About the Production
Delve into the sordid private lives of some of history’s most notorious figures. Agrippina is the ambitious and seductive wife of Emperor Claudius, who through shocking, and often darkly comic, machinations places her volatile teenage son, Nero, on the throne. Jeweled with Handel’s glorious melodies, Agrippina is the composer at his most theatrically visceral and musically stunning.
This striking new Opera Omaha production premieres an original edition of the opera by early music specialist and conductor Stephen Stubbs, and stage director James Darrah. This progressive creative team leads a charismatic cast of singers, nearly all of whom will make their Opera Omaha debuts!
*Performed in Italian with English subtitles
Approximate run time is 3 hours with one intermission.
Peabody Southwell, Agrippina
American mezzo soprano, actor and cabaret artist Peabody Southwell has been described by Opera News as “…displaying a rock-solid lower range, clean and controlled tone and a wide expressive range”. She will bring her “…arresting María, passionate, sexy, vulnerable and tragic” (LA Times) to Chicago Opera Theater in the title role of Piazzolla’s María de Buenos Aires as her debut for the company this season. The LA native will also make her debut with Los Angeles Opera in 2013 under the baton of Plácido Domingo in the World Premiere of Lee Holdridge’s new opera Dulce Rosa at the Broad Stage, as part of the company’s new Off Grand series. Also in 2013, she will be conducted by James Conlon in Britten’s Rape of Lucretia as a guest artist of Los Angeles Opera’s Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program at Zipper Hall.
Future projects include the title role in Handel’s Agrippina with Opera Omaha and Juno/ Ino in Handel’s Semele with Seattle’s Pacific MusicWorks, both conducted by Stephen Stubbs, Stravinsky with New World Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas in Miami and the US Staged Premiere of Schoenberg’s Book of the Hanging Gardens with James Darrah and Mark Robson at Boston Court.
Other recent work includes performances of Peer Gynt with San Francisco Symphony conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, Theater@Boston Court with the new multimedia work Voces en el Polvo, a Kurt Weill cabaret in Maine with pianist/singer Edwin Cahill, her role debut as The Mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors and solo appearances with both the Los Angeles “Pacific Standard Time” art and culture exhibition and The Geffen Contemporary/MOCA. She made her Central City Opera debut in 2011 as Anna in Weill’s Die sieben Todsünden concurrently with Zita in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, lauded by The Denver Post as the “standout performer from the lineup [with] the self-assurance and polished technique of a well-established veteran…”
She made her professional debut with Long Beach Opera as The Fox in Janáček’s Cunning Little Vixen in 2009 immediately following her graduation from UCLA. Subsequent engagements with LBO have included more than ten principal roles in the past four seasons, notably Federico García Lorca in Golijov’s Ainadamar, María in Piazzolla’s María de Buenos Aires and the staged US Premiere of Gavin Bryars’ The Paper Nautilus. She made her role debut as Carmen with Peter Brook’s famed adaptation of Bizet in La tragédie de Carmen as a professional fellow at the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival and returned for Handel’s L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato in a genre-bending staged production by James Darrah and Stephen Stubbs. Orchestral credits include Steven Loza’s America Tropical, Dalbavie’s Sextine Cyclus, Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été and the World Premiere of Mark Popeney’s Harvest Moon featuring the poetry of her great grandmother: award-winning poet and playwright Jospehine Preston Peabody. Committed to contemporary music, she has premiered and recorded many works by modern composers, recently for composer Patrick Leonard and The White Oak Dance Project. Trained at NYC’s Herbert Berghof Studios; her work as a voiceover actor can be heard on PBS.
She was a Western Region finalist in the 2012-13 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and a prize winning Western Region finalist in the MONC of 2010-11 after winning the Los Angeles District both years. She won the 2009 Atwater Concerto Competition and was a finalist in the 2011 Lotte Lenya Competition. Additional upcoming projects include a recording of the songs of Eric Zeisl with Piano Spheres’ Mark Robson and creating the title role in Emilie Schindler, a new opera by Thomas Morse and Ken Cazan set to premiere in Germany in 2016.
