Opera Warhorses

An appreciation and analysis of the 'Standard Repertory' of opera

Opera Warhorses random header image

Popular Opera Offerings in Southwestern Vacation Destinations – March-September, 2014

February 7th, 2014

This feature highlights selected performances of three popular operas and a musical being performed between March and September 2014, each in a popular vacation area of the Southwestern United States.

This supplements my other lists of highlighted performances in California during this period:

These include performances of Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor” in Los Angeles in March 2014 [See Coast to Coast Selections of Donizetti Operas – Mid-October 2013 to Mid-March 2014];

 Verdi’s “La Traviata” and Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly”  in San Francisco in June and July, 1014 [See In Quest of Italian Opera Core Repertory Masterpieces in the American Southwest, January, June 2014.]


A Masked Ball – Un Ballo in Maschera  (Verdi), San Diego Opera, March 8, 12, 14 and 16(m), 2014.

San Diego Opera has assembled a stellar cast for Verdi’s melody-filled opera, based, in part, on the assassination of Sweden’s King Gustav III at a masked ball. A stellar international cast, of the caliber of a European festival, has been assembled for the four performances, led by Polish tenor Piotr Beczala as Gustavo.

[Below: Polish tenor Piotr Beczala is Gustavo; resized image of a publicity photograph.]


Beczala is joined by Bulgarian soprano Krassimira Stoyanova as Amelia, Greek baritone Aris Argiris in his North American debut as Anckarstroem, American mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe as Madame Arvidson and American soprano Kathleen Kim as Oscar. Massimo Zanetti conducts.

For my reviews of previous Piotr Beczala performances, see: The Magic Scarfe: “Zauberfloete” in San Francisco – October 13, 2007  and The Luisotti “Boheme” in San Francisco – November 22, 2008.

For my performance review, see: A Star-bright “Ballo in Maschera” – San Diego Opera, March 8, 2014.


Show Boat (Kern), San Francisco Opera, June 1 (m), 3, 10, 13, 19, 22(m), 26, 28, July 1(m) and 2, 2014.

Francesca Zambello’s attractive production of this most enduring of early 20th century Broadway musicals stars Michael Todd Simpson as the gambler Gaylord Ravenal, Heidi Stober as Magnolia Hanks, and Patricia Racette as Julie La Verne.

Morris Robinson and Angela Renee Simpson repeat their roles from the production’s Lyric Opera premiere as Joe and Queenie.

[Below: Morris Robinson as Joe with a crew of men on a Mississippi River levee; edited image, based on a Cory Weaver photograph, courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.]


Zambello’s brilliant production graced by Peter Davison’s colorful sets provides a lush setting for the eternal standard hit songs with Jerome Kern’s music and Oscar Hammerstein’s lyrics.  Simpson’s Gaylord and Stober’s Magnolia sing Make Believe, Robinson’s Joe sings Ol’ Man River and Racette’s Julie sings Can’t Help Lovin That Man of Mine.

Maestro John DeMain, arguably America’s leading conductor of the classic American musicals wields his baton.

For my reviews of performances by Michael Todd Simpson, see: Bel Canto “Cosi fan Tutte” at Dallas Opera – February 18, 2010 and Costa-Jackson, Diegel, Matanovic and Simpson Excel in Glimmerglass Opera’s “Carmen” – August 13, 2011.

For my reviews of recent performances by Patricia Racette, see: World Treasure: Carsen’s Magnificent “Mefistofele” Returns to San Francisco Opera – September 6, 2013 and World Premiere Review: Patricia Racette’s Gritty “Dolores Claiborne” at San Francisco Opera – September 18, 2013

For my review of the production’s premiere, see: Team Zambello Shows off “Show Boat” to Chicago’s Lyric Opera – March 14, 2012.

For my performance review, see: Aboard San Francisco Opera’s “Show Boat”: Showy Cast, Abundant Show-stoppers – June 1, 2014.


