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Arizona Opera Announces Its 2019/20 Season

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

A riveting line-up—including the highly-anticipated return of the company’s first world premiere—and the announcement of its second world premiere commission Phoenix, AZ

Arizona Opera is thrilled to announce its production line-up and casting for the 2019/20 Season, delivering thought-provoking new works, beloved classic operas, and the revival of an immensely popular modern masterwork premiered by Arizona Opera. The reveal of the 2019/20 Season is accompanied by the exciting announcement of Arizona Opera’s commissioning of its second world premiere.

The company will mark the second presentation of the McDougall Arizona Opera RED Series, which, in its first season, performed to ninety percent-full houses in both Phoenix and Tucson, and where twenty percent of the audience was new to attending Arizona Opera. In the fall of 2019, the McDougall RED Series will open in Phoenix at the Herberger Theater Center on Friday, September 27, and at the Temple of Music and Art in Tucson on Saturday, October 5, with the world premiere of the “Taliesin West Version” of Daron Hagen and Paul Muldoon’s Shining Brow, exploring the tempestuous life of Frank Lloyd Wright, in a beautiful new production created for Arizona Opera; followed by the company’s premiere of Gregory Spears and Greg Pierce’s acclaimed Fellow Travelers, a tale of forbidden love during the Lavender Scare of the 1950s.

Following the McDougall RED Series will be the company’s Main Stage Series, which begins Friday, January 24, 2020 in Phoenix at Symphony Hall, and Saturday, February 1, at Tucson Music Hall. The Main Stage Series will feature two beloved works from the classic repertoire—Puccini’s La Bohème and Strauss’ delightfully beautiful comedy Ariadne auf Naxos in its first Arizona Opera performance in more than 25 years—as well as the highly-anticipated return of Craig Bohmler and Steven Mark Kohn’s Riders of the Purple Sage. Riders, Arizona Opera’s first world premiere, will once again feature the stunning scenic work of celebrated painter, Ed Mell, in the Marlu Allan and Scott Stallard Modern Masterworks Series.

“We couldn’t be more excited about the public response to our inaugural McDougall RED Series, how it has captivated new audiences, and how it has brought new work to die-hard opera goers that are seeking new adventures,” said Joseph Specter, President and General Director. “We are also grateful for the talented artists eager to bring these powerful and impactful stories to life on our stage for the benefit of the Arizona communities we serve.”

2019/20 McDougall Arizona Opera RED Series

The 2019/20 Season will open with the McDougall RED Series on September 27-29 in Phoenix at the Herberger Theater Center, and on October 5 and 6 at the Temple of Music and Art in Tucson, with Shining Brow (Composer Daron Hagen; Librettist Paul Muldoon), in a new “Taliesin West Version” of the opera, tailor-made for the McDougall RED Series by the composer. From 1903 to 1914, the early life of visionary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright was anything but conventional. Shining Brow, the translation of the Welsh “Taliesin,” was the name that Wright—played by both John Moore (Metropolitan Opera, Seattle Opera, Glyndebourne) and Marion Roose Pullin Studio Artist Rob McGinness (Washington National Opera, PROTOTYPE Festival)—gave to his homes in Wisconsin and Arizona, and where his life took a unique and devastating turn. An affair with a client’s wife, complicated relationships, murders, and a devastating fire at Taliesin drove Wright’s passion and determination to rebuild his life in this compelling and surprising tale. Composed by Daron Hagen and set in a new production directed by Chas Rader-Shieber with sets and costumes by Jacob A. Climer, this production of Shining Brow will be created specially—both musically and dramatically—for Arizona Opera audiences. This new work will be conducted by Lidiya Yankovskaya, the Music Director of Chicago Opera Theater and the only woman to hold that title in a multimillion-dollar US opera company. Portraying Mamah Cheney, American soprano and former Marion Roose Pullin Studio Artist Laura Wilde (Lyric Opera of Chicago, Dallas Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis) returns to the Arizona Opera stage, praised by Opera News as having, “a ravishingly beautiful sound, [and] a fine sense of style and character.” Edwin Cheney is played by Michael Adams (Grand Teatre del Liceu, Washington National Opera, Glimmerglass Festival), and the characters of Louis Sullivan, Catherine Wright, and The Maid are played by Marion Roose Pullin Studio Artists Bille Bruley, Katherine Beck and Cadie Jordan, respectively.

