"Aida" returns for Seattle Opera's 2008-09 season
Seattle Opera will open its 2008-09 season with a trio of special occasions this August: the return of the company's International Wagner Competition, a recital by star tenor Ben Heppner and the first production in 16 years of "Aida."
Seattle Times music critic
Seattle Opera tickets: New subscriptions cost $197-$3,346 for the five shows, with renewals available for $185-$3,346; both are now on sale (206-389-7676, 800-426-1619 or www.seattleopera.org). Price note: The costs include a $2 per ticket facility fee to cover remaining capital costs of the McCaw Hall renovation; some prices also include a preferred seating donation.
Seattle Opera will open its 2008-09 season with a trio of special occasions this August: the return of the company's International Wagner Competition on Aug. 16; an Aug. 14 recital by international star tenor Ben Heppner with conductor Asher Fisch at the piano; and the first production in 16 years of the Verdi classic "Aida."
Company general director Speight Jenkins, who celebrates his 25th season with Seattle Opera, has chosen an unusually varied lineup for '08-09. Following the Aug. 2-23 "Aida" will be Richard Strauss's "Elektra" (Oct. 18-Nov. 1) and Bizet's "The Pearl Fishers" (Jan. 10-24, 2009), followed by Bartók's "Bluebeard's Castle" in a double bill with Schoenberg's "Erwartung" (Feb. 21-March 7, 2009), and a new production of Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" (May 2-16, 2009).
The inclusion of three 20th-century operas — the Strauss, Bartók and particularly the seldom-heard Schoenberg — represents a stretch for the company. Generally Seattle Opera balances standard repertoire with the occasional new or unusual work — but not usually back-to-back. And while Bizet's "The Pearl Fishers" is hardly obscure, it also is far from the lists of most-performed operas. Also unusual: Of next season's six operas (two of them in a double bill), none is by that cornerstone composer of Seattle Opera, Richard Wagner.
"When we do Wagner, it really has to be in the summer," explains Jenkins of the longer time slot traditionally reserved for the plus-size productions, "and this year we had the opportunity to do 'Aida' then, so that knocked out Wagner. I chose 'Elektra' because Strauss really demands Wagnerian singers. And even though 'Pearl Fishers' is not a standard repertory item, it really pulls crowds and we get a lot of requests for it. I've wanted to do the double bill ['Bluebeard' and 'Erwartung'] for a long time, and the right spot opened up for it."
The season's roster will include singers Andrea Gruber, Antonello Palombi and Stephanie Blythe in "Aida" (Gruber is reprising the title role she sang in her company debut back in 1992). Italian conductor Riccardo Frizza makes his first appearance here in "Aida"; choreography for that production will be by Seattle's Donald Byrd.
Other debuts of note: Two finalists from the 2006 International Wagner Competition will appear in the coming season — Carsten Wittmoser as Ramfis in "Aida," and Carolyn Betty as Chrysothemis in the Friday/Sunday performances of "Elektra."
Plenty of other opera-newsworthy events will happen, as well. The "Elektra" will feature the new Brünnhilde of the 2009 "Ring," Janice Baird (the "Ring" opens the 2009-10 season). Seattle's Gerard Schwarz is set to conduct "The Pearl Fishers." And two Seattle Opera Artist of the Year recipients will return to sing in different productions: John Relyea in "Bluebeard's Castle" and Mariusz Kwiecien in "The Marriage of Figaro."
Melinda Bargreen: email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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