Jennifer Rivera, Nerone
Jennifer Rivera has earned a spot as one of the most sought after lyric mezzo-sopranos of her generation by consistently delivering exceptional vocalism, superb musicianship, and a powerful stage presence.
Ms. Rivera returned to Innsbruck for the title role in Stellidaura Vendicante during summer of the 2012. The 2012-2013 season includes a return to the Berlin Staatsoper and an appearance at the Salle Pleyel in Paris for Agrippina, Mrs. Williamson in The Difficulty of Crossing a Field with Nashville Opera, and a debut with Central City Opera as Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia. Future seasons see Ms. Rivera in a return to Central City Opera, debuting the role of Sister Helen Prejean in Dead Man Walking, and as Penelope in Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria with Boston Baroque. 2011 saw the release of two recordings: Nerone in Agrippina for Harmonia Mundi and Licida in L'Olimpiade for Sony Music.
Hadleigh Adams, Claudio
A first year Adler Fellow and graduate of the 2012 Merola Opera Program, the New Zealand native was a PWC Dame Malvina Major Emerging artist with the New Zealand Opera from 2006 to 2008, before relocating to Australia in 2009 on a full scholarship to The Opera Studio - Melbourne, during which time he was awarded second prize at The Australian Singing Competition, and was a national finalist in the Opera Australia Young Artist auditions. Hadleigh forged a strong career as an oratorio soloist through Australasia, including performances of The Messiah with the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic. In 2010 he was awarded the Dame Joan Sutherland & Richard Bonygne scholarship. In 2010 he relocated to London to take up a full scholarship to the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama opera course. Here he studied under Rudolf Piernay, and Janice Chapman, gaining a Masters of Music with first class honors. During his time in London he made his debut with the Royal National Theatre in 2011 in the role of Christ in Jonathan Miller's award winning staged production of Bach's St. Matthew Passion. He has performed in recital at St. Martins in the Field, and the Wigmore Hall in the Voiceworks recital series. In 2012 he performed in Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Barbican Theatre under the baton of Stephen Barlow
Jamie-Rose Guarrine, Poppea
In the 2011-12 season, Jamie-Rose sang the role of Olympia in Les contes d’Hoffmann with Wolf Trap Opera Company, Papagena in Die Zauberflöte with Austin Lyric Opera, Maria Celeste in Galileo Galilei with Madison Opera, Cis in Albert Herring with Los Angeles Opera, and Xanthe/Aphrodite in Lysistrata with Fort Worth Opera. She was a featured soloist in the 2011 Christmas Spectacular with Madison Symphony Orchestra, and Brahms’ Requiem with the Santa Fe Orchestra. In the 2012-2013 season she reprises her Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro for both Florentine Opera and Austin Lyric Opera. Engagements in the 2012-13 season included Papagena with Opera Omaha and her debut with Memphis Opera as Judy Atkins in Lee Hoiby’s This is the Rill Speaking.
With the Santa Fe Opera Ms. Guarrine has appeared as Barbarina in Le nozze di Figaro, Papagena in Die Zauberflöte and Cis in Albert Herring. Additional recent highlights include Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance with Kentucky Opera, Susanna in Utah Opera’s Le nozze di Figaro, Nella in Gianni Schicchi and the roles of Fire, Nightingale and Princess in L’Enfant et les Sortileges with Opera Company of Philadelphia, and concert appearances with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, St Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica.
Nathan Medley, Ottone
Nathan Medley is rapidly becoming one of the leading countertenors of his generation. In the 2012-13 season he made his New York City Debut at Avery Fisher Hall with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, as well as debuts at the Barbican, London; La Salle Pleyel, Paris; The Lucerne Festival, Lucerne; and Concertgebouw, Amsterdam. In May 2012 he premiered John Adams new Oratorio, ‘The Gospel According to the other Mary’ with Los Angeles Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel. His performing career has taken him around the United States and Europe singing recital, oratorio and opera repertoire.