The McDougall RED Series continues November 9-11 in Phoenix and November 16 and 17 in Tucson with the Arizona premiere of Fellow Travelers (Composer Gregory Spears; Librettist Greg Pierce), described by the Chicago Tribune as “One of the most accomplished new American operas.” During the McCarthy-era Lavender Scare, communists weren’t the only government targets. Hostility directed toward abolishing “homosexual tendencies” in the government created a world of fear and shame. Fellow Travelers tells the story of a chance encounter between ambitious college graduate Timothy Laughlin, played by Jonas Hacker (Lyric Opera of Chicago, Wolf Trap Opera) and handsome US State Department official Hawkins Fuller, played by former Marion Roose Pullin Studio Artist Joseph Lattanzi (Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago), the critically-acclaimed baritone who created this role in its world premiere at Cincinnati Opera in 2016. The first encounter of these characters results in Laughlin’s first job—and his first love affair. Drawn into a maelstrom of passion and deceit, he struggles to reconcile his political convictions and his “forbidden” love for Fuller. The powerfully compelling production is an ode to the importance of being one’s self and the bravery it takes to stand up to oppression. This moving tale is based on the 2007 novel of the same name by Thomas Mallon, and is conducted by Daniela Candillari, directed by Marcus Shields, and features a strong cast that includes Marcus Deloach as Senator Joseph McCarthy, and Marion Roose Pullin Studio Artist Katherine Beck as Mary Johnson.

2019/20 Arizona Opera Main Stage Series

Beginning January 24-26, 2020 in Phoenix at Symphony Hall and February 1 and 2 at Tucson Music Hall, Puccini’s beloved classic La Bohème returns after a six-year absence. To be an aspiring artist in 1830s Paris was to be poor—but happy. When Mimì—portrayed by renowned sopranos Ellie Dehn (San Francisco Opera, Metropolitan Opera) and Julie Adams (San Francisco Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre)— enters the poet Rodolfo’s apartment in search of a flame to light her candle, the pair ignite a romance that burns brilliantly through the ages. The passion and struggle of Rodolfo—played by Mario Chang (Metropolitan Opera, LA Opera, 2014 Winner of Plácido Domingo’s “Operalia” international opera competition) and Yongzhao Yu (Houston Grand Opera, Wolf Trap Opera)—and his fellow bohemians come to life in Puccini’s timeless masterpiece, one of opera’s most popular and engaging stories. La Bohème will thrill you with its sweeping melodies and its dramatic love story. Conducted by Christopher Allen and directed by David Paul, the strong ensemble cast includes Joo Won Kang (Figaro in last season’s The Barber of Seville) and Octavio Moreno (last seen in AZO’s 2014 mariachi opera Cruzar la Cara de la Luna) sharing the role of Marcello; Marion Roose Pullin Studio Artists Kaitlyn Johnson and Cadie Jordan sharing the role of Musetta; Marion Roose Pullin Studio Artists Brandon Morales and Rob McGinness appear as Colline and Schaunard, respectively; and Jake Gardner portrays Alcindoro/Benoit.

Back by popular demand, this season brings the revival of the immensely popular Riders of Purple Sage, part of the Marlu Allan and Scott Stallard Modern Masterworks Series. Taking place in Phoenix on February 28-March 1, 2020, and in Tucson March 7 and 8, Arizona Opera’s first commission, which made its world premiere to sold-out crowds in 2017, is making its hugely-anticipated return. Riders of the Purple Sage, composed by Arizona resident Craig Bohmler, with an adaptation by Steven Mark Kohn of Zane Grey’s classic of the same name, tells a powerful story of strength and redemption through love, loss, conflict and adventure. The breathtaking Southwest vistas of Riders are brought magnificently to life by world-renowned Arizona artist, Ed Mell, vividly displayed with the return of Arizona Opera’s state-of-the-art 1,300-square foot LED video wall. The role of Jane Withersteen will be shared by Caitlyn Lynch (English National Opera, Seattle Opera) and Marion Roose Pullin Studio Artist Kaitlyn Johnson, with the Arizona Opera stage debuts of Thomas Glass (Houston Grand Opera, Wolf Trap Opera), and Christian Bowers (Washington National Opera, Utah Opera) both playing “the man in black”, Lassiter.

Returning to Riders from the premiere production are conductor Joseph Mechavich, stage director Fenlon Lamb, Keith Phares as Elder Tull, as well as Joshua Dennis as Bern Venters—a role he will share with Marion Roose Pullin Studio Artist Bille Bruley. Marion Roose Pullin Studio Artist soprano Cadie Jordan will portray the role of Bess, the “Masked Rider.”

“That we are bringing back Arizona Opera’s first world premiere opera, the awesomely received Riders of the Purple Sage, is a testament to the openness of our audience to new and electrifying works,” said John Johnson, Arizona Opera Board Chair. “With the anticipation that our second world premier will be presented in the 2020/21 Season, not only is Arizona home for great opera, it is home for new, thought-provoking and innovative works and productions.”

The Main Stage Series concludes with Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos—comedy becomes divine, in Phoenix April 3-5, 2020 and in Tucson April 11 and 12.

