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  • 2023 " 2024 Florida Grand Opera Studio Artists Debut In First Sing Concert
    09/26/2023

     

    2023 – 2024 Florida Grand Opera Studio Artists Debut In First Sing Concert

    The singers of Florida Grand Opera's renowned Studio Artist Program will burst onto the South Florida musical scene with the First Sing Concert.

     

    By: A.A. CristiSep. 22, 2023

     


    2023

     

    The singers of Florida Grand Opera's renowned Studio Artist Program will burst onto the South Florida musical scene with the First Sing Concert. The inaugural performance of the season, First Sing introduces these fresh faces and voices to audiences throughout Miami-Dade and Broward Counties with popular operatic repertoire and an exciting season preview. The free performances take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, October 20 and Saturday, October 21 in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, respectively.

    The 2023 First Sing concert features arias and ensembles from Madama Butterfly, Falstaff, Così fan tutte, Susannah, Ernani, and Fidelio, plus an appetizer for FGO's 82nd mainstage season: La traviata, I pagliacci, and La bohème. It stars a cadre of specially selected early-career professionals who compete in a national audition for one of the coveted spots in FGO's prestigious Studio Artist Program. The 2023–2024  roster consists of second-year Studio Artist, tenor Joseph McBrayer, along with the following newcomers: soprano Sara Kennedy, mezzo-soprano Taylor-Alexis DuPont, baritone Joseph Canuto Leon, and bass-baritone Keith Kline.

    “First Sing is always an exciting event because it's a debut of a group of wildly talented young artists who we will get to see grow over the next year,” says Samuel M. Townsend Studio Artist Program Manager Neil Nelson. “The musical selections are stunning in their own right and anyone will love them, even if they don't know much about opera. But for any dedicated fan of classical singing, there's an added bonus, because the opportunity to catch these rising stars on the ground floor and watch them develop and surpass themselves throughout the season is an undeniable thrill.”

    As the face of opera in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Studio Artists spend the full season performing principal and supporting roles alongside Florida Grand Opera's roster of acclaimed directors, conductors, and musicians. They tour Miami-Dade and Broward counties to offer a variety of concerts such as the beloved SongFest series and a touring outreach opera for young audiences, among other events. In the  2023–2024 season, they will embark on a special new initiative, the ZIP CODE (Zone Improvement Plan – Community Opera Delivered Equitably) Tour, designed to bring vibrant opera performances to nontraditional venues in as many zip codes as possible throughout Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. The Studio Artists receive training from FGO artistic staff and top industry professionals from around the world on a broad spectrum of topics, with an emphasis on vocal technique, acting, language, repertoire, and best business practices for working singers. FGO also coordinates opportunities for in-house auditions with agents and General Directors, press interviews, and donor relations to prepare them for a life in the opera industry.

    Second-year Studio Artist, tenor Joseph McBrayer, returns to sing Gastone in season opener La traviata and Beppe in I pagliacci. Acclaimed for his “ardent” Paolino in 2023's El matrimonio segreto, he also offered up a comic turn as Gherardo in Gianni Schicchi and Buoso's Ghost. McBrayer returns to FGO after performances as Sam (Susannah) with Marble City Opera and Alfredo (La traviata) at the Quisisana Resort in Lowell, ME opposite his fiancée, Hayley Lipke. He has appeared with the Atlanta Opera, Capitol City Opera, and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, where he performed the roles of Alfredo in La traviata, Woz in The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, and Tamino in The Magic Flute. An avid performer of orchestral works and musicals, McBrayer has also appeared as the tenor soloist in Britten's War Requiem, Beethoven's 9th Symphony, and musicals such as Falsettos and She Loves Me.  

    First-year Studio Artist Sara Kennedy is an award-winning soprano known for her powerful interpretations of Mozart heroines. Hailed by Operawire as an “exciting singer with a killer voice,” she recently debuted with Opera Arlington as Fiordiligi (Così fan tutte) and as Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) with Teatro Grattacielo/Camerata Bardi Vocal Academy and Painted Sky Opera. She was a 2022 Sarasota Opera Winter Season Apprentice Artist and an Opera Fellow at OperaFest Sewanee, where she won the prestigious Jacqueline Avent Concerto Competition. Her musical theatre roles include Anne Egerman in A Little Night Music and The Baker's Wife in Into the Woods. Kennedy will make her FGO debut as Annina (La traviata). She will later cover the role of Nedda in I pagliacci and appear as Musetta (La bohème).

    Mezzo-soprano Taylor-Alexis DuPont joins the Florida Grand Opera Studio, having made her professional debut in 2019 as a member of the Metropolitan Opera's Grammy award-winning production of Porgy and Bess. Most recently, she won first place at the 25th Lotte Lenya Competition and debuted with Washington National Opera as Phoebe in The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson.  She has appeared with Florentine Opera in the title role of Luisa Fernanda, Hansel in Hansel & Gretel, and Bessie in Weill's Mahagonny-Songspiel. She was also recently featured in three new operas at the Glimmerglass Festival: as Reba (Taking up Serpents) Archangel Gabriel (Holy Ground, a world premiere), and Phoebe in an expanded version of The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson. DuPont makes her FGO debut as Flora in La traviata and Musetta in La bohème.

    Praised for his “outstanding singing” and “big, bass-y baritone” by The Dallas Morning News, dramatic baritone and Des Moines native Joseph Canuto Leon joins the Studio to sing the roles of Baron Douphol in La traviata and Schaunard in La bohème.  He will also cover Giorgio Germont (La traviata), Silvio (I pagliacci), and Marcello (La bohème). Leon has appeared with the Dallas Opera, Charlottesville Opera, American Baroque Opera Company, Painted Sky Opera, Opera on the James, and Opera in the Rock.  His roles include Ford (Falstaff), Count Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), the Villains (The Tales of Hoffmann), Belcore (L'elisir d'amore), The Father (Hansel and Gretel), Baron Zeta (The Merry Widow), Donner (Das Rheingold), and the title role in Eugene Onegin.

    Hailed by the Akron Beacon Journal for his “stellar singing” and “stunning” voice, first-year Studio Artist and bass-baritone Keith Klein kicked off his career in 2014 by winning the Kansas City Superstar competition and appearing on Season 10 of America's Got Talent. Most recently, he has appeared as Elder McLean (Susannah) and Angelotti (Tosca) with Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Dr. Podsnap (Awakenings) with Odyssey Opera, and Sparafucile (Rigoletto) at Opera Colorado. In 2022, Klein won an Encouragement Award in the Metropolitan Opera's Laffont Competition and the Barbara and Stanley Richman Memorial Award from Opera Theatre of St. Louis. He makes his FGO debut as Dr. Grenvil in La traviata, followed by Colline in La bohème.

    “First Sing is one of my favorite events of the season,” says Florida Grand Opera General Director and CEO Susan T. Danis. “Bringing fresh talent to South Florida audiences is a point of pride for me, but also, the opportunity to experience these stunning operatic voices in an intimate setting is a visceral thrill, whether you're a huge opera fan or just dipping your toes into the world of classical singing. It's not to be missed.”

    First Sing takes place on Friday, October 20, 2023, at 7:30 p.m. in the Doral Opera Center, Miami, and Saturday, October 21, 2023, at 7:30 p.m. at the Center for Spiritual Living. Admission is free, but reservations are required and limited to four per household. Register for free seats at fgo.org.

     

    Click Here to Buy Tickets

     

  • Florida Grand Opera Unveils New Concert Series for 2023-24
    09/21/2023

     

    SEP 19, 2023

     

    Florida Grand Opera Unveils New Concert Series for 2023-24

    By David Salazar

     

    Florida Grand Opera has announced a unique new concert season.

     

    “We are breaking out of the box and exploring a lot of new things,” says Director of Artistic Operations Matt Cooksey said in an official press statement. “Even though we have great traditional operas at the big houses, this season is about challenging ourselves to prepare innovative vocal concerts in South Florida that celebrate the diverse cultural makeup in our community and create the next wave of opera fans.”

     

    To that effect, the company is kicking things off with “First Sing,” featuring the 2023-24 Studio Artists including tenor Joseph McBrayer, soprano Sara Kennedy, mezzo-soprano Taylor-Alexis DuPont, baritone Joseph Canuto Leon, and bass-baritone Keith Klein.

     

    Performance Date: Oct. 20 & 21, 2023

    Next up is “Scandals and Scoundrels: Opera’s Contemptible Characters and Sordid Situations.” Studio Artists will present arias and concerts from some of opera’s most famous villains.

     

    Performance Date: Nov. 17 & 19, 2023

    For “From the Page to the Stage: Great Literary Works Reimagined for the Operatic Stage,” audiences will see Studio Artists take on music adapted from works of celebrated authors.

    Performance Date: Feb. 16 & 18, 2024

     

    There will be a “Cuba in Zarzuela y Canción” showcase.

    Performance Date: Feb. 25, 2024

     

    There will also be an “Opera Reggae Concert.”

    Performance Date: March 3, 2024

     

    That will be followed up by “Drop the Mic! Broadway Musicals Without Microphones,” also featuring Studio Artists.

    Performance Date: March 15 & 17, 2024

     

    Next up is “Zarzuela por el mundo.”

    Performance Date: April 14, 2024

     

    The Studio Artists will also take part in the “Final Sing.”

    Performance Date: May 10 & 12, 2024. 

     

  • OPERATIC HEIGHTS
    09/20/2023

     

    OPERATIC HEIGHTS

     

    Florida Grand Opera kicks off the 2023-24 season with a rousing performance of Giuseppe Verdi & Francesco Maria Piave’s La traviata, based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils.

     

    Words // Sandy Lindsey | August 28, 2023 | People

     

     

    Launching the new season at Florida Grand Opera, La traviata is a story of human emotions — love, envy, jealousy, loyalty and passion. Parisian party girl and renowned courtesan Violetta Valery harbors a terrible secret — she is dying of tuberculosis. Nevertheless, she’s determined to continue her extravagant lifestyle of parties and revelry. Only the ardent Alfredo sees through her mask of gaiety to the real woman and her well-disguised suffering. But the love that could save her life is threatened by the demands of Alfredo’s furious father, Germont, who insists on a devastating sacrifice to save his own family from disgrace and ruin. Even a heart of gold can shatter under such a strain. The opera is stuffed with Verdi’s trademark memorable melodies, from Violetta’s sparkling Sempre libera to Germont’s pleading Di Provenza, to the gentle and heartbreaking love duet Parigi o cara. Mexican-American soprano Cecilia Violetta López returns in her “career-defining” and “compelling” signature role, Violetta Valery. Award-winning Belarusian tenor Pavel Petrov makes his FGO and American debut as Violetta’s lover, Alfredo. Former FGO studio artist and internationally renowned baritone Troy Cook returns as Germont; Nov. 11-Dec. 2; FGO.org.

  • FGO coming to some unexpected places this season
    09/20/2023

     

    Florida Grand Opera coming to some unexpected places this season

     

    WLRN 91.3 FM | By Christine DiMattei

    Published September 20, 2023 at 7:00 AM EDT

    LISTEN • 2:12

    Toni Marie Palmertree in Florida Grand Opera's production of "Tosca" this past season.

    Daniel Azoulay

    Toni Marie Palmertree in Florida Grand Opera's production of "Tosca" this past season.

     

    A new FGO program will bring opera performances to 'non-traditional' venues in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

     

    If you live in Miami-Dade or Broward County, come the 2024 new year, you can expect to hear a whole bunch of arias in some unexpected areas.

     

    It’s all part of Florida Grand Opera’s upcoming season.

     

    The company’s new Zip CODE program will bring free performances to non-traditional venues throughout both counties.

     

    The “CODE” stands for “Community Opera Delivered Equitably.”

     

    The idea is to take opera directly into familiar community gathering places like libraries, schools and parks.

     

    "The biggest challenge with opera is that it's a really intimidating art form," says Matt Cooksey, FGO's Director of Artistic Operations."It's sung in a foreign language. The music is from 200 years ago, in some cases. And so there's a lot of hesitancy about , 'Ugh, is this really for me?' And so all of these concerts make it a very easy decision that opera is enjoyable, it is accessible and that we're here to help make it a really fun time," he told WLRN.

     

    Times, dates and locations for the Zip CODE performances will be listed at fgo.org as they become available. Admission will be free.

     

    Planning for the new program comes at a time of transition for Florida Grand Opera. FGO's General Director and CEO, Susan Danis, recently announced her resignation after leading the company for more than a decade.

     

    Members of FGO’s Studio Artist Program will help launch the Zip CODE tour in 2024.

     

    The Studio Artists are a cadre of singers selected from hundreds of applicants nationwide during an intensive audition process.

     

    Besides appearing in principal and supporting roles on the mainstage, the five singers will serve as the "public face" of the company throughout the season — performing in concerts and an outreach tour for young audiences.

     

    "We get the crème de la crème — the singers that are right on the cusp of going into their career," said Neil Nelson, who runs FGO's Studio Artist program. He compares the singers in the program to doctors in residency just out of med school. "Opera is an art form that needs to be tended to like a garden or else it will wither away. It'll atrophy," Nelson said. "I have a sincere desire to see the next generation of opera singers succeed and grow the art form so that it could be able to last for generations to come."

     

    Highlights of Florida Grand Opera's
    2023-2024 Season

    "First Sing"

    An opportunity to hear FGO's Studio Artists in their first concert of the 2023-2024 season.

    Friday, October 20, 2023, 7:30 pm
    Doral Opera Center
    8390 NW 25th Street
    Miami, FL 33122
    FREE ADMISSION WITH RESERVATION

    Saturday, October 21, 2023, 7:30 pm
    Center for Spiritual Living
    4849 North Dixie Highway
    Oakland Park, FL 33334
    FREE ADMISSION WITH RESERVATION

    MAINSTAGE OPERAS

    La Traviata By Giuseppe Verdi

    Sung in Italian with English and Spanish projected translations

    MIAMI
    Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
    Ziff Ballet Opera House
    Nov 11, 2023, at 7:00pm
    Nov 12, 2023, at 2:00pm
    Nov 14, 2023, at 8:00pm

    FORT LAUDERDALE
    Broward Center for the Performing Arts
    Au-Rene Theater
    Nov 30, 2023, at 7:30pm
    Dec 2, 2023, at 7:30pm

    I Pagliacci By Ruggero Leoncavallo

    Sung in Italian and English with English and Spanish projected translations

    MIAMI
    Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts Ziff Ballet Opera House
    Jan 27, 2024, at 6:00pm
    Jan 28, 2024, at 2:00pm
    Jan 30, 2024, at 8:00pm

    FORT LAUDERDALE
    Broward Center for the Performing Arts
    Au-Rene Theater
    Feb 8 and 10, 2024, at 7:30pm

    La Bohème By Giacomo Puccini

    Sung in Italian with English and Spanish projected translations

    MIAMI
    Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
    Ziff Ballet Opera House
    Apr 6, 2024, at 7:00pm
    Apr 7, 2024, at 2:00pm
    Apr 9, 2024, at 8:00pm

    FORT LAUDERDALE
    Broward Center for the Performing Arts
    Au-Rene Theater
    May 2 and 4, 2024, at 7:30pm

    SONGFEST
    A three-concert series with each performance exploring a different theme.

    · Scandals and Scoundrels: Opera's Contemptible Characters and Sordid Situations. Friday, November 17 in Coral Gables and Sunday, November 19 in Oakland Park.
    Tickets are $15; free to donors and subscribers.

    · From the Page to the Stage: Great Literary Works Reimagined for the Operatic Stage, on Friday, February 16 in Miami and Sunday, February 18 in Fort Lauderdale.
    Tickets are $15; free to donors and subscribers.

    · Drop the Mic!
    Broadway Musicals Without Microphones. Friday, March 15, in Miami and Sunday, March 17 in Fort Lauderdale.
    Tickets are $15; free to donors and subscribers.

    SPECIAL EVENTS

    ¡Viva Zarzuela!

    · Cuba en zarzuela y canción
    Sunday, February 25, 2024, at 3 p.m. at the Cuban Hebrew Congregation in Miami Beach.
    Tickets are $25.

    · Zarzuela por el mundo
    Sunday, April 14 at the Cuban Hebrew Congregation in Miami Beach.
    Tickets are $25.

    Opera Reggae Concert
    Described as a "lighthearted exploration of common themes between the two genres."
    Sunday, March 3, 2024, 3 p.m.
    Miami Beach Bandshell
    Tickets available at miamibeachbandshell.com

    For more information, visit fgo.org.

    Tags

  • Florida Grand Opera Chief Resigns
    09/12/2023

    Florida Grand Opera Chief Resigns (Musical America)

  • Florida Grand Opera General Director & CEO Resigns
    09/12/2023

     

    SEP 12, 2023

     

    Florida Grand Opera General Director & CEO Resigns

     

    By Francisco Salazar

     

    The Florida Grand Opera’s General Director and CEO Susan T. Danis has announced her resignation.

     

    Danis has been the leader of the opera company for more than a decade and announced that she was leaving to pursue another opportunity. However, she will remain with the company through a transition period to help ensure that the coming season is off to a great start.

     

    Danis began her tenure with the company in 2012 and has produced popular traditional grand operas as well as award-winning educational and engagement programs. She also brought such works as “The Passenger,” “Florencia en el Amazonas,” “Before Night Falls,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and “Fellow Travelers.”

     

    In a statement, Danis said, “It has been an honor to lead FGO for the past eleven years. I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished, and I thank the community for its support. It’s time for a new leader to take FGO to even greater heights as it approaches its 85th Anniversary.”

     

    https://operawire.com/florida-grand-opera-general-director-ceo-resigns/

  • Susan T. Danis Departs Florida Grand Opera
    09/12/2023

     

    Susan T. Danis Departs Florida Grand Opera

     

    The board has formed a search committee to find her replacement.

     

    By: Stephi WildSep. 12, 2023

     

    The board of directors of Florida Grand Opera announced the resignation of its CEO, Susan T. Danis. Ms. Danis, who has been the leader of the opera company for more than a decade, is leaving to pursue another opportunity. She will remain with the company through a transition period to help assure that the coming season is off to a great start. The board has formed a search committee to find her replacement.


    Ms. Danis has served as the General Director and CEO of the Florida Grand Opera since October of 2012. During her tenure, FGO has produced popular traditional grand operas as well as award-winning educational and engagement programs, including a season of all American opera during the winter of 2021 in the midst of the pandemic. Programs included internationally acclaimed operas such as The Passenger, Florencia en el Amazonas, Before Night Falls, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Fellow Travelers. She has worked to increase the focus on the presentation of 20th and 21st century work, through the Made for Miami/Built for Broward series.



    Ms. Danis said, “It has been an honor to lead FGO for the past eleven years. I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished, and I thank the community for its support. It’s time for a new leader to take FGO to even greater heights as it approaches its 85th Anniversary.”



    Per Olof Lööf, Chairman of the FGO board, said, “The board thanks Ms. Danis for her tireless efforts on behalf of FGO throughout her tenure. It has been a great pleasure to work with her for so many years, and we wish her every success in her new endeavors.”



    Chairman Lööf also said, “In order to take FGO to even greater heights, we will this fall initiate a major fundraising campaign to ensure our ability to continue bringing world-class opera to South Florida.” FGO will unveil its Grow the Opera Campaign in the very near future.

     

    https://www.broadwayworld.com/miami/article/Susan-T-Danis-Departs-Florida-Grand-Opera-20230912

     

  • Danis resigns from Florida Grand Opera closing an 11-year run
    09/12/2023

     

    Danis resigns from Florida Grand Opera closing an 11-year run

     

    By Lawrence A. Johnson

     

    Susan Danis will leave FGO to become CEO of the La Jolla Music Society in October.

     

    Susan Danis became CEO and executive director of Florida Grand Opera in 2012.

     

    Susan Danis, the general director and CEO of Florida Grand Opera, resigned Monday after leading the Miami-based opera company for 11 years.

     

    “It’s time. It’s time for someone else,” she said in a phone interview Monday night.

     

    The company has continued to cut back its offerings and the FGO’s 2023-24 season is the least ambitious in its history, offering just three populist Italian warhorses (Traviata, Boheme, and Cav & Pag). “I don’t think that I’m the leader for that kind of repertoire  going forward,” Danis said.

     

    Danis is widely credited with bringing a fresh sense of daring and adventure to the conservative company, lifting it out of the prolonged artistic doldrums of the Robert Heuer era. 

     

    In her first season at the helm, Danis mounted the Florida premiere of the combustible Mourning Becomes Electra by Fort Lauderdale resident Marvin David Levy, which garnered rave reviews. While not everything was received as enthuasiastically,  Danis showed continual resourcefulness—not least in her retooled lineup during the pandemic seaosn when she mounted a series of American chamber operas at smaller venues. “I think some of the best things we did were in the pandemic year, working with what we had,” she said.

     

    Danis said she will stay on board at FGO through the end of October and help with the transition. For herself, Danis said she has no immediate plans.