Upcoming performances include Chicago's Ravinia Festival, Handel's Semele with Pacific Musicworks, Agrippina with Opera Omaha, artist-in-residence with Miami Bach Society, numerous recital concerts, and the 2013-14 season with Echoing Air, as a core artist. His opera credits include the roles of Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Dema in Cavalli's L'Egisto, Le Peinture in Charpentier's Les Arts Florissants, the title role in Charpentier's Acteon, Narrator 3 in John Adam's Gospel According to the other Mary, and Ottone in Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea. As Ottone, Medley won praise from Cleveland critics for an interpretation "sung with baroque perfection." Mr. Medley has worked under the direction of Markus Stenz, Gustavo Dudamel, Stephen Stubbs, Umberto Finazzi, Peter Sellars, Sally Stunkel, Jonathon Field, Webb Wiggins, and Danielle Patelli.
Doug Williams, Pallante
Bass-baritone Douglas Williams has collaborated with leading conductors including Helmut Rilling, Sir Neville Marriner, John Nelson, and Christoph Rousset in such prestigious venues as Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Stuttgart’s Mozart-Saal, and the Frankfurt Alte Oper.
Last season, he made his European stage debut at Opéra de Nice singing the role of Orcone in Scarlatti’s Tigrane; reprised in New York a role he premiered as a Tanglewood Fellow in It Happens Like This, by Charles Wuorinen; and sang Compère in Virgil Thomson’s Four Saints in Three Acts with the Mark Morris Dance Group at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Apollo in Purcell's Apollo e Dafne for Pocket Opera.
Douglas’s “superb sense of drama” (The New York Times) is as apparent on the concert stage as it is in opera. Highlights include Handel’s Messiah with the Detroit Symphony; Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with the Cathedral Choral Society; Bach’s St. Matthew Passion for the Chicago Bach Project; and Bach’s St. John Passion with Les Talens Lyriques.
Zachary Wilder, Narciso
Zachary Wilder, tenor, has worked with many ensembles on the international stage including the Boston Early Music Festival, Cappella Mediterranea, Festival D'Aix en Provence, Handel & Haydn, Les Arts Florissants, Mercury Ensemble, and Pacific Musicworks. He is a former Gerdine Young Artist at the Opera Theater of Saint Louis, Tanglewood Fellow, Britten-Pears Fellow at Aldeburgh, Lorraine Hunt-Lieberon Fellow at Emmanuel Music, and an Adam's Masterclass Fellow at the Carmel Bach Festival. Favorite roles include Grimoaldo in Händel's Rodelinda, Peter Quint in Britten's Turn of the Screw, Renaud in Lully's Armide, and the Evangelist in Bach's Matthäus-Passion.
Stephen Stubbs, Conductor
After a thirty year career in Europe, musical director and lutenist Stephen Stubbs returned to his native Seattle in 2006. Since then he has established his new production company, Pacific Musicworks, and developed a busy calendar as a guest conductor specializing in baroque opera and oratorio.
With his direction of Stefano Landi's La Morte d'Orfeo at the 1987 Bruges festival, he began his career as opera director and founded the ensemble Tragicomedia. Since 1997 Stephen has codirected the bi-annual Boston Early Music Festival opera and is the permanent artistic codirector. BEMF’s recordings have garnered three Grammy nominations.
Besides his ongoing commitments to Pacific MusicWorks and the Boston Early Music Festival, other engagements have recently taken Stephen to Bilbao’s opera house in Spain to conduct Handels’ Guilio Cesare and Gluck’s Orfeo as well as Handel’s Guilio Cesare in Murcia, Spain. In 2007 he returned to the Netherlands Opera, Amsterdam, where he directed Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo. Following his successful debut conducting the Seattle Symphony Orchestra in 2011, he was invited back in 2012 to conduct the Symphony’s performances of Messiah. He will also debut with the Edmonton Symphony in Messiah this season.
Stephen has an extensive discography as conductor and as a solo lutenist of well over 100 CDs. To cultivate the singers and players of the next generation he founded an early opera course called the Accademia d’Amore in 1997 now in Seattle at the Cornish College of the Arts, and also heads a faculty for early music at Cornish.
