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Utah Opera Announces 2021-22 Season

Utah Opera premiere in January 2022 of Jonathan Dove & April De Angelis’ “Flight,” inspired by the 17-year airport residence of an Iranian refugee, with longtime Utah Opera guest conductor Robert Tweten and
stage director Kristine McIntyre leading the artistic team

Season opens October 9, 2021 with a colorful production of Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” in a highly-anticipated presentation of the March 2020 opera that was cancelled due to the pandemic lock down

Puccini’s “Tosca” in March 2022 with a trio of powerhouse vocalists Katie Van Kooten, Dimitri Pittas, and Stephen Powell in the leading roles

Season concludes in May 2022 with mainstage debut of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance” with playful and sunny scenery

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (March 16, 2021) – Utah Opera Artistic Director Christopher McBeth today announced Utah Opera’s 2021-22 season, sponsored by the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation. In its upcoming season, Utah Opera presents four full-scale opera productions with live performances at the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre: Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” in October 2021, the Utah Opera debut of Jonathan Dove & April De Angelis’ “Flight” in January 2022, Puccini’s “Tosca” in March 2022, and Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance” in May 2022. Season subscriptions are on sale Tuesday, March 23, 2021 and available by calling 801-533-NOTE (6683) or visiting utahopera.org. Single-opera tickets go on sale to the general public on June 15, 2021 through Utah Symphony | Utah Opera and ArtTix outlets.

“To paraphrase one of the most significant sports figures in history, ‘we’re back,’” said Utah Opera Artistic Director Christopher McBeth. “Because of the incredible community and donor support over the last year, Utah Opera looks forward to bringing outstanding large-scale opera performances back to the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre and welcoming audiences to a very special season.”

“We are grateful to our community of music lovers and supporters, our musicians, staff, guest artists and board members for their passion while we have all been grappling with the situations of the past year. We are excited to resume live performances this spring and to be able to announce and present our full 2021-22 season,” said Utah Symphony | Utah Opera President and CEO Steven Brosvik. “The lens of our collective life experiences allows the music and visual environment of opera to create meaningful moments between the performers and listeners. Art reflects life and life reflects art. We are also thankful for the support of Salt Lake County for working with us in returning to live performances while continuing to prioritize our community’s health and wellbeing.”

Utah Opera opens the 2021-22 season with Rossini’s Italian comedic masterpiece “The Barber of Seville,” which was cancelled on the eve of final dress rehearsal in March 2020.

From October 9 to 17, 2021, veteran Utah Opera conductor Gary Thor Wedow leads the cast and the Utah Symphony in the comedic tale of tangled love. Baritone Michael Adams, Silvio in Utah Opera’s 2018 production of “Pagliacci,” returns to sing the famous “Figaro! Figaro! Figaro!” aria as the barber who is enlisted by Count Almaviva to help him gain the interest of Rosina, the young ward of the older Dr. Bartolo who plans to marry her himself. Former Utah Opera Resident Artist mezzo-soprano Sarah Coit performs the role of Rosina with tenor Matthew Grills performing Count Almaviva and bass Matthew Burns performing Dr. Bartolo. Michael Shell directs the colorful production set in the 1980s post-Franco-era Spain with scenery by Shoko Kambara and costumes by Amanda Seymour.

Then January 15 to 23, 2022, the 1998 contemporary opera, “Flight,” makes its Utah Opera debut onstage at the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre with a conductor-director duo of seasoned Utah Opera veterans. Fourteen-time Utah Opera guest conductor Robert Tweten returns with stage director Kristine McIntyre, whose directorial endeavors at Utah Opera include “Moby-Dick,” “Don Giovanni,” “The Pearl Fishers,” “Of Mice and Men,” and the fall 2020 double-bill of “The Human Voice” and “Gentleman’s Island.”

