Opera Warhorses

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

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In Quest of American “Opera Repertory-Expanding” Musical Works, March-September, 2015

March 4th, 2015

Below is a list of American musical works that have entered or are scheduled to enter the performance repertory of major opera companies, which I will be reviewing between March and September, 2015. 

Although each work is quite different from operas of the traditional repertory, each work benefits from operatic voices and the orchestral and production resources of major opera companies.


This list is supplementary to previous lists in this “Quests and Anticipations” series of selected operas being performed from February 2015 through March 2016:

Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor” at the New Orleans Opera, Donizetti’s “La Fille du Regiment” at the Santa Fe Opera, Verdi’s “Macbeth” at the Glimmerglass Festival and Verdi’s “Nabucco” at the Seattle Opera [See In Quest of Donizetti and Early Verdi – March 2015 through August 2015.]

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.]

Poulenc’s “Dialogues of the Carmelites” at the Washington National Opera, Handel’s “Semele” at the Seattle Opera, Berlioz’ “The Trojans (Les Troyens) at the San Francisco Opera, and Vivaldi’s “Cato in Utica” at the Glimmerglass Festival [See In Quest of Less Well-Known Operas – February to August, 2015.]

Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” at the Los Angeles Opera and the San Francisco Opera and Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro at the San Francisco Opera and the Houston Grand Opera [See In Quest of “Figaro” Operas – February 2015 through February 2016.]


Nixon in China (Adams), San Diego Opera, March 14, 17, 20 and 22(m), 2015.

John Adams’ extraordinary opera “Nixon in China” continues to make new acquaintances with the audiences of American opera companies.

[Below: Richard Nixon (Franco Pomponi, front left) and Pat Nixon (Maria Kanyova, front right) have arrived in Peking; edited image, courtesy of the San Diego Opera.]


For the work’s first ever performances at the San Diego Opera, Franco Pomponi and Maria Kanyova are respectively Richard and Pat Nixon; Chad Shelton and Kathleen Kim and Chairman and Madame Mao, and Patrick Carfizzi is Henry Kissinger. Chou En-Lai is sung by Chen-Ye Yuan.

James Robinson directs. Joseph Mechavich conducts.

For my review of an alternate production of the opera, see: 25 Years Old, “Nixon in China” Arrives at San Francisco Opera – June 8, 2012.]

For my performance review, see: Review: San Diego Opera’s “Nixon in China” with Pomponi, Kanyova, Kim and Shelton – March 20, 2015.


Sweeney Todd (Sondheim), Houston Grand Opera, April 24, 26(m), 29, May 2 and 9, 2015.

Composer John Adams had expected his work to be performed by opera companies. However, the idea of including musical theater in the opera repertory would likely not have occurred to Jerome Kern whose “Show Boat” has been seen in a full-scale operatic production in Chicago, Houston, Washington D.C. and San Francisco..

[Below: the rival barber Pirelli (Scott Quinn, below) becomes the first victim of Sweeney Todd; edited image, based on a Lynn Lane photograph, courtesy of the Houston Grand Opera.]


The impetus for a major operatic production of Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” began in Paris at the Théâtre du Châtelet, which commissioned director Lee Blakeley for this purpose, with sets by Tanya McCallin. The production will be seen in two major American companies – Houston and San Francisco – in 2015.

Houston’s demon barber will be Nathan Gunn, Mrs Lovett is Susan Bullock, with Nicholas Phan, Jake Gardner and Cynthia Clayton in supporting roles. James Lowe conducts.

For my performance review, see: Review: “Sweeney Todd” at Houston Grand Opera: Nathan Gunn, Director Lee Blakeley Make a Compelling Case for Sondheim as Opera, April 24, 2015.


Candide (Bernstein), Glimmerglass (NY) Festival, July 19(m), 25, 30, August 1(m), 6, 8(m), 11(m), 15 and 21, 2015.

Successful opera companies must command large orchestral and choral resources, and operatic voices of international distinction. These resources can also be enlisted to do American musical works, originally designed for Broadway and musical theater, magnificently in crowd-pleasing productions.

[Below: Candide (Andrew Stenson) on the battlefield after a rout tries to discern an optimistic message from his experience; edited image, based on a production photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]


Director Francesca Zambello has already had great success with productions of George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” and of Jerome Kern’s “Show Boat” at major opera companies. At the Glimmerglass Festival of whose artistic content she is the steward, she has promoted other American musical works.

Her latest new production, Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide” based on Voltaire’s satirical masterpiece, will be unveiled at 2015’s Glimmerglass Festival.

[For my performance review, see: Review: Zambello’s Staging of Bernstein’s “Candide” Glitters – Glimmerglass Festival, July 19, 2015.]


Sweeney Todd (Sondheim), San Francisco Opera, September 12, 15, 18, 20(m), 23, 26 and 29, 2015.

Although the production by Lee Blakeley is the same as was seen in Paris and will be seen in Houston, San Francisco is offering a completely different cast, led by Houston Grand Opera Music Director Patrick Summers.

[Below: Mrs Lovett (Stephanie Blythe, right) has kept a set of razors belonging to Sweeney Todd (Brian Mulligan, left) for 15 years until his return; edited image of a photograph for the Théâtre du Châtelet.]


Gerald Finley is Sweeney Todd, with Stephanie Blythe as Mrs Lovett. Heidi Stober, Elizabeth Futral, Elliot Madore, Matthew Grills, Wayne TIgges, John Easterlin and A. J. Glueckert are the supporting cast.

[For the performance reviews, see: Review: Searing Performances by Brian Mulligan and Stephanie Blythe for San Francisco Opera’s First “Sweeney Todd” – September 12, 2015 and Review: A Second Look at “Sweeney Todd” at San Francisco Opera – September 20, 2015.]

Tags: Quests and Anticipations