Pittsburgh Opera marks 75th with centuries of 'treasures'

| Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Six productions will be offered in the 75th anniversary season of Pittsburgh Opera, which will feature works from the 18th to 21st centuries.

“We are one of the oldest opera companies in the United States and always looking forward,” says general director Christopher Hahn. “You're never looking backward because you don't have the time. But a milestone anniversary is likely to make you look back as well as forward.”

The opera will present four “main stage” productions at the Benedum Center — three older masterpieces: “The Magic Flute,” “Aida,” and “La Boheme,” as well as “Orfee,” written in 1993 by Philip Glass.

The annual resident artists' production at Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School will be an even-more-recent work, “Dark Sisters” by Nico Muhly, which premiered in 2011.

In addition, the opera will be launch a Second Stage Production series, Feb. 25 to March 2, 2014, at the company's headquarters in the Strip District, which will feature resident artists but for which repertoire has not yet been chosen.

“Our audience seems to be concerned about the future of opera at the same time as it has been excited and animated by the contemporary operas we have presented. It's a tension I wanted to be reflected in the season,” Hahn says. “The path forward, while not always clear, is full of treasures already.”

Pittsburgh Opera's 2013-14 main-stage productions, all conducted by music director Antony Walker, will be performed Saturdays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays at the Benedum Center:

Oct. 4 to 12, “Aida”: Giuseppe Verdi's grandest of operas will feature Latonia Moore in the title role as the Ethiopian princess torn between love for her country and love of Egyptian general Radames, who will be sung by Carl Tanner. The lavish 2008 production will return, with live animals in the triumphal scene.

Nov. 9 to 17, “The Magic Flute”: The enchanting tale by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, which ranges from the sublime to the broadly humorous, will feature Sean Panikkar as Tamino and Layla Claire as his lady Pamina, Craig Verm as birdman Papageno, Audrey Luna as the Queen of the Night and Oren Gradus as Sarasatro.

March 29 to April 6, 2014, “La Boheme”: Leah Crochetti makes her debut as Mimi in Giacomo Puccini's ever-fresh romantic masterpiece. David Romeli will sing her lover Rodolfo in a production by Tony Award-winner Tomer Zvulun.

April 26 to May 4, “Orphee”: Philip Glass' opera was inspired by Jean Cocteau's version of the fable and will be presented in a “chic” production from Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown, N.Y. Glass has enjoyed great success in the opera house, concert hall and in films.

The production of “Dark Sisters” by Nico Muhly, which is not part of the subscription series, will feature resident artists performing Jan. 25 to Feb. 2 at CAPA, Downtown. Muhly, who Hahn says has the whiff of a wunderkind about him, was inspired to write the opera by stories of raids on polygamist compounds. The new production by Daniel Ragazzi, the first since the premiere, will star Jasmine Muhammed as the rebellious sister wife Eliza on her path to self-discovery. Glenn Lewis will conduct.

A subscription to the four main stage productions at the Benedum Center, Downtown, costs $42 to $623. Single tickets for all performances will go on sale Aug. 26.

Details: 412-281-0912, ext. 210, or www.pittsburghopera.org

Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or mkanny@tribweb.com.

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