Local Troupe Reaches Out To Lovers Of Opera


Season Includes Fully Staged Performance Of 'Tosca' And Children's Show

August 30, 2009|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Despite the economic woes being felt by other local arts organizations, the Annapolis Opera remains "in solid financial shape, thanks to our supporters," says President Leah Solat.

The new season will feature fall and spring concerts of arias, a holiday show, a children's opera and the main production: a fully staged "Tosca." The 22nd annual vocal competition ends the season in May.

Solat returns to the office she held in 2007-2008, the most successful season ever, when both "Carmen" performances sold out. She expressed hope that former Baltimore Opera subscribers will discover the Annapolis Opera this season.

"Our outreach and education programs focus on building an audience. We hope to repeat the success of the aria concerts introduced last season at Maryland Hall," she said, where they will again be focusing on music instead of food and wine.

The season opens with "Very Verdi" on Oct. 17. Annapolis Opera musical director Ronald J. Gretz described the concert, which features the Annapolis Opera Chamber Orchestra, as "an evening of Verdi arias from operas seldom heard here."

The always-popular holiday program will be at First Presbyterian Church in Annapolis on Dec. 6. In prior years this was an all-Mozart concert, but last season it was expanded to include bel canto composers. This season's concert is titled "Gifts From Grand Opera" and will feature favorite arias in a candlelight setting.

Continuing its outreach program, Annapolis Opera will sponsor Peabody Institute's children's opera, "Papageno," on Jan. 30. This Peabody production retains much of the original Mozart music, but adapts the story for children to provide an introduction to opera.

The major event of the season arrives March 12 and 14 with Giacomo Puccini's "Tosca." Sung in Italian with English surtitles, "Tosca" will feature the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gretz.

The story of passionate diva Floria Tosca and artist Mario Cavaradossi is set in Rome during the Napoleonic Wars. Mario gets caught up in Roman political intrigue and soon becomes a victim of the evil police chief Baron Scarpia, as does Tosca. After its successful 1900 premiere in Rome, Puccini's melodrama was famously dismissed by musicologist Joseph Kerman as a "shabby little shocker" - an assessment not shared by today's opera public, who have placed it among the top 10 most frequently performed operas in the United States.

For the Annapolis Opera production, Gretz announced an impressive cast - Tosca will be sung by Elizabeth Richter (who sang last season under the name Alison Meuth). Based on past experience, Gretz said he expects "Elizabeth will be totally prepared musically and she will have no difficulty vocally singing the five high C's required of Tosca."

Not only does Annapolis Opera have Richter to sing Tosca, it is doubly blessed to have as Mario Cavaradossi the brilliant tenor Jonathan Burton, who'll be remembered for his thrilling "Vesti la giubba" in last season's "Pagliacci."

Gretz promises even more fireworks for this "Tosca" with his choice for Scarpia, whom he describes as "the very imposing bass-baritone Jerett Gieseler."

The next month will offer a change of pace with "Opera Lite," which will include operetta selections, Gilbert and Sullivan, and comic opera on April 18.

This season's vocal competition will be chaired by Carmen Balthrop, an acclaimed American soprano who is professor of voice at the University of Maryland.

If you go

All performances are at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, with the exception of the holiday program. Subscription series and single-ticket prices remain the same as last season. Four-event series subscriptions are $150-$180. Three-event subscriptions are $115-$146. Two-event subscriptions are also available. To obtain a 2009-2010 season brochure, call the Annapolis Opera office at 410-267-8135. For additional information, go to annapolisopera.org.

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