     

    “I’ve worked in opera for 33 years and I think I’ve taken maybe four weeks off in all that time,” she said. “I just want to take some time and think about what I want to do next.”

     

    Florida Grand Opera opens its season November 11 with Verdi’s La Traviatafgo.org

     

    https://southfloridaclassicalreview.com/2023/09/danis-resigns-from-fgo-after-11-year-run/

  • Broadway World: FGO Announces Casting for 2023-24
    08/15/2023

     

    Florida Grand Opera Announces Casting For 2023–24 Season

    South Florida audiences anticipate a thrilling mix of debuts, favorites, international and rising stars.

    By: A.A. Cristi  Aug. 01, 2023

     

    Florida Grand Opera Announces Casting For 2023

     

    Florida Grand Opera announces an exciting mix of internationally acclaimed artists, South Florida favorites, and rising stars for its 82nd consecutive season featuring three of the Lyric Stage's most popular titles.

     

    In the season opener, La traviata, Mexican-American soprano Cecilia Violetta López returns in her "career-defining" and "compelling" signature role, Violetta Valery. She was last seen as Rosalba in 2018's Florencia in el Amazonas. Opera News named the native Idahoan one of opera's "25 Rising Stars" by and USA Today acclaimed her as one of "Idaho's Top Ten Most Influential Women of the Century." López has performed Violetta with Minnesota Opera, Opera Colorado, Opera Tampa, Opera Idaho, Ash Lawn Opera, The Northern Lights Music Festival, Madison Opera, Pacific Symphony and Virginia Opera. Her repertoire includes Adina (The Elixir of Love), the title role of Manon, Nedda (I pagliacci), Maria (West Side Story), Marguerite (Faust), Mimì (La bohème) the Countess (The Marriage of Figaro), and many others. She made her critically acclaimed European début as Norina in Don Pasquale with Zomeropera in Belgium. López has also appeared with Opera Las Vegas, LoftOpera, Opera Southwest, Opera Saratoga, Prototype Opera Festival, Opera San Luis Obispo, Madison Opera, and many others.

     

    Award-winning Belarusian tenor Pavel Patrov makes his American debut at Florida Grand Opera as Violetta's lover, Alfredo. He is the winner of the First Prize and the Don Placido Domingo Ferrer Prize of Zarzuela of Operalia 2018, The World Opera Competition, and finalist of the Belvedere and Queen Sonja International Music competitions. His busy international career includes recent appearances as Tamino (The Magic Flute) at Wiener Staatsoper, Opéra National de Paris and Dresden Semperoper, the Verdi Requiem with Orquesta Sinfonica del Principado de Asturias, and Lensky (Eugene Onegin) at Teatro Massimo di Palermo. Previous highlights include his Wiener Staatsoper debut as Nemorino (The Elixir of Love) and Tamino (The Magic Flute), Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni) at Opéra National de Paris and Oper Graz the Duke (Rigoletto) for Opera Hong Kong and Bregenzer Festspiele, and Alfredo (La traviata) for Savonlinna Festival, among many others.

     

    Baritone and former FGO Studio Artist Troy Cook last appeared at FGO as Enrico in 2017's Lucia di Lammermoor. The Kentucky native returns as Germont. Often acclaimed for his vocal and physical elegance, Cook has graced the stages of some of the world's greatest opera houses, including The Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, San Francisco Opera, La Monnaie (Brussels) and Opera Bilbao. He created the role of Father Palmer in Kevin Puts' and Mark Campbell's acclaimed Silent Night at Minnesota Opera and the role of John Cree in Puts and Campbell's Elizabeth Cree at Opera Philadelphia. Recent performances include his fourth different production as Marcello (La bohème) with Opera Philadelphia, his Virginia Opera debut as Major General Stanley in The Pirates of Penzance, Germont with Inland Northwest Opera, and Sharpless in Madama Butterfly with Palm Beach Opera. Other frequently performed roles include Tonio (I pagliacci), Enrico (Lucia di Lammermoor), Rodrigo (Don Carlo), Valentin (Faust), and Ford (Falstaff), to name a few.

     

    FGO's renowned Studio Artists round out the cast. Tenor Joseph McBrayer returns as Gaston, after his FGO debut season as Paolino in El matrimonio secreto and Gherardo in Gianni Schicchi and Buoso's Ghost. First-year artists making their FGO debuts include soprano Sarah Kennedy as Annina, Taylor-Alexis DuPont as Flora, baritone Joseph Canuto Leon as the Marchese D'Obigny, and bass-baritone Keith Klein as Doctor Grenville.

     

    Ecuadoran stage director, conductor, and composer Chía Patiño makes her FGO with La traviata. Most recently, she directed Don Giovanni for the Aspen Music Festival and the Butler Opera Center, where she also directed her own adaptation of The Magic Flute: La Flauta Mágica de los Andes; Florencia en el Amazonas for Opera Tenerife, Orpheus & Eurydice for Seattle Opera, Suite Española: Exploring Iberia and Exploring the Caribbean for Houston Grand Opera, La Cenerentola and Tosca for Northern Lights Music Festival. Her work has been produced in the United States, Spain, Ecuador, Colombia, Guatemala, United Arab Emirates, and Egypt.

     

    Conductor and composer Joe Illick, former Interim Artistic Director of FGO's predecessor Greater Miami Opera, returns to the FGO podium for the first time since 1993. Currently the Composer-in-Residence and Music Director Emeritus of Fort Worth Opera, he has a long career in artistic administration and has conducted at Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, San Francisco Opera (Merola), Teatro Lirico d'Europa, Minnesota Opera National Tour, Stadttheater Aachen, Vienna Chamber Opera and the Covent Garden Ensemble, among many others. Maestro Illick and FGO General Director and CEO Susan T. Danis formerly worked together at Lake George Festival Opera (now Opera Saratoga).

     

    Utah Opera's production boasts scenic design by Peter Dean Beck. The costumes by Allen Charles Klein were especially designed for Florida Grand Opera. Tony Award-winning designer Rick Fisher will create the lighting design.

     

    Fresh from his triumphant Metropolitan Opera house and role debut as Radames in Aida, tenor sensation Limmie Pulliam makes his FGO debut as Canio in FGO's mid-season production of I pagliacci. Noted by the San Francisco Chronicle for his "full-throated vocal power, and intimate lyricism," Pulliam is a rising star whose recent appearances include house and role debuts as Manrico in Los Angeles Opera's Il trovatore, a company debut in his signature title role in Otello with The Cleveland Orchestra, and a company debut in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with The Philadelphia Orchestra. He has been heard in leading roles with Tulsa Opera, San Diego Opera, Carnegie Hall, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Vashon Opera, Livermore Valley Opera, the Ojai Festival, and many others.

     

    Kearstin Piper Brown will make her FGO debut as Nedda. The American soprano has been busy with debuts, recently appearing on PBS's Great Performances in Lynn Nottage and Ricky Ian Gordon's Intimate Apparel at the Lincoln Center Theater, with Santa Fe Opera in the world premiere of This Little Light of Mine, at Carnegie Hall debut singing the music of J.S. Bach and Margaret Bonds with the Cecilia Chorus of New York, a world premiere at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and with Opera Parellèle in The Shining. Her repertoire includes Musetta in La bohème, Pamina in The Magic Flute, Euridice in Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice, Violetta in La traviata, and Bess in Porgy and Bess, a role she has performed worldwide. She is in demand as an interpreter of new music and has premiered a number of roles, including Mrs. McDowell in the world premiere of Adolphus Hailstork's Rise for Freedom: The John P. Parker Story with Cincinnati Opera and Epiphany Proudfoot in the world premiere of Mark Scearse's Falling Angel at the Center for Contemporary Opera.

     

    Baritone Robert Mellon makes his FGO debut in the role of Tonio. Acclaimed by Opera News for his "excellent comic timing," and "domineering baritone, gleaming like polished copper," Mellon has recently appeared as Marcello in La bohème with Pensacola Opera, Tonio in I pagliacci with Opera Tampa, Figaro in La nozze di Figaro with Syracuse and Tri-Cities Operas, and George in Of Mice and Men with Livermore Valley Opera. Repertoire includes Papageno (The Magic Flute), Iago (Otello), the title role in Falstaff, Escamillo (Carmen), and Leporello (Don Giovanni). He is a favorite at Pensacola Opera, InSeries Opera, and Union Avenue Opera, and has also recently appeared at Kansas City Lyric Opera, Tulsa Opera, San Diego Opera, and Detroit Opera.

     

    Rising star baritone Eleomar Cuello returns to the FGO stage in the role of Nedda's lover Silvio, after his appearance last season as Marco in Gianni Schicchi and Buoso's Ghost. Cuello left the FGO stage and immediately won a finalist's position in the 2023 Metropolitan Opera Competition, a place in San Francisco Opera's prestigious Merola program, and a debut at the Stuttgart State Opera in Germany in the title role of Don Giovanni. A young singer of immense promise, Cuello already enjoys an international career, including performances in Cecilia Valdés and Don Gil de Alcalá at Teatro de la Zarzuela, Madrid; Guglielmo (Così fan tutte), Masetto (Don Giovanni), Valentin (Faust), and many others with the prestigious Municipal Theatre of Santiago; and a variety of performances in Uruguay, Ecuador, France, Nicaragua, and Cuba. Locally, Cuello has appeared with the Gulf Coast Symphony, Vero Beach Opera, and Opera Naples. Upcoming engagements include the title role of Gianni Schicchi and Michele in Il tabarro at Oviedo Opera, Spain.

     

    Second-year Studio Artist, tenor Joseph McBrayer, will take on the role of Beppe.

     

    I pagliacci is conducted by FGO favorite, Gregory Buchalter, whose most recent appearances on the podium included  last season's Tosca and the 2022's A Streetcar Named Desire. Currently Music Director of Varna International and Muzika! The Grand Strand Music Festival, his conducting engagements have included The Metropolitan Opera, the Vienna Volksoper, the Savonlinna Opera Festival in Finland, the Spoleto Festival, the New Opera World Festival in Moscow, the Vienna Summer Music Festival, and many others. He received glowing reviews for his work with the American Premiere of Mercadante's I Due Figaro, Von Winter's Das Labyrinth, and Donizetti's Olivo e Pasquale with New York's Amore Opera, and was the first American to conduct with the Kazakhstan State Opera.

     

    Maestro Buchalter once again teams up with another beloved FGO veteran, stage director Jeffrey Marc Buchman, who most recently directed FGO's Tosca, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Agrippina. Hailed by Opera News as "a formidable talent," Buchman is known as an innovator. He recently served as Artistic Director for Live Arts, a dynamic multimedia arena event involving 1,200 performers on four stages, including the Grand Rapids Symphony, Grand Rapids Ballet, Opera Grand Rapids and Broadway Grand Rapids. Contemporary productions include As One (Laura Kaminsky) for Hawaii Opera Theatre and Opera Colorado, 27 (Ricky Ian Gordon) for Michigan Opera Theatre, and the world-premieres of Carson Kievman's Tesla, Fairy Tales: Songs of the Dandelion Woman, and Intelligent Systems. He has directed for Atlanta Opera, Opera Tampa, Opera Carolina, Lyric Opera Baltimore, Toledo Opera, Intermountain Opera, Mobile Opera, Syracuse Opera, Sugar Creek Symphony & Song, Anchorage Opera, the Orlando Philharmonic, the Miami Summer Music Festival, and Opera Naples, among many others.

     

    I pagliacci's production comes from Sarasota Opera, with scenic design by David Gordon and costumes by the indispensable Howard Tsvi Kaplan. Tony Award winner Rick Fisher returns as lighting designer.

     

    Closing out the season is Giacomo Puccini's La bohème. Soprano Rebecca Krynski-Cox, last seen at FGO as Stella in 2022's A Streetcar Named Desire, returns as the doomed seamstress Mimì. Hailed by The New York Times as a "vibrant soprano...with a secure, appealing sound and eye-opening volume," she recently debuted the title role in Beethoven's Fidelio with Opera Company of Middlebury, joined Charleston Opera Theater as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, returned to Dayton Opera as the Mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors, and returned to Indianapolis Opera as Pamina in The Magic Flute. On the international scene, she premiered the role of Raja in Dschungel and jumped in with six hours' notice to sing Fiordiligi in Cosí fan tutte at the Luzerner Theater, and covered the First Lady in The Magic Flute for Theater Basel.

     

    Italian tenor Davide Giusti makes his American debut at Florida Grand Opera as the poet Rodolfo, a role he has previously performed at Teatr Wielki (Warsaw, Poland), Opéra de Toulon, the Bolshoi Opera, Grand Opéra Avignon and Theater Basel. Key roles include Alfredo (La traviata), Rinuccio (Gianni Schicchi), the Duke of Mantua (Rigoletto), and Fenton (Falstaff). Giusti's career takes him all over Europe, with performances at Opéra Nice, Grand Théâtre de Genève, Opéra Royale de Wallonie, Teatro Regio di Parma and Opéra de Montpellier, among many others. He can be heard as Tebaldo in I Capuleti ei Montecchi on the Glossa label.

     

    In the role of the artist Marcello, baritone Craig Verm makes his FGO debut. His "strapping physique and winning stage presence" combined with his "arrestingly vibrant" voice recommend him to leading roles such as the title roles in Billy Budd (Teatro Municipal de Santiago, Des Moines Metro Opera) and Don Giovanni (Pittsburgh Opera, Dallas Opera). Frequently sought after for new works, Mr. Verm created the role of Doug Hansen in Judy Talbot's Everest at Dallas Opera, later singing the role with London's Barbican Centre, Austin Opera and Lyric Opera of Kansas City. He has appeared at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse, the Netherlands' Nationale Reisopera, Seiji Ozawa's Ongaku-juku Festival, Santa Fe Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Arizona Opera, Madison Opera, Tulsa Opera, Florentine Opera, and Opera Philadelphia, among many others.

     

     

    The role of the irrepressible Musetta will be shared by first-year Studio Artists Sara Kennedy (April 6, 9; May 2) and Taylor-Alexis DuPont (April 7; May 4). Kennedy, an award-winning soprano known for her powerful interpretations of Mozart heroines, has recently debuted with Opera Arlington as Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte and as Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) with Teatro Grattacielo/Camerata Bardi Vocal Academy and Painted Sky Opera. She was a 2022 Sarasota Opera Winter Season Apprentice Artist and an Opera Fellow at OperaFest Sewanee, where she won the prestigious Jacqueline Avent Concerto Competition.

     

    Mezzo-soprano DuPont made her professional debut in 2019 as a member of the Metropolitan Opera's Grammy award winning production of Porgy and Bess, following up with house and role debuts as Moth in A Midsummer Night's Dream at Santa Fe Opera and as a featured soloist with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra. Most recently, she won first place at the 25th Lotte Lenya Competition and debuted with Washington National Opera as Phoebe in The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson. She has appeared with Virginia Opera, Heartbeat Opera, Glimmerglass Festival, and Opera Philadelphia, among others.

     

    Rounding out the cast are first-year FGO Studio bass-baritone Keith Klein as Colline, first-year FGO Studio baritone Joseph Canuto Leon as Schaunard, and South Florida favorite and Samuel M. Townsend FGO Studio Manager, bass-baritone Neil Nelson, as Benoit/Alcindoro.

     

    Jamaican-American bass-baritone Neil Nelson is an FGO and South Florida favorite. Most recently, he appeared to great acclaim in FGO's 2022-23 season as the Sacristan in Tosca, and as the Emperor Claudius in Agrippina and Count Monterone in Rigoletto during the 2021–2022 season. He also serves as the Samuel M. Townsend Studio Artist Program Manager, and is responsible for guiding the artistic development of FGO's exclusive cadre of early-career performers. A graduate of The New England Conservatory of Music with a degree in music performance, Mr. Nelson has performed operatic roles domestically and abroad with prestigious companies such as Tatarstan Opera Theatre and Ballet (Kazan, Russia), Boston Lyric Opera, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Palm Beach Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Orlando Opera, Opera Naples and many others.

     

    FGO's own Matt Cooksey returns to stage direct after his very successful Barber of Seville in spring 2023. Shortly prior, he made his professional mainstage debut at Indianapolis Opera directing a world premiere double-bill of Brundibár by Hans Krása and Vedem by Lori Laitman and assisted Metropolitan Opera director Paula Suozzi in her production of Falstaff at the Aspen Opera Theater. He has directed five touring presentations for elementary and middle school audiences, including two original pieces – The Three Sillies and The Tales of Cats and Mice – and his adaptation of Berlioz's Beatrice and Benedict. Cooksey is FGO's Director of Artistic Operations, having previously served as Artist Services Manager and Studio Artist Program Manager.

     

    Conductor Joseph Mechavich returns to the podium, having last appeared at FGO at the helm of 2019's Werther. Maestro Mechavich is well-established as a leader of breakthrough productions of contemporary opera such as Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking, Moby-Dick, Great Scott, Out of Darkness: Two Remain and Three Decembers. Carlisle Floyd's Susannah, Cold Sassy Tree, Of Mice and Men, and Wuthering Heights; Bohlmer's Riders of the Purple Sage, Puts' Silent Night, Talbot's Everest, Catan's Florencia en el Amazonas, and Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire. He is no less in demand for standard repertoire and has conducted at Deutsche Oper Berlin, Cape Town Opera, Calgary Opera, New Zealand, Washington National Opera, Minnesota Opera, and Madison Opera, among others. He serves as Principal Conductor and Artistic Consultant at Kentucky Opera.

     

    The production comes from Sarasota Opera with sets by David Gordon and costumes by Howard Tsvi Kaplan. The innovative Barry Steele, noted for his special effects storm scene in 2023's Barber of Seville, returns as lighting designer.

     

    "We have packed an unbelievable amount of truly thrilling talent into this season," says FGO Executive Director and CEO Susan T. Danis. "I am tremendously excited to introduce so many electrifying artists to South Florida, and to welcome back so many who have already earned the title of 'favorites' with our audiences. I know our patrons will love this lineup as much as we do."

     

    Subscriptions to the 2023–24 FGO season are currently on sale at Click Here or by calling (800) 741-1010. Single ticket sales will begin on September 5, 2023.

     

    Florida Grand Opera produces classic grand opera, contemporary work, and new commissions in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Founded in 1941 as the Opera Guild of Greater Miami by Arturo Di Filippi, it merged with Opera Guild of Fort Lauderdale in 1994 and is now under the leadership of Susan T. Danis. Florida Grand Opera is the oldest producing arts organization in the state of Florida and the seventh oldest opera company in the United States. Its Florida Grand Opera Studio trains the opera stars of tomorrow, whose work supporting the world-class artists starring on FGO's stages and performing in the community brings some of the greatest music ever composed to all of South Florida. Its 2023–24 season takes place at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County and the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, and features Giuseppe Verdi's La traviata, Ruggero Leoncavallo's I pagliacci, and Giacomo Puccini's La bohème. All FGO productions feature projected translations in English and Spanish. For more information, please visit fgo.org.

     

    Click Here to Buy Tickets

     

  • Florida Grand Opera Reveals 2023"24 Studio Artists
    07/26/2023

     

    These young singers will represent FGO on the mainstage, in touring children’s productions, and a series of performances throughout Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.

     

    By: Stephi WildJul. 26, 2023

    Florida Grand Opera Reveals 2023

     

    Rising against hundreds of others in an intensive national audition process, an exclusive cadre of five rising stars have earned coveted positions in Florida Grand Opera’s prestigious Studio Artist Program. These extraordinary young singers will represent FGO on the mainstage, in touring children’s productions, and a series of performances throughout Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.

     

    "It’s always exciting to welcome our new Studio Artists," says the Samuel M. Townsend Studio Artist Program Manager Neil Nelson. "Each season brings a unique and intriguing mixture of talent, background, and personality that enriches and elevates our audience experiences."

     

    As the face of opera in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Studio Artists spend the full season performing principal and comprimario roles alongside FGO’s roster of acclaimed directors, conductors, and musicians. They tour Miami-Dade and Broward counties to offer a variety of concerts such as the beloved SongFest series and a touring outreach opera for young audiences, among other events. In the 2023-24 season, they will embark on a special new initiative, the Zip CODE (Community Opera Delivered Equitably) Tour, designed to bring vibrant opera performances to nontraditional venues in a wide range of zip codes throughout Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. The Studio Artists receidve training from FGO artistic staff and top industry professionals from around the world on a broad spectrum of topics, with an emphasis on vocal technique, acting, language, repertoire, and best business practices for working singers. FGO also coordinates opportunities for in-house auditions with agents and General Directors, press interviews, and donor relations to prepare them for a life in the opera industry.

     

    Second-year Studio Artist Joseph McBrayer returns to sing Gastone in season opener La traviata and Beppe in I pagliacci. Acclaimed for his “ardent” Paolino in 2023’s El matrimonio segreto, he also offered up a comic turn as Gherardo in Gianni Schicchi and Buoso’s Ghost. McBrayer returns to FGO after performances as Sam (Susannah) with Marble City Opera and Alfredo (La traviata) at the Quisisana Resort in Lowell, ME opposite his fiancée, Hayley Lipke. He has appeared with the Atlanta Opera, Capitol City Opera, and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, where he performed the roles of Alfredo in La traviata, Woz in The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, and Tamino in The Magic Flute. An avid performer of orchestral works and Broadway, McBrayer has also appeared as the tenor soloist in Britten’s War Requiem, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, and musicals such as Falsettos and She Loves Me.

