Utah Symphony | Utah Opera Opens 2020-21 Season with Re-Imagined Programs Focused on Healing Through the Power of Live Music

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (September 1, 2020) – In an offering of unity, inspiration and healing through the power of music, Utah Symphony | Utah Opera announces plans to open its 2020-21 season in September with a re-imagined schedule of live performances, and new health and safety protocols designed to prioritize the well-being of artists, staff and audiences while connecting and healing through music. Visit the health and safety plan online for full details.

“The people in every facet of the Symphony and Opera have missed the opportunity to create incredible live music performances for the people of Utah. We are excited to return to Abravanel Hall and the Capitol Theatre and do so with a focus on the health, well-being and safety of our orchestra, patrons, staff and community at large,” said newly appointed president and CEO Steven Brosvik. “We believe strongly in the powerful healing effect of music to connect communities during difficult times such as these. It is with great deliberation that we resume these live performances in a limited capacity so that we can return to improving people’s lives.”

In keeping with recommended health precautions, the organization is opening its 2020-21 season on Thursday, September 17 with shorter programs that require fewer musicians to allow for greater physical distancing between artists. The frequency of performances will be increased due to the reduced capacity for each performance.


After months of silence, music will return to the Abravanel Hall stage on September 17, 18 and 19 in the Utah Symphony’s first Masterworks concerts of the 2020-21 season – and the orchestra’s first live performances since March 2020. Led by Music Director Thierry Fischer, the opening weekend performances feature a revised program of Utah Symphony string musicians performing Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings,” Fela Sowande’s “Joyful Day” and Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.”

“Joyful Day” is the first of a five-movement suite, premiered in 1955, by Nigerian composer Fela Sowande. Inspired by West African melodies and bursting with joy and optimism, it is a fitting tribute to the feelings of happiness that accompany the return of live symphonic music to our community. Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” will be performed in memory of those who have lost their lives during the Covid-19 pandemic and will be followed by Tchaikovsky’s homage to the music of the Classical era, “Serenade for Strings.”

“Music deserves to be heard live and I am thrilled to be a part of an organization that is committed to bringing our orchestra back in person to heal and inspire our community during this challenging time,” said Utah Symphony Music Director Thierry Fischer. “I speak on behalf of the orchestra musicians in expressing our gratitude to our audience, donors, and general public for encouraging us and supporting us during our six months away from the stage. As we head back into the hall, we are energized to harness music to uplift and reflect the vast emotions we are experiencing together as a collective, and also in isolation. Music has an ability to connect us all. We hope that our re-imagined season provides the healing and inspiration you have been yearning for.”

The following weekend on September 24, 25, and 26, Maestro Fischer conducts more standards of the repertoire featuring 10 musicians from Utah Symphony’s string section in J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 and the entire string orchestra performing in Schoenberg’s “Transfigured Night.” Both works, though from different eras, employ colorful instrumentation and tremendous demands on the musicians. Each Masterworks program will also include additional “surprise” pieces, which will be announced from the stage.

Then in October, Utah Opera will present a double bill of two short operas, Francis Poulenc’s “The Human Voice” and Joseph Horovitz’ “Gentleman’s Island” at the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre. The works were both written in 1958 and share the timely themes of isolation and the desire for human connection and contact. Ten performances will take place from October 9 through October 18. The company determined that the originally-planned season opening opera, Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman,” would not be possible to execute in the fullness of its vision given the state of physical distancing and health restrictions.

“The extraordinary forces required for our previously planned production of Wagner’s ‘The Flying Dutchman’ fall outside of the health and safety requirements for the audience and performers, so we have had to pivot,” said Christopher McBeth, artistic director of Utah Opera. “However, we’re excited at the opportunity to explore new repertoire which does meet guidelines. We’ll be presenting a pair of one-act operas, a drama and a comedy, which contain the themes of the innate desire for human connection and feelings of confinement. I think we can agree these are highly relatable concepts at this point in history.”

