Tulsa Opera Season Promises to Please Audiences

Managing Editor

ANTICIPATED PRODUCTIONS: Tulsa Opera General Director and CEO Greg Weber, right, stands with Artistic Director Tobias Picker, who joined Tulsa Opera in June. Tulsa Opera’s 69th season began Oct. 21 with its production of The Pearl Fishers.

EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers

Tulsa Opera’s 69th season kicked off Oct. 21 and 23 with a vibrant presentation of Georges Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers, to be followed by three additional productions to complete the 2016-17 season, productions that were chosen specifically to meet the wishes of the local opera audience, says Tulsa Opera General Director and Greg Weber.

“It had been several years since Tulsa Opera asked patrons what is important to them. I felt a need to reconnect with our audience.”

Therefore, Tulsa Opera conducted a survey, distributed through mail and email, of its ticket buyers. “The completed surveys reflected our audience’s desire for high-quality singers, traditional opera productions, and the offering of a Saturday night performance,” he continues.

Armed with this information, Weber and Tulsa Opera’s new Artistic Director Tobias Picker went to work quickly to put together a revamped season that would address as many of these needs as possible. Both veterans drew upon trusted connections from their years in the performing arts to access top international talent. Picker held auditions in New York City to select exciting singers and conductors for their first full season.

The second production of the season will take place Feb. 25, 2017, a one-night-only vocal spectacular, Puccini To Pop.

That will be followed by a star-studded production of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca on May 5 and 7.

The season will conclude with the American premiere of a family opera by Pierangelo Valtinoni, The Snow Queen on June 17 and 18.

The Pearl Fishers and Tosca are both traditional operas that have not been performed in Tulsa for many years. The Pearl Fishers was last performed locally in 1998 and Tosca in 2007.

While The Pearl Fishers is not as well known of an opera as Tosca, “we wanted to bring a luxurious, opulent, stunning production for our first show,” says Picker. “The music, costumes and set are all very beautiful.”

Tosca, on the other hand, is one of the most popular operas, with well-known music and a dramatic, riveting story, he says. “Of all of Puccini’s operas, this one is among the top.”

Puccini’s beloved masterpiece will be performed by an international all-star cast led by Russian soprano Evelina Dobraceva, hot on the heels of her American operatic debut with Cincinnati Opera, and Finnish tenor Christian Juslin makes his American debut as Tosca’s lover.

In an effort to address the audience request for a Saturday evening performance, Puccini to Pop will take place on Saturday, Feb. 25 and showcase various musical genres with voices that cross over easily from opera to jazz to musical theater. “This show will appeal to experienced opera audiences and newcomers,” says Picker, “and allow us to introduce several operas and several styles in one evening.”
Alyson Cambridge, who just released a jazz album, will be featured along with David Miller, Sarah Joy Miller and Michael Todd Simpson, with special guest Leona Mitchell.
“But this is not a concert,” Picker says. “It will be a program with visual elements that will tell a story.”

Picker joined Tulsa Opera as artistic director on June 1, being drawn to Tulsa due to both Picker’s working relationship with Weber and Tulsa Opera’s rich history, says Picker, an internationally-acclaimed composer from New York City who began composing at eight years old. Picker studied at the Manhattan School of Music, The Juilliard School, and Princeton University and has composed five operas.

“Tulsa Opera is known for presenting stars such as Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti, Beverly Sills and Samuel Ramey; more recently Joyce DiDonato debuted here at the beginning of her rise to stardom, and Stephanie Blythe sang her first Carmen with Tulsa Opera. The 2016-2017 season focuses on Tulsa’s artistic legacy,” says Weber.

The season’s concluding production, Pierangelo Valtinoni’s The Snow Queen, will put Tulsa Opera’s youth opera program on display.

The Snow Queen has experienced major success in Hamburg, Dresden and Venice. Tulsa Opera achieved a major coup to present the American premiere of this wholly entertaining opera in an English translation commissioned specifically for Tulsa.

The presentation expands upon the successful annual productions by Tulsa Youth Opera and Tulsa Opera’s music training program for students in grades 3-12, and it will combine child soloists and choruses from this program with adults singing many of the principal roles. Tulsa Opera Studio, Tulsa Opera’s young artist-in-residence program, will also participate in this production.

Updated 10-24-2016

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