     

    First-year Studio Artist Sara Kennedy is an award-winning soprano known for her powerful interpretations of Mozart heroines. Hailed by Operawire as an "exciting singer with a killer voice," she recently debuted with Opera Arlington as Fiordiligi (Così fan tutte) and as Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) with Teatro Grattacielo/Camerata Bardi Vocal Academy and Painted Sky Opera. She was a 2022 Sarasota Opera Winter Season Apprentice Artist and an Opera Fellow at OperaFest Sewanee, where she won the prestigious Jacqueline Avent Concerto Competition. Her musical theatre roles include Anne Egerman in A Little Night Music and The Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods. Kennedy will make her FGO debut as Annina (La traviata). She will later cover the role of Nedda in I pagliacci and appear as Musetta (La bohème).

     

    Mezzo-soprano Taylor-Alexis DuPont joins the FGO Studio having made her professional debut in 2019 as a member of the Metropolitan Opera’s Grammy award-winning production of Porgy and Bess. Most recently, she won first place at the 25th Lotte Lenya Competition and debuted with Washington National Opera as Phoebe in The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson. She has appeared with Florentine Opera in the title role of Luisa Fernanda, Hansel in Hansel and Gretel, and Bessie in Weill’s Mahagonny-Songspiel. She was also recently featured in three new operas at the Glimmerglass Festival: as Reba (Taking up Serpents) Archangel Gabriel (Holy Ground, a world premiere) and Phoebe in an expanded version of The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson. DuPont makes her FGO debut as Flora in La traviata and Musetta in La bohème.

     

    Praised for his "outstanding singing" and "big, bass-y baritone" by The Dallas Morning News, dramatic baritone and Des Moines native Joseph Canuto Leon joins the Studio to sing the roles of Baron Douphol in La traviata and Schaunard in La bohème.  He will also cover Giorgio Germont (La traviata), Silvio (I pagliacci), and Marcello (La bohème). Leon has appeared with the Dallas Opera, Charlottesville Opera, American Baroque Opera Company, Painted Sky Opera, Opera on the James, and Opera in the Rock.  His roles include Ford (Falstaff), Count Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), the Villains (The Tales of Hoffmann), Belcore (L’elisir d’amore), The Father (Hansel and Gretel), Baron Zeta (The Merry Widow), Donner (Das Rheingold), and the title role in Eugene Onegin.

     

    Hailed by the Akron Beacon Journal for his "stellar singing" and "stunning" voice, first-year Studio Artist and bass-baritone Keith Klein kicked off his career in 2014 by winning the Kansas City Superstar competition and appearing on Season 10 of America's Got Talent. Most recently, he has appeared as Elder McLean (Susannah) and Angelotti (Tosca) with Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Dr. Podsnap (Awakenings) with Odyssey Opera, and Sparafucile (Rigoletto) at Opera Colorado. In 2022, Klein won an Encouragement Award in the Metropolitan Opera’s Laffont Competition and the Barbara and Stanley Richman Memorial Award from Opera Theatre of St. Louis. He makes his FGO debut as Dr. Grenvil in La traviata, followed by Colline in La bohème. 

     

  • Florida Grand Opera to Present "Staff Sing" This August
    07/25/2023

    JUL 21, 2023

     

    By David Salazar

    View the article here.

    This August, Florida Grand Opera is set to shine the spotlight on its administrative staff in “Staff Sing.”

     

    Per an official press release, the company will feature soprano/Director of Finance Susana Diaz, mezzo-soprano/Artistic Administration and Finance Associate Lauren Frick, contralto/Marketing and Communications Manager Cindy Sadler, tenor/Development Associate Peter Rivera, baritone/Director of Artistic Operations Matt Cooksey, and bass-baritone/Samuel M. Townsend Studio Artist Manager Neil Nelson, and pianist Paul Schwartz in two concert performances on August 12 and 19.

     

    The first performance will take place at the Florida Grand Opera Office at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce, while the latter show is set for the Doral Opera Center. Both performances kick off at 7:30 p.m. local time.

     

    The program, which is set to last around 75 minutes, will feature arias, songs, and ensembles from, such renowned works as “Carmen,” “Candide,” “Rigoletto,” “Die Fledermaus,” “The Pearlfishers,” and “Faust,” among others.

     

    “The Staff Sing came out of a brainstorming session,” said the company’s General Director and CEO Susan T. Danis in an official press statement. “I have always enjoyed working with singers that have chosen to take on administrative roles at opera companies. They bring a special passion to what they do. FGO is so fortunate to have six outstanding professional singers on our administrative team. Their willingness to give a benefit concert to kick off our 82nd season is just wonderful and a real treat for South Florida audiences.”

     

  • Florida Grand Opera's Singing Staff Makes Their Concert Debut
    07/25/2023

    FGO's administrators switch sides of the stage to show off their singing chops.

    By: A.A. Cristi 

    Jul. 19, 2023

    View the article here.

    Florida Grand Opera's Singing Staff Makes Their Concert Debut

     

    FGO's artist-administrators are banding together to clamber over the footlights and show off their singing chops in Staff Sing, a fun-filled concert of operatic favorites designed to kick off the 2023–24 season and benefit the opera.

     

    The cast includes soprano/Director of Finance Susana Diaz, mezzo-soprano/Artistic Administration and Finance Associate Lauren Frick, contralto/Marketing and Communications Manager Cindy Sadler, tenor/Development Associate Peter Rivera, baritone/Director of Artistic Operations Matt Cooksey, and bass-baritone/Samuel M. Townsend Studio Artist Manager Neil Nelson, along with FGO pianist Paul Schwartz.

     

    "The Staff Sing came out of a brainstorming session," says FGO General Director and CEO Susan T. Danis. "I have always enjoyed working with singers that have chosen to take on administrative roles at opera companies. They bring a special passion to what they do. FGO is so fortunate to have six outstanding professional singers on our administrative team. Their willingness to give a benefit concert to kick off our 82nd season is just wonderful and a real treat for South Florida audiences."

     

    The 75-minute concert features popular arias, musical theater songs, and ensembles, including selections from Carmen, Die Fledermaus, Candide, Rigoletto, Faust, The Pearlfishers, Camelot, Show Boat, and more. The staff drew from their collective stage experience and repertoire to program a light-hearted evening of "party pieces" that they love to sing and audiences love to hear.

     

    Cuban-American soprano Susana Diaz is an accomplished opera singer and recitalist, and recently joined the FGO staff as Director of Finance. She has performed with many leading regional companies, including the Cincinnati Opera, Dayton Opera, Orlando Philharmonic and Ballet Florida. In South Florida, Ms. Díaz has appeared with the University of Miami's Festival Miami, Artist Series of Sarasota, Orchestra Miami, Miami Symphony Orchestra, Miami Lyric Opera, and Miami International Piano Festival. Favorite opera roles include Violetta in La traviata, Gilda in Rigoletto, and Adina in L'elisir d'amore. Ms. Díaz specializes in Spanish and Cuban zarzuela. She debuted at Carnegie Weill Recital Hall in a recital entitled ¡Pasión por la Zarzuela! "If you allow it, the universe will always take you where you need to be," Diaz says. "I've loved singing and math since I was a little girl. Every time I've tried to focus on only one, the universe brings me back to the other. That's why I know that I'm 'home' at the FGO."

     

    Mezzo-soprano Lauren Frick is a frequent performer in the South Florida region. Most recently, she made her house debut as Marcellina in Le nozze di Figaro with Sunny Side Opera and appeared in The Magic Flute with Orchestra Miami and Cavalleria rusticana and Suor Angelica with Miami Lyric Opera. She also appeared alongside Christine Goerke and Alan Held in the inaugural season of the Wagner Institute at the Miami Music Festival as Grimgerde in highlights of Die Walküre. Other notable roles include Mrs. De Rocher in Dead Man Walking, Pauline in The Queen of Spades, Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance, the Old Lady in Candide, and the title role in Dido and Aeneas. At FGO, she serves as Finance and Artistic Administration Associate and coordinates FGO's educational outreach with Miami-Dade and Broward County schools. “I'm looking forward to collaborating with my fellow singers in the office,” Frick says. “I have definitely developed a new appreciation for what it takes to make things happen in this field, and it has made a huge difference in the approach of my artistic process and singing in general."

     

    Pre-COVID, contralto Cindy Sadler enjoyed a full-time singing career. She has been acclaimed by Opera News as a "charismatic mezzo" … "lovely to hear" and by The New York Times as a "wonderful" singer who "made every phrase count." Her signature roles include Baba the Turk (The Rake's Progress), Quickly (Falstaff), Erda (Der Ring des Nibelungen), Marcellina (The Marriage of Figaro), Zita (Gianni Schicchi), La zia principessa (Suor Angelica), and the Marquise de Birkenfeld (The Daughter of the Regiment). She has appeared with Chicago Lyric Opera, Atlanta Opera, Dayton Opera, Kentucky Opera, Austin Opera, Fort Worth Opera, New Orleans Opera, Tulsa Opera, the Princeton Festival, Des Moines Metro Opera, and many others. "When I made my FGO debut as Gertrude in Romeo & Juliette, it never occurred to me that only ten years later I would be making my arts administration debut as FGO's first Marketing and Communications Manager," Sadler says. "I'm still not sure which is my favorite role."

     

    Tenor and FGO Development Associate Peter Rivera discovered his passion for opera in his hometown of Ponce, Puerto Rico. His roles include Cassio (Otello), Tamino (The Magic Flute), Ferrando (Così fan tutte), Raoul de St Brioche (The Merry Widow) and Leonardo (Cecilia Valdés), among others. He has concertized extensively throughout Miami, appearing at the St. Hugh-Steinway Concert Series, the Miami Music Festival, the 5th and 6th International Ernesto Lecuona Festival, Manny Pérez Vocal Studio Concerts at Temple Beth Am and at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium with the Florida Chamber Orchestra in "An Operetta Fantasy," and "Aires de España," to name a few. He appeared as Gherado in Gianni Schicchi with the Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of renowned conductor Eugene Kohn and has performed with many important opera workshops and music organizations, including the International Institute for the Vocal Arts, Opera de Puerto Rico, Fundación Puertorriqueña de Zarzuela y Operetta, Lingua e Canto and the VoiceExperience. Rivera considers himself "an opera advocate with or without melody." "I always love to share the beauty and importance of this art form," he says, "not just by singing but talking to people and sharing how connected I am now more than ever."

     

    Director of Artistic Operations Matt Cooksey is best-known at FGO for his stage directing (including last season's The Barber of Seville and the upcoming La bohème) and as a popular pre-show lecturer, but he has legit baritone chops as well. A graduate of the Jacobs School of Music (Indiana University Bloomington) and Florida State University, he has occasionally filled in on FGO Studio Artist concerts. Key roles include the Clock and Cat (L'enfant et les sortilèges), Ko-Ko (The Mikado), Wolf/Cinderella's Prince (Into the Woods) and outreach performances of Papageno (The Magic Flute), the Wolf (Little Red Riding Hood), and the Father (Hansel and Gretel). He has also appeared as a featured soloist with Cantus Columbus (GA) and the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, where he performed the Dvorak Te deum and the bass solo in Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass, and he is featured on The Lady Composer, a CD of songs by West End composer Madeleine Dring.

     

    Jamaican-American bass-baritone Neil Nelson is an FGO and South Florida favorite. Most recently, he appeared to great acclaim in FGO's 2022-23 season as the Sacristan in Tosca, and as the Emperor Claudius in Agrippina and Count Monterone in Rigoletto during the 2021–2022 season. He also serves as the Samuel M. Townsend Studio Artist Program Manager and is responsible for guiding the artistic development of FGO's exclusive cadre of early-career performers. A graduate of The New England Conservatory of Music with a degree in music performance, Mr. Nelson has performed operatic roles domestically and abroad with prestigious companies such as Tatarstan Opera Theatre and Ballet (Kazan, Russia), Boston Lyric Opera, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Palm Beach Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Orlando Opera, Opera Naples and many others.

     

    Staff Sing takes place on Saturday, August 12, 2023 at 7:30 p.m. at the FGO offices located inside the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce, and on Saturday, August 19, 2023 at 7:30 p.m. in the Balfe Rehearsal Hall at the Doral Opera Center, Miami, Tickets are $25.00 and available at Click Here or at the door.

     

  • Three world-renowned operas coming to Miami
    07/25/2023

    Compiled by Ale Fadel
    June 25, 2023

    View the article here.

    This week, Florida Grand Opera unveiled their spectacular lineup for their 82nd Opera Season,, with three world renowned operas set to delight South Florida audiences.

     

    Lasting from November to May, the events will showcase some of Florida’s best operatic talent, who will perform works by acclaimed composers like Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini.

     

    All events will be held at the Adrienne Arsht and Broward Centers, and stages will offer projected surtitles in multiple languages.

     

    Here is the full program for the season:

     

    La Traviata – by Giuseppe Verdi

    November 11 to December 2

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    Two characters from La Traviata embracing each other on stage.

     

    Photo courtesy of Florida Grand Opera

     

    The hottest party girl in town is hiding a terrible secret. The love that could save her life is threatened by the demands of a furious father who insists on a devastating sacrifice. From the defiant strains of “Sempre libera” to the sobbing violins of “Addio del passato,” Alexander Dumas fils’ semi-autobiographical story and Giuseppe Verdi’s timeless score will alternately lift your spirits and break your heart.

     

    Three hours including two intermissions. Sung in Italian with English and Spanish projected surtitles.


    I Pagliacci – by Ruggero Leoncavallo

    January 27 to February 10

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    One of the main characters from I Pagliacci singing and holding their chest on stage.

     

    Photo courtesy of Florida Grand Opera

     

    Canio’s not clowning around. His beautiful wife Nedda longs to be free of his clumsy embraces, of her life as a traveling actor, and from the advances of the vile Tonio. When Canio catches her with her lover Silvio, only the start of the troupe’s performance can stay his hand … but not for long. Leoncavallo’s gritty and gorgeous score, based on a true incident witnessed by his policeman father, culminates in one of the most famous and tragic tenor arias of all time: “Vesti la giubba,” the original “Tears of a Clown.”

     

    One hour and 50 minutes including one intermission. Sung in Italian with English and Spanish projected surtitles.


    La Bohème – by Giacomo Puccini

    April 6 to May 2

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    Two characters from La Bohème holding each other on stage.

     

    Photo courtesy of Florida Grand Opera

     

    They’re starving for everything but love. Rodolfo loves Mimì, Marco loves Musetta, Colline loves philosophy, Schaunard loves music, and they all love their eccentric bohemian life in the garrets of Paris’s 19th century Latin Quarter. Starving artists all, this crazy cadre of young friends and lovers live, love, make art, and make their marks as Puccini’s divinely romantic score memorably illustrates the joys, struggles, loves, quarrels, triumphs, and tragedies of the true vie de bohème.

     

    Two hours and 50 minutes including one intermission. Sung in Italian with English and Spanish projected surtitles.


    To browse tickets, click here.

    To renew your FGO subscription, click here.

  • OPERA NEWS: TOSCA
    04/14/2023

    Tosca

    Florida Grand Opera
    FORT LAUDERDALE

    FLORIDA GRAND OPERA’S Tosca (seen April 14 at Broward Center) might well have been retitled “Cavaradossi.” Mexican-born tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz, who happens to be a South Florida resident, emerged as the central figure for his splendiferous vocalism, personal charisma and ability to communicate the emotional content of his lines with direct and immediate impact.

    Chacón-Cruz, who will be forty-six this year, is not a household name, but his professional biography includes more than twenty roles in major opera houses of Europe and regional companies in the United States. His voice has a baritonal quality in the middle, which blossoms into ringing bright high notes that he seems to be able to sustain forever. After a stirring rendition of “Recondita armonia,” he gave the audience a taste of his chops with the high note on “La vita mi costasse”; In Act II, he literally stopped the show after a long hold on each of the three vowels of “Vittoria”; and his heartrending rendition of “E lucevan le stelle” had to be encored—something I’ve never seen before in seven decades of Tosca-going. It was not mere showing off, however: this artist acts with credibility and says something, tells a story, in every note and phrase.

    Conductor Gregory Buchalter seemed to acknowledge the tenor’s dominance by allowing him every liberty throughout the evening—exaggerated rubatos, pauses for emphasis, high notes prolonged at his pleasure—and it was all justified. The encore, which had not been given in Miami, was a special treat for those who made the effort to get to the performance through unexpected and unprecedented floodwaters. Fort Lauderdale had been inundated with a record twenty-six inches of rain—and access to the downtown area was difficult and often dangerous. For this reason, some scrappiness in the orchestral playing, along with sour notes from the horns at the start of Act III, should be forgiven. Everyone was under duress, on both sides of the proscenium. In some respects, this added a certain electricity to the event.

    The pressures of the occasion might also explain a lack of glamour and magnetism from the main protagonist. Toni Marie Palmertree sang Tosca’s music adequately, although her clear, solid high notes were more than that. Her middle register projected poorly, and her phrasing lacked variety of nuance. Tosca’s part in the Act I love duet was pallid. “Vissi d’arte” was neatly vocalized but impersonal. Her confrontations with Scarpia were bland until the actual murder, which she committed with vigor and relish. In this scene and elsewhere, director Jeffrey Marc Buchman provided some compelling and unexpected touches, including a startling backward fall at the end, which the diva accomplished with admirable dexterity.

    Todd Thomas portrayed Scarpia in the grand manner, exuding venom in the edgy timbre of his voluminous sound, as well as the nuances of the villain’s asides to his underlings. His aria-like solos in Act II were among the evening’s highlights, uncommon for passages with less melodic appeal than the opera’s better-known extracts.

    Neil Nelson made the Sacristan a significant cameo, singing the choppy lines as if they were pure bel canto, while balancing the character’s buffo side with the underlying menace. In the dual assignments of the hunted Angelotti (Act I) and the sympathetic jailer (Act III), the sturdy bass-baritone voice and acute stage instincts of Phillip Lopez marked this FGO Studio Artist as a performer to watch for on the operatic horizon. —Robert Croan

  • Tosca in Miami
    05/24/2023

    March 29, 2023 - Pro Opera

     

    Tosca in Miami

     

    Toni Marie Palmertree (Tosca) and Arturo Chacón-Cruz (Cavaradossi) in Miami © Daniel Azoulay

     

    March 21, 2023 . The American soprano Toni Marie Palmertree made her debut at the Florida Grand Opera singing the role that gives the work its title and accompanied by two great male singers who have given life on numerous occasions to Mario Cavaradossi (Arturo Chacón Cruz ) and Baron Scarpia ( Todd Thomas ), respectively. The triangle of love, desire and power that is established between the three characters is electrifying thanks to the brilliant ability of Giacomo Puccini to describe human passions musically and the mastery of the singers in translating them and bringing them to the stage.

     

    Endowed with an excellent vocal technique and great stage presence, Palmertree has a high and medium register of crystalline clarity and perfect tuning, with a magnificent setting and a beautiful mezza voce . Her famous aria 'Vissi d'arte' was overwhelming. As an actor, she handled herself with complete ease on stage and was able to show the evolution of her character from the most modest Tosca —not without a certain mischief— in the first act in the church, to the powerful woman capable of physically giving herself up to her enemy and killing him.

     

    Arturo Chacón Cruz is one of the best tenors of his generation and his performance proved it, with the interpretation of an elegant Cavaradossi, even in his appearances during and after the torture scene, which was performed out of public view. . He intelligently handled a powerful and versatile instrument, which broadens in the treble and shows no tension in passing notes between registers, allowing him to put on authentic vocal displays. His 'E lucevan le stelle' in the third act garnered prolonged applause, as had previously happened in the first with the famous 'Recondita armonia'. His duets with Palmertree were excellent. The third in this love triangle was the baritone Todd Thomas, who played an evil Baron Scarpia, a sinister presence since his first appearance on stage. 

     

    Todd Thomas (Scarpia) in the 'Te Deum' scene © Daniel Azoulay

     

    Among the supporting roles, it is worth mentioning the magnificent Sacristan played by Neil Nelson , an outstanding Charles Calotta in the role of Spoletta and a more than correct Phillip López in the double role of Angelotti/Jailer. The house choir, prepared by Jared Peroune , did an excellent job. It is also worth noting the good performance of the Florida Singing Sons children's choir at the end of the first act, since for many of its members this was their first performance in an opera performance. 

     

    In the pit, the maestro Gregory Buchalter at the head of the house orchestra offered a mature version, rich in nuances and sound details. The prelude at the beginning of the third act was musically and visually attractive and the tubular bells that, in their imitative role of the bells of Rome, seem to mark a particular scenic tempo , had the expected role throughout the work.

