BOC's 2005-2006 season looks to be action-filled

`Dead Man Walking' one of operas slated

December 22, 2004|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Two sopranos dying of consumption, another prone to sleepwalking, and a baritone facing capital punishment by lethal injection - all part of the action planned for the Baltimore Opera Company's 2005-2006 season.

Particularly noteworthy is the local premiere of Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking, which has enjoyed remarkable success with the public and the press since it was introduced by the San Francisco Opera in 2000. Baltimore Opera joined six other companies to fund the compact, visually potent co-production that will be seen at the Lyric Opera House in March 2006.

Based on Sister Helen Prejean's acclaimed book, which subsequently was adapted for a powerful movie, Dead Man Walking has a taut libretto by eminent playwright Terrence McNally. Heggie made his debut as an opera composer at the age of 39 with this piece. His essentially tonal score effectively propels this fact-based story of a nun's emotional journey as spiritual adviser to a death row inmate in Louisiana.

The opera, which includes an onstage execution, makes for an unusually powerful combination of music and theater. Contributing to that power is the way the audience is left to reach its own conclusions about matters of justice and morality.

Heading the Baltimore cast will be John Packard. He originated the role of murderer Joseph de Rocher, who was convicted of rape and double murder. Theodora Hanslowe, the colorful mezzo who sparked the company's Hansel and Gretel in 2000 and Die Fledermaus in 2002, will sing the role of Sister Helen. Distinguished soprano Diana Soviero will portray de Rocher's mother. David Agler will conduct.

The remainder of the 2005-2006 lineup will be devoted to three lyrical la's - La Traviata, La Boheme and La Sonnambula.

La Traviata, Verdi's immortal version of the Alexander Dumas, fils tale of a consumptive courtesan, will open the season in October, starring Elena Kelessidi in the title role. Ned Barth, heard this season as the sheriff in La Fanciulla del West, has been cast as Germont.

Puccini's perennial favorite, La Boheme, will star Carla Maria Izzo as another consumptive, the seamstress Mimi. This soprano stood out vividly as Micaela in the company's Carmen last season. Company regular Andrea Licata will conduct.

One of Baltimore Opera's most satisfying recent efforts was this season's presentation of Bellini's I Puritani. Gregory Kunde, the tenor who soared through that work, will return for the company's first production of another of the composer's exquisite contributions to the bel canto repertoire, La Sonnambula. Steven White, the sensitive conductor of Puritani, will be back, too.

In the title role of the woman who innocently sleepwalks her way into a man's room and plenty of trouble will be Valeria Esposito, who starred in the company's Lucia di Lammermoor in 2002.

More details on casting for Baltimore Opera's 2005-2006 season will be announced later. The company's most loyal patrons have been given a priority offer on subscription renewals through Dec. 30.

For general subscription information, call 410-727-6000.

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