The Chautauqua Opera Company’s 2016 season, the first under Steven Osgood as general/artistic director, mixes traditional repertoire with new multi-year initiatives.
The Chautauqua Opera Company’s 2016 season will include mainstage productions of Giuseppe Verdi’s beloved opera La Traviata in the Amphitheater (July 9), directed by Keturah Stickann, and Gilbert and Sullivan’s comedic gem The Mikado in Norton Hall (July 29 and August 1), directed by Ned Canty.
In addition, Chautauqua Opera will introduce two new initiatives this season: a Composer in Residence Program and a series of outdoor mini-operatic events titled “Pocket Parks Opera Invasion.” The 2016 season will conclude in Week Six with “Young Artist Week,” shining the spotlight on the work of the talented Chautauqua Opera Young Artists.
The final performance of the season will be a concert performance of Missy Mazzoli’s Song From the Uproar, the Chautauqua Opera Company’s first-ever collaboration with the Logan Chamber Music Series (August 8).
La Traviata, The Mikado, Song From the Uproar
Verdi’s La Traviata will have one performance only on July 9 in the Chautauqua Amphitheater. Stage director and choreographer Keturah Stickann will bring her dynamic direction to a new production of this timeless, majestic opera. Stickann’s breadth of work spans from traditional repertoire, most recently Macbeth at Kentucky Opera and Madama Butterfly at Opera Colorado, to the world premieres of Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain and Jake Heggie’s Moby Dick.
“La Traviata has the lyric beauty, the dramatic heft, the love, the passion, the anger … those big human emotions that opera can capture so uniquely. For many of us this piece was how we fell in love with opera,” Osgood said. “The Amphitheater offers us the opportunity to bring opera to thousands of audience members, many of whom will be attending their very first opera. La Traviata is the perfect piece for us to share in this very special venue.”
Gilbert and Sullivan’s hilarious and zany operetta The Mikado will light up Norton Hall for two performances on July 29 and August 1. The Chautauqua Opera Company will present a modern manga-infused reimagining of this well-loved opera, directed and conceived by Ned Canty. Described by The New York Times as having “a startling combination of sensitivity and panache,” Canty has been the general director of Opera Memphis since 2011. He has directed at venues across the country, such as Glimmerglass Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Santa Fe Opera and New York City Opera, and is known for his innovation and his passion for introducing new audiences to opera.
Canty’s Mikado, which received rave reviews in St. Louis and Memphis, infuses the operetta with references to modern Japanese animation, fashion and pop culture, including anime, manga and Hello Kitty. This colorful and spectacular production is sure to delight and engage opera audiences of all generations.
Song From the Uproar
On August 8, the Chautauqua Opera Company will present a concert performance of Missy Mazzoli’s chamber opera Song From the Uproar: The Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt in collaboration with the Logan Chamber Music Series. At only 32, Mazzoli, called “Brooklyn’s post-millennial Mozart” by Time Out New York, has had her music performed all over the world by the Kronos Quartet, eighth blackbird, New York City Opera, the Minnesota Orchestra and many others. Her newest opera Breaking the Waves, based on the 1996 film by Lars von Trier, will premiere at Opera Philadelphia in 2016.
Song from the Uproar is inspired by the life and writings of the 19th-century Swiss adventuress Isabelle Eberhardt who, at the age of 20, traveled by herself to North Africa, where she dressed as a man, joined an all-male Sufi sect, married an Algerian soldier and was drowned in a flash flood at the age of 27. Weaving together voice, live chamber music, electronics and film created by Stephen Taylor, the piece has been praised as “powerful and new” (The Wall Street Journal), “an earnest, enveloping meditation” (The New York Times) and “eclectic, hauntingly lyrical and full of surprises” (I Care if You Listen). Premiered by Beth Morrison Productions and presented by LA Opera in October 2015, Song From the Uproar was written for mezzo-soprano Abigail Fischer and NOW Ensemble, who will perform the work this summer along with five Chautauqua Opera Young Artists.
Composer in Residence Program, Pocket Parks Opera Invasion
Composer in Residence Program
2016 marks the beginning of a collaboration between the Chautauqua Opera Company and New York City’s American Opera Projects (AOP). Each year the Chautauqua Opera Company will invite a participant from AOP’s prestigious Composers and the Voice Fellowship Program to join the company for the entire season. American Opera Projects will commission three new pieces from the composer, each of which will be premiered as part of Chautauqua Opera’s 2016 season, by members of its Young Artist Program. With texts drawn from and inspired by lecturers and speakers at the Chautauqua Institution, these new works will first appear on the Artsongs in the Afternoon recital series and the Opera Highlights concert.
“When an audience knows the creator, they become immediately invested in his or her creations,” Osgood said. “This is the kind of relationship I see being forged throughout the opera community nationwide, and I look forward to sharing it with CHQ.”
For its inaugural season, the Chautauqua Opera Company announces Jeremy Gill as the Composer in Residence. Described as “vividly colored” (The New York Times) and “exhilarating” (The Philadelphia Inquirer), the music of Jeremy Gill is remarkable for its breadth and diversity, from opera through major solo works. His recent works include an oboe concerto for Dallas Symphony principal oboe Erin Hannigan, a piano concerto/choral work for pianist Ching-Yun Hu and the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, and Capriccio, an hour-long string quartet for the Grammy-winning Parker Quartet.
Pocket Parks Opera Invasion
The second new initiative introduced by Osgood will be a series of mini-operatic events taking place in each of the 28 “pocket parks” on the Chautauqua Institution grounds. Throughout Weeks One through Six, the company will share the thrill of the unamplified voice within the community where people are working and walking.
“We want to excite people about what opera is and how it relates to their daily lives,” Osgood said.
These performances will be wide-ranging in tone and content — some serious, some silly, some unexpected — all inspired by the geography of the institution and the unique population that makes up the CHQ community. With at least one event each week, the “Opera Invasion” series will provide an inspiring initiation into opera for people of all generations and backgrounds.
Young Artist Performances
Each season, the Chautauqua Opera Company holds auditions for more than 500 applicants from across the nation to select the extraordinary singers who make up the core of the company: the Chautauqua Opera Young Artists. In the 2016 season, Chautauqua Opera will continue to highlight the work of its Young Artists in performances throughout the season, including concerts with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, a music theater revue, an operatic revue for young audiences, a fully staged opera scenes program and the Artsongs in the Afternoon recital series. In addition, the Chautauqua Opera Company’s final week of the 2016 season (Aug. 1 to 8) will be renamed “Young Artist Week” and offer multiple opportunities to see all 26 Young Artists in featured performances.
American Opera Projects Composers and the Voice Fellowship Program
Composers and the Voice is a two-year fellowship for composers and librettists that provides experience writing for the voice and opera stage, created and led by Artistic Director Steven Osgood. The fellowship includes a year of working with the company’s Resident Ensemble of Singers and Artistic Team followed by a year of continued promotion and development through American Opera Projects and its strategic partnerships. Since launching in 2002, C&V has fostered the development of 44 composers and librettists.
At the forefront of the contemporary opera movement for a quarter-century, American Opera Projects creates, develops and presents opera and music theatre projects collaborating with young, rising and established artists in the field. AOP has been a lead producer on over 30 world premieres; recent highlights include Kaminsky/Reed/Campbell’s As One (2014), Lera Auerbach’s The Blind (2013), and the upcoming dance opera Hagoromo at BAM 2015 Next Wave Festival. www.aopopera.org