“Presenting contemporary works is both important and necessary for the health of opera and the interests of our patrons. If one looks at the regularly-performed cherished classics, one sees that the music and stories had relevance to their audience,” said Mr. McBeth. “Like Mozart’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro,’ Jonathan Dove’s ‘Flight’ gives us humanism fused with comedy while exploring real life issues through characters we know and see every day. Dove’s music wonderfully captures the nature and spirit of each of the individuals we meet in the opera and their predicament. While it entertains, this opera also shows how the art form can help us understand the people around us.”

Inspired by actual events—the forced residence, from 1988 to 2006, of Iranian refugee Mehran Karimi Nasseri at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris—“Flight” is a timely and topical exploration of what it means to be stranded. The Refugee, sung by NBC’s “The Voice” contestant countertenor John Holiday, is surrounded by a colorful cast of characters portrayed by Utah Opera Resident Artists Daniel O’Hearn as Bill, Julia Gershkoff as Tina, and Edith Grossman as the Stewardess, along with Utah bass Seth Keeton as the Immigration Officer, who find themselves delayed in the terminal. The role of the Controller is sung by former Utah Opera Resident Artist soprano Abigail Rethwisch, who has been featured in Utah Opera productions of “Light on the Horizon,” streamed via USUO: On Demand, “Silent Night,” “Die Fledermaus,” and “Lucia di Lammermoor,” where she stepped in at the last minute for an ailing colleague and then performed the entire five-performance run, thrilling audiences with “her command of bel canto technique and riveting dramatic talent” (Opera News).   

Set designer R. Keith Brumley and costume designer Jonathan Knipscher, who created the original production for Des Moines Metro Opera, weave a compelling tapestry within an unexpected yet familiar purgatory of an overnight airport delay. James Sohre of “Opera Today” wrote that Brumley’s production is “a wonderland of colorful effects” and that Knipscher is “having a blast with some of his best costumes ever.”

From March 12 to 20, 2022, Puccini’s “Tosca” returns to the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre stage for its seventh production run with Utah Opera since its first appearance in May 1978 during the company’s first season. “Tosca” is considered one of the most popular and frequently performed operas in the world and was last presented on the Utah Opera stage in October 2015. The lead roles in “Tosca” will be performed by three powerhouse vocalists, two making their Utah Opera debuts. Soprano Katie Van Kooten, who “The Daily Telegraph” described as “…a major operatic talent. Her singing has something of the same glow radiated by Te Kanawa or Freni, and her endearing charm and bright smile make her a winning stage personality” sings the title role of fiery young diva, Tosca. Her freedom-fighting lover, Cavaradossi, is sung by tenor Dimitri Pittas who has performed on leading opera stages throughout North America and Europe, including the Bavarian State Opera, the Vienna State Opera, the Royal Opera at Covent Garden, and the Canadian Opera Company. Scarpia, the lustful and ruthless police chief who threatens to destroy their lives, is sung by baritone Stephen Powell, whose portrayal of the role for Minnesota Opera was described as “Stephen Powell’s vivid Scarpia would have been career-making if his career hadn’t already been made…this was a portrayal to savor, delicious in its evocation of unbridled evil” (Opera News).

Israeli director Omer Ben Seadia, who has quickly established herself as a rising talent since moving to the United States in 2012, is joined by conductor Steven White, who led the company’s October 2019 production of “La traviata,” to guide the cast and orchestra in this portrayal of artists caught in a world of political intrigue, which includes some of Puccini’s best-known lyrical arias. The perspective painting technique on Italian Ercole Sormani’s wing-and-drop scenery—which accurately captures the opera’s iconic locations throughout Rome, including the church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, the Farnese Palace, and Castel Sant’Angelo—is a spectacle not to be missed.