     

    The rich costumes by Howard Tsvi Kaplan and the magnificent lighting designed by Rick Fisher contributed to the success of this production from the Sarasota Opera, with excellent stage direction by Jeffrey Marc Buchman . David P. Gordon 's set design was rich and faithful to the script, with a magnificent architectural interior in the first act and a detailed recreation of Scarpia's office in the second, with ornately decorated walls and ceilings and strong foreshortening in perspective. The third act recreated the upper terrace of Castel Sant'Angelo, with the silhouette of the Vatican's St. Peter's dome in the background, and was the scene of a beautiful, yet tragic, sunrise.

     

    The remaining performances of this opera will be on April 13 and 15 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, north of Miami.

  • Gianni Schicchi/Buoso's Ghost
    05/01/2023

    Gianni Schicchi/Buoso's Ghost

    Florida Grand Opera
    FORT LAUDERDALE, FL

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    WHAT HAPPENS TO OPERA CHARACTERS after the final curtain? Will the newly united (or re-united) couples in Così Fan Tutte, live happily ever after? (Not likely.) Do the Germonts get along after Violetta’s death? American composer Michael Ching asked this about Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, and came up in 1996 with Buoso’s Ghost, a slight but delightful sequel set to his own English-language libretto. Florida Grand Opera’s pairing of these two works (seen Feb. 9 at Fort Lauderdale’s Broward Center), both operas crisply conducted by Ching, made a thoroughly engaging evening, thanks in large part to Mo Zhou’s lively staging and an enthusiastic ensemble cast.

    Gianni Schicchi, separated from the two other one-acters in Puccini’s Il Trittico, used to be treated as a minor confection and was often programmed with non-Puccini works. My own first Schicchi was a curtain raiser to Ljuba Welitsch’s Salome at the Met. Attention spans are now shorter, and in the present context, Puccini’s Schicchi becomes the main attraction.

    That’s all to the good. Puccini’s only comic opera—its libretto a sendup on a few lines from Dante’s Inferno—is a great miniature masterpiece. (And that’s not an oxymoron.) From the hypocritical opening wails of the mourners, hoping for a big chunk of the deceased Buoso Donati’s estate, to the triumphant closing measures after Schicchi has forged a new will in his own favor, there’s not a dull moment. And every cast member seemed to relish the mayhem.

    In the title role, Franco Pomponi called on his experience on the opera stage to convey, by  demeanor, gestures, and subtleties of movement, the protagonist’s Machiavellian cunning along with devotion to his teen-aged, love-stricken daughter, Lauretta. Pomponi’s sizable baritone may be drier than it once was, but with impeccable Italian diction and skillful phrasing, he held focus from the moment he walked on stage.

    Smack in the middle of the turmoil, Puccini gives us one of opera’s greatest hits, Lauretta’s “O mio babbino caro,” and FGO Studio artist Page Michel, with an opulent, creamy timbre and highly nuanced dynamic palette, achieved a rendition that could stand up to the best of her predecessors—no small accomplishment for a young singer taking on an iconic favorite. She interacted nicely with the Rinuccio of tenor Charles Calotta, a fellow Studio artist, who, however, did not have the vocal chops to get through his solo scene, the “Firenze” aria, without pinched high notes and other evidence of vocal strain.

    Buoso’s Ghost begins with a reiteration of the final phrase from Gianni Schicchi, then expands on the brief love duet of Lauretta and Rinuccio, giving those two singers an extended lyrical scene of their own denied in the previous work. Incorporating numerous quotes from Puccini to Ponchielli to Sondheim, Ching emulates Puccini’s style convincingly, with only traces of added modernity—but unfortunately without a tuneful showstopper to parallel “O mio babbino caro.” The premise of the sequel is that after the relatives leave, Schicchi discovers that Buoso had been poisoned by his avaricious relatives. When they return to get their revenge, he fends them off by threatening to disclose their crime. The body of the deceased Buoso (enacted by FGO board member Larry Kamin) once more becomes a protagonist in the drama, and as in Puccini, the opera ends with Schicchi eliciting applause from the audience. This time, he apologizes not for his Dantean misconduct, but for the upstart composer who dared to write a sequel to Puccini’s masterpiece.

    Supporting roles were superbly executed in both works, by older and younger performers. Veteran mezzo Robynne Redmon was a standout as the greedy Aunt Zita, while Anthony Reed brought the elderly cousin Simone to life with solid bass tones. Another bass, Matthew Cossack, whose role as the Notary in Schicchi gave him scant opportunity to shine, had more to show his potential as the Magistrate in Buoso, and came off as a notable up-and-coming performer. —Robert Croan

  • Never seen an opera? Florida Grand Opera’s ‘Tosca’ promises to get you hooked
    03/21/2023

    Never seen an opera? Florida Grand Opera’s ‘Tosca’ promises to get you hooked

     

    Note: this preview also appeared in ArtBurstMiami.com, the Miami Herald, the Biscayne Times, and the Miami New Times.

     

     

    By MICHELLE F. SOLOMON |

     

    March 21, 2023 at 4:04 p.m.

     

    There are many reasons Florida Grand Opera (FGO) has performed Puccini’s “Tosca” almost a dozen times in 50 years, even featuring tenor Luciano Pavarotti in one of the roles in 1981.

     

    “To me, it’s everything that people think opera should be,” says Susan T. Danis, FGO’s general director and chief executive officer. “It has a villain, great romance, revenge, it’s epic with a big chorus, period costumes, and gorgeous sets, and lush, sweeping music that, while it may not be in commercials, audiences will recognize it.”

     

    She says FGO first presented “Tosca” in 1950. Now, the company is bringing the work to Fort Lauderdale’s Broward Center for the Performing Arts on April 13 and April 15, after multiple performances in March at Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

     

    “What’s not to love about ‘Tosca’?” says former Metropolitan Opera Assistant Conductor Gregory Burchalter, who is leading the FGO production.This is the opera, he says, for people who haven’t been to an opera: “Even if you don’t know much about opera, it’s like going to a movie. There’s so much drama and action going on.”

     

    A tragic story of passion and jealousy, it follows opera singer Floria Tosca (played by Toni Marie Palmertree) as she fights to save her artist-lover Mario Cavaradossi (Arturo Chacón-Cruz) from the sadistic police chief Vitellio Scarpia (Todd Thomas), who lusts for Tosca. Scarpia proclaims that Cavaradossi assisted an escaped political prisoner and imprisons him. He tells Tosca that she can either be with him or have her lover killed.

     

    Thomas, a baritone, has played Scarpia for decades, a role that has the reputation of being the evilest villain from an opera ever.

     

    “This may just be my year for Scarpia,” says Thomas, who also appeared in the role for Opera on the James in Lynchburg, Va., last November, and Opera Memphis in January. He plans to return to Virginia for “Tosca” at Charlottesville Opera this summer.

     

    “I performed the role first in Germany in 1996,” Thomas recalls. “I was looking at my [musical] score the other day and it says 1993, so it’s been in my library for a while.”

     

    He’s no stranger to FGO. His company debut in 2014 was — incredibly enough — as Scarpia in “Tosca,” and he’s also performed here in “Madama Butterfly,” “A Masked Ball” and “Rigoletto.” He says performing “Tosca” with FGO is the place he’ll get to flex his opera muscles.

     

    “Not to disparage the other companies where I’ve performed the role recently and upcoming, but with this being FGO’s 81st year, they have a huge history to call upon — the fact that Pavarotti sang here, well the history is immense.”

     

    Having the opportunity to be part of what he calls “a cast that’s talent across the board,” to sing with a full orchestra and in large concert halls such as the Arsht Center’s Ziff Ballet Opera House and Broward Center’s Au-Rene Theater, makes a difference, too, he says.

     

    “There is a full-size orchestra in the pit, between 50 and 60 musicians, and the person conducting the orchestra [Gregory Buchalter] has been with the Metropolitan Opera for 30 years,” he says.

     

    He’s also worked with director Jeffrey Marc Buchman before, who was previously a professional operatic baritone.

     

    “He knows where the singers live and their comfort level, unlike perhaps a theater director coming into the opera without that knowledge,” he says of Buchman.

     

    For her part, Danis says she’s thrilled about the entire cast. As Cavaradossi, she says, Chacón-Cruz “is going to blow people away, a Mexican-American tenor that sings throughout the world from Salzburg to San Francisco but lives here in Aventura.”

     

    And Palmertree as Tosca is making her FGO debut. “Toni Marie made her Metropolitan Opera debut last fall, and she is on an upward trajectory,” Danis says. “She has such beautiful color in her voice.”

     

    But it might have been that no company or singer ever uttered a note of “Tosca,” because it almost didn’t get made.

     

    Giacomo Puccini used French playwright Victorien Sardou’s “La Tosca,” as the source for his opera. Sardou had written his play in 1887 as a star vehicle for actress Sarah Bernhardt.

     

    “Puccini saw the play twice and immediately wanted to turn it into an opera. But Sardou disliked Puccini’s music and wanted it to be assigned to a better-known composer, and preferably a French one,” says Cindy Sadler, a professional mezzo-soprano opera singer and the marketing-communications manager at FGO.

     

    Puccini’s publisher eventually obtained the rights. On Jan. 14, 1990, “Tosca” premiered in Rome, where the story is set.

     

    “‘Tosca’ could be a Netflix series today, and we could drag it out for six seasons,” Buchalter says. “Audience members who have never been to an opera will get hooked … they’ll be on the edge of their seats.”

     

    If you go

    WHAT: Florida Grand Opera’s “Tosca”

    WHEN: April 13 and April 15

    WHERE: Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale

    COST: About $21-$200

    INFORMATION: 800-741-1010; fgo.org

    ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit source of theater, dance, visual arts, music and performing arts news.

     

    Michelle F. Solomon

  • A TRIUMPH FOR TOSCA AT THE ARSHT CENTER
    05/24/2023

     

    A Triumph for Tosca at the Adrienne Arsht Center

    A scene from Florida Grand Opera's production of Tosca, 2023. Photo: Daniel Azoulay.

     

    A TRIUMPH FOR TOSCA AT THE ADRIENNE ARSHT CENTER

    Schmopera blog

     

    REVIEW

    Samuel Loetscher Samuel Loetscher Mar 21, 2023

     

    The opening night performance of Tosca at the Adrienne Arsht Center on March 18th was a stunning production, led by an outstanding cast and creative team. Florida Grand Opera’s production is a timeless tale of love, jealousy, and betrayal. Set in 19th-century Rome during the Napoleonic Wars, Tosca follows its titular character who is torn from her love for Mario Cavaradossi by the corrupt police chief Scarpia.

     

    Cavaradossi, an artist and a political idealist, aids in the escape of a political prisoner, attracting the ire of Scarpia who believes that Cavaradossi has information that could be useful in capturing the escapee. However, Scarpia’s motivations for arresting Cavaradossi go beyond his duty to protect the government when he ropes Tosca into his investigation.

     

    A scene from Florida Grand Opera's production of Tosca, 2023. Photo: Daniel Azoulay.

     

    Toni Marie Palmertree, who portrayed Floria Tosca, delivered a truly remarkable performance. Her voice was powerful, clear, and expressive, capturing the complex emotions of the character with ease. Palmertree’s acting was equally impressive, embodying Tosca’s fiery temperament and vulnerabilities masterfully.

     

    A scene from Florida Grand Opera's production of Tosca, 2023. Photo: Daniel Azoulay.

     

    Arturo Chacón Cruz brought his considerable talents to the role of Mario Cavaradossi, Tosca’s love interest. His vocals were excellent and his rendition of the famous aria “E lucevan le stelle” was particularly moving. Todd Thomas’s portrayal of the villainous Scarpia was menacing and powerful, capturing the character’s cruelty perfectly.

     

    A scene from Florida Grand Opera's production of Tosca, 2023. Photo: Daniel Azoulay.

     

    Under the expert direction of Jeffrey Marc Buchman, the production flowed seamlessly. David P. Gordon’s set detailed and immersive sets that transported the audience to the heart of Rome in the early 19th century. Conductor Gregory Buchalter’s interpretation of Puccini’s score was masterful, balancing the dramatic intensity of the story with the musical beauty of the score. The orchestra’s playing was impeccable, providing a lush and emotive backdrop for the singers.

     

    A scene from Florida Grand Opera's production of Tosca, 2023. Photo: Daniel Azoulay.

     

    Tosca at the Adrienne Arsht Center was a triumph, the cast and production team should be commended for their exceptional work. There will be performances April 13th & 15th at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

     

  • OPERATIC FUN
    03/28/2023

     

     

    OPERATIC FUN

     

    Opera’s most beloved rascal, the Barber of Seville, Figaro, who helps Count Almaviva woo and win the lovely Rosina, takes audiences on a comedic tour de force in Florida Grand Opera’s presentation of this madcap classic.

     

    Words // Zelda Grant | March 28, 2023 | People

     

     

     

     

    Figaro, Figaro, FI-GA-RO! Everyone knows a tune from The Barber Of Seville. Even if they’re not familiar with the famous aria, chances are they’ve heard the overture (if nowhere else, then in the classic Bugs Bunny cartoon, The Rabbit Of Seville). Rossini is known for his infectious melodies and flights of florid coloratura, as well as his deliciously comic plots. Barber is the story of Figaro, opera’s favorite charming rascal, the general go-to guy for various shady needs. The lovelorn Count Almaviva needs to reach the object of his affections — the beautiful and spirited Rosina, who is jealously guarded by her ward, Dr. Bartolo. The latter hopes to marry her himself and gain not only a lovely young wife, but her fortune. Melodious hijinks ensue as the protagonist uses his wits to help the young lovers through a series of hilarious misadventures until they finally end up in each other’s arms; Apr. 29-May 20. FGO.org.

     

  • FGO SERVES UP A RIVETING AND COMBUSTIBLE TOSCA
    03/20/2023

    by Lawrence Budmen

    South Florida Classical Review

     

    Puccini’s Tosca is an operatic evergreen. The adaptation of Victorien Sardou’s play of political intrigue, romance, sexual desire and murder mixes inspired melodies, high drama and great vocal opportunities for the three principals. In a staid production with mediocre singing, the work can seem stale and dated. 

     

    But with intelligently conceived staging and superior vocalism, the opera remains theatrically combustible 123 years after its 1900 premiere. That is exactly what Florida Grand Opera’s new production delivered on Saturday night at the Arsht Center.

     

    Puccini conceived one of his most dramatic scores for this quasi-historical drama that sets the Roman operatic diva Floria Tosca and the artist and revolutionary Mario Cavaradossi against the police chief cum dictator Baron Scarpia in the midst of the Napoleonic wars. The opposing forces of love, evil domination of power and societal upheaval finds all three dead at the final curtain.

     

    The title role is a larger-than-life embodiment of a theatrical star coping with passionate emotions and loyalty to her lover and his cause. Toni Marie Palmertree proved a lyric Tosca who is fully equal to the role’s demands. 

     

    She brings a playful charm to her initial scene with Cavaradossi but her fiery temperament can flair to jealousy with conviction. Palmertree’s voice is even throughout a wide range and she can caress long phrases while her strong top notes cut through the orchestra clearly.

     

    She vividly projected Tosca’s agony at seeing her lover tortured in the second act. Palmertree’s rendition of “Vissi d’arte” was passionate, as much a prayer as a plea. Near the opera’s conclusion, her narrative of Scarpia’s murder proved riveting.

     

    Arturo Chacon-Cruz has the heroic ring and fearless defiance for Cavaradossi. His robust tenor is replete with Italianate squillo. He vaulted “Recondita armonia” through the house in a manner that commanded listeners to sit up and take notice. He could also sing softly to beguiling effect.

     

    “E lucevan le stelle” emerged burnished and impassioned but he thinned his sound down to lightness for “O dolce mani.” Palmertree and Chacon-Cruz achieved real chemistry, their voices nearly perfectly balanced when blending in duet.

     

    As Scarpia, Todd Thomas brought a faux dignity with his verbal and tonal coloring skillfully mirroring the villain’s dark thoughts. His baritone could turn warm and graceful in deception when feigning sympathy for Tosca’s doubts about Mario’s fidelity.  Thomas seethed with passion and desire for the heroine, turning the Act I “Te Deum” into a psychodrama of explosive violence lurking beneath the sacred ceremony. Thomas’ portrayal had the impact and command of a great singing actor.

     

    Secondary roles were equally well accounted for. Neil Nelson’s rotund bass and sly characterization of the Sacristan was a scene stealer. Charles Calotta, the fine lyric tenor who was a standout in the recent FGO production of Gianni Schicchi, emerged sinister as Spoletta, Scarpia’s henchman. Phillip Lopez did yeoman double duty as the escaped Prisoner Angelotti and as the Jailer. Kornel Racz sang the Shepherd Boy’s offstage song in pure tones and Matthew Cossack was an effective Sciarrone.

     

    Gregory Buchalter led a taut performance that fully conveyed the tense drama and lyricism of Puccini’s music. The orchestra played with strength, luster and seamless flow throughout the opera’s three acts. The Florida Singing Sons boychoir (under Daniel Bates and Malcolm Rogers) provided fresh voices and high spirits for the Act I finale, joining the FGO chorus (under Jared Peroune) in a vigorous and unified, well coordinated effort that rang the house.

     

    Jeffrey Marc Buchman’s production avoided excessive melodrama in favor of a natural theatrical tension. Even though the drama’s outcome is well-known, Buchman’s direction kept the momentum and drama front and center. His closing tableaux for the Act I “Te Deum” was grandly operatic indeed. With imposing sets from the Sarasota Opera by David P. Gordon, including an ornate Palazzo Farnace, and period costumes by Howard  Tsvi Kaplan  (lit evocatively by Rick Fisher), this Tosca provided gripping theater as well as a vocal feast.

     

    The opening night audience cheered cast, conductor, director and production team vociferously. There are two remaining performances in Miami and two in Fort Lauderdale.

     

    Florida Grand Opera repeats Tosca 2 p.m. Sunday and 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Arsht Center in Miami and 7:30 p.m. April 13 and 15 at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale. fgo.org

  • Arturo Chacón Cruz, the voice, the opera, a passion
    03/16/2023

    Arturo Chacón Cruz, the voice, the opera, a passion

     

    Periodistas en espanol

     

    The privilege of singing and generational recycling

    By  Adriana Bianco

    -

    03/16/2023

     

    The world of Opera has undergone substantial transformations in all areas in recent years: singers, performances, musicians, public, budgets, stage visions and repertoires.

     

    Being an opera singer is a vocation, a destiny, not just a voice, but many aspects are changing, such as the economic factor, repertoires, public taste, musical preparation time, artistic solvency, budgets, performances on traditional or avant-garde stage, the reaction of the public and the renewal of the opera.

     

    Finally, for those singers and musical directors who impose themselves the desire to fulfill their deep musical and operatic vocation, their career is a challenge and an inalienable artistic achievement.

     

    Great voices, great divos like Krauze, Caballé, Nilsson, Carreras Pavarotti, have died or have moved away giving way to the new generation of Bel Canto.

     

    Chacon Cruz © Eric Joannes : Florida Grand Opera

     

    Chacon Cruz in rehearsal © Eric Joannes : Florida Grand Opera

     

    Arturo Chacón Cruz is part of those chosen ones, and his homeland, Mexico, is the cradle of an important musical tradition, little known internationally.

     

    From the moment that the opera "La Parténope" premiered in 1711 in Mexico City, with music by the great Mexican maestro Manuel de Sumaya , it marks a milestone in the history of the Opera of America, since it is the first work lyrical composition in the new continent, thus begins the history of Latin American opera, which will later feature internationally renowned composers and singers.

     

    Operatic activity continued in the following centuries with the support of Maximilian I , the creation of the National Music Conservatory and the Palace of Fine Arts.

     

    Mexican voices stand out in almost all theaters in the world: Francisco Araiza , Ramón Vargas , Javier Camarena , Fernando de la Mora .

     

    Placido Domingo 's work was significant, promoting opera and young Mexican talents, among them tenor Arturo Chacón Cruz, with whom he sang, and supported at the beginning of his career.

     

    Chacón received the Placido Domingo Scholarship and was the winner of Operalia in 2005. He studied singing at Boston University, in Houston and San Francisco. He has interpreted the great roles of La Traviata, Rigoletto, La Bohème, Madame Butterfly, The Magic Flute and other operas, singing in the most important opera houses in Europe, America, Russia and Japan.

     

    His discography includes a tribute to Mexico, his native country, with the CDs "Arturo Chacón sings to Mexico" and "From Mexico to the World."

     

    His career has been rewarded by various prizes, the approval of the specialized press and by an audience that follows him enthusiastically.

     

    In his presentation of Tosca, at the Florida Grand Opera, which includes Hispanic voices in its seasons, we had the opportunity to talk with the tenor, who exudes cordiality and passion for opera.

