solo concert repertoire with various orchestra’s include: Brahms Requiem, Mozart’s Requiem and Mass in C minor, Schubert Mass in G, Beethoven’s Mass in C, Handel’s Messiah, and Mendelssohn’s Elijah.
A song lover, Zink has performed some of the great repertoire with pianist John Wustman; including Schubert's Winterreise on the Crescendo Concert Series in St. Louis, MO. He also has an affinity for chamber music and recently performed Samuel Barber’s Dover Beach.
He earned a M.M. from The University of Illinois, and a B.M. from Bowling Green State University.
Adam Cannedy, Handsome
Hailed for his “sonorous and secure voice” (Opera Today), baritone Adam Cannedy is quickly making his way on opera stages across the country. Career highlights include a guest appearance with Tanglewood Music Center’s Contemporary Music Festival appearing as Rooster Wild Thing in Oliver Knussen’s Where The Wild Things Are, a role he would reprise in 2011 in his Lincoln Center debut with New York City Opera. Most recently, he appeared as Marullo in both Opera Omaha and The Atlanta Opera's co-production of Verdi’s Rigoletto, as well as Masetto in First Coast Opera's Don Giovanni. The 2015-2016 Season will see Mr. Cannedy return to Opera Omaha as Fiorello in Rossini's The Barber of Seville and as Handsome in Puccini's La Fanciulla del West. In April 2016, Mr. Cannedy will make his role debut as LeBlanc in the revival of Goodwin and Rice's American opera EVANGELINE with Longfellow Chorus in Portland, Maine, and he will join the faculty of Chamber Music Campania as resident teaching and performing artist for the Lucera Vocal Institute in Lucera, Italy.
In 2013, Mr. Cannedy made his Opera Omaha debut appearing as Moralès in Bizet’s Carmen, and he completed the season as an emerging artist with Virginia Opera. Prior season highlights include debuts with The Atlanta Opera and Lyric Opera of Virginia in 2012, appearing in the role of Le Dancaïre in Carmen for both companies. As an emerging artist, Mr. Cannedy has completed seasons with companies including Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Central City Opera, Opera North, and Lyric Opera of Virginia. He was a 2011 prizewinner at The Birmingham Opera Competition, a finalist in The Dallas Opera Guild Competition, and most recently won the People’s Choice Award at The American Traditions Competition in Savannah, Georgia.
In 2010, Mr. Cannedy made his European debut at Wexford Festival Opera in Wexford Ireland, appearing as The Ballad Singer in Richard Wargo’s Winners and as an Oompa Loompa in Peter Ash’s The Golden Ticket; both productions were European premieres. A champion of modern music, Mr. Cannedy has collaborated with and performed for living composers including Carlisle Floyd, William Bolcom, Stephen Paulus, Richard Wargo, Simon Sargon, Peter Ash (both the world and European premieres of The Golden Ticket), Oliver Knussen, Ned Rorem, and Philip Glass. Additional performance credits include Così fan tutte (Guglielmo and Don Alfonso), A Little Night Music (Count Carl Magnus), Roméo et Juliette (Lord Capulet), the staged premiere of Bolcom’s Lucrezia (Chucho), Carmen (Escamillo), Stephen Paulus’s The Postman Always Rings Twice (Frank Chambers), Susannah (Olin Blitch), the world premiere of Simon Sargon’s The Singing Violin (Baron Frederick), Oklahoma! (Will Parker), The Music Man (Oliver Hix), Camelot (Lancelot), and Sweeney Todd (Anthony).
Drew Duncan, Harry
Tenor Drew Duncan, originally from Okoboji, IA has sung with Lyric Opera of Chicago, Des Moines Metro Opera, Virginia Opera, Sarasota Opera, Castleton Festival, Chicago Opera Theater, Chamber Opera Chicago, Ash Lawn Opera, Opera for the Young, Virginia Consort and Dubuque Symphony Orchestra. In 2010 Mr. Duncan was a Central Region Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Currently Mr. Duncan resides in Omaha, NE. Regularly he sings with Opera Omaha, Abendmusik, The Nebraska Wind Symphony, First-Plymouth Church, Trinity Episcopal Church, Saint Cecelia Cathedral, UNO, Creighton University, and sings the National Anthem for the UNO Maverick Hockey team and the College World Series. In addition to singing, Mr. Duncan has extended experience playing the Oboe, Saxophone, Percussion, and Piano as well as Conducting, Stage Directing, Stage Management, and Properties Master.
