Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel November 5, 7, 11, 13, 2010

It’s a little scary . . . well, actually it’s a lot scary. It’s a Brothers Grimm fairy tale—it’s supposed to be scary! 

But this completely new look at the beloved tale is also a whole lot of fun with a witch you’ll remember for a long, long while. Part maniac, part Julia Child, she wields a mean mixer, tossing in a dash of just about everything, including the kids!

A touching tribute to the wisdom and strength of children, along with some of the most gorgeous music ever written.

Sung in English with English text projected above the stage.

Recommended for children 8 and up.

 

Performances held at the Keller Auditorium.

Performance time is approximately two hours and twenty minutes, including one intermission.

Audio Description Services provide at the 11/07, 2pm performance.

Download the Study Guide (pdf)

 

Oregon Food Bank Network logoHelp Portland Opera Fight Hunger!

Bring your non-perishable food donation to any performance of Hansel and Gretel at Keller Auditorium.
Did you know that 240,000 people a month depend on emergency food boxes through the Oregon Food Bank Network? Please help Portland Opera and Oregon Food Bank eliminate hunger in Oregon...because no one should be hungry.

 

Cast

GretelMaureen McKay
HanselSandra Piques Eddy
MotherElizabeth Byrne
FatherWeston Hurt
The WitchAllan Glassman
  
ConductorAri Pelto
Stage DirectorBenjamin Davis
Original ProductionRichard Jones

Act I

In Hansel and Gretel’s house. Hansel complains he is hungry. Gretel shows him some milk that a neighbor has given for the family’s supper. The children dance. Their mother returns and wants to know why they have gotten so little work done. She accidentally spills the milk and chases the children out into the woods to pick strawberries.
Their father, a broom-maker, returns home drunk. He brings out the food he has bought, then asks where the children have gone. The mother tells him that she has sent them into the woods. He tells her about the Witch who lives there and says that the children are in danger. They go out into the woods to look for them.

 

Act II

Hansel picks strawberries. The children hear a cuckoo singing and eat the strawberries. Soon they have eaten every one. In the sudden silence of the wood, Hansel admits to Gretel that he has lost the way. The children grow frightened. The Sandman comes to bring them sleep, sprinkling sand over their eyes. The children say their evening prayer. In a dream, they see 14 angels.

 

Act III
The Dew Fairy comes to waken the children. Gretel wakes Hansel, and they see the gingerbread house. They end up in the Witch’s kitchen. The Witch decides to fatten Hansel up and casts a spell on him. The oven is hot. Gretel breaks the Witch’s spell and sets Hansel free. When the Witch asks her to look in the oven, she pretends she doesn’t know how to: the Witch must show her. When the Witch peers into the oven, the children shove her inside and shut the door. The oven explodes. The gingerbread children come back to life. The mother and father find the children, and all express gratitude for their salvation.

 

—Courtesy Welsh National Opera

“Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

—G. K. Chesterton

 

In 1890, Adelheid Wette approached her older brother, a composer, to set some trifling songs she had written for a little play she intended for her daughters to perform as family entertainment.  Her gracious brother obliged and wrote the tune, “Brother come and dance with me, both my hands I offer thee:” a tune so fresh, so original and yet so familiar that his family, utterly charmed and delighted, urged him to write more.  Soon Engelbert Humperdinck and his sister Adelheid were collaborating (much as their protagonists Hansel and Gretel) on a Singspiel, which eventually evolved into a full-blown opera.  Its popularity in Germany was extraordinary, and it made its way to England within a few short years, and to the United States shortly after that. Hansel and Gretel became the first opera broadcast in its entirety over radio (in 1923, from Covent Garden), and then became the first ever live Metropolitan Opera Broadcast in 1931.  The opera filled a great need for those who loved the chromatic orchestrations of Wagner, but had overdosed on his conceits.  For them, Humperdinck, with his lush symphonic language and unaffected melodies, was the perfect antidote.

During the Victorian Era in which Humperdinck found himself writing, a number of things were happening.  Nationalism continued its rise throughout Europe, with a particular interest in the development of idioms that were “authentic” to the mother country, whatever that happened to be.  With this interest also came the recognition and idealization of childhood as a distinct period in human development, a rather new phenomena in the history of humanity.   Taken together, increased interest in folklore and fairy tales makes sense, as does the bowdlerization of those fairy tales for the nursery.

Although the terms “folk tales” and “fairy tales” are often used interchangeably, there is actually a difference between them.  Folk tales emerge from an oral tradition, with authors who are often unknown, lost to time.  Fairy tales have a literary tradition and belong to a singular author.  Sometimes, despite their best intentions, collectors of folk tales end up creating fairy tales, as did 18th century French author Charles Perrault.  During the early 19th century, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm began collecting German folk tales by inviting storytellers into their home and carefully recording what they were told.  In 1810, they published their collection of stories in Children’s and Household Tales, which included “Hansel and Gretel,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Snow White,” and “Little Red Riding Hood,” all of which are familiar to us today, although not perhaps in their original versions!  The Grimm stories were, well, rather grim.  Bloody justice was meted out, unmitigated by Christian kindness.  They weren’t necessarily really for children after all.  Later versions of these tales, still published by the Grimm brothers, prettied up some of the more gristly details.  And by the time Humperdinck’s little sister Adelheid was looking about for a story to adapt for her children to perform, the unvarnished Grimm version of “Hansel and Gretel” was already deemed inappropriate for children.  At least for the romanticized innocence of the Victorian child.   

Fortunately for Adelheid, she didn’t have to start from scratch modifying the unremittingly dark tale herself.  In their own childhoods, Adelheid and Engelbert had not read Grimm’s version of Hansel and Gretel, but Ludwig Bechstein’s version from a collection of bowdlerized Grimm fairy tales, which Disney-fied the tales long before Disney.  Bechstein’s childhood was so miserable and cruel that he viewed fairy tales as “sacred,” “spiritual,” and “popular moral philosophy.”  He “Christianized” the stories, eradicating unnecessary (or unnecessarily gory) deaths and gratuitous violence and often overlaid them with more mercy.  Bechstein’s Hansel and Gretel, and therefore Humperdinck’s, did two very important things, which are specific to Bechstein’s background.  First, in the original version of the Grimm fairy tale, the children’s father is convinced, by his wife and their mother, to abandon the children.  This accurately reflects the story’s medieval roots, when the Four Horseman stalked Europe, and child abandonment and infant exposure were not uncommon for starving households.  The Grimms later softened this to a “stepmother,” who felt free to destroy her husband’s children because they had no blood relation to her.  Bechstein mollified these “bad mother” figures into a harried, impoverished and desperate biological mother.  He himself had been fostered and longed to expunge the taint of evil from the role of the adoptive or “step” parent, for as he himself said:

“Among the thousands of children who get their hands on books of fairy tales, there must be the so-called ‘stepchildren.’  When such a child—after reading many a fairytale in which stepmothers appear [and appear uniformly evil]—feels that it has been somehow injured or insulted … by its own stepmother, then that young person makes comparisons and develops a strong aversion to his guardian which … disturbs the peace and happiness of the entire family.”