The season concludes May 7 to 15, 2022 with the rollicking Gilbert and Sullivan adventure “The Pirates of Penzance” with double-threat director and choreographer Kyle Lang, who last directed-choreographed 2018’s “Die Fledermaus” guiding the story-telling and conductor Gary Thor Wedow leading the cast and the Utah Symphony in Sullivan’s sparkling score. “The Pirates of Penzance,” previously presented during the company’s Deer Valley Music Festival in August 2006, will be making its mainstage Utah Opera debut. James Schuette’s vivid, colorful scenery that was originally designed for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis will transport you to the coast of Cornwall in a production that has been described as “playful” (San Diego Union Tribune) and “sunny” (Atlanta Journal Constitution).

Hilarity ensues in this comic opera of farcical fun with a cast of seriously talented singers. The Major-General, sung by baritone Curt Olds, who last appeared as Njegus in the January 2016 production of “The Merry Widow,” plots to keep his daughters, sung by soprano Madison Leonard, and Utah Opera Resident Artists Edith Grossman and Julia Gershkoff, from the pirates. Utah Opera favorite baritone Craig Irvin, who has starred in the company’s productions of “The Pearl Fishers,” “The Marriage of Figaro,” “Moby-Dick,” and “Silent Night,” returns as the Pirate King, who conspires with Ruth, sung by mezzo-soprano Leia Lensing, to keep the apprentice, Frederic, sung by tenor John Riesen, in his band. Leonard, Lensing and Riesen all make their Utah Opera debuts with this production.

All four operas were reprogrammed from the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, when they were postponed amid the shifting health and safety precautions in response to Covid-19. In October 2020, Utah Opera opened for 10 live performances of a double-bill opera presentation of “The Human Voice” and “Gentleman’s Island.” It presented a virtual concert streamed On Demand entitled “Light on the Horizon” in February and March 2021 when Salt Lake County closed its venues for live audiences for several months. The company will resume onstage live performances this May with “La tragédie de Carmen,” an adaptation of Georges Bizet’s classic opera, “Carmen,” by Marius Constant, Jean-Claude Carrière, and Peter Brook.

Learn Before You Go
Utah Symphony | Utah Opera’s education department facilitates an online “learn before you go” series prior to each opera. Online learning materials are prepared by music professors at local universities including Utah Valley University, University of Utah, and Brigham Young University.

Opera-tunities Night
Students in grades 7 through 12 can attend Utah Opera’s final dress rehearsal at the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre through “Opera-tunities Night.” This program is free for public/charter school students and their accompanying teachers and $5 for private/home school students and their accompanying teachers. Visit utahopera.org/education/students/ for more information.

Red Carpet Event
Opening night of each opera will feature a red carpet event where patrons can pose for a free photo. Photos will be posted on the Utah Opera Facebook page, allowing participants to tag themselves during their night out on the town. Visit facebook.com/utahopera for more information. The starting time of the red carpet event is 6:30 PM.

Opera Prelude Lecture
Utah Opera Principal Coach Carol Anderson will offer an Opera Prelude Lecture, free of charge for ticket holders, in the Capitol Room of the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre (50 West 200 South) one hour before curtain for each performance.

Q&A Session
Utah Opera Artistic Director Christopher McBeth will hold a Q&A session, free of charge for ticket holders, immediately following each performance in the Capitol Room of the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre (50 West 200 South).

Tickets and Subscriptions
Subscription renewals are available now to current subscribers. Season subscriptions are available online starting March 23, 2021 to new subscribers. Current season subscribers have until April 22, 2021 to renew their subscriptions or request seat changes for the 2021-22 season before seats are released to new subscribers and subscribers requesting seat changes. Subscriptions may also be renewed or purchased by calling (801) 533-6683 or by visiting the Abravanel Hall Ticket Office (123 West South Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah).

To request a 2021-22 Utah Opera season brochure, please call Utah Symphony | Utah Opera Patron Services at 801-533-NOTE (6683), email info@usuo.org, or write to ATTN: USUO Patron Services, 123 West South Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah 84101.

Single-opera tickets for the 2021-22 Utah Opera season will be available for purchase starting June 15, 2021.