Adrian Kramer, Joe*
Canadian Tenor, Adrian Kramer, has been garnering critical praise in a variety of repertoire. He has appeared in opera and concert with many excellent theatres including the Santa Fe Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Glimmerglass Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Juilliard Opera Center, The Kimmel Center in conjunction with Opera Company of Philadelphia, Curtis Opera Theater, Castleton Festival, Chautauqua Institution, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Cal Performances, Opera 5, Tapestry Opera, Saskatoon Opera, Toronto Operetta Theatre, Steans Institute at the Ravinia Festival, New York Festival of Song, Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Toronto Chamber Choir, Regina Symphony Orchestra, Kitchener Waterloo Symphony Orchestra, Kingston Symphony, Jeunesses Musicales Canada, Talisker Players, Off Centre Music Salon at the Glenn Gould Studio, and the Crear Institute with Malcolm Martineau.
This summer Adrian returned to the Santa Fe Opera to perform Borsa in Verdi's Rigoletto, Second Nazarene in Strauss' Salome, and to create the role of Owen’s Son in the world premiere of Jennifer Higden's Cold Mountain. He was also this year's recipient of The Campbell Wachter Memorial Award for Singers from the Santa Fe Opera, as well as a Chalmers Professional Development Grant from the Ontario Arts Council.
Upcoming engagements include a holiday concert tour of New Mexico for Santa Fe Opera, Joe in La Fanciulla del West with Opera Omaha and an Opera Pops concert with Kingston Symphony where he will be singing excerpts from La Boheme, La Traviata and Rigoletto. Adrian has appeared under the baton of many distinguished conductors including Lorin Maazel, Sir Andrew Davis, Steuart Bedford and Alan Gilbert. His credits list productions with James Robinson, Christopher Alden, Peter Brook, Robert Lepage, and Yoshi Oida.
He is a past grand prize winner of the Louis Quilico Competition and The Juilliard Honors Recital Competition, and is a five time grant recipient of the Jacqueline Desmarais Foundation for Young Canadian Opera Singers.
Brian Kontes, Happy*
Noted by Opera News for his “dark bass and strong dramatic energy”, the seasoned bass, Brian Kontes, returns this season to the Metropolitan Opera his 6th season covering the role of Reimar in Tannhäuser sings the role of Happy in La fanciulla del West with Opera Omaha; sings the Commendatore in Don Giovanni with Intermountain Opera in the spring of 2016 and returns to Ash Lawn Opera as Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte.
During the 2014-15 season he returned to the Metropolitan in the role of Foltz in Die Meistersingerunder the baton of Mº James Levine. Other seasons have included assignments in Die Zauberflöte and Prokoviev’s War and Peace; roles in Madama Butterfly, La Gioconda,Shostokovich’s The Nose, conducted by Mº Valery Gergiev and La fanciulla del West.
In the summer of 2014 he sang the role of Don Fernando in Fidelio with the Shippensburg Symphony Music Festival of Pennsylvania and recently made his debut with Opera National de Lorraine as Banquo in Verdi’s Macbeth. Other recent engagements include: the role of Sprecher in Die Zauberflöte and Don Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia at Ash Lawn Opera; a Verdi Requiem with The New Choral Society of New York; and the role of Colline in La bohème in Opera Hong Kong. Brian Kontes has sung with the Opera Orchestra of New York in Carnegie Hall as Remigio in La Navarraise, and Alessio in Bellini’s La Sonnambula; Alexis in Anthony and Cleopatra, and Commedatore in Don Giovanni with the former New York City Opera.
Within concert repertoire, Mr. Kontes has been heard as guest soloist with the Charlotte Symphony and the Greeley Philharmonic for Beethoven’s Mass in C and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9th, and has appeared with the New York Choral Society in Carnegie Hall as the bass soloist in Rossini’s Stabat Mater and concerts in Carnegie Hall as bass soloist in the Faure Requiem, BachMagnificat, Haydn’s Paukenmesse with Mid America Productions.
