Opera to offer 'Otello,' 'Carmen'; New Year's concert to return

| Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, 8:11 p.m.

Five staged operas and a gala concert are the major offerings of Pittsburgh Opera's 2014-15 season, which also will include numerous art-song recitals and brown-bag concerts of opera arias and ensembles.

Three operas will be presented at the Benedum Center, including Giuseppe Verdi's “Otello” and Georges Bizet's “Carmen,” along with the gala concert in subscription packages.

The reduction of operas at the Benedum from four in recent seasons to three next year is planned for just one season, according to general director Christopher Hahn.

“We expect to return to four productions in 2015-16,” he says. The opera is not running a deficit and the move is intended to “get ahead of a problem” rather than facing a more severe version of it in the following season.

The opera will bring back its New Year's Eve “Auld Lang Syne” concert at Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland, an event that was not offered this season.

The opera also will change the starting time for Friday performances to 7:30 p.m. from its current 8 p.m. as a result of a survey of subscriber and single-ticket buyers. Performances also will be at 8 p.m. Saturdays, 7 p.m. Tuesdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, regardless of venue.

The season will open with the gala concert, titled “Grand and Glorious,” on Oct. 18. It will feature tenor Carl Tanner, soprano Angela Meade and mezzo-soprano Marianne Cornetti with music director Antony Walker leading the Pittsburgh Opera Orchestra in a program of arias and ensemble chosen for the “dazzle” factor.

“Otello” is one of Verdi's supreme achievements and has a brilliant libretto distilled from William Shakespeare's play. It hasn't been presented by Pittsburgh Opera for more than two decades because of the difficulty of finding an adequate tenor for the title role. The success of Tanner in “Aida” led to the revival of “Otello,” Nov. 8 to 16, which also will feature Danielle Pastin as Desdemona. The role of malevolent Iago has yet to be cast.

“Rodelinda,” Jan. 24 to Feb. 1, will be a new production at the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School, and is not part of the subscription series. George Frideric Handel's baroque opera, which was last presented here in 1992, will feature resident artists including Jasmine Muhammad in the title role as the queen who remains loyal to her husband, King Bertarido, when he is absent and feared dead.

The “second stage” production at the opera's headquarters will be Mohammed Fairouz's “Sumeida's Song,” Feb. 21 to March 1, 2015. It also is a new production, features resident artists and is not part of the subscription package.

Fairouz was 22 when he wrote the opera, which tells the story of an Egyptian woman who has her son sent away to be trained to avenge her husband's murder. The opera's conflict arises when he returns an educated man who shuns violence.

“Carmen” returns March 21 to 29, 2015, with Rinat Shaham, who was Zerlina in the opera's 2001 “Don Giovanni,” in the title role. While the Don Jose is not yet cast, Morgan Smith will sing the toreador Escamillo.

Gaetano Donizetti's frothy romantic comedy “The Daughter of the Regiment,” May 2 to 10, 2015, closes the season. Originally in French, it will be sung in English. The production will feature Lisette Oropesa in the title role as the woman who had been found as a baby on a battlefield and raised by soldiers, and Lawrence Brownlee in his company debut as her guy, Tonio.

Subscriptions to the gala concert and three main stage productions are $43 to $623. Single tickets, $12 to $155, will go on sale Aug. 25. Single tickets to “Rodelinda” will be $50, and to “Sumeida's Song,” $37.50.

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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