March 3, 2020

Press Release: Portland Opera Announces the 2020/21 Season

Portland Opera is pleased to announce programming for the 2020/21 season, which will open on September 11, 2020. The season will launch in the fall with Robert Xavier Rodríguez’s Frida, starring soprano Catalina Cuervo in the title role. This will be followed by the company’s fall classic opera, Puccini’s enduring drama Tosca, in October and November. The season will continue with a double bill of two pieces honoring the lives of Jewish victims of the Holocaust—Grigori Frid’s The Diary of Anne Frank and Jake Heggie’s For a Look or a Touch—in early 2021. On March 13, the company will present its annual Big Night concert at the Keller Auditorium. The season will close with Giuseppe Verdi’s tour de force opera, Il Trovatore, starring Italian soprano Selene Zanetti in her U.S. debut.

“We are thrilled to announce the lineup of our 2020/21 season and the triumphant return of opera to Portland’s beautiful rainy months,” says general director Sue Dixon. “This past year has been one of reflection and listening. As a result, our 2020/21 season is crafted based on audience feedback: we’re going big and intimate, telling stories that reflect our community, and collaborating with organizations around the region. We couldn’t be more excited to share this season with everyone.”

The season begins with a celebration of one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. Frida is vibrant, colorful, and infused with artistic imagery—all brought to life by the beautiful music of Mexican American composer Robert Xavier Rodríguez. The libretto, which follows moments from Mexican painter Frida Kahlo’s life, features lyrics and monologues written by award-winning playwright Migdalia Cruz, and a book by Hilary Blecher. Before and during the run (June 13, 2020 through September 27, 2020), the Portland Art Museum’s exhibit Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism will be on display. In addition, on October 3, 2020, Portland Opera will host a special concert performance of Frida with Catalina Cuervo, as part of a community celebration and open house event at Portland Opera’s Hampton Opera Center.

The 2020 fall classic opera will bring Puccini’s masterpiece Tosca back to the Keller Auditorium stage during the presidential election in November. A political tale of power dynamics, attempted rape, torture, and violence, this passionate and unstoppable drama tells the story of Tosca, a renowned diva in Rome in 1800. The opera features some of the world’s most beloved arias including “Vissi d’arte,” “E lucevan le stelle,” and “Recondita armonia,” and will feature Alexandra LoBianco in the title role, a role she will also sing at Lyric Opera of Chicago next season.

In January and February 2021, Portland Opera will present a double bill of Grigori Frid’s The Diary of Anne Frank and Jake Heggie’s For a Look or a Touch. In The Diary of Anne Frank, days in the life of thirteen-year-old Anne unfold, sung from text selected from her diary, as her family goes into hiding in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation. For a Look or a Touch is a love story threatened by the persecution of gay men during the Holocaust, with text based on historic records, including the journal of Manfred Lewin before his murder at Auschwitz-Birkenau. During the run, Portland Opera will honor the UN’s International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, which takes place annually on January 27. The date also commemorates when the Soviet troops liberated the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland on January 27, 1945.

In March, the company brings back its annual Big Night concert. Portland Opera’s chorus and orchestra, under the baton of music director George Manahan, are joined by international guest soloists and the Portland Opera Resident Artists for an evening of beautiful music, celebrating the art form with some of its most beloved tunes.

Portland Opera will close the 2020/21 season with Verdi’s unrelenting story of vengeance, love, and betrayal, Il Trovatore. This marks the company’s first production of the piece since 2002. Portland Opera music director George Manahan conducts the performances, which feature Italian soprano Selene Zanetti in her U.S. debut as the tortured heroine, Leonora. In a newly envisioned format, Portland Opera puts the intensity of the music and the dexterity of artists’ voices at the heart of the experience—utilizing projection design and minimalism on stage to expose the pure drama at the core of Verdi’s work. At once timeless and modern, this nod to a traditional opera staging technique of the early 17th century is updated with today’s technology—resulting in potent and pure operatic intensity.

During the 2020/21 season, the company will also continue its commitment to education and community engagement. Portland Opera To Go, a program that travels to schools and community centers throughout the region with 50-minute, English-language adaptations of popular operas, will present Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel. 2020-21 Portland Opera Resident Artists will be announced in the coming months, along with additional information about Opera a la Cart and the Resident Artist Series.

Portland Opera 2020/21 Season Casting

Frida – Robert Xavier Rodríguez
September 11, 13m, 17, 19, and October 3m*, 2020

*Frida Encore Event: A special concert performance of Frida as part of a community celebration and open house at Portland Opera’s Hampton Opera Center.

Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland
Sung in English and Spanish with captions.

Music: Robert Xavier Rodríguez
Book: Hilary Blecher
Lyrics and monologues: Migdalia Cruz
Frida Catalina Cuervo
Diego Bernardo Bermudez
Conductor Andrés Cladera
Director Andreas Mitisek

“Like Frida’s paintings and persona, Rodríguez’s opera is emphatic and bold.” – Opera News

Soprano Catalina Cuervo makes her Portland Opera debut in her signature role as Frida. In a review of her performance at Michigan Opera Theatre, Opera News described her as “ideal as Frida… Cuervo’s exuberant voice was a soaring arrow one moment, a bright and cutting knife the next. Her titanic performance encompassed Frida’s fire.” Baritone Bernardo Bermudez will make his company debut as Diego, a role he has previously sung with Long Beach Opera.

Portland Opera welcomes Austrian stage director Andreas Mitisek (who directed As One in 2019) back to the company to direct the production he first created at Long Beach Opera. Uruguayan conductor Andrés Cladera, Artistic Director of Opera Steamboat, makes his Portland Opera debut, conducting this music infused with mariachi elements, featuring a band made up of Portland Opera orchestra members.

Tosca – Giacomo Puccini
October 30, November 1m, 5, and 7, 2020

Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay Street, Portland
Sung in Italian with English captions.

Composed by Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa
Tosca Alexandra LoBianco
Cavaradossi Angelo Villari
Scarpia Gordon Hawkins
Angelotti/Jailer Daniel Mobbs
Sacristan Deac Guidi
Conductor Antonello Allemandi
Director Linda Brovsky

“Critic Joseph Kerman famously called [Tosca] a “shabby little shocker,” a phrase he might have meant as an insult but quickly became a box office boon. Like Bizet’s Carmen, premiered 25 years earlier, Tosca gets down and dirty without wasting a lot of time on introspection.”

Oregon Arts Watch

Soprano Alexandra LoBianco, whose performance as Tosca has been described as “thrilling” by Opera News, makes her Portland Opera debut. Sicilian tenor Angelo Villari makes his U.S. debut as Cavaradossi. Baritone Gordon Hawkins will also make his Portland Opera debut as Scarpia, a role he has sung to acclaim with Cincinnati Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Opera Leipzig (Germany), Vancouver Opera (Canada), and Arizona Opera. Baritone Deac Guidi returns to Portland Opera as Sacristan, and bass-baritone Daniel Mobbs returns as Angelotti and the Jailer.

Italian conductor Antonello Allemandi, last at the baton at Portland Opera for 2009’s La Bohème, returns to the company to lead Portland Opera’s orchestra, chorus, children’s chorus, and principal singers in Puccini’s majestic score, in a production directed by Linda Brovsky in her Portland Opera debut.

The Diary of Anne Frank– Grigori Frid

For a Look or a Touch – Jake Heggie

January 22, 24m, 26, 28, 30, February 2, 4, and 6, 2021

The Gregory K. and Mary Chomenko Hinckley Studio Theatre
Portland Opera, The Hampton Opera Center
Sung in English with English captions

The Diary of Anne Frank

Music & Libretto by Grigori Frid
Anne Frank Jennifer Zetlan*/TBA

For a Look or a Touch

Music by Jake Heggie
Libretto by Gene Scheer
Gad Allen Nause
Conductor Nicholas Fox
Director Tara Faircloth

*Jennifer Zetlan will sing the performances on January 22, 24, 26, and 28.

“Gene Scheer’s libretto is so effective and insightful the evening could potentially work as pure theater, with no music at all, but Heggie’s beautiful score gives the words and actions a haunting sense of meditative interiority: we move dreamily between past and present, between anger and regret and a sense of release, and the music effectively guides and underscores these transitions.” – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on For a Look or a Touch

“A sensitive and dignified portrait…” – The New York Times on The Diary of Anne Frank

Soprano Jennifer Zetlan, whose recent performances include the role of Ellen in Ricky Ian Gordon and Frank Bidart’s Ellen West at the Prototype Festival, as well as the role of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the opera Scalia/Ginsburg with Toledo Opera, Opera Carolina, and Opera Grand Rapids, makes her Portland Opera debut as Anne. Allen Nause, last seen at Portland Opera in David Lang’s The Difficulty of Crossing a Field, and currently a resident artist at Artists Repertory Theatre, will play the role of Gad in For a Look or a Touch. Portland Opera’s Chorus Master and Assistant Conductor Nicholas Fox, who conducted An American Quartet in the 2019/20 season, conducts these works, featuring solo voice, spoken word, and chamber orchestra. Tara Faircloth, whose recent credits include productions with Lyric Opera of Chicago, Utah Opera, and Tulsa Opera, makes her Portland Opera debut as stage director.