Career Highlights have included debuts at Seattle Opera as Leporello in Don Giovanni, The Bonze and Yamadori in Nashville Opera’s Madama Butterfly, Colline in Piedmont Opera Theatre’s La bohème, the role of Palemon in Thäisfor Opera Theater of Saint Louis, Dr. Grenvil in La traviata for Opera Colorado, Palemon in Thäis for Kentucky Opera, and Don Fernando in Fidelio with The Charlotte Symphony under the baton of Maestro Christof Perick. He has also sung on several occasions under the baton of Maestro Glen Cortese for New Year’s Eve concerts at St. John the Divine in New York City as well as in concert with the Oregon Mozart Players, in Eugene, OR. Mr. Kontes made his professional debut in 1998 as Elder McLean in Carlyle Floyd’s Susannah at the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh under the baton of Mº John Baril.
Brian Kontes was a first place winner of the George London Foundation Competition and studied at the Curtis Institute of Music during which time was engaged by Opera Philadelphia.
Tyler Putnam, José Castro
Bass Tyler Putnam is quickly gaining national recognition as an important young opera singer as noted recently for his performance of the title role in Carlisle Floyd's Markheim: "Putnam is brilliant as Markheim, filling the role with his robust and resonant bass” (TheaterMania). That performance with Little Opera Theatre of New York marked Mr. Putnam’s Off-Broadway debut. This season Mr. Putnam returns to Sarasota Opera to sing the role of the Monk (Charles V) in Don Carlos before spring engagements singing Sarastro in The Magic Flute with both Salt Marsh Opera and Raylynmor Opera. This summer Mr. Putnam returns to the Apprentice Singer Program at The Santa Fe Opera to sing the second soldier in Salome and the role of Thomas in the highly anticipated world premiere of Jennifer Higdon's Cold Mountain.
In the 2013-14 season, Mr. Putnam joined Opera Omaha as Count Ceprano in Rigoletto following his first year as an Apprentice Singer at the Santa Fe Opera where he sang the bodyguard in the North American premiere of Huang Ruo’s Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. Mr. Putnam spent the winter with Sarasota Opera as a Studio Artist covering Ferrando in Il Trovatore, Don Basilio in The Barber of Seville, and the Papal Legate in Verdi's Jérusalem. Mr. Putnam also ventured into the New York "indie opera" scene, singing the role of Mr. B in Yoav Gal's new opera, The Dwarf directed by Doug Fitch.
In the 2012-13 season, Mr. Putnam sang Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor with Opera North as well as portraying the comic Luther Billis in South Pacific. Mr. Putnam also sang with Gotham Chamber Opera in New York City covering the role of Nerbulone in Cavalli's Eliogabalo.
In the summer of 2011 Mr. Putnam made his European debut singing a recital with Concerti in Monte Argentario in Porto Ercole and Porto Santo Stefano, Italy.
Mr. Putnam has won prizes from The Sullivan Foundation (Career Development Grant 2014), The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (Boston District winner 2011), and the Schuyler Foundation for Career Bridges (Top Prize 2012 and 2013).
Mr. Putnam is a native of Chebeague Island, Maine. He studies voice with Randolph Mickelson and Francis Keeping in New York City.
FREE EVENT- Join Opera Omaha as we celebrate an exhibit produced by local artists and inspired by our production of Puccini's The Girl of the Golden West.
Opera Omaha in a partnership with WhyArts? have been working with teaching artist Paula Wallace in an art creation piece around The Girl of the Golden West with the residents of Quality Living, Inc. (QLI). This joint western-inspired exhibit features the work of QLI’s residents along with those of Omaha area Girl Scouts and local artists John Miller, Dorothy Tuma, Kris Paddock Kahn, Robin Zagurski, Darcy Horn, John Prouty, Terry Koopman, Kristin Pluhacek and more.
Guests are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items, grocery store gift cards or cash/check donations for the Food Bank collection at the exhibit.
FREE EVENT- Opera Omaha's mezzo-soprano Elise Quagliata, featured in this February's opera, The Girl of the Golden West, presents a master classes for high school students of the Omaha Conservatory of Music, focusing on the song and musical theater repertoire. Three singers have been selected to participate in this free public event, which will be held at the Omaha Conservatory of Music at 7023 Cass Street - the Conservatory's new permanent home.