     

    Chacon Cruz © Gonzalo Soza : Florida Grand Opera

     

    Chacon Cruz © Gonzalo Soza : Florida Grand Opera

     

    Adriana Bianco : How did the vocation of singer come about? How she realized that this vocation was decisive in her life. I know you were Mariachi for a while… Tell me…

     

    Arturo Chacón Cruz : It was an early vocation, singing, music didn't let me and it was natural in my life…however, when I was young I thought of studying engineering. But opportunities with singing were offered to me. First as a mariachi, it is true that I really like Mexican music, it has life, a love…it has always attracted me. I sang with the mariachis at the age of seventeen and I liked it a lot. My mother got me a class with an opera teacher. What I least expected, the opera, but the opportunities were offered to me. The musical auditions took me to Mexico City and my career developed and I dedicated myself fully to singing. For me, opera is the purest expression of the human soul. Opera is a gift that everyone should enjoy. The song is my expression.

     

    AB : And it debuted at the historic Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico...

     

    ACC : In 1999 I sang at the Bellas Artes, I was barely twenty-two years old. It was wonderful! I met the teacher Placido Domingo, who supported me a lot, they gave me the Placido Domingo Scholarship and I came to the United States to study in Boston, then Houston, and then I began an international career .

     

    AB : Upon entering Europe, how do Latin Americans feel in relation to the European operatic school?

     

    ACC : It's a shock to a lot of my colleagues. I was lucky that my teachers warned me that in Europe there are no excuses, we have to arrive very prepared for the first day of rehearsal. For those of us Latin Americans who are learning the work with the repeating pianist at the theater, who have been around for a long time, there in Europe there is no excuse, either you know it or you don't. If you're not ready, there's someone else outside waiting. The Latin presence in opera is advancing, Latin Americans are providers of voices, there are timbres and there is diversity and there is passion. I tell my students that they have to prepare, set an example of perfection.

     

    AB: It is much more difficult for us Latin Americans because ours is a culture inherited from Europe, it is also difficult for us to discipline... but we also have an overflowing passion... laughs... The operatic situation has changed in recent decades. Conceptual modernization, new staging, displacement of the opera to non-traditional places, various demands on singers, mobility of talents and directors on a global level. What are the challenges of lyrical singers, currently?

     

    ACC : There have been and are big changes, there are no more big divos, the era of the divos is over, the singer lost power and is in a more team situation. The technique, the discipline seems to be very adapted to current needs and is accepted too much, compared to the demands of the past. On the other hand, there are more opera houses in the world than before, therefore, there is more market and more needs.

     

    For singers, the field is wide, but more complete professionals are sought: voice, acting, stage movement, a singer who offers everything and attends rehearsals, adapting to the times and with greater flexibility. On the other hand, the university does not prepare enough, a comprehensive operatic education is needed. And especially, encourage the public to come to the opera.

     

    AB : You had the opportunity to sing at La Scala in Milan and at the Teatro Real in Madrid...

     

    ACC : Yes, I made my debut at La Scala in Milan in Hoffmann's Tales, playing the poet. I was also in my beginnings at the Teatro Real, in 2005, when I sang in the final of the Operalia Competition .

     

    AB : I ask you why an extraordinary modern version of "Bomarzo" by Alberto Ginastera was made at the Teatro Real and I want to ask you about avant-garde opera. How does a tenor who is educated within the traditional operatic discipline, avant-garde opera, feel? Does he have any special motivation or does he prefer to stay in the traditionally staged repertoire?

     

    ACC : Everything has its merit. Ginastera's operas are very interesting. I have sung operas by modern musicians, Daniel Catan , a very talented composer, author of Florence in the Amazon, Il Postino. What I might not want to go into is the operas by composers who write with computers, with computers. Now, if they are professional composers and if the work is for my type of voice, I examine it and move on, it is always interesting to try different roles and new operas.

     

    AB : Singers naturally have their preferences. What is your favorite character, the opera role you would like to sing or have you already sung?

     

    ACC : I can't tell you a favourite, but five favourites. Without a doubt, Mario Cavaradossi, from Tosca, is one of my favorite roles, he is such a beloved hero, because of the music, because of the character. It is an opera that I really like and that has incredible validity, for example, the political situation of Tosca, the hero's decision-making, tyranny, war. And we have the war in Europe, and I have worked a lot in Russia, I feel the conflict in Ukraine up close, this opera by Puccini brings those feelings, the events of the nineteenth century are present today, it is an opera with a traditional setting but one that It reflects something that is currently happening. And Puccini captivates us with his music.

     

    The same thing happens to me with Verdi 's Troubadour , intense music, it happens to me with Hoffmann's Tales, with Verdi's A Masquerade Ball, and with Don Carlos, they are very generous operas, they give a lot to the singer and to the audience .

     

    AB : Undoubtedly, music and the human voice give us many emotions, they are related to interpretation, with the singer's ability not only to sing but also to act. If so, how have you approached acting ?

     

    ACC : Acting is important to the singer. The singer, today, must also be an actor, and take interpretation very much into account. I was lucky to work with great acting teachers, both in Mexico and in Boston and San Francisco, with great directors, who made me understand the importance of a powerful, elaborate performance, they showed me that any movement has meaning.

     

    This stage mastery is acquired, I remember that when I started some stage directors felt a little frustrated with my performance, but now I consider myself ready for Hollywood. (We laugh) .

     

    AB : Why not? With that mastery of acting that you have, what role would you like to play and sing?

     

    ACC : One of the blessings I've had is having played great roles, I've already sung almost all of them or I'm about to sing them; My next job is on Turandot. However, one role that I would like to sing is Verdi's Othello .

     

    AB : That time will come. He has had an exceptional career at a very young age. What would you recommend to new youth talents?

     

    ACC : The most potential way to get there is to always seek the path for the love of music and not thinking about success or money, but thinking about the satisfaction that every moment you are singing and on stage gives you, the joy of learning a piece, the dedication that this means, being well prepared and having the feeling that it is a privilege to sing. Singing must continue to be a path of humanism. We, the singers, set fire to the emotions of the public!

  • FGO PRESENTS MEXICAN TENOR SUPERSTAR IN SPANISH INTERVIEW
    03/08/2023

    FLORIDA GRAND OPERA PRESENTS MEXICAN TENOR SUPERSTAR ARTURO CHACON-CRUZ IN A LIVE SPANISH-LANGUAGE INTERVIEW

     

    By Community Press Releases

     -

    March 8, 2023


    Arturo Chacón-Cruz. Photo by Gonzalo Soza

     

    International singer, recording artist, and star of Florida Grand Opera’s Tosca, Mexican tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz, will sit down in a live Spanish-language chat with award-winning author, critic, and cultural promoter Gerardo Kleinburg. The two friends and countrymen will discuss Chacón-Cruz’s remarkable career, voice, and appearance as Cavaradossi in FGO’s upcoming production of Tosca.

     

    “We love our incredibly rich South Florida Spanish-speaking community and our many Spanish-speaking audience members, and we are always looking for ways to highlight the talent and appreciation for great art that exists right here in South Florida,” says Susan T. Danis, FGO General Director and CEO. “We feel incredibly lucky to have an artist like Arturo not only on our stage, but living in our community, and we’re thrilled to have a journalist of Gerardo’s status to interview him.”

     

    Arturo Chacón-Cruz, a native of Sonora, Mexico, is considered one of the top operatic tenors of his generation. He has sung over 60 leading roles in 30 countries, including The Duke in Rigoletto (Houston, Verona, Mexico City, Napoli, Budapest, Hamburg, Strasbourg, Aix en Provence, San Francisco, Verona, Brussels, Los Angeles, Florence), Rodolfo in La bohème (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Miami, Munich, Stockholm, Graz, Cologne, Hamburg, etc.), and Alfredo in La traviata (Seville, Munich, Valencia, Moscow, Rome, Barcelona, Padova, Mexico City, Washington D.C., Detroit, Los Angeles, Verona, Oman). His appearance in FGO’s Toscis his second turn as Cavaradossi. He has an extensive discography, including an album of mariachi music, a Christmas album, and a solo recording of Mexican music. Film appearances include Sofia Coppola’s La traviata and Woody Allen’s Gianni Schicchi. Chacón-Cruz is fluent in in Spanish, English, Italian, and French and also speaks German, Portuguese, Russian, and Greek. He lives in Miami with his wife and son.

     

    Gerardo Kleinburg is an award-winning writer, music critic, cultural promoter and biochemist. He was the first non-European and Spanish critic to be awarded the Salzburg Festival International Music Critic Prize, the youngest and longest-running General and Artistic Director of México’s National Opera House, and has been anchor for more than 20 years on Escenarios, México’s only TV program devoted to opera and classical music. He is the only Mexican educator to regularly offer talks about opera for young audiences in public schools and remote places where opera is practically unknown. “Hablemos de Ópera”, his digital platform to promote and teach opera, has 35,000 followers all around the world and includes numerous lectures, talks and conversations with major international opera stars. Kleinburg’s books include Tríptico (tres actos en una ópera),  No honrarás a tu padre and Éxtasis, una novela en siete cápsulas

     

     

    Gerardo Kleinburg. Photo by Mayte Amezcua.

     

    The Spanish-language discussion takes place on Friday, March 10, 2023 from 12:00 – 12:45 p.m. via Zoom and will be recorded for later posting on the FGO website. Viewers may submit questions for Chacón-Cruz or Kleinburg in advance by emailing csadler@fgo.org. The chat is free, but participants must register in advance by clicking the banner on the home page at fgo.org

     

    Chacón-Cruz stars in Puccin’s Tosca with Toni Marie Palmertree and Todd Thomas March 18 – 21 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and April 13 and 15 at the Broward Center for Performing Arts. Tickets are available at fgo.org or by calling 800.741.1010.

  • Gianni Schicchi and Buoso's Ghost in Miami
    02/13/2023

    February 13, 2023

    Gianni Schicchi and Buoso's Ghost in Miami

    Roberto San Juan Review

     

    Gianni Schicchi (Franco Pomponi), Lauretta (Page Michels), Rinuccio (Charles Calotta) and Zita (Robynne Redmond) in Miami © Daniel Azoulay

    January 28, 2023 . The first and only time to date that the Florida Grand Opera has programmed Gianni Schicchi was in the 1953 season. More than half a century later, this work by Giacomo Puccini, the last of his Trittico, has come to the stage of the Ziff Opera House in Miami . she did so accompanied by Buoso's Ghost , an independent epilogue with music and book by Michael Ching (Honolulu, Hawaii, 1958). 

    That a modern composer "dares" to compose the continuation of a century-old opera already consecrated in the repertoire is something rare in the operatic scene, but doing it with the coherence of style and plot interest that Ching achieves is, without a doubt, an extraordinary event. . It all started —says Ching— at an informal breakfast with colleagues where the topic of conversation was what would have happened to some characters from certain operas at the end of these; that is, what their lives would have been like after the curtain came down. With this idea in mind, Ching composed Buoso's Ghost , also in one act, like Schicchi , whose music draws on different styles and paraphrases passages from Puccini's own Madama Butterfly , or La Gioconda.by Amilcare Ponchielli, without forgetting influences such as Dmitri Shostakóvich or Stephen Sondheim. 

    But Buoso's Ghost is not, at all, the result of a dismembered or disconnected collage , but behind it there is a laborious compositional work that results in a solid and coherent work, worthy of Gianni Schicchi 's second part . The libretto, with an English text by Ching himself, is entertaining and fun, and maintains the same spirit and style that we can find in the Puccinian opera.

    Coming from the Chautauqua Opera, this production had the stage direction of the Chinese Mo Zhou and preserves the original setting in Florence at the end of the 13th century. The rich decoration of the only room where both operas take place, with its fabrics, period chairs and four-poster bed, is an excellent work by Eric Renschler , while the sumptuous costumes by Howard Tsvi Kaplan make members of the Donati family They look like something out of a Florentine painting from the Middle Ages. Mary Ellen Stebbins designed excellent lighting, a key element in an opera full of confusion and confusion, where the presence of light is as important as its absence. 

    Scene from Buoso's Ghost  by Michael Ching © Daniel Azoulay

    The entire vocal cast did a magnificent acting job that resulted in an agile and dynamic performance, more so in Schicchi than in Buoso's Ghost . In the lead role, baritone Franco Pomponi was a lawyer with great stage presence and a warm, expressive voice. His diction and the resources used when he has to pretend to be the deceased Buoso turned out great, as was the reading of the original will, with the hilarious reaction of the relatives as they find out that they will not receive the expected inheritance. 

    Magnificent work also carried out by the tenor Charles Calotta , giving life to a enamored Rinuccio, with excellent vocal means and a very careful singing line. Her lover, Lauretta, was solidly interpreted by the soprano Page Michels , who sang her famous 'O mio babbino caro' stripped of some of the excessive expressive weight that this aria tends to have when performed unrelated to the opera to which it belongs.

    Mezzo Robynne Redmon brought to life a wicked Aunt Zita, as it should be. Her character showed, however, a sweeter face in the second opera, when a certain love attraction, already past, towards Schicchi is implied. She stands at the forefront of the late Buoso's cohort of relatives ( Phillip López as Betto, Anthony Reed as Simone, Eleomar Cuello as Marco and Erin Alford as La Ciesca, among others) who acted as a homogeneous group at certain times and as individuals. independent in others, and this was the case in both operas, contributing to unify the dramaturgy between them. ismael gonzalezhe did a good job in his double role as Dr. Spinelloccio/Pinellino, as did Matthew Cossack in his, also double, notary Amantio di Nicolao and Magistrate.

    In the pit, Master Ching managed the house orchestra with ease and conviction, with a smaller staff than on other occasions and with some new faces. Both works, curiously, end in a similar way: with the character of Schicchi addressing the public to ask for forgiveness. In Gianni Schicchi he requests it for himself, after having falsified his will; in Buoso's Ghost he requests it for Ching, due to the audacity shown by the composer in writing a continuation of Puccin's work. 

  • FGO Gifts Twin Comic Operas By Puccini & Ching’s Modern Sequel
    01/30/2023

    FGO Gifts Twin Comic Operas By Puccini & Ching’s Modern Sequel

    The title scoundrel in Michael Ching’s sequel to Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi at Florida Grand Opera / Photos by Daniel Azoulay

    By Bill Hirschman

    Is there anything quite as vicariously entertaining as watching a pack of greedy scoundrels circling around each other, maneuvering to snatch from each other what isn’t theirs to begin with?

    Giacomo Puccini certainly thought not, as does composer Michael Ching, as does Florida Grand Opera, which is presenting such a rogue’s gallery turning on itself in Puccini’s one-act broad comedy Gianni Schicchi and Ching’s 1997 English-language one-act comic sequel Buoso’s Ghost playing in Miami and at the Broward Center through Feb. 11.

    It should go without saying that the music is full and rich in this FGO production, both the master’s and that of his great admirer Ching, beautifully delivered by the cast’s resonating voices and the strong, deft orchestra conducted by Ching.

    The production directed by Mo Zhou is suffused with humorous touches; her cast is clearly having a great time playing just one millimeter short of leaping over-the-top with plenty of eye-popping, grimaces and vaudevillian physicality.

    Taken from six lines in Dante’s Inferno and extrapolated on real people, Puccini set his tale in 1299 in Florence where the wealthy extended Donati family is waiting for patriarch Buoso to die in his bed. Their mourning histrionics are clearly a fraud; they just want to read his will and they are tearing the bedroom apart trying to find it. But when he dies, the will leaves everything to the church.

    So the gang hires the title character (his name is pronounced like a modern day gangster Johnny Skeekee), a conscienceless fixer from the countryside whose daughter Lauretta wants to marry Donati scion Rinuccio. When the notary comes to officiate the death, Schicchi pretends to be Buoso near death and rewrites the will. This is hardly the last round of deceit and depravity to come.

    The score, of course, is lovely, but it is best known for Lauretta’s appeal to her father about how she loves Rinuccio, the aria ‘O mio babbino caro,” which has been appropriated on its own in a dozen films, sitcoms, TV cartoons, and even the video game Grand  Theft Auto. It’s given a fully-realized rendition by soprano Page Michels who was in last season’s Fellow Travelers.

    Using the same cast, set and orchestra, Ching picks up the story moments after Puccini’s librettist Giovacchino Forzano ended his. Schicchi is now owner of the best part of the estate including the house with the dead Buoso still in his bed. He discovers the likelihood that the family poisoned their uncle, setting off a criminal investigation that the family points at Schicchi. But no one outwits the expert at conniving, manipulating and blackmailing.

    Both pieces are supposedly satirical indictments of greed, but since (spoiler alert) the conscienceless Gianni ends up with a huge grin in his face and a new set of riches at the end of each act, you wonder if you’re supposed to admire his resourcefulness, ingenuity and his self-constructed rise from being a country newcomer to a wealthy urban Florentine.

    This was among the last full pieces Puccini wrote (someone finished Turandot for him) and his only comedy. But you can hear his love for assigning motifs to characters, even a droll satire of the sound of mourning when the Donati family pretends to bemoan the loss of their “loved one.”

    We’ve said this before – and perhaps it’s obvious to opera fans – but his work here and that of his contemporaries suffuse the great movie soundtracks of the 1940s and 1950s, for instance Bernard Hermann’s Hitchcock films such as North By Northwest.

    Ching has composed 15 operas in an eclectic array of styles, inserting quotes echoing pop, jazz and musical theater. In this, there’s even a phrase of clip-clop Western movie soundtrack. Puccini’s piece is sung through except to give the audience a chance to applaud once at the end of ‘O mio babbino caro.’ But Ching has written duets and solos and group numbers with beginnings and endings like in a Broadway musical. He also wrote the lyrics, some of which rhyme and some don’t bother.

    Still, Ching has successfully echoed Puccini’s tone throughout, making it seem that the genius would have written this if he was alive today. And he certainly maintained Puccini’s humor with such lyrics as the Donatis plea “We never said we liked you. We always meant to.” There’s even a whiff of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd.

    Ching worked for four years early in his career on the staff of FGO’s forebear, the Greater Miami Opera. Now 64, he makes his FGO debut as a flamboyant figure in the pit: dressed in a beach shirt, head almost over the orchestra railing, his arms easily visible flying through the air and guiding trills with vibrating hands in a bright light.

    As always, the orchestra was superb, although occasionally it drowned out the ensemble members, especially when they had solo lines.

    Obviously, the evening’s driver is Franco Pomponi who is having the time of his life as the wily Gianni. He not only lets loose his rich baritone, but also a constricted whine when impersonating the dead Buoso.

    Tenor Charles Calotta is a handsome Rinuccio more interested in Lauretta than the money; mezzo Robynne Redman is the substantial chief Donati venality Zita.
    Appearing but never singing throughout is Larry Kamin, actually a board member who reportedly has never missed a production, who delivers an award worthy performance lying motionless and voiceless in the four-poster as the dead Buoso.

    The lush multi-layered garments by Howard Tsvi Kaplan, the period perfect bedroom set by Eric Renschler and the lighting reflecting the changes as the day wears on by Mary Ellen Stebbins are all on loan from a production by the Chautauqua Opera for FGO’s 81st season.

    Note: As in the past, Florida /Grand Opera hosts a free half-hour talk one hour before curtain in which a knowledgeable staffer provides the background of the piece, its origin and context, a synopsis, and advice on what to listen for. Currently, the host is the affable, informative Matt Cooksey, director of artistic operations and director of the coming The Barber of Seville, who at one point serenaded the attendees with a snatch of ‘O mio babbino caro.. Unless you have a ton of esoteric knowledge yourself, these talks are well worth showing up for early.

    Gianni Schicchi from the Florida Grand Opera plays 8 p.m. Jan. 31 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9 and 11 at Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Au-Rene Theater, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Running time 2 hours 15 minutes including one 20-minute intermission. Tickets $23-$228, by calling (800) 741-1010 or visiting www.FGO.org.

  • FGO serves up a delightful evening with Puccini-plus comic double bill
    01/29/2023

    FGO serves up a delightful evening with Puccini-plus comic double bill

    By Lawrence Budmen

    Page Michels and Charles Calotta with Franco Pomponi in background in Michael Ching’s Buoso’s Ghost at Florida Grand Opera. Photo: FGO

    Operatic comedy is serious business to get right. 

    Saturday night’s opening of Florida Grand Opera’s double bill of Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and composer Michael Ching’s sequel Buoso’s Ghost at the Arsht Center proved that point. With adroit staging, terrific singing from top to bottom by a large cast and an eye-filling production, this pairing is both potent theater and delightful entertainment.

    From the evening of its premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in 1918, Gianni Schicchi has always been the hit of Puccini’s three-opera Il Trittico. Based on a thirteenth-century character from Dante’s Inferno, the opera is a tale of the avaricious Donati family who find out that the dead Buoso Donati has left all his money and property to the church. Eventually the clever lawyer Gianni Schicchi is brought in to pose as the dying Buoso, void the will and dictate a new one. The sly Schicchi, posing as Donati, leaves the best holdings to himself. His newfound wealth allows his daughter Lauretta to marry Rinuccio, a Donati relative, who she is deeply in love with. In a curtain speech, Schicchi pleads the lovers’ happiness as extenuating circumstances.

