Pittsburgh Opera Saturday evening gave the first of six performances of Handel’s Semele, a company first, and the baroque opera will bring to an end a season that’s been full of firsts, and has not much resembled the line-up announced in February 2020. Little did we know how much of an impact the following month would have on all aspects of our lives.
Pittsburgh Opera is to be congratulated for the fortitude it has shown in presenting four operas over the course of a pandemic autumn and (waning) pandemic spring. Only one production was forced into a live stream only event – the others have entertained small but enthusiastic audiences eager for live entertainment. The amount of work involved in staging an opera under normal circumstances is staggering. That the company has managed to accomplish what it has since October is nothing short of astonishing.
Because of space limitations and safety protocols, all six performances of Semele are sold out – but there is a waiting list should cancellations come up, and the performance of Friday, May 14, will again be a free, live stream that can be enjoyed from home.
We’ll be hearing as much of the opera as can be condensed into approximately ninety minutes, since intermissions are but one of the gregarious luxuries omitted under current conditions. Antony Walker will conduct the first four performance of Stage Director Kristine McIntyre’s “stylish Roaring Twenties Art Deco treatment” of Semele, while Glenn Lewis will take up the baton for the final two.
Aaron Crouch, by Andrew Bogard Photography
The cast is a strong one, and will include a newcomer to the local operatic stage. Tenor Aaron Crouch, a Maryland native and graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, will sing the role of Jove (or Jupiter, king of the gods). Like all performing artists, 2020 brought a number of disappointments his way, postponing or canceling debuts with Washington National Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Mostly Mozart Festival. Earlier this week he took a few moments to share a few thoughts on getting back to the stage in front of a real, human audience.
“Performing means the world to me,” he said. “Being in quarantine, and spending all year making recordings, was interesting, but I won’t miss it. The beauty of performing is the exchange of energy – when the artist gives their energy on stage, and the audience gives that energy right back. I missed the second part of that equation this past year, and am excited to experience it again.”
His performance in Semele won’t be the last we hear of him, either. The same day he learned he will join the prestigious Resident Artist Program at Pittsburgh Opera next season, he was offered the role in this season’s Semele.
Jove, the King of the Gods (Aaron Crouch), with another valuable trinket he plans to give to Semele
“I was actually in a Starbucks parking lot, and was in the midst of running some errands. I wasn’t expecting to get that call right then! It was kind of a shock. I was very excited. When (Director of Artistic Operations) Rob (Boldin) mentioned Semele, I assumed it was to sing the role of Apollo, which is a small role at the end of the opera. I didn’t realize it was for the role of Jove until the next phone call. Then I thought ‘Oh! OK, cool!’”
To learn more about the production, the company’s COVID-19 safety measures, and to register for the FREE stream of the May 14 performance, please visit Pittsburgh Opera.
We’ll be catching the Tuesday evening performance, so check back for a review and new images.
Special thanks to Chris Cox, Director of Marketing and Communications, Pittsburgh Opera
David Bachman Photography for Pittsburgh Opera