Second, instead of a terrifying, red-eyed cannibal of a witch, Bechstein envisions a rather amiable (at least at first) and humorous witch.  She still wants to eat the children in the most literal way, but seems much less threatening than the haggard, peering monstrosity of Grimm.  Adelheid further subdued the appalling aspects of a cannibalistic old woman by magically transforming her victims into gingerbread boys and girls, a fate reversed by her own death and transformation into a giant cookie.  

A last change shared with Bechstein and expanded upon by Humperdinck is the role of religion.  Bechstein’s and Humperdinck’s siblings were deeply faithful, assured that “When need is at its height, the Lord God stretches forth His hand.”  In the opera, when they find themselves lost, the children share a prayer familiar to German children at the time, quoted from a 14th-century child’s tombstone:  “When at night I go to sleep, fourteen angels watch do keep …”

In sanitizing the Grimm tale, Humperdinck and Adelheid Wette created just the middle class family entertainment so missing from the prurient bloodiness of the new verismo operas electrifying audiences throughout Europe.  But in doing so, both they and Brechstein may have lost something elemental in the original folk tale—indeed to all folk tales.  Gustav Ferdinand Humperdinck, Engelbert’s and Adelheid’s father, wondered aloud at it, “I find the Grimm version preferable.”  

The old fairy tales are bloodthirsty and violent, but they also address the primal thoughts and fears of children.  They teach that real danger and betrayal can be overcome.  The gruesome outcomes that befall the “bad guy” in the stories appeal to the particularly intense need for “justice” children feel.  To paraphrase Tolkien:  children prefer justice to mercy.  Mercy is a grown-up conceit.  It is the grown-up who knows he needs mercy.  So folk tales fulfill that dark need for each villain to get his/her comeuppance.  It is no accident that so many folk tales deal with similar themes: hunger, poverty, bad mothers, being eaten, losing one’s way.  These are universal fears, the stuff of nightmares.  Some directors are revisiting the darker aspects of Hansel and Gretel, choosing to emphasize the more troubling aspects of the original story.  In doing so, they are more in keeping with the dark traditions of the flickering, fire-lit storytelling of the folk tales’ origins.  That Humperdinck’s opera provides room and space for such an examination marks it, as Strauss said, a “masterpiece of the highest quality.”

Engelbert Humperdinck (1854-1921)

"At first I thought I should be a second Beethoven; presently I found that to be another Schubert would be good; then gradually, satisfied with less and less, I resigned to be a Humperdinck."

-Engelbert Humperdinck

 

Engelbert Humperdinck

December must have been a magical month for Engelbert Humperdinck.  So many of his life-altering events seem to have landed in December around Christmas time.  Hansel and Gretel, upon which his legacy (rather unfairly, given the amount of other lovely music he wrote) is based, opened on December 23, 1893 and continues to be traditionally performed at this time.  He proposed to his wife at Christmas, prepared Wagner’s Symphony in C for the great man himself in December, met the librettist for what was to be his second most popular opera in December—over and over December pops up as a seminal time for the composer.

Despite the auspiciousness of December for Engelbert Humperdinck, he was born on September 1, 1854.  A good education was deeply valued, as his father was a school master.  As part of a solid, middle class education in the 19th century, he began piano lessons at 7 years old, and precocious and talented, wrote his first piano duet for himself and his teacher the same year.  At 13, he was taken to his first opera, which opened his eyes to his own passions and he responded immediately with two Singspiele, Perla and Claudine von Villa Bella.  During elementary and high school, he occasionally sang in the church choir and continued his youthful autographs.  He seems to have loved voices, for most of his youthful work (and indeed the great bulk of his compositions) were for voice.  At 17, he wrote a “hymn of jubilation” for chorus and orchestra and an Ave Maria for tenor.  Clearly the child was devoted to his muse and talented, but like many concerned parents throughout history, his parents were suspicious of music as a career and urged him to study architecture.  While pursuing architecture, Humperdinck somehow came to the attention of composer Ferdinand Hiller, who so admired the boy’s talent that he prevailed upon his parents to enroll him at the Cologne Conservatory under Hiller’s tutelage.  There he studied, in addition to composition, the cello, piano and organ.  Later he would continue his composition studies in Munich.  

Humperdinck excelled in his studies, and his initial style was patterned on Mendelssohn and Schumann.  He was awarded several prestigious awards, the watershed of which was the Mendelssohn Prize in 1879, which allowed him to travel throughout Italy.  In and of itself, this was a grand opportunity, but it also led to his meeting Richard Wagner in person.  The previous year, he had heard the Ring Cycle, which changed the way he viewed composition.  His meeting with Wagner opened the door to a personal friendship which lasted until the older composer’s death.  Wagner invited the young Humperdinck to Bayreuth to aid him with the preparation of his new opera Parsifal.  Humperdinck eagerly made the trip and spent his time creating copies of the score and training the boys’ choir.  In addition, he was given the opportunity to write some of Parsifal—a few bridging bars, which were removed by Wagner after the first performance.  

Humperdinck’s infatuation with Wagner’s music was of great concern to friends who admired the young composer’s lighter touch.  They worried that the burden of the “Music of the Future” would stifle Humperdinck’s own inspiration.  Humperdinck replied wryly that he would rather “give up originality if it meant he could write choruses like those in Parsifal.”  

Humperdinck’s friends had reason to fear.  As Humperdinck became more involved with Wagner, his family and his music, Humperdinck’s own music suffered.  He wrote little to nothing.  After Wagner’s death, he still felt his shadow, and for another seven years wrote no stage works.  During this time he taught at a number of universities throughout Europe, wrote some orchestral pieces, studied, and met Richard Strauss in 1885.  He edited and arranged music and wrote criticism, but his own genius remained stubbornly dormant.  By 1889, he was once again within the Wagner family circle as the private tutor to Wagner’s son, Siegfried.  He continued to work as a guest conductor and bide his time.

Eventually, he returned to Berlin, where his sister and her family lived.  Adelheid Wette was a writer who wrote little plays and poems for her children to perform for the family.  In 1890, he agreed to set some of her poetry for an adaptation of the familiar fairy tale Hansel and Gretel for her children.  He started with four songs.  By September, he was collaborating in earnest with his sister on a more ambitious Singspiel.  Now 36, he presented the finished score for this family entertainment as an engagement gift to future wife Hedwig Taxer.  It was Christmas Day.  In January, at the family’s encouragement, he began to orchestrate it and, with Adelheid, flesh out the slender story into an opera.  The following Christmas Hedwig received the first draft of an opera score.  

1893 was proving to be a very busy year for Humperdinck.  He had married in May of 1892 and welcomed his first child, a son, in April the following year.  He was working hard as critic, teacher, husband and father and had little time to orchestrate what would become his masterpiece.  Finally, in September it was done.  Strauss declared it “a masterpiece of the highest quality … all of it original, new and so authentically German.”  It was Strauss who conducted its premiere.  The seemingly organic, unpretentious, utterly natural score was an immediate and complete success.  The Germans had little use for the bloodthirsty Italian verismo school of opera roiling its way through Europe, and Humperdinck’s opera seemed just the thing to continue the Wagnerian tradition without belaboring that which was wearying in Wagner. Hansel and Gretel rapidly made its way throughout Germany, with four new productions in 1894.  