Carmen (Bizet), Santa Fe Opera, June 27, July 2, 5, 11, 18, 28, August 2, 6, 11, 16, 20 and 23, 2014.

Stage director Stephen Lawless returns to the Santa Fe Opera’s 2014 Summer Festival, making his contributions to the Santa Fe Opera’s newfound emphasis  on the classics of the French operatic repertory.

Having staged the second most popular French opera, Gounod’s “Faust” [see Santa Fe Opera Gets Gounod At Last: Hymel, Perez Soar in Spectacular New Production of “Faust” – July 1, 2011], Lawless directs the new production of the world’s most-loved French opera, Bizet’s “Carmen”. The sets are by his frequent collaborator Belgian scenic designer Benoit Dugardyn.

[Below: Escamillo (Kostas Smoriginas, center, on dais) entertains the crowd at Lillas Pastias’ tavern; edited image, based on a Ken Howard photograph, courtesy of the Santa Fe Opera.]


Two mezzo-sopranos divide the season in the title role, Argentina’s Daniela Mack and Puerto Rico’s Ana Maria Martinez, Mack through July 18th and Martinez from July 28th on.

The remaining cast are set for all performances. Italian tenor Roberto De Biasio is Don Jose, Lebanese soprano Joyce El-Khoury is Micaela, Greek baritone Kostas Smoriginas is Escamillo. The Scottish conductor Rory MacDonald leads the musical performance.

For the 2011 “Faust”, remarkably the first performances of any Gounod opera in the history of Santa Fe Opera, Lawless and British choreographer Nicola Bowie cleverly integrated the not often performed “Faust”  ballet into the updated settings. Bowie will be back for “Carmen” promising circus clowns and a collaboration with acrobatic troupe Wise Fool New Mexico.

For my performance review, see: Review: Stephen Lawless’ Creative New “Carmen” Production Opens 2014 Santa Fe Opera Season – June 27, 2014.


La Traviata (Verdi), Los Angeles Opera, September 13, 17, 21(m), 23, 26 and 28(m), 2014.

Marta Domingo’s jazz age update of Verdi’s “La Traviata” returns to Los Angeles. The young lovers are Nino Machaidze (Republic of Georgia) as Violetta and Mexican tenor Arturo Chacon-Cruz as Alfredo.

[Below: Nino Machaidze (left) as Violetta Placido Domingo (right, in dark) as Giorgio Germont in Verdi’s “La Traviata”; edited image of a Craig Mathews photograph courtesy of the Los Angeles Opera.]

LA Opera - LA Traviata Piano Dress #2 Photo by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging

The revival is a vehicle for Los Angeles Opera General Director Placido Domingo’s Alfredo Germont, one of the legendary artist’s late career baritone roles, not yet performed in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Opera’s Music Director James Conlon, a superstar in his own right, conducts.

For my perfromance review, see: Review: Nino Machaidze and the Domingos (Placido and Marta) Create a Memorable “La Traviata” – Los Angeles Opera, September 13, 2014.

For my reviews of performances of Nino Machaidze, see: Los Angeles Opera’s Magic Potion: Nino Machaidze in “L’Elisir d’Amore” – September 12, 2009 and Partying in L. A.: Machaidze, Gavanelli Romp in All-Star “Turco in Italia” – Los Angeles Opera, February 19, 2011 and Vittorio Grigolo, Nino Machaidze Sublime in Ian Judge’s Romantic, Erotic “Romeo et Juliette” – Los Angeles Opera, November 9, 2011.

For my review of an Arturo Chacon-Cruz performance, see: Vratogna, Shagimuratova, Chacon-Cruz, Luisotti: “Rigoletto” Magnifico – San Francisco Opera, September 8, 2012.

For my review of Marta Domingo’s production, see: Runnicles’ Conducting, Netrebko’s Glamorous Violetta Inspire San Francisco Opera “Traviata” – June 28, 2009.

Tags: Quests and Anticipations