Opera Warhorses

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

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In Quest of Less Well-Known Operas – February to August, 2015

February 4th, 2015

For those who might worry that fhe operatic companies of the future will  limit themselves to a “safe” nine-opera repertory, consisting of Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro”, “Don Giovanni” and “Magic Flute”, Rossini’s “Barber of Seville”, Verdi’s “La Traviata”, Bizet’s “Carmen”, and Puccini’s “La Boheme”, “Tosca” and “Madama Butterfly”, one can find exotic fare offered by American companies, including rarely performed or less often seen operas at Seattle Opera, Washington National Opera, San Francisco Opera and the Glimmerglass Festival.

This list is the latest edition of the series that began with In Quest of Less Well-Known Operas – July-December, 2014.


This list is supplementary to previous lists in this “Quests and Anticipations” series of selected operas being performed from February 2015 through October, 2015:

Corigliani’s “The Ghosts of  Versailles” at the Los Angeles Opera [See In Quest of Opera Company Performances of American Works – July 2014 to February 2015.]

Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” at the San Diego Opera and Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” at the Los Angeles Opera [See In Quest of the “Da Ponte” Mozart Operas – October 2014-March 2015.]

Verdi’s “Rigoletto” at the Santa Fe Opera [See In Quest of Popular Verdi Operas – October 2014 to Summer 2015.]


Dialogues of the Carmelites (Poulenc); Washington National Opera, February 21, 23, 27, March 5, 8(m) and 10, 2015.

Created for the Opéra National de Paris in celebration of the centennial observance of Francois Poulenc’s birth, the composer’s 1957 psychological drama about a convent of nuns who’re in mortal danger during the French Revolutions Reign of Terror. The production, staged by Francewca Zambello, with curved sets that project the nun’s shadowy existence in a world of tumultuous change.

[Below: the nuns become the prisoners of the forces of the revolution; edited image, based on a Scott Suchmann photograph, courtesy of the Washington National Opera.]


Leah Crocetto, Dolora Zajick and Elizabeth Bishop are the elder nuns, respectively Madame Lidoine, Madame de Croissy and Mother Marie. Layla Claire is Blanche de la Force. Her father is sung by baritone Alan Held; her brother by tenor Shawn Mathey. Ashley Emerson is Sister Constance and Rober Baker the Chaplain. The conductor is Antony Walker, whose interview is posted at Revisiting Conductor Antony Walker at Santa Fe Opera’s “Ranch”.

[For my performance review, see:  Review: Zambello’s Production of Poulenc’s “Dialogues of the Carmelites” at the Kennedy Center – March 8, 2015,]


Semele (Handel); Seattle Opera, February 21, 22(m), 25, 29, March 4, 6 and 7, 2015.

Atlanta Opera’s Tomer Zvulun creates a new production of Handel’s “Semele” for Seattle Opera, with sets and projections by Seattle resident Erhard Rom.

[Below: Jupiter (Alek Shrader, right) has brought Semele (Brenda Rae, left) to a place where they can be alone; edited image of an Elise Bakketun photograph, courtesy of the Seattle Opera.]


With three exceptions, there is one person assigned to each role.  In the same for all seven perormance with three exceptions. For five of the performances Brenda Rae, Alek Shrader and Stephanie Blythe are respectively Semele, Jupiter/Apollo, and Iris/Juno, but for the performances of February 22 and March 6, those three roles are respectively sung by Mary Feminear, Theo Lebow and Deborah Nansteel.

The remaining cast consists of Randall Scotting as Althamas, John Del Carlo as Cadmus/Somnius and Amanda Forsythe as Iris. Gary Thor Wedow conducts.

[For the performance review, see: Review: Blythe, Rae, Shrader Sizzle in Seattle Opera’s Saucy “Semele” – February 25, 2015.]


The Trojans – Les Troyens (Berlioz); San Francisco Opera, June 7(m), 12, 16, 20, 25 and July 1, 2015

Sir David McVicar’s conceptualization of Hector Berlioz’ monumental work “Les Troyens (the Trojans), performed only once during the composer’s lifetime, opens San Francisco Opera’s six week summer season.

Presented in a very abridged form as a vehicle for French dramatic soprano Regine Crespin in San Francisco Opera’s 1966 nd 1968 seasons, the complete work, MacVicar presents the complete work.

[Below: Dido (Susan Graham, left) in Sir David McVicar’s production; edited image of a Cory Weaver photograph, courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.]


Anna Caterina Antonnacci is Cassandra for the first three performances, Daveda Karanas for the last three. Susan Graham is Dido, Bryan Hymel is Aeneas. Sasha Cooke is Anna, Brian Mulligan Chorebus. Christian Van Horn is Narbal, Rene Barbera is Iopas.

Es Devlin was set designer, Morita Junge created the costume designs. Donald Runnicles conducts.

[For the performance review, see: Review: Susan Graham, Hymel, Antonacci in a Magnificent “The Trojans” from Sir David McVicar – San Francisco Opera, June 7, 2015.]


Cato in Utica (Vivaldi) Glimmerglass Festival; July 18, 24, 27(m), August 1, 4(m), 9(m), 16(m), 20 and 22(m), 2015.

Since so few Americans have seen a Vivaldi opera performed, all his operatic works are unfamiliar to most opera-goers. Therefore, in choosing which one to perform for the Glimmerglass Festival audiences, one suspects that it was more than a felicitous coincidence that the one chosen,”Cato in Utica”, shares a geographic place name with a city just 30 minutes away from Glimmerglass.

[For an account of another recent Vivaldi work at asummer opera festival, see: Extreme Makeover: A Vivaldi Revival’s Reveal – Peter Sellars’ “Griselda” at Santa Fe Opera – August 4, 2011.]

[Below: Cesare (John Holliday, left) seeks comfort from Marzia (Megan Samarin, right); edited image, based on a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]


Cato is sung by Thomas Michael Allen, Caesar by John Holiday, Emilia by Sarah Mesko. John Conklin designed the sets, Sara Jean Tosetti the costumes.

Tazewell Thompson, whose impressive work at the Glimmerglass Festival includes Broadway powerhouse composers Weill [see Eric Owens is Vocally Powerful, Dramatic and Emotional in Kurt Weill’s “Lost in the Stars” – Glimmerglass Festival, July 22, 2012] and Lerner and Loewe [see A Lively Lerner and Loewe “Camelot” at Glimmerglass Festival – July 19, 2013], takes on a work from two centuries earlier.

[For the performance review, see: Review: Ovations for John Holiday’s Cesare in American Premiere of Vivaldi’s “Cato in Utica” – Glimmerglass Festival, July 18, 2015.]

Tags: Quests and Anticipations