Opera Theater of Pittsburgh’s 5th annual “SummerFest” is coming soon, and promises many musical treats – and the innovative company has a standing track record of making good on its promises. “Strong women” are to be in the spotlight, according to OTP’s announcement of its 2016 season of opera, musical theater, concerts and cabarets, with events and performances running from June 22 through July 24.
Artistic and General Director Jonathan Eaton says: “The season boasts powerful women, from Cleopatra to Carmen, and from waspish Kate to a champagne glass-shattering Silent Woman. Each one of these women is an extraordinary, charismatic, sometimes dominating character. To cope with them we have some pretty strong men, too – from Julius Caesar to Don José to ego-strutting seducer Petruchio. All in all, this makes for a season that promises fireworks of the most magnificent kind – a Diva Riot!”
The fun begins with Carmen the Gypsy, a revival of the company’s flamenco-styled take on Bizet’s opera by Jonathan Eaton and Robert Frankenberry. Performances will take place in unusual, intimate venues of 50 to 100 seats: Sphinx Café, Oakland; Artifacts, West End; and Snuggery Farm, Sewickley.
Other offerings will include Händel’s Julius Caesar, starring Metropolitan Opera artist Andrey Nemzer, accompanied by Chatham Baroque; The Silent Woman, by Richard Strauss, the fourth of the composer’s seldom heard works consecutively offered by the company; Kiss Me, Kate by Cole Porter, part of the “Classic Broadway” series; and Night Caps, five funny mini-operas commissioned and first presented to sold-out houses at SummerFest 2012. In addition, concerts will feature Andrey Nemzer with The Three (Counter)Tenors, Daphne Alderson, and members of the SummerFest Young Artist Program. All main stage operas are sung in English with projected English surtitles.
The main stage festival moves to a new venue this year, the Falk Auditorium at Winchester Thurston School on its City Campus in Shadyside, at 555 Morewood Avenue. “Winchester Thurston School provides a wonderful new setting for expanded SummerFest programming,” Mr. Eaton, who has served as artistic and general director since 1999, says. “After five successful seasons, we have outgrown our boots – and we are thrilled to be moving to larger facilities and WT’s Falk Auditorium, beautifully renovated by Pittsburgh’s premier theater architect, Al Filoni. This is now perhaps the most attractive medium-sized theater in the city. We think our audiences will love the theater’s great acoustics, comfortable seating, easy private parking and proximity to one of Pittsburgh’s liveliest neighborhoods,” Mr. Eaton added.
The SummerFest 2016 Line-Up:
Carmen the Gypsy, Opera Theater’s adaptation of Bizet’s masterpiece, moves Carmen’s story to “an intimate gypsy tavern where the pulsations of flamenco guitar and dance propel a tragedy of dangerous liaisons.” Kara Cornell will reprise the title role, which she first performed to critical acclaim in 2012,
with James Flora as Don José (also reprising his 2012 role), Christopher Scott as Escamillo, the toreador, and Katie Manukyan as Micäela. Favorite arias include “The Habanera,” “The Toreador Song” and “The Flower Song.” Directed by Jonathan Eaton and conducted by Robert Frankenberry, SummerFest Music Director, the performances will take place as follows: Wed., June 22 & Thurs., June 23 at 7 pm, Sphinx Café, 401 Atwood St., Pittsburgh, PA 15213; Sat., June 25 at 7:30 pm & Sun., June 26 at 2 pm, Artifacts, 110 S. Main St., Pittsburgh, PA 15220; Fri., July 1 & Sat., July 2 at 7:30 pm, Snuggery Farm, 1551 Camp Meeting Rd., Sewickley, PA 15143; Sat., July 9 at 7:30 pm, Falk Auditorium, Winchester Thurston School.
Kiss Me, Kate, Cole Porter’s take on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, is one of America’s greatest classic Broadway shows. SummerFest Young Artist Program singers are showcased in this “show-within-a-show, centered around a ‘first couple of the theater’ who take their battle of the sexes into their roles in the Bard’s comedy.” Baritone Isaiah Feken returns to SummerFest as Fred Graham/Petruchio and will be joined by mezzo-soprano Christina Overton as Lilli Vanessi/Katherine. “Audiences should expect some surprises,” OTP announces, “including some pre-show entertainment from actors from Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks.” Favorite songs include “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” “So in Love,” “Too Darn Hot,” and others. Directed by Mark Lamana and conducted by Douglas Levine. Opens Fri., July 8 at 7:30 pm; Sun., July 10 at 2 pm; Sat., July 16 at 7:30 pm; Sat., July 23 at 2 pm; Falk Auditorium, Winchester Thurston School.
Julius Caesar, in which “Politics explode into Romance! SummerFest goes for Baroque,” with a new production of George Frederick Händel’s masterpiece, sung in English. Countertenor and Metropolitan Opera artist Andrey Nemzer stars as the tyrant seduced by the beauty and power of Cleopatra, sung by Lara Lynn McGill. Chatham Baroque, Pittsburgh’s celebrated early music ensemble, provides authentic and expert musical accompaniment. The opera will be directed by Dan Rigazzi and conducted by Walter Morales. Opens Fri., July 15 at 7:30 pm; Sun., July 17 at 2 pm; Sat., July 23 at 7:30 pm, Falk Auditorium, Winchester Thurston School.