At the end of the year, Humperdinck was approached by Heinrich Porges to compose incidental music for Königskinder, a fairy-tale play by Porges’ daughter.  Later, Humperdinck adapted it again into a melodrama and it marked the first appearance of Sprechgesang*, which Schoenberg would use much more extensively in Pierrot Lunaire, as would fellow German Expressionist Berg in Wozzeck and Lulu.  Not that Königskinder sounds a bit like Berg!  The melodrama was completed and enthusiastically received in 1897.  Its subsequent revision as an opera in 1910 was just as successful, if not more.  It even overshadowed Puccini’s La fanciulla del West in its New York premiere!

Other stage works followed and though none was as successful as Hansel and Gretel, all were happily received by the public.  In 1912, Humperdinck suffered a stroke, which paralyzed his left hand, though otherwise he recovered nicely.  Four years later, he lost his wife Hedwig, which further weakened his indifferent health.  He lived to see his son successfully direct his first opera, Der Freischütz, but sadly, during the second performance had a heart attack, dying not long after.  His obituaries were universally complimentary, and he was buried on October 1, 1921 in Stahnsdorf.

Not much information is available about Engelbert Humperdinck.  There is no English-language biography dedicated to him, and precious few German-language biographies.  His son wrote a memoir about his father, published in 1965.  Most mentions of Humperdinck are in connection to his music; his use of leitmotifs or his introduction of Sprechgesang, for instance.  His contemporaries describe him as rather retiring, viewing fame as “a necessary evil accompanying greatness.”  And that his audiences regarded him as great is not an overstatement.  Humperdinck’s work was respectfully and enthusiastically received and critics were generous and lavish in their praise of his music, even if posterity is, with the grand exception of Hansel and Gretel, not.  Modern critics, upon careful listening to his other opera scores, blame the inferior texts as their failing and not their music.  It is perhaps telling that his personality was “honest [and] straightforward” and that he “had no enemies,” for his librettos were almost universally the work of friends and family.  Perhaps his warmth and enthusiastic support for his loved ones’ work doomed most of his own.   But his gift for melody and gorgeous, ripe orchestrations is rife throughout Hansel and Gretel.  While his work is definitely Wagnerian, he never becomes trapped by Wagner’s tendency to allow the orchestra to tell his story; rather, Humperdinck always allows the voice and the rippling tunes that are so eminently hummable and unforgettable to tell his tale.  But he also was a master at atmospherics, an incomparable tone painter.  It is entirely possible that, had Humperdinck managed to be born a generation later, we would have said his name in the same breath with Bernard Herrmann, Erich Korngold, and even John Williams, who himself owes a great deal to Wagner!

Despite the seemingly stunted output of this brilliant composer who so definitively represented the musical zeitgeist of his time and place, we remember him.  Humperdinck has left us a legacy of hope and faith, honesty of intent and a happy ending—a lovely winter surprise (despite its summer setting), that is no less surprising for its familiarity.  We can all be grateful for Hansel and Gretel.

*a vocal style intermediate between speech and singing but without exact pitch intonation.

Maureen McKayMaureen McKay - Gretel

Soprano



Following performances of Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, the Washington Post hailed soprano Maureen McKay as the "undisputed star of the show," and further exclaimed, "Armed with a silvery, precisely aimed voice, natural stage presence and the kind of beautifully detailed acting you don't see often enough on the operatic stage, McKay turned in a smart, sexy and thoroughly charming performance.”

Maureen McKay

Maureen McKay - Gretel

Soprano

 

HANSEL AND GRETEL ACCLAIM

"Maureen McKay as Gretel and Blythe Gaissert as Hansel believably embodied a couple of rambunctious children, scampering about the stage with enviable energy. They also have voices that easily cut through the often thick orchestration of Humperdinck's score, and that blend beautifully in the duets. McKay's performance of Gretel's song at the opening of Act II, where she happily greets the dawn after the night in the forest, was just about perfect — full of wonder and happiness, warmth and brightness."
Tulsa World

OTHER ACCLAIM

"McKay has a lovely clear voice, and her perfect acting really helped make the production."
Opera Today

"Maureen McKay turned in quite a spunky performance as Lilla. She lavished beautiful phrasing on her lovely (and blessedly still) second act aria, which could have been written for Susanna in “Figaro.”"
Opera Today

"Soprano Maureen McKay was brilliantly expressive in Simon Sargon’s “Shema” composed to Primo Levi poems."
Seattle Times

"But the undisputed star of the show was the young soprano Maureen McKay, playing the willful and wily Susanna. Armed with a silvery, precisely aimed voice, natural stage presence and the kind of beautifully detailed acting you don´t see often enough on the operatic stage, McKay turned in a smart, sexy and thoroughly charming performance."
The Washington Post

"...Maureen McKay shone as Susanna... McKay´s warm, agile soprano and pert spunk were totally satisfactory."
Seattle Post-Intellegencer


BIOGRAPHY

Following performances of Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, the Washington Post hailed soprano Maureen McKay as the "undisputed star of the show," and further exclaimed, "Armed with a silvery, precisely aimed voice, natural stage presence and the kind of beautifully detailed acting you don't see often enough on the operatic stage, McKay turned in a smart, sexy and thoroughly charming performance.”  In the 2010-11 season, she returns to the Komische Oper Berlin where she will sing her first performances of Blanche in a new production of Dialogues des carmélites directed by Calixto Bieto and returns to the roles of Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, Norina in Don Pasquale, and Musetta in La bohème.  She also joins Portland Opera to reprise Gretel in Hänsel und Gretel and in coming seasons, will join the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia conducted by Fabio Luisi for Schmidt’s Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln.  In the 2009-10 season, she made her debut with the Komische Oper Berlin as Marzelline in Fidelio and Norina in Don Pasquale, both new productions, returned to the Opera Company of Philadelphia for Eurydice in Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice and joined the Metropolitan Opera roster for Hänsel und Gretel.
Among her previous engagements are Gretel in Hänsel und Gretel with Opera Company of Philadelphia and Tulsa Opera, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte with Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro with Opera Cleveland, Lightfoot McLendon in Cold Sassy Tree with Atlanta Opera, Lilla in Una cosa rara and Elisa in Il re pastore with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Zerlina in Don Giovanni with New Orleans Opera, Despina in Così fan tutte and Caroline Gaines in Richard Danielpour’s Margaret Garner with New York City Opera, Musetta in La bohème with Opera Omaha, and Norina in Don Pasquale with Anchorage Opera.  She joined Seiji Ozawa for the Dew Fairy and the Sandman in Hänsel und Gretel in his Ongaku-juku Opera Project throughout Japan and made her debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic as Papagena in Die Zauberflöte conducted by Leonard Slatkin at the Hollywood Bowl.
The soprano’s concert performances include Mozart’s Requiem and Debussy’s La demoiselle élue with the Utah Symphony, a program of Viennese music by Lehár and Johann Strauss with the Saint Louis Symphony, Carmina Burana with the National Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, and Utah Symphony, Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under the baton of Gerard Schwarz (to be released on a commercial recording), Grieg’s Peer Gynt with the Oregon Symphony, and Louis Andriessen’s The New Math(s) with the Seattle Chamber Players.  With Seattle’s Music of Remembrance, she premiered Lori Laitman’s song cycle I Never Saw Another Butterfly for soprano and clarinet and sang Aninku in Tony Kushner’s adaptation of Hans Krasa’s Brundibár; a recording including both Brundibár and Laitman’s song cycle is available on the Naxos label.  She also performed Simon Sargon’s song cycle, Shema, with Music of Remembrance.
A former member of Seattle Opera's Young Artists Program, Maureen McKay was seen as Flora in Britten's The Turn of the Screw and Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro.  As a Filene Young Artist with Wolf Trap Opera Company, McKay was seen in the roles of Johanna in Sweeney Todd, Ismene in Telemann’s Orpheus, and Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro.  She earned her Bachelor of Music at Columbus State University in Georgia (summa cum laude) and her Master of Music at The Ohio State University.