Longtime Utah Opera stage director, Kristine McIntyre, who previously directed productions of “Of Mice and Men,” “The Pearl Fishers,” “Moby-Dick,” and “Don Giovanni,” will direct the production. Acclaimed dramatic soprano and Utah native Wendy Bryn Harmer, who has sung in multiple Metropolitan Opera cycles of Wagner’s “The Ring,” makes her Utah Opera debut performing the role of Elle in “The Human Voice,” a monodrama based on a play by Jean Cocteau that tells the story of a woman’s final phone call with her former lover. Utah Opera Resident Artist Edith Grossman will perform the role of Elle in select performances in her Utah Opera debut. The opera will be performed in English with a libretto adapted by Ms. McIntyre to include modern references, with technology such as a cell phone and tablet featuring prominently in the depiction.

“Gentleman’s Island” is a comedy where two shipwrecked English gentlemen reach the same deserted island, but since they have not been introduced, they ought not to speak to each other. In time, they agree that communication and cooperation is permissible. Some months later a mutual friend appears as the leader of a rescue party made up of convicts, but both men refuse the offer of rescue by criminals. “Gentleman’s Island” is based upon a short story by William Gilbert, of Gilbert & Sullivan fame, entitled, “Etiquette,” and features two Utah Opera regulars, tenor Brian Stucki and baritone Christopher Clayton. Utah Opera Resident Artists Daniel O’Hearn, and Brandon Bell will sing the roles of the gentlemen in select performances.

“I am very proud of our company’s ability to provide innovative and creative artistic solutions so that we can once again connect our community through great live performances that are exciting and meaningful,” said Mr. McBeth.


Season subscribers with tickets to Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings on September 18 and 19 and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No 3 on September 25 and 26 will be contacted by a Patron Services representative in the coming weeks to review plans for attending performances this fall, and to discuss ticketing options if attendance is not possible. Once subscriber seating is completed, seating will be made available to individuals with account credits and gift certificates from canceled performances. Single tickets for September Masterworks concerts will not be made available to the general public at this time in order to accommodate the reduced seating capacity in our venues.

Current season subscribers and patrons with credit or gift certificates from a canceled performance will have an opportunity to purchase additional tickets or exchange their existing tickets for the double-billed Opera production of “The Human Voice” and “Gentleman’s Island” beginning September 9 at 12 PM. Single tickets will go on sale to the general public on September 10 at 12 PM for performances that are not sold out on subscription.

Tickets may be purchased using the new Utah Symphony | Utah Opera mobile app, available free for iPhone and Android. Tickets may also be purchased online or by calling USUO Patron Services at 801-533-NOTE (6683) or through ArtTix.org. In-person assistance is not available at this time. For updated Ticket Office hours and information, please visit us here.

For the most up-to-date information, visit usuo.org and follow us on social media.


The orchestra’s return to Abravanel Hall are not without adjustments to the regular concert-going experience. A 12-foot stage extension and reduced complement of primarily string musicians will allow for six-foot spacing between performers. No guest artists will appear on the fall Masterworks Series performances. Visit the health and safety plan online for full details.

The opera’s performances at the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre will run 90 minutes with no intermission. Digital projections will be used throughout and the vocalists will perform in front of the proscenium. The orchestra will be seated on stage, behind the performers, rather than in the orchestra pit.

USUO has implemented new protocols for in-person concerts following recommendations from the state health department, Center for Disease Control (CDC), Salt Lake County Arts & Culture and consultation with infectious disease specialists. New measures will follow social distancing recommendations and limit in-person interactions for audience members. These procedures include:

  • Event capacity is limited to allow for six-foot spacing between household groups. There will be two empty rows of seats in front of and behind patrons and a minimum of three empty seats on either side of the household.
  • Patrons are required to wear face masks, covering the mouth and nose, when entering the building and throughout the duration of the performance.
  • Ticket scanning is contactless and patrons are asked to use mobile tickets via the USUO App.
  • All attendees are required to confirm they are not experiencing any Covid-19 symptoms before attending performances.
  • Hand sanitizing stations are available in the lobby and increased cleaning regimens, including deep cleaning between performances, are in place.
  • Performances will be shorter, without intermission, to reduce gathering and lines.

“The Alternative Visions Fund,” an anonymous donor advised fund of The Chicago Community Foundation, has awarded Utah Symphony | Utah Opera a matching grant challenge to support USUO’s most urgent needs and expenses; offset losses from earned and contributed revenue; provide a bridge to resuming performances; and allow USUO to plan for the future. All donations received before October 1 will be matched 1:1 by the Alternative Visions Fund. Donate today!