A wealthy patron has commissioned two pieces of entertainment for a private dinner party: an opera based on the Greek myth of “Ariadne in exile,” and a capering troupe of commedia players for amusement. The catch: the two acts must perform simultaneously! The result is a delightful comedy of errors, as Ariadne auf Naxos delivers a deliciously theatrical mix of humor and exceptionally beautiful music, bringing surprise and delight at every possible turn. Conducted by Arizona Opera favorite Steven White and directed by Chuck Hudson, a prodigy of Marcel Marceau, the delightful and sublime Ariadne is shared by the internationally-renowned soprano Rebecca Nash (Seattle Opera, winner of the inaugural Dame Joan Sutherland Singing Award—Australia’s highest honor in singing) who critics describe as a “passionate singing actor with a voice of considerable heft and power” and the gifted Felicia Moore (Palm Beach Opera, Opera Columbus). Returning to the Arizona Opera stage as the Composer is Jennifer Johnson Cano, who has sung more than 100 performances at The Metropolitan Opera, and is noted for her commanding stage presence and profound artistry. Other artists returning to the Arizona Opera stage are Mark Schnaible (Music Teacher), Rodell Rosel (Dancing Master) along with former Marion Roose Pullin Studio Artist Katrina Galka, sharing the role of Zerbinetta with Nicole Haslett. The cast is rounded out by Corey Bix as Bacchus, and features all of the 2019/20 Arizona Opera Marion Roose Pullin Studio Artists.

Arizona Opera’s Next World Premiere Commission

In addition to the return of Arizona Opera’s first world premiere to its stage in the 2019/20 Season, the company is thrilled to announce the full commission of its next world premiere, The Copper Queen, which will open the McDougall RED Series in the 2020/21 Season. Created by composer Clint Borzoni and librettist John de los Santos, the development of The Copper Queen took place within Arizona Opera’s unique Spark Commissioning Club. The Copper Queen, inspired by real places and legends at the hotel of the same name, tells the 1910 story of Julia Lowell, a "lady of the evening," who uses Room 315 of The Copper Queen Hotel in the famed mining town of Bisbee, Arizona, to serve her clients. Following her untimely death, her spirit is unable to leave the room, and the legend of her ghostly exploits gains infamy. As the years pass, ghost hunters and supernatural enthusiasts clamor to stay for a night in Room 315, desperate for a glimpse of the infamous Julia. While the men who stay at The Copper Queen Hotel experience little other than the faint scent of perfume or the echo of a lady's sigh, women who stay in the room run into trouble. In 2010, Addison Moore is one such woman. She comes to stay in Room 315 carrying much more than physical baggage, but also a secret that has traveled through the century since Julia’s death. Flickering lights, mysteriously broken objects, and an overwhelming atmosphere of menace aren’t the only things that await Addison during one of the most harrowing nights of her life—alone with the ghost of The Copper Queen. More information about Arizona Opera’s second commission, to make its world premiere in the fall of 2020, will be announced over the course of the coming year.

Marion Roose Pullin Studio Artists

In addition to McDougall RED Series and Main Stage Series lineup, Arizona Opera is excited to introduce its Marion Roose Pullin Studio Artists for the 2019/20 Season. In residence all season, Studio Artists can be seen performing on both our main stage and throughout Arizona. The Studio also provides well-rounded, personalized instruction that propels each artist to the next level, bridging the gap between academic studies and a professional opera career. Returning for a second season to the Marion Roose Pullin Arizona Opera Studio are Soprano Cadie Jordan, a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana who completed a Master’s degree in Vocal Performance from Indiana University; soprano Kaitlyn Johnson, a graduate of the Shepherd School of Music of Rice University and Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music; originally from Vermont, mezzo-soprano Katherine Beck recently won first prize in the Mildred Miller International Vocal Competition in Pittsburgh in October 2018 and will be an apprentice artist at Santa Fe Opera this summer of 2019; tenor Bille Bruley hails from Montgomery, Texas and is a recent graduate of the prestigious Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and a recipient of the 2018 Sullivan Foundation Grant; bass-baritone Brandon Morales has performed all over the US from Portland Opera to Virginia Opera; rounding out the residencies are first year Studio Artists: baritone Rob McGinness, a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory and the Peabody Institute, who will be making his Kennedy Center solo debut later this year with The Washington Chorus; and collaborative pianist Robert Bosworth from Salt Lake City, who has a Master’s degree in Vocal Accompanying from the Manhattan School of Music, and currently serves as the pianist for Utah Opera’s Resident Artist program.

Major institutional support for Arizona Opera’s 2019/20 Season is provided by the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust. Additional institutional support of the McDougall RED Series is generously provided by the Flinn Foundation. This production of Riders of the Purple Sage is made possible, in part, through generous support by Jennifer E. and Charles F. Sands; and this production of Ariadne auf Naxos is made possible, in part, through generous support by Ole and Teri Thienhaus.

About Arizona Opera

Founded in 1971, Arizona Opera elevates the transformative power of storytelling through music. Since its inaugural year, Arizona Opera has produced more than 170 fully-staged operas and concerts. The company’s artistic history is rich with a blend of opera’s traditional repertoire featuring baroque, bel canto, and verismo works, turn-of-the-century masterpieces, operettas, and contemporary operas. On stage, Arizona Opera presents artists of both international stature and emerging talent, and each season balances debut artists, Studio Artists, and the return of favorite performers. In addition to producing five operas each year that perform in both Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona Opera offers in-school touring productions and numerous outreach events for children and adults of all ages. # # #