Big Night, A Special Concert

March 13, 2021
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay Street, Portland
Sung in various languages with English captions.

Conductor George Manahan
Hosts Sue Dixon and Daniel Biaggi

Featuring the Portland Opera Chorus and Orchestra.

Il Trovatore – Giuseppe Verdi

May 7, 9m, and 15, 2021
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay Street, Portland
Sung in Italian with English captions.

Composed by Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto by Salvadore Cammarano
Leonora Selene Zanetti
Manrico Hovhannes Ayvazyan
Count Di Luna Weston Hurt
Azucena Daryl Freedman
Ferrando Wei Wu
Conductor George Manahan
Stage Director Fenlon Lamb
Video Designer Greg Emetaz

“We have so many reasons to love Il Trovatore. Giuseppe Verdi’s mid-19th century opera that soars over the top with a story of vengeance, vendettas, and violence. The melody after melody of grand and lyrical music is the primary reason this Italian masterpiece finds a niche in the hearts of opera fans.” – Angela Allen, The Columbian

Portland Opera Music Director George Manahan conducts the performances, which features the Portland Opera chorus and orchestra, as well as principal singers: Italian soprano Selene Zanetti in her U.S. debut as the tortured heroine Leonora, Armenian tenorHovhannes Ayvazyan in his Portland Opera debut as the troubadour Manrico, former Portland Opera Resident Artist Daryl Freedmanas the grief-struck Azucena, baritone Weston Hurt, last seen at Portland Opera as Germont in Verdi’s La Traviata, as the Count di Luna, and Chinese bass Wei Wu in his Portland Opera debut as the captain Ferrando. Fenlon Lamb and Greg Emetaz will make their Portland Opera debuts as stage director and video designer.

Tickets and Information

Subscriptions for the 2020/21 season are on sale now. Single tickets for the remainder of the season will go on sale on May 9, 2020. For more information, and to purchase tickets visit, call Patron Services at 503-241-1802, or visit in person at the Hampton Opera Center, located at 211 SE Caruthers Street in Portland, Oregon. Patron Services hours are Monday through Friday, 10 AM – 5 PM. Portland Opera offers complimentary concierge services for all patrons. You can e-mail for information about parking, attire, dining recommendations, and more.

This season, Portland Opera productions are sung in English, Italian, and Spanish, with captions.  Evening performances begin at 7:30 PM, and matinee performances begin at 2 PM. Late seating and reentry are not permitted.

We are proud to be able to offer many ways for community members to experience Portland Opera. A limited number of $5 tickets for Oregon Trail Card holders are available for operas at the Keller Auditorium and Newmark Theatre. These tickets can be purchased two weeks prior to each performance. We also offer a limited amount of free tickets to Multnomah County Library cardholders through the library’s My Discovery Pass program. Visit for more information.

Student tickets are $10 and are made available for every performance. Student tickets can be purchased up to two weeks prior to each performance. We are proud to also work with the Veteran Tickets Foundation ( to share event tickets with U.S. Armed Forces personnel, veterans, and their families.

Portland Opera offers wheelchair accessible and companion seating for every performance throughout the season and offers assisted listening devices for productions at the Newmark Theatre and Keller Auditorium. Designated performances also include a live audio description of the visual and physical events onstage for patrons who are blind or have low vision. For patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing, each performance includes live captions projected above the stage. Please contact Patron Services for additional information.

Portland Opera appreciates the ongoing support of funders including the National Endowment for the Arts, Oregon Arts Commission, James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, and the Regional Arts & Culture Council, including support from the City of Portland, Multnomah County, and the Arts Education & Access Fund.

About Portland Opera

Portland Opera exists to inspire, challenge, and uplift our audiences by creating productions of high artistic quality that celebrate the beauty and breadth of opera.

Since 1964, Portland Opera has contributed to the cultural, artistic, and economic landscape of the city and region that we love. We celebrate the beauty and breadth of the opera repertoire with performances that take place in the Keller Auditorium, Newmark Theatre, and the Gregory K. and Mary Chomenko Hinckley Studio Theatre at Portland Opera’s Hampton Opera Center. The company is also a committed educational partner, touring fully staged operas to schools and community centers throughout Oregon and SW Washington region each year, in addition to a host of other efforts designed to make opera accessible for all.

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Interviews, press comps, artist biographies, and more information available upon request.

Silja Tobin, Marketing & Communications Manager