Tuesday, October 22, 2013

DIE FLEDERMAUS Returns to Sarasota Opera November 1st!

Baritone Sean Anderson as Eisenstein
in the 2006 Sarasota Opera production
of Die Fledermaus
Sarasota Opera will open its 2013 fall season on November 1st with the  operetta Die Fledermaus (The Bat) by Johann Strauss, Jr.  Sparkling and effervescent, Die Fledermaus gradually became a global hit after its premiere on April 5, 1874, and is the most performed operetta in the world!
Even though operetta was the musical genre du jour in mid-nineteenth century Vienna, the form did not begin there.  The origin of the form  was in Paris during the 1850s.   Composer Jacques Offenbach was having great success with one act comedies poking fun at politicians and aristocrats which proved to be a nice alternative to the increasingly serious French grand opera.  Offenbach’s theater was packed with patrons eager to enjoy evening s of light musical entertainment. In a short time, the popularity of these operettas (operette in French) swept through Europe, particularly in Vienna, where Austrian composers began trying their hand at creating works of similar style.
The most successful of these was Johann Strauss, Jr.  In addition to writing Viennese waltzes that are still played today, Johann Strauss, Jr. is famous for taking the French operette form, layering it with some Viennese flavor, and creating the Viennese operetta; His most famous and beloved being Die Fledermaus.         

Die Fledermaus premiered on April 5, 1874, at the Theater an der Wien was well received by the audience.  It enjoyed 16 initial performances in Vienna then quickly made its way around Europe with varying degrees of success.  It wasn’t until the early 20th Century that audience enthusiasm solidified its stature as a cultural landmark and the work is now presented regularly around the world.

Sarasota Opera's 2006 production of Johann Strauss, Jr.'s Die Fledermaus
An elaborate revenge scheme is hatched by Dr. Falke to expose the womanizing ways of his friend Eisenstein.  The previous winter, following a masked ball, Eisenstein left his friend Falke drunk and asleep under a tree in a bat costume (hence the name of the opera “The Bat”).  Falke has now invited Eisenstein to enjoy a final night of frivolity, before he departs for a short stint in jail, at an elaborate Viennese ball hosted by Prince Orlovsky.  Falke tricks Eisenstein into flirting with his own wife, Rosalinda, who is disguised as an Hungarian countess.  A comedic evening, full of hidden identities and amorous intrigues, results in this charming story where ultimately champagne reigns as king!

Baritone Sean Anderson, who won critical acclaim as George in last season’s Of Mice and Men and Iago in the 2012 production of Verdi’s Otello, made his Sarasota Opera debut as the scheming Eisenstein in 2006.  Of his return in the role, Mr. Anderson says, “I always look forward to performing in Die Fledermaus, or any operetta for that matter, largely due to dialogue.  Opera singing is demanding without the addition of spoken text that must, must be on par dramatically with the sections which are sung. To strive to do both with artistic integrity is a challenge I relish bending my skill towards.”       
Mr. Anderson will be sharing the stage with a large cast of Sarasota Opera favorites.  Soprano Danielle Walker (A King for a Day, Carmen) will sing the role of his wife Rosalinda; Soprano Angela Mortellaro (Hansel and Gretel) will sing Adele, Rosalinda’s chambermaid; tenor Joshua Kohl (Lucia di Lammermoor, Don Giovanni) as Alfred, Rosalinda’s former lover; baritone Matthew Hanscom (Of Mice and Men, Turandot) as Dr. Falke, a.k.a “The Bat”; and mezzo-soprano Blythe Gaissert (Rigoletto, La rondine), as Prince Orlovsky, the host of the Viennese Ball where Falke’s plot unfolds.  Stephanie Sundine will direct and Maestro Victor DeRenzi will conduct the Sarasota Orchestra.  Originally written in German, this production will be sung in English in a translation by Marcie Stapp.  And like all productions at Sarasota Opera, subtitles will be projected above the stage. 

With tickets starting at only $19, this is a wonderful opportunity to see one of Johann Strauss, Jr.’s most celebrated works come alive.  Performances are November 1, 3(m), 5, 7, 13, and 15(m).  Evening performances begin at 8pm and matinĂ©e performances (both weekend and weekday) begin at 1:30pm.  For more information or to purchase tickets, contact the Sarasota Opera Box Office at (941) 328-1300 or visit us at www.sarasotaopera.org.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sarasota Opera Celebrates Verdi's 200th Birthday in Style!

On October 10, 2013, members from the Sarasota Opera community and the Sarasota community in general gathered to celebrate the 200th birthday of the legendary Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi.  The celebration began at the Selby Public Library with the unveiling of several Verdi themed exhibits followed by a musical presentation.  Immediately following the library presentation, guests were directed to follow a red carpet across the street to the Sarasota Opera House to continue the celebration.  