    Composer Ching, who wrote his own libretto for the sequel, picks up the story with Schicchi discovering that Buoso was poisoned. Attempting to seek revenge and reclaim the money and property, the Donati clan accuse him of the murder. When that fails, they plot to kill him but Schicchi, once again, outsmarts them by impersonating Buoso’s ghost, causing the Donatis to flee in horror. He apologizes to the audience for a “novice composer” attempting a sequel to the work of the giant Puccini but, again, suggests extenuating circumstances.

    Puccini’s score is not lacking in the composer’s trademark lyricism with the hit soprano aria “O mio babbino caro,” a fine tenor solo and a soaring duet for the lovers Lauretta and Rinuccio. But the fifty-five minute opera  is distinguished by quicksilver lightness and rapid patter in the manner of Verdi’s Falstaff that make it unique in Puccini’s output. 

    For his part, Ching has crafted an epilogue to the Puccini original that brims with ingenuity and wit. Ching believes that opera should be fun for audiences. With wry quotations from Puccini and composers across the centuries, his modern opera buffa is that and more.

    As the quick witted, scheming Schicchi, Franco Pomponi dominated the stage. His well-honed baritone can caress a phrase one minute, boom through the house in mock rage the next and spin patter with the pace and style of a Gilbert and Sullivan comic. This Schicchi was a formidable, larger-than-life force who was not to be outmaneuvered. 

    Charles Calotta soared in Rinuccio’s ode to the city of Florence in a lyric tenor both strong and sweet. Page Michels made Lauretta an independent-minded ingenue with considerable power over her father and a large, darkly colored soprano to match. Michels and Calotta’s voices blended wonderfully in ardent duets.

    Robynne Redmon was a haughty Zita, her mellow mezzo sonority masking connivance, but her final comedic love scene with Schicchi (in Ching’s opera) suggested a softer side. Ashley Shalna as Nella and Erin Alford as La Ciesca brought beauty of timbre and vibrant stage personalities to the devious Donati relatives. Their shimmering trios with Redmon radiated faux concern. Anthony Reed as Simone and Philip Lopez as Betto cut commanding figures, their utterances delivered in vibrant bass tones.

    Matthew Cossack’s notary and magistrate radiated pompous authority. José Vasquez and Daniel Bates as priests eager to collect Buoso’s money turned cameos into highlights, their fawned devoutness and serious declamation providing hilarity. Ismael Gonzalez, Joseph McBrayer  and Eleomar Cuello adorned the smooth ensemble singing that is vital to both operas. Gabriella Molina was the child Gherardino, properly  befuddled at the family’s behavior.

    Ching conducted both Puccini’s classic and his own score with a light touch. His skillful balancing allowed the English text of Buoso’s Ghost to be heard clearly, aided by the cast’s excellent enunciation. Ensemble scenes were well coordinated, orchestra and singers never diverging on separate paths.

    Mo Zhou’s deft staging brought out the twin bill’s fun. The opening scene, as the Buoso relatives scavenge the house and turn it upside down to find the will between fake tears, drew much laughter from the audience. A few details of timing and action that did not totally gel the first night should come together in subsequent performances.

    Eric Renschler’s handsome Florentine villa setting (from Chautauqua Opera) and Howard Tsvi Kaplan’s multicolored costumes (with hues that perfectly matched the set) created atmospheric tableaux. Mary Ellen Stebbins’ lighting vitally enhanced the production design. Her dark, shadowy images for the ghost’s supposed appearances seemed right out of a Bela Lugosi horror film.

    For seasoned opera lovers, this FGO double bill is a reminder that opera can bring a smile to the face as well as

    FGO serves up a delightful evening with Puccini-plus comic double bill

    By Lawrence Budmen

    Page Michels and Charles Calotta with Franco Pomponi in background in Michael Ching’s Buoso’s Ghost at Florida Grand Opera. Photo: FGO

    Operatic comedy is serious business to get right. 

    Saturday night’s opening of Florida Grand Opera’s double bill of Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and composer Michael Ching’s sequel Buoso’s Ghost at the Arsht Center proved that point. With adroit staging, terrific singing from top to bottom by a large cast and an eye-filling production, this pairing is both potent theater and delightful entertainment.

    From the evening of its premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in 1918, Gianni Schicchi has always been the hit of Puccini’s three-opera Il Trittico. Based on a thirteenth-century character from Dante’s Inferno, the opera is a tale of the avaricious Donati family who find out that the dead Buoso Donati has left all his money and property to the church. Eventually the clever lawyer Gianni Schicchi is brought in to pose as the dying Buoso, void the will and dictate a new one. The sly Schicchi, posing as Donati, leaves the best holdings to himself. His newfound wealth allows his daughter Lauretta to marry Rinuccio, a Donati relative, who she is deeply in love with. In a curtain speech, Schicchi pleads the lovers’ happiness as extenuating circumstances.

    Composer Ching, who wrote his own libretto for the sequel, picks up the story with Schicchi discovering that Buoso was poisoned. Attempting to seek revenge and reclaim the money and property, the Donati clan accuse him of the murder. When that fails, they plot to kill him but Schicchi, once again, outsmarts them by impersonating Buoso’s ghost, causing the Donatis to flee in horror. He apologizes to the audience for a “novice composer” attempting a sequel to the work of the giant Puccini but, again, suggests extenuating circumstances.

    Puccini’s score is not lacking in the composer’s trademark lyricism with the hit soprano aria “O mio babbino caro,” a fine tenor solo and a soaring duet for the lovers Lauretta and Rinuccio. But the fifty-five minute opera  is distinguished by quicksilver lightness and rapid patter in the manner of Verdi’s Falstaff that make it unique in Puccini’s output. 

    For his part, Ching has crafted an epilogue to the Puccini original that brims with ingenuity and wit. Ching believes that opera should be fun for audiences. With wry quotations from Puccini and composers across the centuries, his modern opera buffa is that and more.

    As the quick witted, scheming Schicchi, Franco Pomponi dominated the stage. His well-honed baritone can caress a phrase one minute, boom through the house in mock rage the next and spin patter with the pace and style of a Gilbert and Sullivan comic. This Schicchi was a formidable, larger-than-life force who was not to be outmaneuvered. 

    Charles Calotta soared in Rinuccio’s ode to the city of Florence in a lyric tenor both strong and sweet. Page Michels made Lauretta an independent-minded ingenue with considerable power over her father and a large, darkly colored soprano to match. Michels and Calotta’s voices blended wonderfully in ardent duets.

    Robynne Redmon was a haughty Zita, her mellow mezzo sonority masking connivance, but her final comedic love scene with Schicchi (in Ching’s opera) suggested a softer side. Ashley Shalna as Nella and Erin Alford as La Ciesca brought beauty of timbre and vibrant stage personalities to the devious Donati relatives. Their shimmering trios with Redmon radiated faux concern. Anthony Reed as Simone and Philip Lopez as Betto cut commanding figures, their utterances delivered in vibrant bass tones.

    Matthew Cossack’s notary and magistrate radiated pompous authority. José Vasquez and Daniel Bates as priests eager to collect Buoso’s money turned cameos into highlights, their fawned devoutness and serious declamation providing hilarity. Ismael Gonzalez, Joseph McBrayer  and Eleomar Cuello adorned the smooth ensemble singing that is vital to both operas. Gabriella Molina was the child Gherardino, properly  befuddled at the family’s behavior.

    Ching conducted both Puccini’s classic and his own score with a light touch. His skillful balancing allowed the English text of Buoso’s Ghost to be heard clearly, aided by the cast’s excellent enunciation. Ensemble scenes were well coordinated, orchestra and singers never diverging on separate paths.

    Mo Zhou’s deft staging brought out the twin bill’s fun. The opening scene, as the Buoso relatives scavenge the house and turn it upside down to find the will between fake tears, drew much laughter from the audience. A few details of timing and action that did not totally gel the first night should come together in subsequent performances.

    Eric Renschler’s handsome Florentine villa setting (from Chautauqua Opera) and Howard Tsvi Kaplan’s multicolored costumes (with hues that perfectly matched the set) created atmospheric tableaux. Mary Ellen Stebbins’ lighting vitally enhanced the production design. Her dark, shadowy images for the ghost’s supposed appearances seemed right out of a Bela Lugosi horror film.

    For seasoned opera lovers, this FGO double bill is a reminder that opera can bring a smile to the face as well as excitement to the senses. For operatic neophytes, the production makes a perfect introduction to the art form. There are four remaining performances in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

    Florida Grand Opera repeats Gianni Schicchi and Buoso’s Ghost 2 p.m. Sunday and 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Arsht Center in Miami and 7:30 p.m. February 9 and 11 at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale. fgo.org excitement to the senses. For operatic neophytes, the production makes a perfect introduction to the art form. There are four remaining performances in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

    Florida Grand Opera repeats Gianni Schicchi and Buoso’s Ghost 2 p.m. Sunday and 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Arsht Center in Miami and 7:30 p.m. February 9 and 11 at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale. fgo.org

  • Doubles match: Florida Grand Opera to pair a Puccini classic with a sequel
    01/24/2023

    Doubles match: Florida Grand Opera to pair a Puccini classic with a sequel

     

    By Lawrence Budmen

     

     

    YOU’RE OUT OF THE WILL: The Donati family gets unwelcome news in cast rehearsals for FGO’s joint production of “Gianni Schicchi” and “Buoso’s Ghost.” Photo: Eric Joannes

     

    Operatic sequels are rarities. In many operas, the protagonist is dead at the final curtain, making a continuation of the story unlikely. To be sure, there are exceptions: Pierre Beaumarchais’ three Figaro plays spawned Rossini’s Barber of Seville, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro and John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles

     

    Handel’s Agrippina, presented last season by Florida Grand Opera, is a prequel to Monteverdi’s Coronation of Poppaea. And then there’s Wagner’s four-opera Ring cycle. 

     

    Into this comparatively wide-open artistic space, where a handful of operatic giants dominate, steps Florida Grand Opera. Beginning on Saturday night at the Arsht Center in Miami, FGO is presenting a double bill of Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, from 1918, and Buoso’s Ghost, a contemporary sequel by composer Michael Ching.

     

    The two one-act operas — written about 80 years apart — will be performed back to back, with a break in between. At an estimated 2 hours and 10 minutes, intermission included, it’s a dual production that asks less of an audience, endurance-wise, than many single operas. But it’s a novel pairing, Ching’s sequel with Puccini’s comedic masterpiece, and a field test of Ching’s own ideas about opera in the 21st Century. 

     

    Ching, who will conduct the performances, said in an interview that audiences are open and eager to hear new works, and will embrace them when they are “accessible, singable and entertaining in a welcoming and fun way.” 

     

    He and his collaborators in the double bill also told South Florida Classical Review that they have a winning central character in both operas: the crafty country lawyer Gianni Schicchi, who turns the tables on his snobby, citified clients with outrageous results.

     

    Ching’s sequel premiered at Opera Memphis in 1997 and has been produced by numerous regional and collegiate opera companies. Its arrival here with Gianni Schicchi is also something of a homecoming: Ching worked at FGO in the 1980s as an assistant to the company’s then-director, Willie Anthony Waters, when it was called Greater Miami Opera.  

     

    Ching recalled that, back in the 1990s, during a break in joint singers’ auditions with other regional companies in Chicago, he and Waters “were shooting the breeze about what would become of some operatic characters in the future.” From there, the germ of the idea for Buoso’s Ghost was born.

     

     

    PLANS, PLANS: Schicchi (Franco Pomponi, center) tells the Donatis how to fix things as his daughter Lauretta (Page Michels, second from right) looks on.
 Photo: Eric Joannes

     

    Gianni Schicchi, for its part, is not exactly a sequel but it is an entry in a loosely thematic series: the last — and funniest — of three one-act operas comprising Puccini’s Il Trittico, after Il Tabarro and Suor Angelica. From the trilogy’s debut at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the familial comic closer was the biggest hit with critics and audiences. It is often performed apart from its two siblings — an arrangement Puccini disliked but could hardly stop.

     

    A family matter

     

    In Puccini’s original, a medieval Florentine household of some means, the Donatis, discover that their dearly departed paterfamilias, Buoso, has left all his money and property to the church. Schicchi, a lawyer of peasant stock, approaches the stunned survivors with a scheme to impersonate a dying Buoso and dictate a new will.

     

    Despite their disdain toward Schicchi, the relatives are enthusiastic. When a notary arrives, Schicchi, posing as Buoso, declares the old will null and void. And after first leaving some minor holdings to the relatives, he assigns the major assets — the house, the mills, and a mule — to himself and chases the relatives from what is now his estate. 

     

    Schicchi’s daughter, Lauretta, who is in love with a Donati clan relative, Rinuccio, can now marry thanks to her newly wealthy father. End of story! 

     

    In Ching’s sequel (spoiler alert), Schicchi discovers that Buoso’s death was not from natural causes, while the thwarted Donati heirs plot to take revenge and reclaim the estate by accusing Schicchi of the murder. He outsmarts them again by impersonating Buoso’s ghost.

     

    A knight in tarnished armor 

     

    Gianni Schicchi de’ Cavalcanti was reportedly an actual knight with con-man tendencies in 13th Century Italy, although little is verifiably known about him. He first appears as a fictionalized character in the “Inferno” section of Dante Alighieri’s epic poem, The Divine Comedy. Dante depicts him in the eighth circle of hell, reserved for fraudsters — a dim view of the man clearly influenced by Dante’s having married an aristocrat, Gemma Donati.

     

    Along with Puccini, Ching and baritone Franco Pomponi — who sings the protagonist in the FGO staging — have a different perspective on Schicchi. Ching said he sees him as “a smart, upcoming guy who gets things done,” and as “a comic hero.” 

     

    Pomponi described Schicchi as a crafty practical joker — “sharper than anybody else in the room, a universal figure and a big, warm-hearted guy.” It’s his first time in the title role. Pomponi has sung the roles of Marco and Dr. Spinellocio in previous Gianni Schicchi productions, and he once shared the stage with the famed Italian baritone Rolando Panerai as Schicchi. 

     

    Calling it one of his dream roles, he said, “I am having a ball” playing the part. He said that alongside Verdi’s Falstaff, he sees Gianni Schicchi as the true comedia dell’arte baritone showcase. He described Buoso’s Ghost as a gear-shift into a more dramatic and theatrical context, and he wants to build on the vocal-theatrical momentum of the Schicchi double bill with his future role choices — one of which, Ezio in Verdi’s Attila, he will be singing in Chicago next summer. 

     

     

    CAST AND CREATOR: Composer and conductor Michael Ching (center) with (L-R) Eleomar Cuello (Marco), Erin Alford (La Ciesca), José Vasquez (Guccio, Friar 2), Charles Calotta (Rinuccio), Robynne Redmon (Zita), Anthony Reed (Simone), Franco Pomponi (Gianni Schicchi), Page Michels (Lauretta), Ismael Gonzalez (Dr. Spinellocio/Pinellino), Phillip Lopez (Betto), Ashley Shalna (Nella), Joseph McBrayer (Gherardo). Photo: Eric Joannes

     

    The double bill’s director, Mo Zhou, said that Schicchi is a complex, cunning and layered protagonist, describing him variously as “a self made man, “a newcomer” and an “underdog” who has great love and devotion to his daughter and is willing to struggle and toil for her happiness. 

     

    Lauretta is the rare Puccini heroine to not meet a tragic end. Soprano Page Michels, an FGO studio artist who sings Lauretta, believes the role’s popular aria, “O mio babbino caro,” is more than just a pretty Puccini tune: It’s where she said “Lauretta is developing a sense of manipulation and power over her dad.”

     

    When Schicchi is about to stalk off, having just been insulted by the Donatis, it is Lauretta who convinces him to look at the will, which sets his plot in motion, Michels noted. She said she also has a “beautiful, high, soaring duet with Rinucchio” (played in this production by FGO studio artist Charles Calotta) and, in Lauretta, a musically complex but still highly melodic role that suits her voice — which she considers weightier and darker in color than that of many sopranos who have sung the part before her.

     

    Visions of opera’s future

     

    Ching, the composer, said that working in a comedic vein gave him an opportunity to play with different musical styles as he wrote Buoso’s Ghost and sought to create a unique sonic world for it. He score is “eclectic and very tonal,” he said, and listeners will also have fun picking out the easter eggs — the various musical quotations that run through the score, from melodies in the Puccini work to Shostakovich to Broadway. 

     

    He is optimistic about the future of opera as a creative art form, pointing out that his 2013 opera Speed Dating Tonight has already received 120 performances since its premiere. (One of these was a 2020 production staged entirely as a Zoom video call — as one does during a pandemic.) Ching loves ensemble opera where as many as a dozen characters may be involved. Speed Dating Tonight and Buoiso’s Ghost definitely belong to that genre. 

     

    Zhou made the leap to directing with FGO help — general director Susan Danis recruited her from a staff job at Lyric Opera to direct Mozart’s Don Giovanni in 2019 — and she, too, sees opera’s future in a greater focus on new works, the better “to revitalize, rebrand and preserve the art and move forward,” she said.

     

    She noted that the contemporary works are selling out this season at The Met, while the venerable New York opera house has struggled to fill seats for Verdi, Puccini and Mozart. Zhou added that smaller scale work in more intimate settings may be the path for the future and a source of new opportunities for composers like Ching. 

     

    (The pandemic has spurred movement in this direction: In 2021, with its traditional regular season canceled, FGO rebounded with a quartet of one-act operas at the 330-seat Miami Theater Center in Miami Shores for socially distanced audiences. Danis has said she would like to keep bringing adventurous repertoire there.) 

     

    For the moment, however, Zhou’s attention is on a full-scale dual production that will occupy venues seating 2,400 people (Arsht) and 2,700 people (The Broward Center for the Performing Arts Au-Rene Theater). 

     

    Zhou said she finds finds comedy to be the hardest form of opera to stage, given the need for an ensemble that understands timing and has a collective sense of humor, not just a reportoire of funny theatrical or musical tricks. For an opera to succeed as comedy, she said, every part must be taken seriously.

     

    Florida Grand Opera presents Gianni Schicchi and Buoso’s Ghost 7 p.m. Saturday January 28, 2 p.m. Sunday January 29, and 8 p.m. Tuesday January 31 at the Arsht Center in Miami; and 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Saturday, February 9 and 11, at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale.  fgo.org

     

  • Florida Grand Opera's Comic Double Bill Has Quite a Story Behind It
    01/26/2023

    Florida Grand Opera's Comic Double Bill Has Quite a Story Behind It

    Thursday, January 26, 2023

    Note: this article also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel and Florida Theater On Stage, 

     


    Michael Ching, composer and conductor, with the cast of Florida Grand Opera's

    Michael Ching, composer and conductor, with the cast of Florida Grand Opera's "Gianni Schicchi" and "Buoso's Ghost." (Photo by Eric Joannes)

    Michelle F. Solomon, Editor

    Composer Michael Ching's first job in opera was at Florida Grand Opera in the early 1980s. It was then the Greater Miami Opera, Ching remembers.

    "It was 1981 to 1985. I was called the music assistant at first and then I was the music administrator. I conducted the chorus and coached singers that's how I came up."

    Now after almost 40 years, Ching returns to FGO as composer and conductor of "Buoso's Ghost," a sequel to Giacomo Puccini's "Gianni Schicchi," which FGO will perform together, the first half of "Schicchi" and the second half "Ghost."

    The first half is presented in Puccini's original Italian with English and Spanish supertitles. Ching's "Ghost" is in English with  English and Spanish supertitles.

    The double bill opens Saturday, Jan. 28 and runs Sunday, Jan. 29 and Tuesday, Jan. 31 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and Feb. 9 and 11 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

    LEFT: Lauretta (Page Michels) pleads with her beloved father Gianni Schicchi (Franco Pomponi) to intervene in the Donatis' plight. RIGHT: The Donati family rejoices as Schicchi (Franco Pomponi, center) reveals his brilliant plan. (Photos by Eric Joannes)

    LEFT: Lauretta (Page Michels) pleads with her beloved father Gianni Schicchi (Franco Pomponi) to intervene in the Donatis' plight. RIGHT: The Donati family rejoices as Schicchi (Franco Pomponi, center) reveals his brilliant plan. (Photos by Eric Joannes)

    So we all know how you can write a sequel to a blockbuster movie, but a sequel to an opera completed in 1917, which takes place in the beginning of the 13th century?

    Ching explains that his opera begins with the last 20 seconds of the music from Puccini's "Schicchi" and is based on the premise that the character of Buoso Donati did not die of natural causes but under more sinister circumstances. In "Schicchi" Donati's will has left everything to the church, but Schicchi finds a way to inherit his wealth.