Sandra Piques EddySandra Piques Eddy - Hansel

Mezzo Soprano


Mezzo-Soprano Sandra Piques Eddy has been praised by the Boston Globe as "a charismatic mezzo with future star written all over her," with a voice possessed of "extraordinary richness of timbre and expressiveness." Her combination of beautiful tone, artistic sensitivity, and superlative stagecraft have served to make Ms. Eddy one of North America's most highly acclaimed singing actresses.

Sandra Piques Eddy

Sandra Piques Eddy - Hansel

Mezzo Soprano


ACCLAIM

SEMELE - Florentine Opera

“Sandra Piques Eddy, strikingly beautiful in Ino’s formal gown and hilarious as Juno, was arguably the most distinguished of all. Her dark-laced mezzo is graced with an erotically purring vibrato and formidable technique; “Above measure is the pleasure my revenge supplies,” taken at a very rapid clip, was dazzling.”
Opera News

LA CENERENTOLA - Spoleto Festival USA
"Sandra Piques Eddy, a mezzo with a lustrous voice, proved a defiant Angelina from her first notes, not so much lamenting her stepsisters' bossiness as rebuking them for it."
Opera News

"The brightest sparkle belonged to Ms. Piques Eddy, a swan-necked mezzo with fine technique, a range of colors from honeyed to bright and charm to burn."
The New York Times

ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA - New York City Opera

"Cleopatra's ladies Charmian and Iris were strongly cast; Laura Vlasak Nolen and Sandra Piques Eddy both projected glamour, frivolity and pathos."
Opera News

BIOGRAPHY

Mezzo-Soprano Sandra Piques Eddy has been praised by the Boston Globe as "a charismatic mezzo with future star written all over her," with a voice possessed of "extraordinary richness of timbre and expressiveness." Her combination of beautiful tone, artistic sensitivity, and superlative stagecraft have served to make Ms. Eddy one of North America's most highly acclaimed singing actresses.

Sandra Piques Eddy's engagements in the 2010-11 season currently include the title role in Carmen for both Opera North (UK) and Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Isabella in L'italiana in Algeri with Austin Lyric Opera, Zerlina in Don Giovanni with Opera Omaha, and Hänsel in Portland Opera's production of Hänsel und Gretel. Her 2009-10 season included her return to the Metropolitan Opera as Mercédès in a new production of Carmen (also broadcast nationally on PBS and theatrically live in HD) and to Boston Lyric Opera as Idamante in Idomeneo. She also appeared in recital at Amherst College. In summer of 2010 she performed the role of Dinah in Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti with Boston Midsummer Opera.
Among Ms. Eddy's most recent successes are performances as the title role in La Tragédie de Carmen with Chicago Opera Theater; the title role in La Cenerentola with Austin Lyric Opera, also at Spoleto Festival (USA); Charmian in Antony and Cleopatra with New York City Opera; the roles of Juno and Ino in Semele with Florentine Opera; Romeo in I Capuleti ed i Montecchi at Glimmerglass Opera; Cherubino with both Canadian Opera Company and Atlanta Opera; Isabella in L'italiana in Algeri with Vancouver Opera; Stephano in Roméo et Juliette with Hawaii Opera Theatre; the title role in La Cenerentola, and soloist in Beethoven's Mass in C at Spoleto Festival (USA); Dorabella in Così fan tutte with New York City Opera; Béatrice in Béatrice et Bénédict with Chicago Opera Theater; and Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia with Austin Lyric Opera and the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.

Since her Metropolitan Opera debut in 2002 Sandra Piques Eddy has returned to the legendary stage to perform such roles as Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro, Lola in Cavalleria rusticana, Zulma in L'italiana in Algeri, Rosette in Manon, Third Naked Virgin in Moses und Aron, Olga in The Merry Widow, Countess Ceprano in Rigoletto, The Dragonfly in L'Enfant et les sortilèges, the Third Handmaiden in Sly, the Flower Maiden in Parsifal, and Mercédès in Carmen. Other career highlights include appearing as Don Ramiro in La finta giardiniera at Florida Grand Opera and New York City Opera; Meg in Little Women with Glimmerglass Opera, Fort Worth Opera, and Kentucky Opera; Dorabella in Così fan tutte with Pittsburgh Opera; Isabella in L'italiana in Algeri with Arizona Opera; and Cherubino with Los Angeles Opera and Chicago Opera Theater.

A Boston native, Ms. Eddy's professional concert debut was with Boston Baroque in Vivaldi's Gloria at Sanders Theater and Portsmouth Music Hall. She has since had several reengagements, including Messagiera and Speranza in L'Orfeo, and Valletto and Amore in L'incoronazione di Poppea. Boston audiences have also heard her in various roles with Boston University's Opera Institute, including her signature Cherubino, Nancy in Albert Herring, Tieresias in the staged premiere of Merryman's Antigone, and, most memorably, as Sesto in La clemenza di Tito. Ms. Eddy made her Avery Fisher Hall debut singing Messiah with the National Chorale, and has performed as soloist with Granite State Opera Orchestra and at Monadnock and Manchester music festivals.

Sandra Piques Eddy was the first place New England Regional Winner of the 2000 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and a National Semifinalist. She has won competitions at both Opera Lirica and at the Boston Conservatory. Ms. Eddy graduated from Boston University's School for the Arts with a master's degree in Vocal Performance, and was an apprentice artist at the Boston Opera Institute. Additionally, she is a 2002 recipient of the Shoshana Foundation Richard Gold Career Grant.

 

Elizabeth ByrneElizabeth Byrne - Mother

Soprano


Established as one of the most exciting dramatic sopranos of her generation, the success of ELIZABETH BYRNE’s first integral performances of the role of Brünnhilde in the new Tim Albery production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle at the Scottish Opera and conducted by Music Director Sir Richard Armstrong was recognized by a Herald Angel Award for outstanding performance of the 2003 Edinburgh Festival and also by a Royal Philharmonic Society Award Nomination.