FREE EVENT- Join us for this FREE 30-minute crash course into Puccini's romantic opera, The Girl of the Golden West (La fanciulla del West). Director Lillian Groag and Conductor Andrew Bisantz will provide the audience with a quick taste of the story and music behind Puccini's "spaghetti western," and give some behind-the-scenes insight into Ms. Groag's production, which first premiered at The Glimmerglass Festival in 2004. Featuring a performance by one of Opera Omaha's principal artists: baritone Michael Mayes. An audience Q&A will follow this half-hour program.
Tables will be set, so bring a meal and make the most of your lunch hour.
Lunchtime just got a little easier. Pre-order your lunch from Kitchen Table's special Midday Music menu, and it will be available for pick-up at the event before the start of the program (see below for more information).
Walk-ins are welcome, but due to space limitations, we are currently at standing room only.
CLOSED: PRE-ORDERED LUNCHES by
Please note: Lunch orders made after Thursday, February 4th at 12:00 P.M. will not be accepted. Pre-ordered lunches from Kitchen Table for Midday Music are only available from the event's specialized menu. Orders processed through Kitchen Table's full website will not be delivered for the event.
Location: Opera Omaha Rehearsal Room
1850 Farnam Street, Omaha, NE 68102
(Entrance located on S.19th Street between Farnam & Douglas Streets)
For a complete schedule for Midday Music, click here.
If you have any questions, please contact the Opera Omaha Administrative Office at 402-346-4398.
Make the most of your evening at the opera. Opera Omaha ticketholders can tune up for The Girl of the Golden West with a pre-performance talk in the Grand Lobby of the Orpheum Theater 40 minutes before each performance. These 20-minute crash courses introduce you to the opera you will be experiencing with insights on the story, music, history and more.
The Girl of the Golden West’s Conductor Andrew Bisantz joins us to provide a quick taste of the themes and music behind Puccini’s Wild West opera, along with insight into our current production. Whether you are new to opera or a seasoned aficionado, you’re sure to enjoy this behind-the-scenes talk. Come early as seating is limited.
FREE to all The Girl of the Golden West ticketholders for the day listed on your opera ticket.
Make the most of your afternoon at the opera. Opera Omaha ticketholders can tune up for The Girl of the Golden West with a pre-performance talk in the Grand Lobby of the Orpheum Theater 40 minutes before each performance. These 20-minute crash courses introduce you to the opera you will be experiencing with insights on the story, music, history and more.
The Girl of the Golden West’s Conductor Andrew Bisantz joins us to provide a quick taste of the themes and music behind Puccini’s Wild West opera, along with insight into our current production. Whether you are new to opera or a seasoned aficionado, you’re sure to enjoy this behind-the-scenes talk. Come early as seating is limited.
FREE to all The Girl of the Golden West ticketholders for the day listed on your opera ticket.
A CLOSER LOOK
World Premiere: New York, NY: Metropolitan Opera; December 10, 1910
Opera Omaha Premiere: February 12, 2016
By Director, Lillian Groag
We live in cynical times. If there is something that The Girl of the Golden West is not, is cynical. Not for a moment, a note, a word. Is it possible to be a cynic and still be touched by Puccini’s Girl? He was. He called it La mia Girl when he was working on it. Now I’ve always thought that a cynic is just a romantic sulking, and so a prime candidate to be vulnerable to The Girl.
The story is not simple-minded brain-sugar, as some would have it. Minnie puts it to Rance very clearly: “we’re all alike, we three, you’re a gambler, he’s a bandit and I make a living off gold and whisky.” Hardly what we would call role models. But something rings true about the lonely, fraught, arid life they all three live in that fabular Far West of the Gold Rush, which legend so often gilds with adventure and glamour. In fact, according to Minnie again, the men who left home and family behind to come across continents and seas in order to put food in their mouths and a roof over their heads, live and work in mud holes; preyed upon by disease, harsh nature and criminals where bandits (like our hero, Johnson) think nothing of robbing the precious little gold scraped out of the hard mine with their bare hands. And for company? There is the Saloon, whisky and cards, and a Girl with a “$30 dollar education” who reads bits of the Bible to them and tries to keep them human.
