New opera season hits lots of high notes

Classical Music

January 21, 2001|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,Sun Music Critic

The Baltimore Opera Company has put together something of a greatest hits package for its 2001-2002 season. Adding spice to evergreens by Mozart and four Italian composers will be the return of several notable artists, as well as debuts with the company by several more, and two new productions.

Following up on his acclaimed work with Wagner's "Tannhauser" last season, German filmmaker Werner Herzog will be back to direct Mozart's endearing blend of fantasy, symbolism and 18th-century enlightenment, "The Magic Flute." The scenic design is by Herzog's collaborator on "Tann-hauser," Maurizio Balo.

This will be the company's annual holiday production, slated for December, and will feature Kristopher Irmiter, the warm-voiced father in last month's "Hansel and Gretel," as Papageno. John Osborn will sing the role of Tamino, with Karen Driscoll and Marguerite Krull sharing the role of Pamina. Will Crutchfield will conduct.

The company's 51st season will open in October with Rossini's "The Barber of Seville." Vladimir Chernov, the Russian baritone who was a major asset in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's concert version of Tchaikovsky's "Iolanta" earlier this season, is slated to sing the role of the wily Figaro.

Chernov will alternate in that assignment with Daniel Mobbs, who starred in the company's 1999 presentation of another Rossini gem, "La cenerentola." Mezzo- soprano Vivica Genaux, who had the title role in that earlier production, returns as Rosina. Tenor Bruce Fowler will sing the role Almaviva. The director of "Barber" will be Stefano Vizioli, the conductor Claudio Desderi.

The mostly Italian season also offers Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor." Valeria Esposito and Youngok Shin will alternate in the demanding soprano part, with its famous mad scene. Roberto Aronica, a tenor who has been making international waves, will appear as the hapless Edgardo. Giorgio Cebrian will sing the role of Enrico, and Hao Jiang Tian, who helped open Baltimore Opera's 50th season last October as the High Priest in "Aida," has been cast as Raimondo. Richard Buckley will conduct.

Verdi's penultimate opera, "Otello," will be given a new production starring Jon Fredric West as Shakespeare's troubled Moor. The tenor sang the title role in "Tannhauser" here last season. Aprile Millo, featured in the company's 1999 production of "Andrea Chenier," returns as Desdemona. Alexandru Agache will portray the arch-villain Iago. Christian Badea will conduct.

Also receiving a new production will be Puccini's tale of loss and revolution, "Tosca." Giovanna Casolla, who will be heard at the end of this season heading a production of the same composer's "Turandot," will be the heroine. Extraordinary baritone Mark Delevan, who lit up that recent "Aida" here, will be back as the menacing Scarpia.

Alternating in the role of Cavaradossi, the painter / patriot, will be Maurizio Graziani and Frank Porretta III. Andrea Licata, who provided the supple conducting for "La boheme" last season, will be in the pit. Bernard Uzan, the director for that '99 "Chenier," will return as well.

Subscriptions to Baltimore Opera's 2001-2002 season are on sale now. Call 410-727-6000. Information is also available online:

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