Love and desire in an oppressive society. A gothic thriller set in a Dickensian music hall. Lust and deceit among the rogue Roman Empire: West Age Opera is back with a charming summer lineup.
“I can’t wait for this season to start,” says the company’s general director, Mark Streshinsky.
Opera fans agree. Originally scheduled for last summer, the season lineup was postponed when, like many arts organizations, West Age was shut down by the pandemic.
Now, with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, the Berkeley-based company’s 2020 season is being re-booted as West Edge 2021. Running from July 24 to August 8 at Orinda’s outdoor Bruns Amphitheater, it mixes a signature with a classic. , a contemporary work, and a rarity: Leos Janacek’s “Katya Kabanova,” Kevin Putsch’s “Elizabeth Cree,” and Francesco Cavalli’s “Aliogaballo.”
Last year was tough for opera companies everywhere, Streshinsky said in a recent morning interview in Bruns—which, just off Highway 24, is home to the California Shakespeare Theater, also known as Cal Shakes. is.
Initial reports for 2020, he recalled, indicated that the COVID shutdown would last three weeks.
As the pandemic situation worsened, “we waited until the last possible minute to cancel,” he said. “Then when it turned out that the most dangerous thing was singing operas in each other’s faces – that’s when we decided to postpone.” The season was officially canceled in May 2020, a few weeks before opening night.
To its credit, the company remained active. Invited to appear in Cal Shacks’ “Season of Shared Light”, Streshinsky and West Age music director Jonathan Khuner launched Aperture, an online commissioning and residency program for the new opera. Asking musicians to write new compositions, he received an astonishing 81 submissions—a full half of which, Streshinsky is proud to say were about people of color.
“We really saw it as a way to change the gate,” he said, “how to maintain and finance the new opera.” He plans to announce the commission ahead of those entries during the festival.
During the interview, Bruns was abuzz with activity. Rehearsals were taking place at three outdoor locations; The set was being built, and an orchestra pit was being built under the stage of the theatre. The dressing rooms, sound and lighting, and additional technical capabilities represent improvements over some of the West Age’s previous locations, Streshinsky said.
“It’s all going really well,” he said, noting that West Edge paid most of its 2020 workforce and never considered laying off permanently. “Everyone is well prepared – most of these people have been hired for two years. I feel good about it: It’s a really strong season.”
Here is the lineup:
“Katya Kabanova”: The season begins with Jansek’s 1921 play, sung in Czech with the English supertitle. A favorite of Khuner’s work, who will operate, Production welcomes Indre Viskontas at the start of his company, directing this electrifying story set in 19th-century Russia.
“We definitely wanted a woman to direct this opera,” said Streshinsky. “Indre is not only a musician, singer and director but also a neuroscientist. ‘Katya’ has a lot of social and psychological things going on, I think she’s perfect for it.” Production stars soprano Carrie Hennessy in title role; Kristin Clayton as Cabanicha, Alex Boyer as Tichon and Boris Also appearing as Christopher Oglesby. The opera will be performed on July 24 and August 1 and 5.
“Elizabeth Cree”: Composed in 2017 by Putt with a libretto by Mark Campbell – the Pulitzer Prize-winning team that created the opera “Silent Night” – “Cree” blends elements of gothic thriller, music hall intrigue and Dickensian romance.
“It’s a great show,” said Streshinsky. “It’s a mystery, but it’s also very dramatic …. I love how it feels so meta and almost Brechtian.” Robert Mollicone (who conducted “Silent Night” at Opera San Jose) produced Directed by Sam Helfrich with Katherine Prach in the title role and Keith Fares as John Cree. The opera will take place on July 25 and 30 and August 7.
“Eliogaballo”: This rarely seen work makes the season irresistible. Never performed during the composer’s lifetime, Cavalli’s 1667 opera ended in Aspen until its 1999 world premiere; The later stages included “a large rock-and-roll production at the Paris Opera”, notes Streshinsky.
The title character, a corrupt Roman emperor, cuts a wide swath through the opera, seducing noble women and eventually paying the price for their misdeeds. “He’s worse than Caligula,” said Streshinsky, who is directing, “just a delightful, awesome person. So I said ‘That sounds fun.'”
Although he initially viewed the work as a romp, Streshinsky says that “Aliogaballo” has a more contemporary message. “It’s surprisingly feminist for its time,” he said. “The men – especially the nice guys – are all a little dense, and the women, especially the two main characters of Jemira and Aritia, are both very smart and ambitious. So there’s a lot of opportunity for comedy, and the music is gorgeous. ” Randall Scotting sings the title role and Derek Chester is Alessandro; Nikki Einfeld, Aura Veruni and Shawnette Sulker are in the opera’s royal ladies trio. Harpsichord-powered Adam Pearl leads a group of period instrument experts. The opera will be performed on July 31 and August 6 and 8.
Description: Series Tickets $132-$378; Single ticket $19-$140; 510-841-1903, www.westedgeopera.org.
Contact Georgia Rowe at firstname.lastname@example.org.