MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Seattle Opera Meets the Museum of Flight

Seattle Opera at the Museum of Flight, producing “Flight.” (Ted Huetter / The Museum of Flight)
 Seattle Opera at the Museum of Flight, producing “Flight.” (Ted Huetter / The Museum of Flight)

My latest story for The Seattle Times:

We’ve all been there.

The familiar dread that accompanies air travel — Will my flight be delayed? Will I end up stranded? — has only become aggravated in the time of the coronavirus. But the reverse side to such anxieties is the promise of escape, which leads us ever onward. The resulting ambiguity gives airports their tremendous symbolic power.

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The company premiere of Jonathan Dove and April De Angelis’s Flight will be streamed on the Seattle Opera website from April 23-25; tickets $35.

Filed under: Seattle Opera, Seattle Times

Seattle Opera’s Elixir of Love Beams with the Joy of Singing

Seattle Opera films its production of “The Elixir of Love” on the McCaw Hall stage. (Philip Newton)
  Seattle Opera films its production of “The Elixir of Love” on the McCaw Hall stage. (Philip Newton)

My review of Seattle Opera’s new Elixir of Love.

While the world pins its hope on a coronavirus vaccine, another elixir is getting top billing at Seattle Opera…

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Filed under: review, Seattle Opera

How Do You Stage an Opera During a Pandemic?

My latest story for Seattle Times, on a new, COVID-era staging of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore by Seattle Opera:

The course of true love never did run smooth.”

Shakespeare’s observation applies as much to effective artistic strategy as to human psychology. Even the sunniest of love stories needs complications to get the audience to invest its attention. But the COVID-19 pandemic has made Seattle Opera confront some unprecedented curveballs in order to realize its new production of Gaetano Donizetti’s lighthearted, seductively tuneful opera The Elixir of Love….

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Filed under: directors, Donizetti, Seattle Opera

Eugene Onegin at Seattle Opera

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Marjukka Tepponen (Tatyana) and John Moore (Onegin); (c) Sunny Martini

Just what is Onegin’s problem? The alienation embodied by Pushkin’s anti-hero obviously struck a powerful chord for Tchaikovsky – he wrote an immense symphony, after all, based on Byron’s version of the character type (Manfred) – yet it’s not until Tatyana’s name-day party at the beginning of the second act in Seattle Opera’s new production that we start to get a concrete sense of his identity…

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Filed under: directors, review, Seattle Opera, Tchaikovsky

Timelessly Timely: A Dark and Damning Rigoletto at Seattle Opera

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Madison Leonard (Gilda) and Lester Lynch (Rigoletto); (c) Sunny Martini

Seattle Opera has just launched its new season under incoming General Director Christina Scheppelmann with a new Rigoletto production. Here’s my review:

Recounting one of the bleakest, cruelest narratives in the core repertoire, Rigoletto depicts a noirish world of sexual predation, misogyny, despotism, revenge, murder, and… horrifically bad luck. Should all this be approached as timeless tragedy, timely social commentary – or merely as a guilty pleasure akin to consuming a thriller?

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Filed under: directors, review, Seattle Opera, Verdi

Gramophone 2019: A Letter from Seattle

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Here’s a little contribution from me to this month’s Gramophone magazine:

Across the United States, the pressure is on to redefine longstanding classical music institutions that otherwise face potential extinction….

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Filed under: Gramophone, music news, Seattle Opera, Seattle Symphony

Aidan Lang to Leave Seattle Opera for Welsh National Opera

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Aidan Lang announced today that he will leave Seattle Opera in June 2019 to become general director of Welsh National Opera.

That means he’ll be departing just when Ludovic Morlot ends his tenure with the Seattle Symphony — although of course Morlot’s successor is already familiar to Seattle, the much-admired Thomas Dausgaard. The SSO also has a brand-new president, Krishna Thiagarajan, who replaced Simon Woods (now helming the Los Angeles Philharmonic), began his post this month.

Aidan Lang began his statement as follows:

“I am writing to share some bittersweet news. My time with you in Seattle will come to an end this June 2019, as I have been appointed as General Director of Welsh National Opera. This decision has not come lightly as I love dearly both this community and opera company. Coming to Seattle Opera was one of the greatest honors of my life and I am still absolutely thrilled to have had created opera with you. Seattle Opera is known around the world for its enthusiastic and generous opera community, for its warmth and welcoming atmosphere for artists, and more recently, for our commitment to racial equity.”

Lang’s complete statement is here.

Filed under: music news, Seattle Opera

Porgy and Bess in Seattle

An unforgiving work overload is keeping me from covering Seattle Opera’s just-opened Francesca Zambello production of Porgy and Bess, an opera I love. I did cover it the last time the company presented Gershwin’s work, in 2011, in a version directed by Chris Alexander — well before I had launched this blog, so I hope you will forgive me for posting that
piece here. Two of the singers cast in 2011 are back onstage for the current production: Mary Elizabeth Williams and Jermaine Smith):

Seattle’s version admirably digs beneath the surface of this elusive classic of American identity. It avoids sentimentalizing Porgy into a saint and brings more human focus to characters who can often become caricatures. But some pivotal moments are under-emphasized….

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Filed under: George Gershwin, review, Seattle Opera

Trying to rethink Madame Butterfly at Seattle Opera

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Alexey Dolgov (Pinkerton) and Lianna Haroutounian (Cio-Cio-San); photo by Jacob Lucas

My review for Bachtrack of the new Madame Butterfly production opening Seattle Opera’s season:

How well do we really know Madame Butterfly? So iconic that, for some, it’s the archetype of the art form itself, Puccini’s mega-popular opera has recently been coming in for renewed scrutiny.

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Filed under: Puccini, review, Seattle Opera

Review: A Searing Katya Kabanova on the Seattle Opera stage

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Melody Moore sings the title role in “Katya Kabanova” on opening night at Seattle Opera. (Jacob F. Lucas)

My Seattle Times review of the new Katya Kabanova* production at Seattle Opera:

Nearly a century after it premiered, Leoš Janáček’s “Katya Kabanova” has made it to the Seattle Opera stage for the first time. The Czech composer’s portrayal of a sensitive young woman desperately in need of an escape route from her repressive surroundings contains all the ingredients for a searing music drama.

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*following the company’s English rendition of the title, sans diacriticals

Filed under: Leoš Janáček, review, Seattle Opera

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