At the Opera house, guests enjoyed an "All Access Pass" to Sarasota Opera which included backstage tours, costume and make-up demonstrations, conversations with our stage directors, and several musical programs in the courtyard, atrium and on the mainstage.  The event rounded out with a community sing of Verdi's famous chorus "Va, pensiero" from his opera Nabucco in the opera house.  

Here are some photos from the day:

Red carpets were rolled out to greet our guests and guide them from the Selby Public Library to the Sarasota Opera House. Special thanks to the Sarasota Film Festival for loaning us the carpets.

Bass-baritone William Roberts performing before a captive audience at the Selby Public Library 

We had over 300 people in attendance who were the first to see the
Verdi exhibit and enjoy the musical performances.

Tenor Marvin Kehler and soprano Jennifer Townshend offered the famous Brindisi from Verdi's La traviata

This was the crowd waiting to get into the Opera House to begin the birthday celebration

Guests enjoyed backstage tours with Director of Production Chris Van Alstyne...
and music rehearsal for the community sing of Verdi's famous chorus "Va, Pensiero" from Nabucco

Audrey Bernardin, from our wigs and make-up team, offered demonstrations on applying stage make-up.

Beverly Hogan Fleck, from our wardrobe staff, telling guests about costumes at Sarasota Opera.

Linda Carson of ABC 7 Sarasota - WWSB reported live from the Opera House.

Tenor Jon Jurgens, mezzo soprano Samantha Weppelman, soprano Jennifer Townshend and
baritone Jesse Malgieri performing the famous Act IV quartet from Rigoletto.

Their captive audience.
Soprano Alexandra Batsios singing "Sempre Libera" from Verdi's La Traviata to a captive audience.

Mezzo-soprano Briana Elyse Hunter singing "Una voce poco fa" from Rossini's The Barber of Seville.

The courtyard audience.

Sarasota Youth Opera, artists, musical staff, and audience all joined together to sing Verdi's famous chorus "Va, pensiero". Maestro DeRenzi conducted from the pit.
The cupcakes that greeted guests on their way out of the theater.

Verdi's 200th birthday cake.  

Tickets for the 2013-2014 Sarasota Opera Season are available by calling (941) 328-1300 or on our website at www.sarasotaopera.org.  Don't miss a note of this spectacular season of opera!

Monday, October 7, 2013

ARTISTS PROFILE: Mezzo-soprano Blythe Gaissert

Blythe Gaissert returns to Sarasota Opera, 
this time wearing pants…

Mezzo-soprano Blythe Gaissert
The last time mezzo-soprano Blythe Gaissert performed at Sarasota Opera was in 2008 in the production of Rigoletto that opened the newly renovated and named William E. Schmidt Opera Theater. That season Blythe was a member of the Studio Artists Program and performed the role of the sexy Maddalena, a character who most definitely wears a skirt. For the Fall 2013 season, Blythe returns as a Principal Artist to perform Prince Orlovsky in Die Fledermaus, a role that is part of the operatic tradition of female singers portraying young men and therefore wearing pants. These “pants roles” include Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro, Hansel in Hansel and Gretel, and Octavian in der Rosenkavalier.
In thinking about her next assignment at Sarasota Opera, Blythe says, “This is my first time doing Orlovsky. I am really enjoying the challenge of doing a pants role again (it has been several years since I have gotten to be a "dude" or do comedy!) I have also found a lot of satisfaction in researching and learning about the traditions of Strauss' music, and look forward to benefitting from the knowledge of some of the other performers who have done the opera before. It's also kind of a return to my roots in another way. I originally studied to be a theater and musical theater performer, and so many of those elements are in Die Fledermaus since operetta was a sort of predecessor to the American musical that we know and love today!”
She continues, “I am so excited to be coming back as a Principle Artist this season! I feel like I got so much of my artistic education with the excellent Apprentice and Studio Artists Programs at Sarasota Opera and from its artists and community, and now I have a chance to come back and put all that I learned to use.  My husband is originally from Sarasota, so it is also great to be able to come back and perform in front of family and friends on the big stage! I am also hoping that my almost two year old son will be able to come and see me perform, although I'm not sure he will recognize me once the make-up and costume designers do their magic.”

Blythe Gaissert as Maddalena (left) in the 2008 Sarasota Opera production of Verdi's Rigoletto.
Photo by Richard Termine.
Blythe has been engaged by the Metropolitan Opera, LA Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, and New Mexico’s Opera Southwest as well as the Tangelwood Music Festival, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Lyrique en Mer Festival in France. This September she appears in concert with the Sarasota Orchestra, singing works by Aaron Copland, Ravel, and DeFalla. For Sarasota Opera’s November 12 Operetta Concert, Blythe performs Noel Coward’s “Il Love Were All” from Bitter Sweet and a selection from Offenbach’s La PĂ©richole.

-Greg Trupiano, Artistic Administrator

Don't miss Ms. Gaissert's performances as Prince Orlovsky in Die Fledermaus opening November 1st and running for six performances through November 15th.  Tickets are available at www.sarasotaopera.org or by calling (941) 328-1300.