    Schicchi comes up with a plan. From left to right (Front row): Robynne Redmon (Zita), Franco Pomponi (Gianni Schicchi), Phillip Lopez (Betto), Page Michels (Lauretta), Charles Calotta (Rinuccio). Back row: Eleomar Cuello (Marco), Erin Alford (La Ciesca), Anthony Reed (Simone), Ashley Shalna (Nella), Joseph McBrayer (Gherardo). (Photo by Eric Joannes)

    Schicchi comes up with a plan. From left to right (Front row): Robynne Redmon (Zita), Franco Pomponi (Gianni Schicchi), Phillip Lopez (Betto), Page Michels (Lauretta), Charles Calotta (Rinuccio). Back row: Eleomar Cuello (Marco), Erin Alford (La Ciesca), Anthony Reed (Simone), Ashley Shalna (Nella), Joseph McBrayer (Gherardo). (Photo by Eric Joannes)

    Ching remembers the conception of "Buoso's Ghost."

    "It began at a breakfast in Chicago we were having joint auditions. I ran the Memphis Opera we were having auditions with two other opera companies. We were just shooting the breeze about what happens to our favorite operatic characters when the opera ends: The Germont family in 'La Traviata,' the young lovers in 'Così fan tutte,' Cio-Cio-San's son in 'Madame Butterfly.' The subject of 'Schicchi' came up and what happens next."

    It's comic and eclectic, Ching says, with the absurdity of his writing the score by borrowing various American musical styles and quotations.

    LEFT: The Donati family reads Buoso's will. L-R: Joseph McBrayer (Gherardo), Ashley Shalna (Nella), Phillip Lopez (Betto), Charles Calotta (Rinuccio), Erin Alford (La Ciesca), Eleomar Cuello (Marco). Center, seated: Robynne Redmon (Zita), Anthony Reed (Simone).
 / RIGHT: The Donatis react to the outcome of Buoso's will. L-R: Phillip Lopez (Betto), Joseph McBrayer (Gherardo), Ashley Shalna (Nella), Charles Calotta (Rinuccio), Robynne Redmon (Zita), Anthony Reed (Simone), Erin Alford (La Ciesca) (Photos by Eric Joannes).

    LEFT: The Donati family reads Buoso's will. L-R: Joseph McBrayer (Gherardo), Ashley Shalna (Nella), Phillip Lopez (Betto), Charles Calotta (Rinuccio), Erin Alford (La Ciesca), Eleomar Cuello (Marco). Center, seated: Robynne Redmon (Zita), Anthony Reed (Simone). / RIGHT: The Donatis react to the outcome of Buoso's will. L-R: Phillip Lopez (Betto), Joseph McBrayer (Gherardo), Ashley Shalna (Nella), Charles Calotta (Rinuccio), Robynne Redmon (Zita), Anthony Reed (Simone), Erin Alford (La Ciesca) (Photos by Eric Joannes).

    "If someone in the audience hears something that they think they recognize there's a fairly good chance that they are correct," says Ching, adding that he took Puccini's motifs and intertwined them with the styles of Sondheim, for instance.

    "You know, it's a perennial subject, the mix of greed and family relations. It's a subject that never ages."

    Ching says he enjoys the collaborative process of opera and welcomes ideas from directors and actors, but "one of the things that I did request was that I wanted the pairing done in a traditional Florentine setting in the Middle Ages and they honored that."

    The cast of Florida Grand Opera's

    The cast of Florida Grand Opera's "Gianni Schicchi" and "Buoso's Ghost." (Photo by Eric Joannes)

    The piece premiered at Memphis Opera on Jan. 25, 1997. Ching said it was last performed by the Detroit Opera just before COVID hit.

    "The thing that you have to remember, of course, or you want to remind your audience, is that 'Schicchi' features one of the five best well-known arias in all opera, 'O mio babbino caro.' " While it is frequently performed as a solo, Ching says that part of the fun of hearing the famous aria is seeing it in the context of the opera where it originated.

    "Gianni Schicchi" is the only operas in Puccini's repertoire that is comic.

    "There are comic operas, 'The Marriage of Figaro' for instance has charming funny bits, but it isn't laugh out loud funny. I think 'Gianni' is just laugh-out-loud funny and hopefully audiences will think so, too."

    He also believes that the time is right for audiences to see a comic opera, to leave the problems of the world outside of the theater door.

    "A lot of arts organizations have been asked to do light programming for awhile. It is certainly a reaction to the times, where you know audiences are looking to forget about the news and to have a fun time," Ching says.

    The production runs Saturday, Jan. 28, Sunday, Jan. 29, and Tuesday, Jan. 31 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, and Thursday, Feb. 9 and Saturday, Feb. 11 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW 5th Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Purchase at fgo.org or call 800-741-1010.
  • DOUBLE FEATIRE
    12/22/2020

    DOUBLE FEATURE

    The Donatis of Florence, Italy, are the most double-crossing, back-stabbing, toxic family since The Borgias — but a lot funnier. Florida Grand Opera’s Gianni Schicchi and Buoso’s Ghost sings their rousing tale.

     

    Words // Sandy Lindsey | December 25, 2022 | People

     

     

     

     

    Puccini’s only comedy and one of the true laugh out loud operas in the repertoire, Gianni Schicchi (pronounced Johnny Skee-ky) at FGO is based on real people and a real incident. The plot follows the greedy Donati Family whose rich Uncle Buoso has died, leaving his wealth to the church. The snobbish Donatis must employ the wily lawyer Gianni Schicchi for help, and he doesn’t hesitate to help himself as well. It also features one of opera’s most beloved melodies, O Mio Babbino Caro, heard in everything from films to the Grand Theft Auto video games. Puccini conceived Gianni Schicchi as the third of a special trio of one-acts meant to be performed in a single evening. It has become traditional to pair it instead with a one-act from another composer. One day as Michael Ching was chatting with colleagues, he came up with the idea of a sequel to the comedy classic, and composed Buoso’s Ghost (pronounced Bwo-zo). In it, we discover how Uncle Buoso died and see Schicchi once again matching wits with The Donatis. The melodic score is full of clever musical allusions; Jan 28-31: ArshtCenter.org. Feb. 9-11: BrowardCenter.orgFGO.org.

  • THE SECRET MARRIAGE IN MIAMI
    12/22/2020

    December 10, 2022

     

    The secret marriage in Miami

     

    Vanessa Becerra (Carolina) and Joseph McBrayer (Paolino) in The Secret Marriage at the Florida Grand Opera © Eduardo Schneider

     

    November 15, 2022 . This new production of Crystal Manich for the Florida Grand Opera was stage directed by Elena Araoz and pays tribute to the Latino heart of the city. Manich's initial idea was to place the action on the famous Calle Ocho, the nucleus of the Cuban community in Miami, but he finally moved it to the Miami Beach of four decades ago, with Geronimo becoming a successful Cuban businessman who runs the Hotel Paraíso with the help of of his two daughters, and is eager to rise even higher in society thanks to their conveniently arranged marriage. 

     

    Lindsay Fuori 's set design recreates in abundant detail and props 1980s Miami Beach, its lifestyle, its vices —with a nod to drug use in the second act— and its iconic Art Deco architecture. Darío Almirón 's colorful costumes and the light with which Jeff Adelberg floods the scene vividly remind us —not without some nostalgia on the part of some— one of the not-so-distant golden ages of the city.

     

    Logically, the music of Domenico Cimarosa (1749-1801), a contemporary of Mozart, has nothing to do with the stage setting. It is, in effect, a version not suitable for purists of the genre, starting with the language in which it is sung. In a legitimate attempt to bring it closer to the Latin public, the Italian text of Giovanni Bertati's original libretto has been translated into Spanish for this production by the musical director, Darwin Aquino , and his wife, the Italian mezzo Benedetta Orsi . Specifically, to “Caribbean” Spanish, or “espanenglish” ( sic ), as Aquino himself points out. 

     

    Beyond the inevitable strangeness produced by listening to late eighteenth-century opera in Spanish, the translation presented, in my opinion, several problems. And I am not referring to errors in the subtitling, easily solved with a more detailed review of it, nor to the use of turns or more or less forced expressions in Spanish, but to fundamental problems derived from the phonetic and phonological features of two languages. very close, but with differences in rhythmic measure and natural accentuation of the speech. Words in Italian end in a vowel in a very high percentage, something that does not happen in Spanish, and Italian shows a tendency to shift the stress towards the beginning of the word, but Spanish tends to shift it towards the end of the word. These two traits give some characteristics of musicality,

     

    The family accuses Carolina of flirting with Count Robinson © Eduardo Schneider

     

    The musical and vocal aspect was, from my point of view, the main strength of this version. The couple formed by the soprano Vanessa Becerra in the role of Carolina and the tenor Joseph McBrayer as Paolino worked with complicity on stage and their warm timbres and generous vibrato blended very well. Due to directing requirements, McBrayer sang part of the opening scene in an uncomfortable position, lying on a bed with his head lower than his chest and his "secret" wife on top of him. 

     

    The stage direction would also be responsible for a certain overacting on the part of the baritone Michael Pandolfo in his role as Count Robinson, characterized here as a young and handsome rich American who makes his entrance on stage in a convertible and later has no qualms about showing his good physical shape by doing push-ups on stage, which were chanted by the audience. Vocally, he started something just right, but he went further and resolved well the aria of the second act 'I am a lunatic, bilious', where he lists to Elisetta her bad qualities to try to get away from her and marry her younger sister. 

     

    Catalina Cuervo was resolute on stage and very solvent vocally in that role of older sister. Mezzo Erin Alford was an excellent Fidalma and Phillip López was a remarkable Geronimo. The finales of the act, so indebted to the Mozartian concertantes, were splendid. In the pit, the maestro Darwin Aquino , linked to the Florida Grand Opera for several seasons as assistant conductor, directed the house orchestra with resolution, respect for the voices and generous gestures. 

     

  • TOP TEN PERFORMANCES OF 2022
    12/21/2020

    TOP TEN PERFORMANCES OF 2022

     

    By Lawrence Budmen

     

     

    Soloist Yefim Bronfman and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas performed a Mozart encore together following the performance of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in October. Photo: Alex Marlow

     

    1.  Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3. Yefim Bronfman with Michael Tilson Thomas/New World Symphony

     

    An all-Rachmaninoff program at the Arsht Center in October brought the return of Michael Tilson Thomas, the New World Symphony’s artistic director laureate, teaming up with Yefim Bronfman for a thrilling performance of the Piano Concerto No. 3. With velvety as well as powerful playing, Bronfman’s dazzling keyboard technique, artistry and patrician musicality remain pristine after more than four decades on the world’s concert stages. Tilson Thomas joined Bronfman at the piano for a sparkling Mozart encore.

     

     

    Michael Tilson Thomas

     

    2. Mahler: Symphony No. 1. Michael Tilson Thomas/Cleveland Orchestra

     

    Opening its first Miami residency in over three years, the Cleveland Orchestra under Michael Tilson Thomas gave a richly colored, skillfully controlled rendition of Mahler’s First Symphony in November, The meeting of the Mahler orchestra, joined by fellows from the New World Symphony, and a conductor with a deep affinity for the composer’s music produced an old school, classically proportioned reading that prized lucidity and warmth over volatile emotional exaggeration. Following a fine traversal of Debussy’s rarely heard Fantaisie for piano and orchestra, soloist George Li and Tilson Thomas rippled delightfully through Schubert’s four-hand Rondo in D Major.

     

     

    Sharleen Joynt as Gilda and Todd Thomas in the title role of Verdi’s Rigoletto at Florida Grand Opera. Photo: Daniel Azoulay

     

    3. Verdi: Rigoletto. Florida Grand Opera

     

    For a March presentation of Verdi’s endearing opera, Florida Grand Opera fielded a first-rate cast from major leads to smaller roles. Katherine Belcher’s production had the cinematic sweep of a thriller and Pacien Mazzagatti’s conducting exuded Verdian fire. In the title role of the tragic court jester, Todd Thomas’ booming baritone exuded both rage and tenderness. Sharleen Joynt imbued Gilda with sweetness of timbre, crystalline intonation and effortless coloratura. As the Duke of Mantua, José Semerilla Romero exhibited a sizable tenor with a dark tonal hue. A superb evening of red-blooded Verdi all around.

     

    Stephen Hough performed a recital Wednesday night in Pinecrest for Friends of Chamber Music.

    Stephen Hough. Photo: Andrew Crowley

     

    4.  Music of Chopin, Schumann, Rawsthorne and Hough. Stephen Hough. Friends of Chamber Music

     

    In a March recital for Friends of Chamber Music, Stephen Hough’s consummate artistry and keyboard facility proved more assured than ever. The English pianist’s astutely designed program contrasted British modernism with romantic showpieces of Schumann and Chopin. The evening included an exquisite reading of Schumann’s Kreisleriana, lucid Chopin, and two compelling English rarities in Alan Rawsthorne’s Bagatelles and Hough’s own virtuosic Partita.

     

     

    Patrick Dupre Quigley

     

    5. Monteverdi: Madrigals of Love and War. Patrick Quigley/Seraphic Fire

     

    Seraphic Fire opened its 20th anniversary season in November with “Love/War” featuring highlights from Claudio Monteverdi’s final completed book of madrigals. A bridge between the Renaissance and Baroque eras, Monteverdi’s music remains strikingly original, conveying its own unique sound world. Leading a 13-voice choir and six-member ensemble, artistic director Patrick Quigley achieved balanced and glowing corporate sonority while bringing transparency to individual vocal lines. Nola Richardson’s pure, soprano achieved dramatic heights in “Lamento della Ninfa,” a mini-operatic scena. “Sea Drift” by Samuel Coleridge Taylor was the concert’s sleeper, a veritable tone painting in layered building blocks of vocal subtleties, dynamics and shadings.

     

     

    Jennifer Rowley and Andrew Manea in The Merry Widow at Palm Beach Opera. Photo: Bruce Bennett

     

    6. Lehár: The Merry Widow. Palm Beach Opera

     

    Palm Beach Opera’s production of The Merry Widow transported the audience to a Parisian fantasy world, showing again that the company has a winning touch with classic operetta. Taking place on imaginative Art Deco sets, the production made the most of the big showpieces, like the “Girls, Girls, Girls” chorus and “Vilja” with energetic and affecting singing supported by the company’s excellent orchestra. As the two former lovers, Jennifer Rowley and Andrew Manea brought out the comedy without overdoing it and delivered polished vocal performances in a work full of great melodies. (David Fleshler)

     

     

    Andres Acosta and Hadleigh Adams in FGO’s  Fellow Travelers. Photo: Jorge Parra

     

    7. Gregory Spears’ Fellow Travelers. Florida Grand Opera

     

    Florida Grand Opera traveled to the Lauderhill Performing Arts Center in April for Peter Rothstein’s riveting production of Gregory Spears’ Fellow Travelers. A portrait of the McCarthy era and the Lavender Scare of the 1950’s, Spears paints one of America’s darkest hours in minimalist currents that expand into full-blown lyricism at key theatrical moments. Hadleigh Adams and Andres Acosta were stunning and, ultimately, heartbreaking as the two politically conflicted, personally intimate protagonists caught in the Washington hysteria of the times.  

     

     

    The Tetzlaff Quartet. Photo: Georgia Bertazzi

     

    8. Music of Haydn, Webern and Schumann. Tetzlaff Quartet. Friends of Chamber Music

     

    The Tetzlaff Quartet’s Miami debut in April for Friends of Chamber Music was distinguished by the group’s distinctive sound, fastidious execution and depth of interpretive insight. Led by master violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff, the quartet underscored the darkness and tension beneath the courtly charms of Haydn’s Quartet in F minor. Five Miniatures by Anton Webern were rendered with precision and Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” quartet emerged freshly minted.

     

    Elaine Rinaldi conducted Orchestra Miami Sunday afternoon in Miami Beach.

     

    Elaine Rinaldi

     

    9. Weill: Lindbergh’s Flight & Blitzstein: Airborne Symphony. Elaine Rinaldi/Orchestra Miami

     

    Orchestra Miami presented a unique program commemorating the 95th anniversary of the founding of Pan American Airways in April, played at the airline’s sole remaining hangar in Coconut Grove (now a boating destination for people with disabilities). Encompassing film and dance as well as music, the “Airborne” program featured two rarities: Kurt Weill and Berthold Brecht’s Lindbergh’s Flight and Marc Blitzstein’s Airborne Symphony. The Blitzstein work was particularly impressive, mixing the composer’s dual penchant for neo-classicism and Broadway theater. Elaine Rinaldi led cogent, strongly played and sung performances.

     

     

    Jeannette Sorrell. Photo: Apollo’s Fire

     

    10. Music of Handel, Mozart and Bologne. New World Symphony/Jeannette Sorrell

     

    Jeannette Sorrell, founder and artistic director of the Cleveland- based Apollo’s  Fire, combines the best aspects of musicological scholarship with a modernist sensibility. Sorrell’s appearances with the New World Symphony have always been outstanding and her November program exceeded previous efforts. Sorrell’s compilation of highlights from Handel’s Water Music was nothing short of revelatory and Mozart’s rarely heard ballet music from Idomeneo proved an utter delight. Jamaican soprano Sonya Headlam was most impressive in music of Mozart and Joseph Bologne.

     

    Honorable Mentions

     

    Christian Tetzlaff’s deeply probing Berg Violin Concerto and conductor Gemma New’s taut Beethoven “Eroica” with the New World Symphony. Gerard Schwarz’s riveting reading of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre de printemps with the Frost Symphony Orchestra. Elizabeth Caballero’s vocal and dramatic tour de force as Blanche DuBois in Florida Grand Opera’s production of Andre Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire. Miami Lyric Opera’s delightful L’Elisir d’Amore. Piano recitals by Simon Trpceski and Vadym Kholodenko for Friends of Chamber Music. Seraphic Fire’s all-Bach Enlightenment Festival program and Christmas concert.

     

    Dishonorable Mentions

     

    Christoph Koncz’s mediocre direction (in Strauss and Brahms) at the New World Symphony’s season opener. Joshua Bell’s coarse, pedestrian Beethoven “Eroica” with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Matthias Pintscher’s concert of loud and vulgar scores by Bernd Alois Zimmerman and Helmut Lachermann at NWS’s Sounds of the Times series; Eduardo Marturet and the Miami Symphony’s ragged performance of Brahms’ Fourth Symphony. Florida Grand Opera’s ill-conceived, musically uneven, Miami-centric updating of Cimarosa’s Il Matrimonio Segreto

     

    Best Contemporary Works

     

    The University of Miami’s Frost School of Music presented the year’s two finest contemporary scores. In October, Gerard Schwarz directed the Frost Symphony Orchestra in Jennifer Higdon’s Duo Duel for two percussionists and orchestra. Higdon’s work is a tantalizing amalgam of jazz, classical Americana and minimalism that utilizes vibraphone and marimba as melodic instruments as well as a battle royal between two sets of timpani.  Svet Stoyanov and Matthew Strauss were stunning soloists with dexterity to burn.

     

    In March, the Frost Opera Theater ventured off campus to the Moss (formerly South Miami Dade) Cultural Arts Center in Cutler Bay for the world premiere of Michael Dellaira’s The Leopard. At a time when most opera composers write intimate creations with small casts, Dellaira dared to think big. Dellaira and librettist J.D. McClatchy conceived an old-fashioned Italianate score that charts the story of an aristocratic family through the historical and social upheaval of the Risorgimento. In a combined faculty-student cast, baritone Kim Josephson was a gripping, warm voiced protagonist. Schwarz’s leadership in the pit kept tension and momentum at fever pitch.

     

     

    Thomas Sleeper

     

    Thomas Sleeper

     

    Conductor-composer-educator Thomas Sleeper passed away on October 15. Sleeper, 66, had been battling ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) in recent years. A faculty member at the UM Frost School of Music for a quarter-century, Sleeper consistently drew performances of astonishing quality and subtlety from student forces. He was also a highly talented composer who created a large catalogue of orchestral, chamber, vocal and theatrical works. Sleeper leaves an indelible legacy at the university through his high standards and student mentorship. His most significant accomplishment may be his numerous excellent scores (many of which have been recorded) which deserve continued performances both locally and internationally. As a multi-talented musician and teacher, Sleeper will be greatly missed.

     

    Seismic Change at New World Symphony

     

    Michael Tilson Thomas resigned his position as artistic director of the New World Symphony in March. The American conductor, who has been battling an aggressive form of brain cancer, co-founded the orchestral academy with philanthropists Lynn and Ted Arison. For over 34 years, Tilson Thomas has nurtured several generations of orchestral musicians who have gone on to play in major ensembles around the globe. He has led the young players in many memorable performances locally and has undertaken numerous American and foreign tours with the ensemble. Mahler has always been an MTT specialty, and it was appropriate that he bade goodbye (but not farewell) with a powerful and moving reading of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony in May.

     

    The organization announced the appointment of French conductor Stephane Dèneve as artistic director to succeed Tilson Thomas. An outstanding musician, Dèneve has appeared regularly with New World over the past 12 years and his excellent concerts have always been highlights of the season. He brings international acclaim and flair to the Miami Beach podium and, hopefully, his tenure will mark an exciting new era for the orchestral academy.