Elizabeth Byrne

Elizabeth Byrne - Mother

Soprano


HANSEL AND GRETEL ACCLAIM (The Mother/Witch)

“Elizabeth Byrne’s portrayal of the Witch was delightful. The British-born, Chicago based dramatic soprano took an earthy, alluring approach - - as a dotty, old eccentric, not a scary specter.”
- INDIANAPOLIS STAR 2008

OTHER ACCLAIM

“Ms Byrne has a voice of flame and accuracy, the voice of a young person keenly in tune with herself, quick and 100 percent in her soft emotional responses. She also had vitality in her stage presence.”
- THE NEW YORK TIMES 2001

“...but the instrumental beauty of Elizabeth Byrne’s well-sung Aïda...From the second act duet between Byrne and Irina Mishura , the production hit its stride. The English-born Byrne proves a powerful singer in her debut with the Portland Opera, a sterling soprano with a big voice.”
-Bill Smith WILLAMETTE WEEKLY

“Elizabeth Byrne singing her first complete Aïda, has a strong, sinewy soprano...Byrne is an expressive physical actress whose intense, neurotic Aïda is more anguished slave than proud princess.”
-Patricia Cornell THE OREGONIAN 1999


BIOGRAPHY

Established as one of the most exciting dramatic sopranos of her generation, the success of ELIZABETH BYRNE’s first integral performances of the role of Brünnhilde in the new Tim Albery production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle at the Scottish Opera and conducted by Music Director Sir Richard Armstrong was recognized by a Herald Angel Award for outstanding performance of the 2003 Edinburgh Festival and also by a Royal Philharmonic Society Award Nomination. Writing of her performances, The Scotsman reported “This epic cycle has made a star out of soprano Elizabeth Byrne who has grown both vocally and dramatically into the role of Brünnhilde withelectrifying results. She never fails to create a frisson of excitement whenever she appears on stage - a wily tense heroine whose power is understated but never in doubt.” And of her appearance in Die Walküre at the Edinburgh Festival, Paul Griffiths of The New York Times wrote that “Ms. Byrne has a voice of flame and accuracy, the voice of a young person keenly in tune with herself, quick and 100 percent in her emotional responses. She also had vitality in her stage presence.” The Ring Cycle was the cornerstone of the 2003 Edinburgh Festival with additional performances in Glasgow and throughout the United Kingdom. Performances of Siegfried were filmed by BBC-TV and shown on BBC 4 as well as the recording of a documentary on the making of Götterdämmrung which was aired on BBC Scotland.

Building on her Scottish Opera Ring Cycle performances, Miss Byrne made her debut at the Stuttgart Staatstheater in performances of Brünnhilde in Jossi Wieler’s production of Siegfried conducted by Lothar von Zagrosek. She returned to Stuttgart for their Ring Cycle in fall 2005. She also covered the role of Brünnhilde in Die Walküre at the Metropolitan Opera. Prior to the Scottish Opera Ring Cycle, Miss Byrne had performed Sieglinde in concert with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra with Kirk Trevor and Brünnhilde in Joseph Maclain’s production of Die Walküre which was conducted by Guido Ajmone-Marsan at the Austin Lyric Opera. Early Ring performances include appearances as Gutrune and Gerhilde in the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ring Cycle directed by August Everding and conducted by Zubin Mehta and Ortlinde in Die Walkûre at The Metropolitan Opera conducted by James Levine. Covering Isolde in the David Hockney production of Tristan und Isolde at the San Francisco Opera provided her first exposure to the role. The San Francisco experience led to her engagement for the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s “Tristan Project” conceived by Peter Sellars, in performances conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen in both California’s Disney Hall and at the New York’s Lincoln Center. She added the role of Senta in Der Fliegende Höllander in performances at Opéra de Massy directed by Didier Kersten and also performed the role at Austin Lyric Opera in Garnett Bruce’s production of the opera conducted by Guido Ajmone-Marsan She was engaged by Joel Revzen at Arizona Opera as Senta and repeated this role at Portland Opera in Christopher Alden’s production conducted by David Parry. On 24 hrs. notice she stepped in for Deborah Voigt in acclaimed concert performances with James Levine conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

One of Miss Byrne’s first leading roles in the German repertoire was as the title role of Salome at Glimmerglass Opera. In a production staged by Leon Major and conducted by Stewart Robertson, Miss Byrne’s success was noted by The Ithaca Times “Any singer who ever attempts this role has to come equipped with the charm of Lolita, the will of Xena and the voice of Brünnhilde: plus she has to dance. Elizabeth Byrne did as good a job of covering all the bases as one can expect to see in the theater. She has a voice that can soar above the tumult of Straussian orchestration and still sound lyrical. She can act sexy...” She returned to Glimmerglass Opera in summer 2006 adding the role of Kostelniçka in Janáçek’s Jenufa, marking her first foray in the Czech repertoire. The production was directed by Jonathan Miller and conducted by Music Director Stewart Robertson.

Miss Byrne appeared in Richard Strauss’s opera Ariadne auf Naxos at the Dallas Opera making her debut with the company as The Composer. in a production directed by John Lloyd Davies and conducted by Music Director Graham Jenkins. In 2005 she added the role of Leonore in Fidelio at Scottish Opera in Tim Albery’s production conducted by Sir Richard Armstrong which led to her covering the role at The Metropolitan Opera the following season. Also at The Metropolitan Opera, Philippe Augin conducted her performance of The Duchess of Parma in Peter Mussbach’s production of Doktor Faust by the German-Italian composer Ferruccio Busoni. Additionally she performed the Fourth Maid in Elektra under the baton of James Levine. At the Lyric Opera of Chicago she performed the role of The Overseer in Götz Friedrich’s production of Elektra conducted by Leonard Slatkin. She also covered the role of Chrysothemis. Miss Byrne made her debut in The Netherlands as Agave in a concert performance of Egon Wellesz’s Die Bachkantinnen conducted by Edo de Waart at the Concertgebouw and broadcast throughout Europe. Her first appearance in Hansel and Gretel (role of The Mother) was with The Phoenix Symphony. She then performed both roles of The Mother and The Witch in the Frank Corsaro/Maurice Sendak production in her debut in the 2008-09 season at Indianapolis Opera with Jim Caraher conducting. She was invited back later that season to sing the role of Fricka in Das Rheingold in the first ever performances of a Ring Opera in a joint semi-staged production between The Indianapolis Symphony and The Indianapolis Opera. The performances were conducted by the Symphony’s Music Director, Mario Venzago.

