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Theater

'Don Giovanni,' 'Carmen' highlight Pittsburgh Opera's 2019-20 season

| Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, 1:39 p.m.
Pittsburgh Opera’s production of “Don Giovanni”
Pittsburgh Opera’s production of “Don Giovanni”

Planning a season of opera is a complex undertaking.

It’s not just finding the right blend between adventurous new works that advance the artform and the established repertoire audiences already love. There’s also finding performers who will bring their roles to vivid life and choosing fresh, appealing productions.

“What interesting about the (2019-20) season,” says Pittsburgh Opera managing director William Powers, “is that, in addition to new and warhorse works, there’s a piece from almost every epoch of opera – from the baroque era to the 21st century. To me, that’s a wonderful way to balance a season.”

Pittsburgh Opera will present six works next season – four “main stage” productions at Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center and two others, also fully staged and with orchestra.

The season will open at the pinnacle of operatic greatness with “Don Giovanni” (1787) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Oct. 12, 15, 18 and 20.

The superb libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte is based on the old Don Juan legend about the charming sexual predator who gets his just desserts. Mozart’s music includes unforgettable arias and ensembles so brilliant one includes three orchestras playing simultaneously during a party scene.

The French novelist Stendahl once wrote that he would gladly walk 30 miles through mud, which he hated more than anything, to see an adequate production of “Don Giovanni.”

From every epoch

“Florencia en el Amazonas” (1996) by Daniel Catan — Nov. 9, 12, 15, and 17 — will be the company’s first Spanish language production. Inspired by the magic realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his novel “Love in the Time of Cholera,” the opera follows opera singer Florencia Grimaldi as she searches for her missing brother in Brazil. The music is lush and melodic.

Georges Bizet’s “Carmen” (1875) — March 28, 31, April 3 and 5, 2020 — is one of the most popular operas because of its compelling romantic story and the irresistible charm of the music. Zanda Svede will sing the title role, with Scott Quinn as Don Jose and Michael Todd Simpson as the bull fighter Escamillo – her two lovers.

Vincenzo Bellini’s “Norma” (1831) — April 25, 25, May 1 and 3, 2020 — concludes the season at the Benedum Center with a bel canto classic. American soprano Leah Crocetto will sing the role for the first time, just as she made her triumphant role debut in “Tosca” here two seasons ago.

The two other productions begin with George Frideric Handel’s “Alcina” (1735) in the intimate theater at Pittsburgh’s Creative and Performing Arts High School, Jan. 25, 28, 31 and Feb. 2, 2020. Alcina is a sorceress whose defeat frees lovers from her spell.

Opera music director Antony Walker, who is expert in early opera, will conduct Chatham Baroque and the cast of resident artists for the first time.

“The Last American Hammer” (2018) by Peter Hilliard will be presented in the black box theater at Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters, Feb. 22, 25, 28 and March 2, 2020. The story is about a laid-off factory worker who turns to conspiracy theories and becomes a one-man militia.

Subscriptions to Pittsburgh Opera’s four productions at Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center cost $45-$644. Sale of single tickets are tentatively scheduled to begin in late August.

Details: 412-456-6666 or pittsburghopera.org

Mark Kanny is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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