Utah Opera’s 2023-24 Season Explores the Many Facets of Love
Season Features Iconic Works by Puccini and Mozart, Utah Opera’s Long-Awaited Production of Massenet’s Thaïs, and the Return of Audience Favorite The Little Prince
Watch: Artistic Director Christopher McBeth shares what he loves—and what you’ll love!—about the four productions in the Utah Opera’s 2023-24 season.
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH (March 14, 2023) – Love is a ubiquitous theme in opera—and the Utah Opera’s 2023-24 season explores the many facets of love through four distinct productions at Salt Lake City’s Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre. From the most recognizable works about the wonders, mishaps, and heartbreaks of romantic relationships in masterpieces by Puccini and Mozart; to a story of friendship and longing, reminiscent of childhood dreams; to a tale of temptation and seduction, the Utah Opera invites audiences to share in a vast range of emotional journeys.
“This season is incredibly special in that it not only offers the universal theme of love, but it does so with works that are so well loved themselves—and frequently requested—by Utah audiences,” says Utah Symphony | Utah Opera President & CEO Steve Brosvik. “These are stories we will all relate to, so if you have not yet joined us at Utah Opera, there is no better season to do so.”
“Love is a universal aspect of our human existence and appears in so many sparkling ways—both in life and in opera,” reflects Utah Opera Artistic Director Christopher McBeth. “The 2023-24 season features wonderfully appealing choices that will really draw people in and allow them to see love shine on the stage, through the music and through the stories that we tell.”
In October 2023, the season’s love story begins in 19th-century Paris with four starving artists navigating young romance and the harsh realities of life, in one of the most popular works in all of opera—Puccini’s La bohème. Audiences will swoon as they watch sweet Mimì fall in love with her darling Rodolfo, and will feel the heart-wrenching tragedy when Mimì falls desperately ill and Rodolfo, in his impoverished circumstances, cannot provide for her. (La bohème’s heartbreaking plot and complex yet immediately relatable characters inspired the 1996 hit musical Rent.) Garnett Bruce, one of Utah Opera’s favorite stage directors, returns for this stunning production and will expertly capture the essence of Paris, its artisans, and the timeless story.
Conductor Robert Tweten will deftly transport the audience to the City of Lights through Puccini’s rich music. The opera features one showstopper after another, including Rodolfo’s famous aria “Che gelida manina” (Your Tiny Hand is Frozen), Mimì’s “Mi chiamano Mimì” (“They Call Me Mimì), their soaring love duet “O soave fanciulla” (O Lovely Girl in the Moonlight), and “Quando me’n vo” (Musetta’s Waltz).
This romantic tragedy is followed in January 2024 with Rachel Portman and Nicholas Wright’s The Little Prince, which has been “one of the most requested return titles, hands down” at Utah Opera, according to McBeth, since its vibrant first run with the company in 2019. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s beloved storybook—so popular that it has been translated into more than 500 languages—takes to the opera stage, bringing to life the young prince who travels the universe and the colorful characters he meets on his journey of self-discovery.
With themes of loneliness, friendship, loss—and, of course, love—this delightful tale is told through a libretto by Nicholas Wright and speaks to children and adults alike. Director Tara Faircloth returns to this heartwarming production, bringing her inspired and engaging vision, and Utah Symphony Associate Conductor Benjamin Manis guides the orchestra, conducting the dazzling score by Rachel Portman (well-known for her film scores for Chocolat, The Cider House Rules, and Emma). This family-friendly program will also see a return collaboration with the gifted young singers of The Madeleine Choir School. An undeniable audience favorite that’s perfect for introducing the whole family to opera, The Little Prince reminds us of the simple charm of childhood wonder and what it means to love.
March 2024 brings another familiar performance to the stage with Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. A sequel to the outlandish comedy The Barber of Seville (which Utah Opera performed in 2021), the story takes place over just one day—Figaro’s wedding day. The curtain rises to find the boisterous barber (Figaro) ready to be married to his sweetheart (Susanna)—but a scheming Count is trying to break up the nuptials. The original story was highly politicized, written by Frenchman Pierre Beaumarchais as criticism of the aristocratic authorities. Mozart and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte took the piece, toned down the political commentary, and created a comic opera about love and forgiveness that has become a staple of the repertoire.
The Marriage of Figaro is also directed by Tara Faircloth, praised for creating “unstoppable momentum of manipulation and misunderstandings” with a production “so fresh that it had the ability to bridge yet another gap, entertaining the amateur and the opera aficionado alike.” Former Utah Symphony Associate Conductor Conner Gray Covington returns to conduct this classic, dubbed “one of the most miraculous scores, whose music shows humanity in its brightest form.” McBeth agrees: “It’s one of the best comments on humanity and love in comedy that exists today in the operatic repertoire.”
While La bohème and The Marriage of Figaro oth present stories of romance with lovers working together to secure their happy ending, Utah Opera’s debut performance of Massenet’s Thaïs, which will conclude the season in May 2024, brings a darker turn and pivots from love to lust. “This piece is considered one of the jewels of the French repertoire,” says McBeth. “It boasts of luxury, of big and of bold, and of exquisite music.” Thaïs also explores weighty themes such as the unique human capacity for change based on an individual’s internal, and external, moral compass. Set in 4th-century Egypt, Athanaël, a devoted monk, resolves to convert the courtesan Thaïs—but only after she follows him into a monastic life does Athanaël recognize that he loves her desperately.
“Bringing Massenet’s Thaïs to Utah Opera has been an endeavor of almost eight years,” states McBeth. Audiences will recall that Thaïs was originally scheduled for May 2020, before the pandemic shutdown; many have eagerly waited for its return ever since. Part of the challenge of presenting Thaïs, McBeth shares, is that the title role, thought to be one of the most demanding in all of opera, can only be performed by an exceptional talent. This has been found in soprano Nicole Heaston, known for her “radiant…[and] handsomely resonant voice” (New York Times). Conducted by Steven White (who previously led the orchestra for Tosca in 2022, and La traviata in 2019), the lush music includes the famous Meditation for solo violin at the pinnacle of the story. With an opulent set and shimmering costumes designed by Lorenzo Cutùli, and a notable collaboration with Repertory Dance Theatre, the lavish production—directed by Andrea Cigni—is a feast for the eyes. “It’s something you’re going to be talking about for the rest of the year,” says McBeth.
As one of only six opera companies in the U.S. with full production capabilities, each of the Utah Opera’s productions are brought to the stage with the extraordinarily skilled artisans of its in-house costumes, scenic, and props shops.
In addition to its four mainstage productions, Utah Opera offers education opportunities and resources that engage tens of thousands of learners of all ages throughout the year. In-school programs are presented by the opera’s five resident artists—talented early-career opera singers and pianists. “Who Wants to Be an Opera Star?” uses a fun-filled gameshow format to teach elementary school students the fundamentals of opera, while “Opera 101” and “Opera Up Close” offer performances and discussions with secondary school choral students. Students and their teachers are also invited to attend the final dress rehearsal before each Utah Opera production at Opera-tunities Night. For adult learners, online courses, Ghost Light podcast episodes, and pre-opera chats help prepare audiences for what they will see and hear at the opera. Altogether, Utah Symphony | Utah Opera engages students in every school district in the state on a three- to five-year rotation, leading one of the most extensive performing arts education programs in the U.S.