Elizabeth Byrne is also internationally recognized for her portrayal of the Italian heroines. As Tosca she has appeared with The Lyric Opera of Chicago in a Frank Galati production which was conducted by Bruno Bartoletti and also with The Israel Philharmonic with performances in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa, all conducted by Antonio Pappano. Miss Byrne was also invited to sing Tosca at Scottish Opera in a revival of his own production by Anthony Besch and conducted by Guido Ajmone-Marsan. Her many American appearances as Tosca include productions at Opera Festival of New Jersey (Director: Dejan Miladinoviç. Conductor: Louis Salemno), Opera Omaha (Director: David Gately. Conductor: Hal France), Minnesota Opera ( Director: David Roth. Conductor: John Keenan), Baltimore Opera (Director: John Lehmayer. Conductor: Andrea Licata and Cleveland Opera (Director: David Bamberger. Conductor: Imre Pallo). In Canada she has appeared as Tosca at Calgary Opera. Edmonton Opera and Manitoba Opera. Writing of her performance in Calgary. the critic for The Calgary Herald reviewed her performance: “A true spinto in tone, character and weight of voice. Byrne is clearly a natural for the role and delivers the big moments in the famous second act with gripping intensity and power. The famous “Vissi d’arte” was geniunely moving and the emotional highlight it was meant to be.” She performed both Elena and Margarita in Boito’s Mefistofele in the Robert Carsen production at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. She made her debut in Italy as Lady Macbeth in Verdi’s Macbeth at Il Teatro di Giuseppe Verdi in Pisa in a production directed by Patrizia Grazis and conducted by Claudio Desderi which was also performed in Mantua and Livorno. Her fIrst performance of the title-role in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut were seen at Baltimore Opera in a production directed by James de Blasis and conducted by Joseph Rescigno and were followed by performances of the Bruce Donnell production at the Canadian Opera Company conducted by Maurizio Arena. Arizona Opera audiences enjoyed her first performances as Maddalena di Coigny in Giordano’s Andrea Chenier, Austin Lyric Opera audiences enjoyed her first performances of Minnie in La Fanciulla del West and Welsh National Opera audiences enjoyed her first performances of the title-role of Aïda. The soprano has since performed Aïda with the Portland Opera (OR) in a production directed by General Director, Robert Bailey and conducted by Music Director, Louis Salemno.

An excellent musician, Elizabeth Byrne is noted for her performances of contemporary operas as well. In addition to Doktor Faust at The Metropolitan, Miss Byrne gave the world premiere performances of the role of Blanca in James Macmillan’s opera Inés de Castro at The Edinburgh Festival. The work was also performed in Glasgow and Oporto, Portugal. Jonathan Moore directed The Scottish Opera production which was conducted by Sir Richard Armstrong and broadcast on BBC-TV. The Sunday Express described her performance: ‘In her tour de force aria, Elizabeth Byrne (Blanca, Pedro’s spurned wife) had the audience captivated and horrified by her magnificently sung, terrifying account of marital rape, torture and miscarriage. Undoubtedly the highlight each night”. Her American debut was performing and recording the leading role of the Stepdaughter in Hugo Weisgall’s Six Characters in Search of an Author with the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists. It was followed by her appearance as The Pale Lady in Prokofieff’s The Gambler which was conducted by Bruno Bartoletti. Miss Byrne also made her Tulsa Opera debut singing the role of Abigail Williams in Robert Ward’s The Crucible in performances conducted by Music Director Carol Crawford and attended by the Composer.

In concert, the soprano has performed Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 at The Royal Albert Hall and Shostakovitch’s Symphony No. 14 at Canada’s National Arts Center conducted by Pinchas Zuckerman. Elizabeth Byrne made her Avery Fisher Hall debut performing Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony with Leon Botstein and The American Symphony Orchestra. She has performed The Verdi Requiem with The Alabama Symphony with Sam Wong and The Greensboro Symphony (NC) with Stewart Molina. She has performed Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 with the Symphony Orchestras of Utah (with Joseph Silverstein), Seattle (with Gerard Schwarz), Richmond (with George Manahan) and South Bend Symphony (IN) (with Tsung-Yeh). She has appeared in Opera Highlights concerts at The Buxton Festival and at The Prague Festival , with the New Seoul Symphony in Korea, The Rochester Philharmonic (with Sir Mark Elder), the Fort Wayne Symphony (with Edvard Tchivel) and with the Northwest Indiana Symphony. Miss Byrne also sang The Final Scene from Capriccio with Canadian Opera Music Director Richard Bradshaw in a concert featuring the final works of Richard Strauss. Her first performances of The Liebestod by Richard Wagner were with The Valdosta Symphony.

Future engagements in 2010 include the new role of Herodias in Salome with The Minnesota Opera and The Mother in Hansel and Gretel with The Portland Opera. She returns to The Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2011 to cover the role of Ortrud in Lohengrin and also in 2012 to sing The Overseer and cover the title role in their new David McVicar production of Elektra. Both these productions will be conducted by The Music Director, Sir Andrew Davis. Starting in September, 2010 Miss Byrne will join the Vocal Faculty as an adjunct teacher at DePaul University.

Elizabeth Byrne was born in Lancashire, England and is a permanent resident of The United States of America. She lives in Chicago with her husband, James.

 

Weston HurtWeston Hurt - Father

Baritone


This season, baritone Weston Hurt will make his debuts at the Seattle Opera as Germont in La Traviata and the Canadian Opera Company as Cecil in Maria Stuarda. He recently made his debuts at the Atlanta Opera as Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, the Dallas Opera as Schaunard in La Bohéme, the Arizona Opera as Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor and the Michigan Opera Theater as the Count in Le nozze di Figaro.

Weston Hurt

Weston Hurt - Father

Baritone


ACCLAIM

“ (as Germont) Weston Hurt's company debut in the role came as balm to ear, eye and mind. His ability to find the humanity underlying this initially convention-bound father made much better sense of the softening that transforms him in the opera's later scenes. . .”
- Bernard Jacobson, The Seattle Times

“ Weston Hurt, a baritone, used his strong voice with admirable restraint in the Offertory and Libera me.”
- Steve Smith, New York Times

“ As the Count, Weston Hurt produced a remarkably suave sound and phrased with the subtle graces of a refined lieder singer, while his acting proved every bit as nuanced and assured.”
- Tim Smith, Opera News

“As Ramiro's desguised valet Dandini, baritone Weston Hurt was as notable for his excellent, crisp diction as he was for his deft comic double takes.”
- T.L. Ponick, The Washington Times


BIOGRAPHY

This season, baritone Weston Hurt will make his debuts at the Seattle Opera as Germont in La Traviata and the Canadian Opera Company as Cecil in Maria Stuarda. He recently made his debuts at the Atlanta Opera as Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, the Dallas Opera as Schaunard in La Bohéme, the Arizona Opera as Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor and the Michigan Opera Theater as the Count in Le nozze di Figaro. Other recent engagements have included Sharpless and Frank in Die Tote Stadt at the New York City Opera, Baldassare in L’Arlesiana with the Opera Orchestra of New York, and a performance of Der ferne Klang with the American Symphony Orchestra in Avery Fisher Hall.

Also a prolific concert singer and recitalist, Mr. Hurt has performed in recitals sponsored by the prestigious Marilyn Horne Foundation in the United States, and has also performed in concert internationally, including a South American tour of performances of the Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem in the summer of 2006. This season, he made his debuts with the Nashville Symphony, the Dallas Symphony, and the Oratorio Society of New York in Carnegie Hall, and was presented again in recital by the Marilyn Horne Foundation. His large repertoire includes such works as the Handel Messiah, the Fauré Requiem, the Orff'Carmina Burana, the Bach Mass in B Minor and Magnificat, the Mozart Mass in C Minor and Coronation Mass, the Haydn Paukenmesse and the Britten War Requiem, which he sang at Carnegie Hall.

