The mainstage season will comprise “Madame Butterfly,” “Cosi fan Tutti,” “Beatrice and Benedict” (part of a citywide Shakespeare festival),“Aida” and “The Barber of Seville”; the company also plans a bilingual production for kids and a free outdoor show.
Since taking the helm of Seattle Opera in 2014, Aidan Lang has championed the breaking down of barriers that keep many people from going to the opera. Cost, comprehension and the comfort factor keep would-be patrons, especially younger ones, at home.
Lang has been loosening things up a little with snazzy comic productions, young and energetic singers and even a chamber opera, presented in November in a much smaller venue than McCaw Hall, that told the story of a transgender woman’s journey. (That opera, “As One,” hit the mark; the overall audience was 59 percent people under 50, while a mainstage production attracts just 27 percent under 50, according to the company.) The current season winds up with “La Traviata”; a new-to-Seattle production, “Katya Kabanova,” set in rural Washington; and the delightful Zandra Rhodes-costumed “Magic Flute,” last seen here in 2011.
In the 2017-18 season, operagoers can expect new takes on classics; a collaboration with ACT and Seattle Symphony; and another performance in a nontraditional space (Monteverdi’s “The Combat” at the Georgetown Steam Plant).
“We want to present opera in a way that reflects our time and place — so naturally, representing the diverse people of our region is important to us,” Lang said in the opera’s season announcement. “Whether it’s Verdi or Mozart on our mainstage, or an opera with Muslim or LGBTQ characters presented in our community — opera speaks to the experience of being human which we share. This is why it’s crucial to reduce historic barriers that have made our art form, at times, inaccessible.”
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The mainstage season unfurls with “Madame Butterfly,” by Giacomo Puccini, opening Aug. 5. Lang acknowledges that this story is problematic, thanks in part to some productions’ de-emphasis of Puccini’s anti-colonial sentiment and of his criticism of U.S. attitudes toward Japan. This well-regarded production, directed by Kate Cherry, is more faithful to the original intent, Lang said. In September, Seattle Opera will reprise its production of “An American Dream,” by composer Jack Perla and librettist Jessica Murphy Moo, which depicts the incarceration of Japanese Americans in the aftermath of the bombing of Pearl Harbor — providing “an essential second perspective for ‘Butterfly’ audiences.”
Other mainstage productions:
“The Barber of Seville,” by Gioachino Rossini, opening Oct. 14: Lindy Hume (“The Wicked Adventures of Count Ory”) returns to direct this extremely hummable, frantic prequel to “The Marriage of Figaro.”
“Così fan tutti,” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, opening Jan. 13, 2018: The Jonathan Miller modern-dress production tells a familiar tale: Two grooms-to-be bet a friend that he can’t get their fiancees to be unfaithful.
“Beatrice & Benedict,” by Hector Berlioz, opening Feb. 24, 2018: This is a locally created collaborative premiere that builds on the Berlioz framework, adding text straight from “Much Ado About Nothing.” ACT artistic director John Langs will be the stage director; Seattle Symphony music director Ludovic Morlot will conduct. To be performed in English, it will kick off the citywide “Seattle Celebrates Shakespeare” programming.
“Aida,” by Giuseppi Verdi, opening May 5, 2018: Aida is enslaved by Amneris, the pharoah’s daughter, but Radames is determined to save her. Acclaimed director Francesca Zambello and set designer Michael Yeargan are behind this “Aida.”
The company plans other events off the mainstage. One is the annual kid-friendly Frost Fest, to be held at Cornish Playhouse on Feb. 4, which features the bilingual, 45-minute opera “Cinderella en España.” It will be performed in Kirkland, too, and in schools across the state. And in July, the company will present a free production in a to-be-determined Seattle park.
Five-opera renewal and new subscription ticket prices range from $225 to $3,915. Young professionals ages 21-39 who join the BRAVO! club and students under 18 save 50 percent on tickets. Info: 206-389-7676 or seattleopera.org.