Changing the guard may be a routine affair at Buckingham Palace — but at Seattle Opera, where it’s happening for the first time in 30 years, it’s a major seismic shift.
Speight Jenkins, the Opera’s general director, will step down in May, and Aidan Lang, an Englishman who comes to us by way of New Zealand Opera, takes the helm for the 2014-15 season.
“Although the season has been planned and cast by me,” Jenkins notes in the Opera’s news release, “it will be produced by Aidan Lang. I am confident that you will see and enjoy his managerial hand.”
The new season features four productions: Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” Puccini’s “Tosca,” Richard Strauss’ “Ariadne auf Naxos” and, for the first time at the Seattle Opera, Handel’s “Semele.”
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“Semele” is what you might call a hungry-fish-in-rarefied-waters affair. Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, a 2009 Seattle Opera Artist of the Year and a Metropolitan Opera star, will play the goddess Juno in a cautionary tale about an ambitious mortal (Brenda Rae) who catches the eye of Juno’s husband Jupiter (Alek Shrader). Both Shrader and Rae are making their Seattle Opera debuts. Tomer Zvulun (”Lucia di Lammermoor,” “La Bohème”) directs. Gary Thor Wedow, a veteran of many Seattle Opera productions and a regular guest at Seattle Symphony, conducts.
“Don Giovanni,” the season opener, revives the 2007 Seattle Opera production. Wedow again conducts; Chris Alexander (“The Magic Flute”) directs. The show brings French bass Nicolas Cavallier back to Seattle in the role of the title philanderer and impenitent. Lawrence Brownlee, a 2008 Seattle Opera Artist of the Year and a former Seattle Opera Young Artist, plays the heroic Don Ottavio.
Greer Grimsley, a “Ring” regular and another Seattle Opera Artist of the Year (2005) returns to play a “power-mad” baron in Puccini’s “Tosca.” Soprano Ausrine Stundyte takes the title role, portraying a jealousy-driven troublemaker. Jose Maria Condemi (“Orpheus and Eurydice”) directs. Julian Kovatchev, who made his Opera debut conducting “Madama Butterfly” in 2012, returns to the podium.
The season closer, “Ariadne auf Naxos,” also features Chris Alexander in the director’s seat, with conductor Lawrence Renes in the pit. Strauss’ opera-within-an-opera, in this revival of the Opera’s 2004 production, includes a climactic indoor-fireworks display. Christine Libor, who made her American debut in the Opera’s 2012 production of Beethoven’s “Fidelio,” returns as the difficult “Prima Donna” who plays Ariadne. Kate Lindsey, a 2010 Artist of the Year, takes the gender-bending role of “the Composer” who doesn’t like what’s being done with his work.
Sets and costumes for all four productions were created by Seattle Opera.
Before the season gets under way, a special concert takes place on Aug. 9, celebrating the Opera’s 50th anniversary and Jenkins’ 30 years as its director. Blythe, Grimsley, Libor, Lindsey and others scheduled to appear in the new season will perform, along with such figures from opera productions past as William Burden, Clifton Forbis and Alwyn Mellor.
Season tickets range from $160-$3,380; (206-389-7676 or www.seattleopera.org
Michael Upchurch: email@example.com