A graduate of the prestigious Julliard Opera Center, Mr. Hurt has received by many notable vocal awards, including 1st place and the People's Choice Award from the Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition, the Vienna Prize from the George London Foundation, 1st Place in the 2003 Oratorio Society of New York Competition, and various awards from the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation International Competition, Liederkranz Foundation, Metropolitan Opera National Council, Opera Index, Inc., Palm Beach Opera Competition, and two career grants conferred by The Santa Fe Opera.

 

Allan GlassmanAllan Glassman - The Witch

Tenor

 

Tenor Allan Glassman has thrilled audiences throughout America and Europe with his vibrant timbre and committed interpretations of roles. A regular at the Metropolitan Opera, Mr. Glassman triumphed as Herod in and new production of Salome starring Karita Mattila in 2004, and has since been heard in the MET’s productions of Die Frau Ohne Schatten, Boris Godunov, The Great Gatsby, Carmen, Elektra, Katya Kabanova and The Ghost of Versailles.

Allan Glassman

Allan Glassman - The Witch

Tenor



BIOGRAPHY

Tenor Allan Glassman has thrilled audiences throughout America and Europe with his vibrant timbre and committed interpretations of roles. A regular at the Metropolitan Opera, Mr. Glassman triumphed as Herod in and new production of Salome starring Karita Mattila in 2004, and has since been heard in the MET’s productions of Die Frau Ohne Schatten, Boris Godunov, The Great Gatsby, Carmen, Elektra, Katya Kabanova and The Ghost of Versailles. He has also been a frequent guest at New York City Opera, where he has performed the title role in Les Contes D’Hoffmann, Cavaradossi in Tosca, Don Jose in Carmen and Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, among many other productions.

In the 2009-2010 season and beyond, performances include Herod in Salome at the San Diego Opera, the title role in Otello at the Palm Beach Opera and Dallas Opera, Turridu in Cavalleria Rusticana at Opera Lyra Ottawa, his role debut as The Witch in Hänsel und Gretel at the Portland Opera, a return to the MET for Elektra, and Flask in Jake Heggie’s new opera Moby Dick at the Dallas Opera and the San Diego Opera. He took part in the San Francisco Opera’s workshop of Moby Dick during the summer 2009.

Over the past few season, Mr. Glassman’s noted engagements have include Herod in Salome at the Dallas Opera, the Prince in Rusalka in the Czech Republic, Shuisky in Boris Godunov with San Diego Opera, Walter Engelmann in Pasatieri’s Frau Margotat Fort Worth Opera, Salome in a return to the MET, Canio in I Pagliacciand Pollione in Norma at Palm Beach Opera, Cavaradossi in a new production of Toscaat the Belleayre Music Festival, Calaf in Turandotand Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus with Opera New Jersey, Chevalier Des Grieux in Manon Lescaut with Fresno Grand Opera, Sacco in Sacco and Vanzettiat the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Manrico in Il Trovatore at the San Antonio Opera, the title role in Otello with Des Moines Metro Opera and at the Chautauqua Festival, Mahler’s Lied von der Erdewith the Xalapa Symphony in Mexico, and concerts with the Albany Symphony, the Guadalahara Symphony Orchestra the Fox Valley Symphony.

In Europe, recent performances include Manrico in Il Trovatore with the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin; Samson in Samson and Dalilah at the New Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv; title role in Ernani, Don Jose in Carmen and I Vespri Siciliani with L’Opéra de Nice; I Vespri Siciliani with Den Norske Opera; Carmen with Opera Valencia in Spain and the Prince in Rusalka with Oper Frankfurt. In concert he has sung Prince Osaka in Mascagni’s Iris with the Münchner Philharmoniker and Verdi’s Requiem with L’Opéra de Nice.

Additional noted U.S. engagements from past seasons include Samson in Samson and Dalilah at Opera Pacific, Tobias Picker’s An American Tragedy, Wozzeck and Mazeppa at the Metropolitan Opera, Calaf in Turandot, Shuisky in Boris Godunov, and Boris in Katya Kabanova with Florida Grand Opera, the title role in Idomeneo with The Los Angeles Opera, where he was double cast with Placido Domingo, and Herod in Salome with Ft. Worth Opera. In concert, he performed Rusalkawith The Fort Worth Symphony, Das Lied von der Erde with Grand Rapids Symphony, and Boito’s Mephistofele with Boston Concert Opera.

Ari PeltoAri Pelto

Conductor

With performances that have been called poetic, earthy, vigorous and highly individual, conductor Ari Pelto is increasingly in demand both as an operatic and symphonic conductor. Since his debut conducting Verdi's La traviata, he has been engaged as a regular guest conductor at New York City Opera, leading the company in performances of Madama Butterfly, Carmen, and La bohème.

Ari Pelto

Ari Pelto

Conductor


ACCLAIM

“City Opera's performance of "Madama Butterfly" on Sunday afternoon was conducted by a newcomer, Ari Pelto, who led an extremely well paced realization. The first act was crisp and biting, impressive not just as no-nonsense music making, but also setting the stage for highly romantic slower sections in the midst of the second act and a "vigil theme" to die for. The NYCO orchestra was in top form, their coloration as subtle as the cherry blossoms that fall…in this production.”
- Fred Kirshnit, New York Sun

"'Don Giovanni' at Wolf Trap: “Don Giovanni"… is shaped and paced with consummate skill by conductor Ari Pelto…"
- Joseph McLellan, Washington Post

"Lucretia" takes wing on the strength of its music… And Sunday's performance, led with no-nonsense efficiency by conductor Ari Pelto, showed the score to glittery advantage"
- Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle

“Ari Pelto evoked superb vigor and stylish beauty of playing… (Rape of Lucretia).
- John Bender, San Francisco Classical Voice

“Under Ari Pelto's baton, the orchestra has never sounded better, nor the chemistry between pit and stage been quite so palpable.”
- Susan Elliot, Atlanta Journal Constitution

“ …as finely attuned to bringing out the dramatic values of a production as any conductor with whom I have worked in my 25 years as a stage director …”
- Vincent Liotta

"… a musician of real sensitivity who possesses a keen intellect and artistic idealism …"
- Robert Spano

At Spoleto USA: "Pelto shaped the work in a way which brought out all the charm and wit Haydn put into his music."
- Charleston Post and Courier

“...a dynamic young force inthe conducting world...”
- Sheri Greenawald, Director, San Francisco, Opera Center

BIOGRAPHY

With performances that have been called poetic, earthy, vigorous and highly individual, conductor Ari Pelto is increasingly in demand both as an operatic and symphonic conductor. Since his debut conducting Verdi's La traviata, he has been engaged as a regular guest conductor at New York City Opera, leading the company in performances of Madama Butterfly, Carmen, and La bohème. Other recent engagements have included La bohème and Rusalka with Boston Lyric Opera; Roméo et Juliette with Minnesota Opera; Carmen and The Cunning Little Vixen with Chautauqua Opera; and Die Zauberflöte with Portland Opera.
    
Maestro Pelto’s current engagements include La bohème with Opera Theatre of St. Louis; Carmen with Utah Opera; Così fan tutte with San Francisco Opera Center; and Falstaff with the New National Theatre, Tokyo.