What is irresistible about this story is the Heart of it all. However they err, and they all do, it’s with great heart. Even tough Jack Rance, the gambling Sheriff whose first action in the opera is to save a man from sure lynching, who then takes an interest in a stricken (and broke) young miner and an overall concern to protect the motley crew in his care from thieving marauders and murderers, who next makes a painful declaration of love (after a loveless life) to a Girl who carries a loaded pistol in her bodice and a lot of poetic fluff in her brain that doesn’t love him back. And he follows this rebuff with the strict keeping of his word as a gentleman gambler and a man of honor even when it involves protecting his rival. How does this man come to be inevitably played as a second Scarpia? The answer is, of course, the usual haphazard, inattentive reading of the libretto.
What does it all amount to? Redemption – not through Reason as in the 18th century Enlightenment manner of Mozart – but through faith and love. The 19th century has just passed through. It’s all emotional – just listen to the musical climaxes in the opera. The final “battle” among the three protagonists is all about Love. Love is the only thing that could have “saved” Jack Rance from bitterness and the above mentioned cynicism. If Minnie had loved him, what a man he could have been! It worked for the unworthy Johnson, after all. If good people loved us, what “folks” we might turn out to be!
Minnie is America. Minnie is the Girl who fights with Heart – not always cleanly. Think of the end of Act II. Minnie is why Immigrants from all over the world passed through Ellis Island. Minnie is the Girl we all wish we were again.
I bet we can.
You will no doubt recognize many of the tunes. Just remember that Puccini came first.
By Conductor, Andrew Bisantz
Grand themes. Larger-than-life characters. Musical emotion WRIT LARGE. Puccini’s immediately identifiable musico-dramatic signature. All of these qualities point to an evening of the bread-and-butter Puccinian trinity: La bohème, Tosca, or Madama Butterfly. These qualities, however, also are in great abundance in one of his most rarely-produced works: La fanciulla del West. With the other three frequently listed on the annual OPERA America Top 10 most-produced list, why not Fanciulla?
One often-cited reason for its lack of prominence in the repertoire is Fanciulla’s structural uniqueness: people have pointed to the absence of big hit-tune arias (save for Johnson’s third act “Ch’ella mi creda libera”), the more astringent harmonies, and, what some call a preposterous plot. A closer examination of the score, however, reveals a Puccini who is stretching himself compositionally, creating a new paradigm for the lyric stage. Every aspect of the work, from locale to orchestration to characters, is a departure from the past. And at the same time, it is an opera that is immediately familiar on first hearing.
Puccini enjoyed taking his audience on a (mostly) accurate musico-geographic journey, relying on folk tunes, church bells, liturgical choruses, gongs, etc. to locate his audience in place and time. In Fanciulla, he largely avoided this, which perhaps disoriented audiences in 1910 and the following few decades (although the work received 14 curtain calls at its world premiere at the Met). There’s nothing Japanese, Roman, Chinese, French-Latin-Quarter, nor, for that matter, anything particularly American about the score. In fact, one has to wait a third of the way into the first act to hear a melody (Jake Wallace’s song, mis-attributed to Stephen Foster) that claims Americana. As Puccini himself stated, “The music cannot really be called American, for music has no nationality—it is either good music or nothing.” That said, he did set out to capture a specific atmosphere: “For this drama I have composed music that, I feel sure, reflects the spirit of the American people and particularly the strong, vigorous nature of the West.” Indeed, the cries of “Hello!”, “Wells Fargo!” and “Whisky per tutti!” attest to Puccini’s (and his librettists’) desire to give the audience geographic context.
Perhaps the lack of standalone arias ultimately disoriented the audience - though, even upon first hearing, the melodies are as memorable as they are sophisticated. One only needs to hear Dick Johnson’s “Quello che tacete” once to leave the theatre humming.
Or maybe even yet it was the rather modern-sounding harmonies. Regardless, Fanciulla is never overt; the through-composed, more symphonic style lends a dramatic tautness to this work previously unheard in his output. It is the hallmark of Puccini’s ability that these compositional techniques are completely transparent, allowing the listener to be drawn deeply into the story emotionally. This surely places Fanciulla among Puccini’s best works.
A MUSICAL GOLDMINE
By Conductor, Andrew Bisantz
La fanciulla del West is Puccini’s most ambitious orchestral undertaking prior to his last opera, Turandot, as he distills a vast range of instrumental colors from the delicate to the passionate through the use of modern-sounding harmonies.
The opening flourish of the orchestra uses a particular melodic scale called the “whole tone” scale in which all the pitches are exactly one whole step apart on the staff. This exotic sounding melodic and harmonic structure, noted by some critics as Debussian, gives the music a distinct freshness and grandeur: not at all remote from the piney hills of the Sierra Nevada, but certainly not “O soave fanciulla”, (don’t worry, he gets there, and then some).