James Darrah, Director
Los Angeles based director, production designer and visual artist James Darrah’s recent work includes directing the world premiere of Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen for the tenth anniversary of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, a San Francisco Symphony debut with direction and production design for Ibsen and Grieg's Peer Gynt conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, collaborations with Peter Sellars in staging John Adams’ new The Gospel According to the Other Mary, a short film to accompany Schoenberg’s Book of the Hanging Gardens for the Theater@Boston Court in Los Angeles, and two new productions for Chicago Opera Theater directing, designing and choreographing Handel's Teseo and Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Médée.
He was a resident artist with the Croatian National Theater in direction and design and his theater work ranges from adaptations and new translations of Aeschylus' Oresteia to new productions of the plays of Caryl Churchill. Upcoming projects include a Lincoln Center debut with Handel’s Radamisto for The Juilliard School, a new production of his original performance edition of Handel's Agrippina for Opera Omaha with frequent collaborator and conductor Stephen Stubbs, a debut with Pacific MusicWorks in Seattle directing and choreographing Handel's Semele, Peter Grimes with San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas as well as a new production of Don Giovanni for the Merola Opera Program of San Francisco Opera.
He has taught performance and theater for the Adler Fellowship of San Francisco Opera and directed and designed six new productions for the University of California, Los Angeles including the west coast premiere of Jonathan Dove’s Flight. MFA: UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television where he was the recipient of the George Burns/Gracie Allen Directing Award.
He has been awarded the James Pendleton Foundation Grant and the national Princess Grace Award in Theater.
Michael Sponseller, Principal Accompanist/Continuo
Michael Sponseller is recognized as one of the outstanding American harpsichordists of his generation. A highly diversified career brings him to festivals and concert venues all around in recital, concertosoloist, partner to several of today’s finest musicians, and as an active continuo performer on both harpsichord and organ. He studied at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music with Lisa Goode Crawford with additional studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music, The Hague. In the next few years, he garnered prizes at the International Harpsichord Competitions of Montréal (1999), the International Harpsichord Competition at Bruges (1998, 2001) as well as First Prizes at both the American Bach Soloists and Jurow International Harpsichord Competitions.
Mr. Sponseller appears regularly as harpsichordist and continuo organist with several of American’s finest baroque orchestras and ensembles, such as Bach Collegium San Diego, Les Délices, Aston Magna,Tragicomedia, and the Boston Early Music Festival orchestra and can heard on many recordings from Delos, Centaur, Eclectra, and Naxos et al. At home, Michael is a regular presence at Boston’s Emmanuel Music, having performed over 100 sacred cantatas.His various recordings include a diverse list of composers, including Bach, Handel, Rameau, Praetorius and Laurenti received excellent reviews throughout the world. Early Musica America Magazine has said of his performance of the Bach Concertos, “His well-proportaioned elegance carries the day quite stylishly.” He currently is Artistic Director for Ensemble Florilege. He has been on faculty at Longy School of Music, and joined the faculty at Oberlin’s Baroque Performance Institute in 2013.
David Morris, Continuo Cellist
David Morris is a member of The King’s Noyse, the Galax Quartet, Quicksilver and the New York State Baroque Ensemble He has performed with Musica Pacifica, the Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra, Tragicomedia, Tafelmusik, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, American Bach Soloists, Musica Angelica, Seattle Baroque Orchestra, the Mark Morris Dance Company and Seattle's Pacific Musicworks. He was the founder and musical director of the Bay Area baroque opera ensemble Teatro Bacchino, and has produced operas for the Berkeley Early Music Festival and the San Francisco Early Music Society series. Mr. Morris received his B.A. and M.A. in Music from U.C. Berkeley, and has been a guest instructor in early music performance-practice at UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Mills College, Oberlin College, the Madison Early Music Festival and Cornell University. He has recorded for Harmonia Mundi, New Albion, Dorian, New World Records, Drag City Records and New Line Cinema.