Deeply committed to the future of opera in America, Maestro Pelto works regulary at some of the country's most prestigious young artists' programs. In 2005 he conducted Don Giovanni at Wolf Trap and returned in 2006 to conduct a new production of Le nozze di Figaro. At San Francisco Opera's Merola Program. He conducted Britten's Rape of Lucretia in 2004. In past seasons he has conducted operas at the Oberlin and San Francisco Conservatories and productions at the Manhattan School of Music and the Juilliard  School during the 2006-2007 season. He has also been engaged as a regular faculty member and conductor at the New National Theatre, Tokyo.

Maestro Pelto spent the fall of 2002 conducting 30 performances of La bohème in 20 states with Western Opera Theater, after bringing Così fan tutte to 21 states the previous year. In 1999 he made a successful international debut in Germany with the Bochumer Symphoniker, and the same year conducted Lucia di Lammermoor at Festival Opera in Walnut Creek, CA, returning the next year to lead Il barbiere di Siviglia. He has appeared several times with the Florida Orchestra, the Toledo Symphony, and the Atlanta Ballet.

At age 24 he became Assistant Conductor of the Spoleto Festival USA, where he led symphonic and chamber orchestra programs and was responsible for musical preparations of Fidelio, Janacek's Excursions of Mr. Broucek, and Britten's Curlew River. He also served as Assistant Conductor of the Florida West Coast Symphony in Sarasota from 2000-2002, conducting over 30 concerts there.

Maestro Pelto has worked with a number of the world's finest teachers of conducting: Robert Spano, Jorma Panula, Mendi Rodan. At the Indiana University School of Music he studied with Imre Pallo and Thomas Baldner. While pursuing his degree there, he also served as Assistant Conductor of the Opera Theater, where he led many performances including Don Pasquale, Idomeneo, Orpheus in the Underworld, and Falstaff.

He holds a degree in violin performance from Oberlin Conservatory, and has performed as a soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral violinist in Europe, China, and throughout the United States.

 

Benjamin DavisBenjamin Davis

Stage Director


As Opera Director: Il Tabarro, Suor Angelica, and Gianni Schicchi for Opera Zuid in the Netherlands; Al Gran Sole Carico d’Amore as associate director with Katie Mitchell for the Salzburg Festival; a mixed media staging of Britten’s song cycle Les Illuminations for Cardiff International Dance Festival with National Dance Company Wales; Il Tabarro and Star-Cross’d Lovers for Welsh National Opera community tours; movement director for Jephtha at Royal Danish Opera.

Benjamin Davis

Benjamin Davis

Stage Director


HANSEL AND GRETEL ACCLAIM

‘This production was first seen in 1998... But its latest Welsh National Opera revival vies with the best...The element of slapstick and pantomime is always slickly managed in the outer acts and contrasts wonderfully with the central ritual of the dreamed banquet, which is surreal yet magical in its effect.’
- The Guardian, June 3, 2008

‘Wickedly entertaining, entertainingly wicked, Richard Jones's ten-year-old production of Engelbert Humperdinck's 1893 opera is in danger of giving cannibalism a good name. Last Christmas it was thrilling audiences at the New York Met. Now revived by Welsh National Opera, the company that first staged it, it is every bit as good as when it was new.’
- The Times, June 2, 2008

‘This revival had just about everything going for it with Welsh National Opera at its total best without a single weak link anywhere. It was a night when Welsh National Opera could do no better. It was world-class opera.’
- South Wales Echo, June 2, 2008

OTHER ACCAIM

‘I haven't the space to do justice to Welsh National Opera's revival of Richard Jones' production of Berg's Wozzeck, but it's stunningly good, and I do urge anyone with a serious interest in opera not to miss it. The staging is arrestingly imaginative and immaculately executed...’
- The Telegraph

‘The revival director, Benjamin Davis, and the music director, Lothar Koenigs, tenaciously stick to Jones’s template, with pacing and gestures quickly paced, sharply sculptured and darkly witty.’
- The Times

‘It is a staging that demands to be seen. This season, beans means Wozzeck’
- The Guardian

‘This production was Welsh National Opera’s first outing at their new home in Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre in 2005. Then, I thought the performance could hardly be bettered but it turns out that I was wrong: this revival brings both the music and the production’s message even more vividly to life... a tribute both to revival director Benjamin Davis and his singer - actors’
- Seen and Heard, UK Opera Review


BIOGRAPHY
As Opera Director: Il Tabarro, Suor Angelica, and Gianni Schicchi for Opera Zuid in the Netherlands; Al Gran Sole Carico d’Amore as associate director with Katie Mitchell for the Salzburg Festival; a mixed media staging of Britten’s song cycle Les Illuminations for Cardiff International Dance Festival with National Dance Company Wales; Il Tabarro and Star-Cross’d Lovers for Welsh National Opera community tours; movement director for Jephtha at Royal Danish Opera. As Revival Director of Richard Jones’ landmark, award-winning productions for Welsh National Opera: Hansel and Gretel, The Queen of Spades and Wozzeck. Further revival directing credits include Tosca and The Magic Flute for Welsh National Opera and stagings of Rigoletto, La Traviata, Carmen and Jephtha at Birmingham Symphony Hall. Currently directing second revival of The Magic Flute for Welsh National Opera, opening 24th September 2010 in Cardiff then touring the UK. Directing Hansel and Gretel for Portland Opera, Oregon, which premiers 5th November 2010 and will direct the new production of Cosi fan tutte for Welsh National Opera in 2011.

Joined Welsh National Opera in 2001, as a staff director. Worked on over 25 productions for the company. Also worked as a staff director at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and Canadian Opera Company, Toronto.

 

HOT OFF THE STAGE--video from Hansel and Gretel!


The Children's Prayer



The Witch's aria



Allan Glassman talks about being the Witch


Sandra Picques Eddy and Maureen McKay discuss singing Hansel and Gretel


Director Benjamin Davis on the realism and fantasy of staging Hansel and Gretel






In case you thought rehearsals were a piece of cake . . . here are a few rehearsal shots to show some of the hard work that goes into getting a production, especially one with food, ready for the Keller Auditorium!


Listen to the Music

Christopher Mattaliano's introduction to Hansel and Gretel

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Where Each Child Lays Down Its Head

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So Hopp Hopp Hopp, Galopp Lopp Lopp

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Father! Mother!

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Musical excerpts used courtesy of Chandos Records Ltd.

Schedule

Nov 5, 2010
Friday 7:30 pm
Nov 7, 2010
Sunday 2:00 pm
Nov 11, 2010
Thursday 7:30 pm
Nov 13, 2010
Saturday 7:30 pm

Opera Insights

Resident Historian and Lecturer Bob Kingston on Hansel and Gretel, "Testing Our Assumptions".
Recorded at the Keller Auditorium.

Part 1

Part 2

(the links will take you to YouTube for the audio recording)

BackTalk

General Director Christopher Mattaliano, conductor Ari Pelto, and The Witch Allan Glassman, taking questions after a performance of Hansel and Gretel.

Recorded at the Keller Auditorium.

Part 1

Part 2

(the links will take you to YouTube for the audio recording)