Whole tone scale
The lazy fourths and fifths that follow compliment the sepia-toned Californian atmosphere. Incidentally, this technique of intervallic parallelism (something that gets you a big red F on your college music-theory midterms) is a Puccini trademark: the most famous example being the icy descending parallel fifths at the beginning of the third act of La bohème. These primary-color figures are in fact Puccini’s American atmosphere; it’s a prime example of his typical orchestral and coloristic brilliance.
His ability to transform something seemingly simple to grand is also frequently on display: it’s his particular genius that he can take the unfussy waltz tune the miners sing and turn it into a sweeping love duet.
It is in the musical treatment of Minnie that the listener hears echoes his other beloved heroines. Musically, Puccini’s heroines broadly fall into two categories: sympathetic, delicate (Mimì, Liù); strong, resilient (Tosca, Turandot). Interestingly, Minnie seems to reside in both these universes. In many ways, she is Puccini’s most dramatically detailed and complex character. Her theme is decidedly strong and quite angular: note the continued use of whole-tone harmony, giving the tune a grand, yet decidedly conflicted, feel.
When, at the end of the first act, Minnie tells Johnson “Don’t expect too much; I’ve only had a thirty dollar education… if I’d studied more, no telling what I might have been. Just think of that…” We hear the same piquant harmonies, quoting music from the prelude, now enveloped in a soft wistfulness. It is a moment at once epic and intimate.
Act I Final Theme
Puccini’s use of Wagner-esque motives has evolved beyond the mastery of Tosca: the cakewalk-like motive—a syncopated rhythm derived from African American traditions and the forerunner of ragtime—used to rhythmically define the bandit Ramírez is heard as Johnson enters, telling the audience a great deal, giving the audience a clue to his backstory, and weaving the drama into the music with great sophistication.
Thought it never attained the popularity of Puccini’s three earlier works (La bohème, Tosca, or Madama Butterfly), the opera has always won the respect of musicians—including the likes of Anton Webern and Maurice Ravel.
Orpheum Theater | Slosburg Hall
Fri, Feb 12, 2016 7:30 p.m.
Sun, Feb 14, 2016 2:00 p.m.
Approx. 3 hrs
Includes two intermissions
*Opera Omaha Mainstage Debut
Jake Godek │Fighter
Casey Kelley* │Boy
Mathilda* │Dog (understudy)
Lou Meyers* │Owner / Trainer
MEN OF THE OPERA OMAHA CHORUS
J. Gawf │Chorus Master
James C. Little
Thomas Wilkins │Music Director
Ernest Richardson │Principal Pops Conductor
Susanna Perry Gilmore, Concertmaster
Ann Beebe, Associate Concertmaster
Elizabeth Furuta, 2ND Associate Concertmaster
Christopher Hake, Assistant Concertmaster
Keith Plenert, Principal
Frank Seligman, Associate Principal
Thomas Kluge, Principal
Brian Sherwood, Associate Principal
Paul Ledwon, Principal
Gregory Clinton, Associate Principal
Will Clifton, Principal
William Ritchie, Assistant Principal
Maria Harding, Principal
Leslie Fagan, Assistant Principal
Alexandra Rock, Principal
Heather Baxter, Assistant Principal
Carmelo Galante, Principal
Daniel Giacobbe, Assistant Principal
James Compton, Principal
Wenmin Zhang, Assistant Principal
Ross Snyder, Principal
Sheryl Hadeka, Associate Principal
Scott Quackenbush, Principal
Craig Bircher, Associate Prinicpal
Patrick Pfister, Principal
Dwight Thomas, Principal
Ken Yoshida, Principal
Robert Burrows, Assistant Principal
Mary Bircher, Principal
Yu Zhang, Principal
Rachel Sepulveda, General Manager
Jeff Baron, Assistant Stage Manager
Christina Biddle, Artistic Assistant
Bradford Courage, Orchestra Manager
Mark Haar, Assistant Librarian
Rick Jones, Stage Manager
Jennifer Kreitz-Couch, Operations and Production Manager
Kristin Patch, Artistic Manager
Jessica Slais, Music Librarian│Director of Artistic Planning