'Aida' to open company's 50th season

Opera: On the Lyric stage, grand, international performances for everyone even the kiddies.

February 15, 2000|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,SUN STAFF

When the Baltimore Opera Company opens its new season this fall, it will mark a half century of music.

"We are delighted to bring to our city this spectacular season for our 50th anniversary and know that both seasoned opera-lovers and newcomers will love what they see and hear," says Michael Harrison, the general director of the opera company.

As usual, the season will have a definite international flair reflected in the casts, directors and conductors. The new season features five grand opera productions in the Lyric Opera House.

"Aida" (Giuseppe Verdi), Oct. 19-29 -- The season opens with a production created by the team of Roberto Oswald and Anibal Lapiz, whose previous productions for the BOC include "Norma," "The Pearl Fishers," and "Madama Butterfly." Italian soprano Norma Fantini, who has performed at La Scala, the Metropolitan Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago and other opera houses, sings the role of Aida, the enslaved Ethiopian princess who is torn between her love for the Egyptian general Radames and loyalty to her father and homeland when the two countries go to war. Susan Patterson, who has appeared as Violetta in Baltimore's recent "La Traviata" and has sung with the Washington Opera, San Francisco Opera and the Lyric Opera of Chicago, sings the title role on Oct. 22. Sung in Italian.

"Elektra" (Richard Strauss), Nov. 11-19 -- Marilyn Zschau and Pamela Kucenic share the title role in this spine-chilling version of the Electra tragedy. This is the first presentation of "Elektra" by the BOC and is designed and directed by Roberto Oswald and conducted by Christian Badea. Sung in German.

"Hansel and Gretel" (Engelbert Humperdinck), Dec. 16-22 -- This family-holiday production is designed by Maurice Sendak, author and illustrator of more than80 books, including the award-winning "Where the Wild Things Are." The stage ef- fects will capture both the humorous and bleak sides of childhood, including an exploding gingerbread house. Sung in English.

"Faust" (Charles Gounod), March 15-25, 2001 -- Fernando de la Mora, last seen in Baltimore as Alfredo in "La Traviata," sings the role of the philosopher who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for youth and love, with tragic results. Leontina Vaduva makes her Baltimore Opera debut as Marguerite. She has previously performed the role in Los Angeles and has sung Mimi in "La Boheme" at the Metropolitan Opera, and at Paris, Munich and Vienna. Sung in French.

"Turandot" (Giacomo Puccini), June 9-17, 2001 -- Giovanna Casolla, who has sung the role in recent productions in Florence, Barcelona and Liege, appears as the Chinese princess. (Audrey Stottler sings the role on June 14). Nicola Martinucci and Kristjan Johannson share the role of Calaf, the prince who conquers her with love. All four principals appeared in a production in Beijing's Forbidden City filmed by PBS. Baltimore's production features a set from Teatro Comunale, Florence. Sung in Italian.

The operas will have English surtitles.

"We're offering three grand opera favorites, featuring dramatic love stories; exotic, sumptuous settings and gorgeous, accessible music," says Harrison. "And we are delighted to welcome families to the opera again, with our 2000 holiday presentation, `Hansel and Gretel' -- complete with gingerbread house, a wicked witch, two resourceful children and a happy ending."

All performances are at the Lyric Opera House, 140 W. Mount Royal Ave. Tickets are available at the box office at 110 W. Mount Royal Ave., by phone at 410-727-6000 or on the company's Web site at www.baltimoreopera .com. Season subscriptions are available. Single tickets are on sale in the fall. Group discounts and a discount program for students are available.

A lecture by a local opera expert is presented in the orchestra section of the Opera House one hour before each performance, free to ticket holders.

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