Thursday, October 11, 2012

10 reasons to love Opera around Roanoke this fall

While we are still savoring the fond memories of our first-ever Wagner production in Roanoke (see below), we have many more reasons to celebrate opera this fall.

Here's a list of 10 things I'm looking forward to over the remaining 10 weeks of 2012.

1. The Met "Live in HD" kicks off this Saturday, October 13 with Donizetti's delightful comedy, L'Elisir d'Amore (The Elixir of Love). The quartet of stars are among opera's brightest. Anna Netrebko & Matthew Polenzani have received rave reviews for their portrayals of the young lovers. Come early to the Whitman Theatre at Virginia Western Community College for a FREE LUNCH provided by our good friends at McAlister's Deli. I'll introduce the season and the production at 12:30, prior to the 12:55 curtain.

2. Our original series of music & art programs, "Listening to Paintings" (L2P is our version 2.0 shorthand) continues at the Taubman Museum of Art October 20 at 1 pm. I'll be pairing vocal solos and poetry with the Taubmnan's new exhibits and holdings from their permanent collection.

(Here's a picture from our last collaboration featuring a Flying Dutchman - inspired craft made in ArtVenture on a Spectacular Saturday in September.)

3. Don't miss the Met "Live in HD" broadcast of Verdi's great Shakespearean drama Otello, October 27. This one features the beloved American soprano Renee Fleming as the tragic heroine Desdemona opposite the South African tenor Johann Botha's interpretation of Shakespeare's Moor. Botha is one of the most exciting dramatic tenors of our time, and his voice is as beautiful as it is powerful.

4. Speaking of Verdi, the next installment of our Verdi-inspired "Joe Green" Tree Project continues November 1 at 1 pm at Patrick Henry High School. Verdi planted a tree for each of his operas, and beginning with our new production of Il Trovatore last fall, we launched this project. The "Joe Green" (Giuseppe Verdi in English) project is another way Opera Roanoke demonstrates our commitment to enhancing the quality of life in our community.

5. Our newest series of programs, The Masques of Orpheus launches Nov 2 at The Jacksonville Center for the Arts in Floyd (7:30 pm). Inspired by the original Greek bard, Orpheus - he of the lyre (or lute) - this series of scenes programs will add dance and poetry to the music and theatre to form an innovative and engaging program of entertainment. Our dynamic young Apprentice Artists will join me for a Halloween-themed program called "Tempests, Ghosts & Mad Queens."

6. "Tempests, Ghosts & Mad Queens" appears in Roanoke at the Waldron Stage of our home at Center on Church November 4 at 7 pm. If you're unable to make it to Floyd, be sure to catch this original evening of music, theater, dance & poetry. Rumor has it Edgar Allan Poe himself will host an evening featuring arias, duets and scenes from The Magic Flute, Bernstein's Candide and Sondheim's Sweeney Todd.

We'll also feature a cappella songs from Shakespeare's The Tempest by Ralph Vaughan Williams, and present a world premiere performance of a piece written by Apprentice Artist James Lego. His setting of "Be Not Afeard" from The Tempest is for 6 female voices and piano, and its harmonies are "rich and strange" as the noise-filled Isle where Shakespeare set one of his greatest dramas.

7. And that great drama happens to be the next entry in the Met "Live in HD" series. The exciting young British composer Thomas Adés will conduct his operatic version of The Tempest November 10. Don't miss this brilliant new opera featuring the great baritone Simon Keenlyside as the mystical sorcerer Prospero. Adés, like many a creative genius, invigorates the tradition within which he works by honoring it with originality. That is to say, while the music of The Tempest is decidedly modern, he pays tribute to the centuries-old tradition of opera with recognizable arias, duets and ensembles sung by characters immediate in their appeal to us.

8. After singing and conducting, my favorite performance-related pastime is lecturing. I'll be presenting a short history of opera called "Orpheus through the Ages" to the Athenian society of Roanoke November 15 at WDBJ7. I'll talk about the ancient myths that inspired the development of the original form of musical theatre and share examples from 4 centuries of operatic tradition. I never tire of sharing my passion for this powerful form of live musical drama.

9. If you love the Met "Live in HD" series then December will be full of operatic presents. On three successive Saturdays great dramas come to the Met's stage. December 1 brings Mozart's La Clememza di Tito, another ancient drama re-imagined by one of opera's greatest composers. Written in the last year of his life, Tito is not as popular as the late operas that bookend it, Cosi fan Tutte and The Magic Flute. It is every bit as inspired and is a favorite among Mozartians everywhere.

December 8 brings a new production of Verdi's middle-period masterpiece, Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball). One of the Verdi greats we hope to bring to our Roanoke audiences in a near-future season, this opera has everything we love about Verdi. Fully-drawn, complex human characters, intrigue, drama and passion are brought to life with Verdi's searing melodies and rich harmonies. If you don't know this opera, don't miss this broadcast.

December 15 winds up the fall season of broadcasts with one of opera's most popular stories, Aida. This is grand opera MAX and is Verdi at his best, overlapping sweeping historical and political drama with the intimate dramas of personal relationships, loyalty and love. Come see the music come to life in the famous "Triumphal March" replete with elephants and everything but the kitchen sink. Or come hear the drama of one of opera's greatest love triangles, as the rival Princesses Amneris and Aida vie for the love of the tragic hero, Radames.

10. Lastly, if you want to hear the most popular oratorio of the holiday season, Handel's Messiah, Steven White will be conducting members of the RSO and the Roanoke College Choirs December 16 at the Jefferson Center. Yours truly will be the tenor soloist, and I believe this will be a special afternoon of a beloved masterwork.

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