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Virginia Opera continues its exploration of premieres and American works in its 2013-2014 season announcement. Subscriptions are now on sale. The company will open its 39th year in September with Verdi's "Falstaff," a work never before mounted in Hampton Roads. The rest of the lineup includes Mozart's "The Magic Flute" in November, Strauss' "Ariadne auf Naxos" in February 2014, and Bizet's "Carmen" in March 2014.
Virginia Opera also will present Puccini's "The Girl of the Golden West" in January, a production originally conceived by Lyric Opera Virginia, and the Stephen Sondheim musical, "Sweeney Todd," in May, as additions to the season.
Changes also are coming in the dates and number of performances. Opening night has been moved from Saturday back to Friday and each opera will be repeated Sunday and Tuesday. That means a reduction of from four to three performances of each work. The company's explanation is that it must condense its schedule to accommodate six productions in the coming year.
"Falstaff," Verdi's last opera based on Shakespeare's irrepressible comic character, will help celebrate the bicentennial of the composer's birth. The production will be directed by Stephen Lawless, an international artist who has worked everywhere from the Sante Fe Opera to the Kirov Opera. Conductor Joseph Rescigno last worked here with the company's 2011 production of Wagner's "Die Walküre." Baritone Stephen Powell makes his debut in the role of Falstaff with Weston Hurt as Ford and Elizabeth Caballero as Alice.
Mozart's "The Magic Flute" will star Matthew Plenk as Prince Tamino, soprano Nadine Sierra as Pamina and soprano Heather Buck as the Queen of the Night. The birdman Papageno will be played by David Pershall, a former Virginia Opera Emerging Artist who recently sang the role of Zurga in "The Pearl Fishers." Stage director Michael Shell and Mark Russell Smith, former music director of the Richmond Symphony, will be part of the creative team.
Last performed at Virginia Opera in 1990, "Ariadne auf Naxos" will return in 2014. The light piece about competing burlesque and opera companies on the same stage will be conducted by Garrett Keast. Soprano Christina Pier will sing the dual roles of the opera company's Diva and of Ariadne, with Audrey Luna as Zerbinetta, the star of the burlesque troupe and Ariadne's opposite.
Mezzo-soprano Heather Johnson takes the title role in "Carmen," with bass-baritone Ryan Kuster as the bullfighter Escamillio. The role of Micaela will be performed by Corinne Winters, with the role of Don Jose yet to be selected. John DeMain will return to conduct the Bizet score and Tazewell Thompson will return as stage director.
Performances will begin at the Harrison Opera House in Norfolk and travel to Richmond and Northern Virginia.
The season also will include "The Girl of the Golden West," to be presented Jan. 23, 2014, at the Ferguson Center for the Arts in Newport News, and Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd," with performances in Norfolk and Richmond.
Subscriptions ranging from $89-$359 are available online at http://www.vaopera.org or by calling 1-866-673-7282 (OPERAVA).
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By David Nicholson
© February 3