The Silent Woman, Richard Strauss’ tale of a retired sea captain, Dr. Morosus, who marries a quiet young woman who finds her own voice in this romantic comedy sung in English, based on a story by Ben Jonson. “A troupe of boisterous players stirs up the romance with a succession of disguises,” and guest artist and Metropolitan Opera singer Jeremy Galyon, who was outstanding in SummerFest performances of Capriccio, returns to the company in the lead role. Julia Fox returns to SummerFest as Aminta, his silent then shrill new bride, and Dimitrie Lazich returns as Morosus’ trusted barber, Schneidebart. The Silent Woman (Die schweigsame Frau) is the third lesser-known work by the 20th century composer in a four-year cycle of Strauss operas, following Opera Theater’s celebrated Ariadne on Naxos in 2014 and Capriccio in 2015. The Silent Woman is a Pennsylvania premiere, and with a cast that includes both Mr. Galyon and Mr. Lazich, promises to be a memorable one. The performances will be directed by Jonathan Eaton and conducted by Brent McMunn. Opens Fri., July 22 at 7:30 pm; Sun., July 24 at 2 pm, Falk Auditorium, Winchester Thurston School.
Night Caps, according to OTP’s announcement, are “Five short comic operas [that] tell stories of hilarious antics in hotel bedrooms. Perfect for new audiences, these recently commissioned mini-operas dispel any preconceived notions about opera and debuted to sold-out audiences in 2012 – and guarantee laughter! Night Caps take audiences to Miss Darlington’s hotel, a place of romance, mystery and danger. Journey through each of its bedrooms, enchanted by the decadence of secrets, haunted by the ghosts of presidents, and perfumed with the memory of love. Night Caps are served up with a complimentary SummerFest cocktail.” The English libretti by Rob Handel will be directed by Young Artist Program Resident Directors and conducted by Robert Frankenberry. Two performances only, Thurs., July 21 at 7:30 pm and Sun., July 24 at 6:30 pm, in the Hilda Willis Room at Winchester Thurston School.
George Washington Suite by Daron Hagen, directed by Briana Sosenheimer; Moonlight Suite by Gilda Lyons, directed by Seamus Ricci; Penthouse Suite by Roger Zahab, directed by Seamus Ricci; Honeymoon Suite by Alberto Garcia Demestres, directed by Daniel Brylow; Valkyrie Suite by Eric Moe. Directed by Aaron Dunn. Two evenings only: Thurs., July 21 at 7:30 pm and Sun., July 24 at 6:30 pm, in the Hilda Willis Room, Winchester Thurston School.
Little Red Riding Hood – “A delightful take on a classic story! So, did the wolf just get a bad rap? Little Red goes into the woods to help her grandmother in this fast-paced, imaginative musical adventure – a great introduction to opera for children of all ages. With familiar characters, an up-close and casual performance space, and an attention-friendly 50-minute duration, this is the perfect opportunity for whole families to discover the joys of music drama together. After each performance, families stay to enjoy themed crafts and activities and photo ops with cast members Valerie Hosler, Candice Shaughnessy, and Jesse Davis.” Directed by Jonathan Eaton; Musical Director, Joel Goodloe; Pianist, Agnieszka Sornek. Saturdays at 11 am on July 9, 16, and 23, Hilda Willis Room, Winchester Thurston School.
The Concert and Recital Series will continue Opera Theater’s tradition of sold-out recitals. This year’s SummerFest includes an expanded array of concerts, featuring world-class singers and pianists, emerging international talent, and special programs to celebrate music from around the world.
Liam Bonner in Concert, Thurs., July 7 at 7:30 pm, Falk Auditorium, Winchester Thurston. SummerFest celebrates the international success of Pittsburgh baritone Liam Bonner, who started his career with Opera Theater and ended up at the Metropolitan. Join him for an evening of arias, art songs, and ballads, with a SummerFest Opening Night Party following the recital.
The Three (Counter) Tenors, Sun., July 10 at 6:30 pm, Falk Auditorium, Winchester Thurston School. Taking on the repertoire of the famed castrati, acclaimed countertenor Andrey Nemzer joins Min Sang Kim and Zachary Wood as they chart the path and the music of the castrato, through the male alto, to today’s countertenor voice.
Alderson as Piaf in Recital, Thurs., July 14 at 7:30 pm, Falk Auditorium, Winchester Thurston School. When French icon Edith Piaf came to Carnegie Hall in 1956 she received a seven-minute standing ovation. Beloved Pittsburgh chanteuse Daphne Alderson recreates this legendary 1956 recital to mark Bastille Day 2016.
Young Artists’ Schumann Recital, Wed., July 17 at 6:30 pm, McClintic Hall, Calvary Episcopal. This free recital showcases the stars of tomorrow as talented Young Artist Program participants take the stage with art songs by Robert Schumann at the historic Calvary Episcopal Church on Shady Avenue.
La Divina Cornetti in Concert, Thurs., July 20 at 7:30 pm, Falk Auditorium, Winchester Thurston. Internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano Marianne Cornetti joins “her” divos and divas, the Cornetti Scholars of our Young Artist Program, for an evening of memorable arias and duets from the classical canon.
Opening Night Parties and Late Night Cabarets
The festival spirit permeates Opera Theater SummerFest with ticketed Opening Night Parties ($25) for each main stage production, featuring the popular Late Night Cabarets, food, drink, and good company. Two additional free Late Night Cabarets follow Kiss Me, Kate on Sat., July 16 and the closing performance Julius Caesar on Sat., July 23 at 10:30 pm.