Sarah Schuessler, Costume Designer
Sarah Schuessler is a Los Angeles-based costume designer who, after graduating from USC's School of Theatre, went on to earn her Master of Fine Arts degree in costume design from UCLA's School of Theater, Film, and Television.
She has returned to design at both UCLA and USC, in addition to styling commercials and working in film and television. Most recently she is a member of the costume department on HBO’s The Newsroom. She is proud to include the world premiere of Ray Bradbury's operetta Wisdom 2116 and the world premiere of Oliver Mayer's Fortune is a Woman among her professional credits.
She is thrilled to design Agrippina for a second time, reteaming with director James Darrah after UCLA’s production. Additional opera credits include the US West Coast premiere of Jonathan Dove's Flight, Dido and Aeneas, La tragédie de Carmen, L’Enfant et les sortilèges, Amahl and the Night Visitors, as well as a staging of the oratorio L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato.
Cameron Mock, Scenic and Lighting Designer
Cameron Jaye Mock's recent work, hailed by the Los Angeles Times as "lyrical expression...in superb scenic and lighting design" includes a multi-year long project with the Latino Theater Company and Los Angeles Theater Center creating lighting and projections for Charity and Hope, as well as lights, sets, and projections for Faith, each a part of The Mexican Trilogy. Opera credits include designing scenery and lighting for Dialogues des Carmélites, lighting for productions of L'incoronazione di Poppea, the US West Coast premiere of Jonathan Dove's Flight, Dido and Aeneas,Giasone, Peter Brooks’ adaptation of Bizet with La tragédie de Carmen, L’ Enfant et les Sortileges, The Golden Vanity, All the King's Men, Berkeley Opera’s L’ Elisir D’ Amore, as well as a staging of the oratorio L'Allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato. Most recently, Mr. Mock was associate production designer and lighting designer for San Francisco Symphony's staging of Peer Gynt at Davies Symphony Hall. Other recent productions include lighting The Screens andRed Noses, projections for Urinetown at La Verne Theater, lighting and scenery for the movement pieces Frozen Music/ Pink Noise at Human Resources and Skin! for the Bare Dance Company. He received his MFA from the UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television.
Adam Larsen, Video and Projections Designer
Adam Larsen is a filmmaker and projection designer. He has designed nearly 100 productions both on and off Broadway, including: Hal Prince’s LoveMusik (Broadway); The Gospel at Colonus (Athens, Edinburgh and Spoleto Festivals); The Wind Up Bird Chronicle (Singapore and Edinburgh Festival); Brief Encounters and My Fair Lady (Shaw Festival); The Women of Brewster Place (Alliance / Arena Stage); Christmas Carol 1941, Light in the Piazza and The Book Club Play (Arena Stage); Ghost Brothers of Darkland County (Alliance Theatre); big (Atlanta Ballet); Love Lies Bleeding, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy and Balletlujah (Alberta Ballet); From the House of the Dead (Canadian Opera); Lily Plants a Garden (Mark Taper); Maa (Atlanta Symphony / GloAtl); Quartet (Aspen Santa Fe Ballet); Seed (Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet); Second Hand (New World Symphony); Black Whole (Black Mountain College Museum & Arts Center / Moog Music); Le Martyre de St Sebastien and Peer Gynt (San Francisco Symphony). Adam holds a B.F.A. in cinematography from N.C. School of the Arts. His documentary about autism entitled Neurotypical will air on the PBS series POV in July.
Emily MacDonald, Scenic and Properties Designer
Emily MacDonald has most recently designed scenery and properties for Peter Kazaras’ productions of Il segreto di Susanna and L’Enfant et les Sortileges. She is currently in production as director and designer of a staging of Schubert’s Winterreise. Other productions include, The Adding Machine with director J.Ed Araiza, The Ginger Man and The Psychic Life of Savages with Angela Scott, Forgotten World with Shirley Jo Finney, As We Grow Down for the Dorn Dance Company, and O.P.C. with activist Eve Ensler. She is an active painter, printmaker, and sculptor, having been a resident artist at Burren College of Art in County Clare, Ireland and at Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, California. She holds a degree in Studio Art from Mills College and a MFA from the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television.