Wagner opera, 'Hollander,' to be staged

February 16, 1997|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

In its 1997-1998 season, the Baltimore Opera Company will stage an opera by Richard Wagner for the first time in 15 years. Besides Wagner's "Der fliegende Hollander" ("The Flying Dutchman"), the company's productions will include Giacomo Puccini's "Madama Butterfly," Giuseppe Verdi's last (and perhaps greatest) opera, "Falstaff," and Georges Bizet's "Carmen."

Its programming of Wagner's "Hollander," usually considered the composer's first genuine masterpiece, appears to mark a significant step for the company. Because the operas of Wagner generally require bigger orchestras and singers with stronger voices than those of most operatic composers, they are usually more expensive to produce. Although "Hollander" is the least demanding of Wagner's great works, its inclusion on the schedule suggests that the company is willing to take an ambitious (and costly) step away from the popular sauce-and-pasta, mostly Italian repertory that has dominated its recent programming.

But it is not only the presence of Wagner in the company's schedule but also its roster of singers, conductors and directors for the forthcoming season that suggest the company's growing confidence in itself and its audience. "Hollander," for example, will feature three internationally famous singers: bass-baritone James Morris (in the title role), tenor Chris Merrit (as Erik) and Paul Plishka (as Daland). "Falstaff" will be led by Christian Badea, whose appearances on the podium at the Metropolitan Opera have been well received, and will feature several prominent singers, including baritone Sherill Milnes in the title role and soprano Barbara Daniels as Mrs. Ford.

"Madama Butterfly" will feature sets and costumes by the acclaimed Argentine team of Roberto Oswald and Anibal Lapiz, and will be directed by Bernard Uzan, the general director of L'Opera Montreal, one of North America's most prestigious companies. The title role in "Carmen" will be sung by Irina Mishura, a recent emigre from the former Soviet Union, where she was considered one of that nation's top mezzo-sopranos, and by the gifted young Puerto Rican tenor Cesar Hernandez, who is a protege of both tenor Luciano Pavarotti and composer Gian Carlo Menotti.

The Baltimore Opera Company's 1997-1998 season is as follows: Verdi's "Falstaff" will be performed Oct. 16, 18, 22, 24 and 26.

Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" will be performed Nov. 13, 15, 19, 21 and 23.

Bizet's "Carmen" will be performed March 19, 21, 25, 27 and 29.

Wagner's "Der fliegende Hollander" ("The Flying Dutchman") will be performed April 30, May 2, 6, 8 and 10.

For information and tickets, call the Baltimore Opera box office at (410) 727-6000.

Pub Date: 2/16/97

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