     

    Twentieth Anniversaries

     

    Two Miami-based music organizations celebrated their 20th anniversaries in 2022. In many ways, both seemed unlikely undertakings. But intelligent and knowledgeable artistic leadership, slow but gradual growth and expansion planning and able fund raising proved a path to success. The professional chamber choir Seraphic Fire began as a church choir in South Miami, Under the brilliant direction of Patrick Quigley, the group has been nominated for Grammy Awards and toured widely. Quigley’s programming has alternated between major choral works (including Bach’s St. John Passion, St. Matthew Passions and Mass in B minor and Handel’s Messiah) and varied programs of Renaissance, Baroque and contemporary scores, many specially commissioned. Seraphic Fire concerts are consistently distinguished, one of Miami’s most reliable cultural tickets.

     

    Former operatic tenor Raffaele Cardone started Miami Lyric Opera in 2002 as a showcase for some of the singers he taught and coached, He has presented 23 operas, some in multiple productions, Now ensconced at the Moss Cultural Arts Center in Cutler Bay, this small but adventurous company has regularly adhered to high vocal standards in traditional productions that are true to the composer and librettists’ intentions and milieu. Some of the young artists Cardone has presented have gone on to enjoy international careers, singing at the Met and other major houses. Miami Lyric Opera’s two decades have greatly enriched the area’s cultural landscape.

     

     

  • FLORIDA GRAND OPERA OPENER MOVES 18TH-CENTURY ITALY TO 20TH-CENTURY MIAMI BEACH
    05/22/2023

     

    FLORIDA GRAND OPERA OPENER MOVES 18TH-CENTURY ITALY TO 20TH-CENTURY MIAMI BEACH

    Written By Michelle F. Solomon
    November 8, 2022 at 12:08 PM

    The cast of Florida Grand Opera’s “El Matrimonio Secreto” rehearses a scene. Standing is Phillip Lopez as Geronimo. Seated, from left, are Catalina Cuervo as Elisetta, Michael Pandolfo  as Count Robinson, Vanessa Becerra  as Carolina, and Erin Alford as Fidalma. (Photo courtesy of Eric Joannes)

     

    Florida Grand Opera is putting a 20th-century spin on an 18th-century opera and firmly planting it in Miami circa the 1980s complete with the Italian text translated into Spanish.

     

    Stage Director Elena Araoz, center, rehearses the cast of Florida Grand Opera’s “El Matrimonio Secreto,” from left, Erin Alford (Fidalma), Phillip Lopez (Geronimo), Catalina Cuervo (Elisetta), Vanessa Becerra (Carolina), and Michael Pandolfo (Count Robinson). (Photo courtesy of Eric Johannes)

     

    Successful entrepreneur and father, Geronimo is at the center of “El Matrimonio Secreto” (“The Secret Marriage”), where he wants to marry off his two daughters, especially his oldest to a wealthy Count. Complications abound, of course, with mistaken identities and plot twists in the quintessential opera buffa.

     

     

    Composer Domenico Cimarosa’s two-act opera could play just fine in its Italian original, but Florida Grand Opera has taken a different tact. As part of its Made for Miami series, the setting is now 1980s Miami Beach and Geronimo is the proprietor of Hotel Paraiso, an Art Deco hotel. He’s a Cuban businessman running the inn with the help of his daughters Elisetta and Carolina.

     

    Susan T. Danis, general director and CEO of FGO, says she had been floating the idea of presenting the opera for quite some time, assured that her audiences would enjoy the familiar sound of Cimarosa’s composition despite him not being a household name.

     

    “(Cimarosa) was writing around the time of Mozart so stylistically the music will sound familiar,” she says.

     

    Making it even more appealing to her audiences dawned on Danis while she was a patron at a hair salon in the Calle Ocho neighborhood of Miami, where a large Cuban population resides.

     

    “I was in the salon getting my hair done,” Danis recalls. “And there was a bridal party, a group of Cuban-American women, getting ready for a wedding,” she says. Watching the drama unfold in front of her, she says that the bride began “melting down.” She saw the rumblings of sibling rivalry and jealousy emerging. “One of her friends in the wedding party had a bigger diamond ring than she had. She was taking note that maybe some of the bridesmaids and her sisters were more attractive than she was on her big day.”

     

    Then the idea struck. “There were so many of the same elements in ‘Matrimonio.’ I thought, ‘What if I moved this opera to Miami?’ ” And what if the Italian was translated to Spanish?

     

    She had another goal. “I wanted to tell the story from a female perspective because the original is so patriarchal.”

     

     

     

    Geronimo (Phillip Lopez) introduces Count Robinson (Michael Pandolfo) to his eldest daughter, Elisetta (Catalina Cuervo) in a rehearsal shot from Florida Grand Opera’s “El Matrimonio Secreto.” (Photo courtesy of Eric Johannes)

     

    She signed on Crystal Manich, herself a Latina, a Puerto Rican opera director with tons of artistic excellence under her belt and experience directing everywhere from Boston to Brazil.

     

    Former FGO music staff, conductor, and composer Darwin Aquino, and his wife, Italian mezzo-soprano Benedetta Orsi were enlisted as the translators. Although the characters are Cuban, the translation is “Caribbean Spanish,” according to Aquino with “Espanenglish” terms tossed in. There will be supertitles in English and in Spanish, which are the norm for FGO productions.

     

    Danis calls the production “a love story to Miami.” She says the plot is reminiscent of the recent remake of the American romantic comedy “Father of the Bride,” which was focused on two Latino cultures and starred Andy Garcia and Miami’s own Gloria Estefan.

     

    “Our sense of funny has changed over the centuries, let alone just a couple of decades. So when I think about (our version of ‘Matrimonio’) I think about the sitcoms of 20 years ago,” Danis says.

     

     

    Florida Grand Opera cast of “El Matrimonio Secreto” are, from left, Michael Pandolfo (Count Robinson), Ashley Shalna (Elisetta, Sunday matinee), Phillip Lopez (Geronimo), Vanessa Becerra (Catalina), Joseph McBrayer (Paolino), Erin Alford (Fidalma), Page Michels (Carolina, Sunday matinee). (Photo courtesy of Eric Joannes)

     

    While the setting of 1980s Miami Beach is colorful and comic — think pastel suits and vintage brick cellphones, which were a major status symbol of the day — there is an emphasis, too, on cultural sensitivity.

     

    “We didn’t want to do anything that would offend anyone so what I did was I sent to Crystal what I affectionally call my Cuban-American female posse – women of various ages that were involved with the opera in some capacity, on the board level, staff, patrons. She spoke with these women and it really did change the direction in which she decided to take the opera,” Danis says.

     

    Manich says she started interviewing people and, while her Puerto Rican roots helped her in understanding Cuban culture, she says she learned inside stories and much more from the women. “There were customs brought here from the Old World that carried over to their American lives, funny little quirks,” she says. “I took (so much of my conversations with them) and what I know about immigrant families in general and created this concept where we are setting the story in a hotel in Miami.”

     

    Despite the modern setting, Manich says she’s adhered to her convictions about opera. “Operas really stand on their own and they are relevant no matter what time period you put them in as long as you are adhering to what the core story is. That’s what I’ve tried to do is make the core solid,” she says.

     

    Manich also believes in what FGO is doing with its focus on local culture. “Sometimes I feel like companies so want to be recognized outside of their community more so than within. I really admire this approach by FGO to serve people within the community. It makes a difference.”

     

     

    Tenor Joseph McBrayer and soprano Vanessa Becerra as the secretly married couple, Paolino and Carolina in Florida Grand Opera’s “El Matrimonio Secreto.” (Photo courtesy of Eric Joannes)

     

    She hopes audiences that wouldn’t usually put attending an opera at the top of their entertainment to-do list think differently because of the modernity of this production.

     

    “Oddly enough, I believe that people are afraid to go to the opera and laugh even when they are supposed to. I think that opera has a reputation of being stodgy or stuck up and this will quell that notion. I really encourage people to come to this show with an open mind and allow themselves to laugh when they want to laugh,” Manich says.

     

    Danis says Lindsay Fuori’s set is yet another reason to come to see the production, where especially the hotel’s pool on stage is a point of pride.

     

    “It is one of those glass blocks pools from the era . . . with real water in it,” she says.

     

    WHAT: “El Matrimonio Secreto” (“The Secret Marriage”)

    WHERE: Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Ziff Ballet Opera House, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami.

    WHEN: 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 12, 2 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 13, 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15

    COST: $16, $21, $39, $44,  $51, $73,  $85, $89, $101,  $138, $155,  $179, $210,  $230. Prices vary depending on performance.

    INFORMATION: 800-741-1010 or fgo.org and arshtcenter.org

     

  • DARWIN AQUINO AND THE TROPICAL VERSION, IN SPANISH, OF "THE SECRET MARRIAGE"
    11/15/2020

    Grand Opera of Miami: Darwin Aquino and the tropical version, in Spanish, of "Secret marriage"

    By  Adriana Bianco

    -

    11/15/2022

     

    The premiere, at the Miami Grand Opera, of "The Secret Marriage" by Domenico Cimarosa , one of the most prolific composers of the eighteenth century, who came to compose eighty operas and was a master of the "comedy buffa" or comic comedy genre, very popular during that time for its approach to popular themes, its agile duets and trios, spoken recitatives and for its laughing plot, it marks history as it is a version entirely sung in Spanish.

     

    Secret marriage, scene

     

    Secret marriage, scene

     

    Among the sub-themes that derive from this genre is the Spanish zarzuela. This opera was presented in the United States in 1834, I do not know if there has been any performance in Spain. The success of this work was consecration for its author and the end of a musical era.

     

    This bold tropical version at the Florida Grand Opera is an undoubtedly innovative concept by the director of the FGO, Susan T. Danis , of transferring the events to the decade of the eighties, in the middle of the cocaine war, to Miami, center of Art Deco, in a tropical environment and sung in Spanish.

     

    A cast of young singers with good voices and excellent interpretation in the stage game, an adjusted decoration and costumes of the time, a vibrant orchestral direction, highlight the operatic renewal and the creative possibilities. An operatic event worthy of being shared in other lyrical theaters of the Hispanic musical world.

     

    Darwin Aquino

    Darwin Aquino

     

    Within the framework of this event, we interviewed the musical director Darwin Aquino , who received us in the theater's dressing room and put this original production and the challenge of opera worldwide and the challenges of musical directors of Latin American origin into perspective.

     

    Darwin Aquino :In the Dominican Republic we have an operatic tradition and we had the privilege of inheriting European musicians after the First World War, who were seeking asylum in different countries. The Dominican Republic was filled in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s with great Spanish, German, Italian, and French musicians who founded our National Symphony Orchestra, founded the National Conservatory of Music, and the national choir, which are now our main musical institutions. This helped the country to develop classical music, which already had a good course, but this gave it a very important boost in the mid-twentieth century. Hence, our institutions continue to develop to this day, when we have a very good National Symphony Orchestra, an excellent Music Conservatory, youth orchestras, a National Choir,.

     

    Adriana Bianco : In New York I had the chance to meet several singers who were looking for acting possibilities in that great musical center that is New York .

     

    DA : More and more of our youth today have the opportunity to leave the country, do their master's studies abroad and continue their careers abroad. I am an example of this .

     

    AB : How did the vocation of music arise in you?

     

    DA : You know that the Caribbean is a musical town, everyone plays something, sings at parties, I remember my grandfather would turn on the radio and teach us to dance and sing. My father is a self-taught musician, he plays the guitar, he plays the accordion, and he always made music in his bonuses. I grew up in that environment and my dad wanted us, my two older sisters and I, to study music because he didn't have that instruction. I chose the violin and my sisters piano. I followed my career as a violinist in the Symphony orchestra of my country at the age of sixteen, then I began to compose at the same time and to direct the youth orchestra where I was the concert master, I would have been eighteen years old .

     

    AB : You were very precocious and with a special talent for music. I guess you were also studying...

     

    DA : Yes. I studied music in a private school, I didn't have much knowledge of conducting because even today orchestra conducting is not taught as a professorship in my country. But I had a vocation and the conducting teacher gave me advice and I continued...

     

    AB : You are a composer, conductor and violinist. How they combine being different aspects although they complement each other...

     

    DA : I have been very lucky in my musical life. I have been able to see music from three different perspectives, which in the end are only one. I think that specialization today is dangerous when we only learn something very specific and we don't know the surroundings of the profession. In music you have to have that humanistic aspect. I started playing the violin, composing and then I directed because in our Latin American countries, many times you have to do everything to survive. And I did everything, I even made arrangements and that allowed me a versatility in the songs that now at this stage of my life, that I live in the United States, I have been able to take advantage of.

     

    AB : Which of these three activities is the one that attracts you the most?

     

    DA : Honestly, what I would do twenty-four hours a day would be composing, that's what I like the most, you with your score, with your music. My first essence is that of a composer.

     

    AB : Are your compositions linked to the Americanist movement of Chavez, Ginastera, Villalobos?

     

    GIVES: Yes, I follow the tradition of many Latin American teachers who have dedicated themselves to the rhythms and folklore of their countries. My works for fifteen years have reflected elements of Dominican folklore, both from the African heritage and the Hispanic heritage, because we have that mixture, we are mestizos. Look at my titles: Congofonia, Espacio Ritual, Sarandunga, which is a dance from the south of the country. I compose for all formats: symphonic, chamber, vocal. I had the privilege of studying composition in France at the Strasbourg National Conservatory in 2003, and that was the first time I left my country, and then I came to the United States to do my master's studies in Orchestral Conducting at Florida International University. In Florida I worked as an assistant at the Miami Grand Opera,

     

    AB : You have extensive experience as a driver in the United States and Latin America.

     

    DA : Yes, and I am currently Music Director of the St. Louis Philharmonic Orchestra and have other engagements with international philharmonics.

     

    AB : A very hectic life. You have returned to Miami to direct "The Secret Marriage", an opera set in Miami, something very innovative.

     

    DA : Yes, it is an original and brilliant production of the Grand Opera of Florida that we owe to the brilliant mind of Susy Dennis , executive director of the company. "The Secret Marriage" is an Italian opera by Cimarosa and the company wanted to make a translation into Spanish, the whole concept takes place in the city of Miami in an Art Deco Hotel, in the eighties. All the costumes and scenery were adapted to the epoch. My wife, the Italian mezzo-soprano Benedetta Orsi , and I were commissioned by the Gran Opera Florida to translate the opera into Spanish, that was in 2019, to be released in the twenties. Now we were able to launch it.

     

    AB : And the version is very funny and original! How do you see the world of Opera and Music in the Age of Globalization with the strong impact of commercial music and the internet. What are the challenges?

     

    DA : The challenges are those that all the arts have, we have to continue getting closer to the public, showing what people identify with. But without losing our artistic function, without losing quality, which is very important. There are solutions to address the issue. The case of "The Secret Marriage" is a perfect example of continuing to be linked to the Italian buffa operatic tradition of the eighteenth century, close to "The Magic Flute" by Mozart, with a particular classical, baroque language, and at the same time, offering this music in a modern concept, with which the public can feel identified at a cultural and social, architectural level, through language. For artists it's more work because we have to keep conquering the audience but the great composers of the past did the same.

     

    AB : Sure, Beethoven, Verdi, trying to make their works appeal to the public, looking for patrons for their productions...

     

    DA : Of course, Mozart and many authors looking for where to perform their works, wanted their music to be supported and listened to. Yesterday and today, we have the same challenges but we have to adapt to current times and that makes the lives of artists more creative and more interesting.

     

    AB : We have a good tradition in Latin America, the Teatro Colon, Mexico with its Palacio de Bellas Artes, its conservatories, we have Duhamel who paved the way internationally, but there is great international competition. What are the challenges for a young Latin American musician?

     

    GIVES: As you mentioned, there is great competition, many trained and prepared people, but the jobs are not growing at the same rate, the challenge is to have adequate quality. We who come from Latin American countries have a natural talent for the arts, because we are extroverted, emotional, creative people, all of this is good for art because feelings and emotions can be easily communicated, but that sensitivity must be cultivated, studied, prepared . Reaching the same quality that other countries with a long musical tradition have is a challenge. I have had to work more than other colleagues who had other educational opportunities, one has to constantly improve. We are living an interesting moment of openness and cultural inclusion, that is helping us cultures that are minorities but even so,

     

    AB : What model do you have as an orchestra musical director that you have followed or that his style attracts you?

     

    DA : I'm past that stage, I'm not looking, at first you imitate the director you admire, but I don't feel the need to imitate anyone, I'm trying to do things with my own personal expression and I feel more comfortable in my your own skin, being on the podium, communicating well and being yourself especially in rehearsals, because when you're at the show everything is ready, it's time to give yourself away, but rehearsals are when you work on the text, the music , the communication of what you want. The conducting of an orchestra is similar to the performance of an actor, what people receive is a visual from you, how you understand the music and if that visual is not sincere, the music does not come out. In art, sincerity and communication is fundamental.

     

  • MEET THE MENDELSONS
    11/22/2020

     

    MEET THE MENDELSONS

     

    When it comes to South Florida’s multigenerational families, few have made a difference Quite Like the Mendelsons have across the arts, culture and world of Brickell real estate development. Their support for Florida Grand Opera started in the 1950’s when it was the Greater Miami Opera Association — born of a love for opera and a desire to ensure its presence For Future Generations.

     

    Words by Sandy Lindsey | Photos by Edward Leal | November 22, 2022 | People

     

     

    The curtain rises, the music swells, the opera singers take the stage, and another stellar performance from the Florida Grand Opera (FGO) begins. All this made possible by generous sponsors and philanthropists such as The Mendelson Family, whose donations play a vital role in enabling the company to continue to produce the best possible opera, to generate new education projects, and to support the Young Artist Studio. “We know we’ve been very fortunate and are grateful for what others have done for our magnificent South Florida community and for our great country, so we feel it is our honor and responsibility to continue the giving traditions which have contributed to America’s success,” says Victor Mendelson, Board Member and Co-President of HEICO Corporation, who previously served as President of FGO’s Board and Chairman of the Finance Committee/Treasurer before that. 

     

     

    In the 1950s, his great-grandmother, Lillian Brown, was a frequent visitor to Miami and the family enjoyed opera in their then-native New York. Lillian and, later, her daughter, Muriel Hattenbach, believed Miami needed a robust opera and were early supporters. “When the whole family relocated to Miami in 1969, my mother, Arlene, herself a trained opera singer and an opera-lover, dramatically increased the family’s commitment, commencing with her involvement and leadership of the Young Patronesses of the Opera, and then joining FGO’s Board of Directors and serving as its Vice Chair for decades, as well as chairing numerous fundraising affairs,” says Victor. It was Arlene whom brought him to the children’s operas produced by the Young Patronesses of the Opera, creating yet another generation of Mendelson opera lovers. 

     

    In addition to FGO, The Mendelsons also proudly support Achieve Miami, AJC, Baptist Health, Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade, Everglades Foundation, Greater Miami Jewish Federation, Miami Waterkeeper, Lehrman Community Day School, Mt. Sinai, Ransom Everglades School, South Florida PBS, St. Thomas University, Teach for America, Temple Beth Am, University of Miami and United Way of Miami-Dade, among many others. Outside of South Florida, they are very involved with and support Columbia University and the Zionist Organization of America.

     

     

    The family has also played a substantial role in Brickell’s transformation, starting back in 1978 when Victor’s father, Laurans Mendelson, purchased the first of 5 significant Brickell properties: the Four Ambassadors, the Brickell Townhouse and 25 Bay Tower, as well as major raw land parcels located on the NE corner of Brickell Avenue & 12th St. and the SE corner of Brickell Avenue & 8th St. It was then that Laurans spearheaded a groundbreaking endeavor to upzone the entire Brickell corridor to accommodate up to six times the amount property owners could build on their respective land. It was a decision that eventually led to Miami turning into the world-class city it is today. His efforts and their result enabled all of the large-scale development in the neighborbood that has followed since 1982. He also offered area apartment renters the opportunity to become homeowners when he converted the rental units in his buildings into individually owned condominiums.

     

     

    Laurans’ father, Samuel, immigrated to New York in the early 1890s from Lithuania. He graduated from Columbia University at a time when immigrants like him were rarely admitted to the school and every one of his descendants has since graduated from there. In 1990, Laurans, Victor and Victor’s brother, Eric, who is HEICO’s other Co-President, became HEICO’s largest shareholders and took over management. They have since led the company to become one of the highest-valued aerospace/defense/electronics companies in the U.S. “We are proud that HEICO designs and makes mission critical and highly reliable components for nearly all U.S. and European large commercial airplanes, key defense systems and spacecraft — including satellites, rockets and space exploration vehicles.” Since taking over management, Victor says they have returned a roughly 24% compound annual growth rate in shareholder value, growing the company’s market capitalization from about $25 million in 1990 to over $18 billion today. What’s more, they led a proxy fight to take over HEICO and actually lost, before eventually winning control nearly 9 months later, following a bitter legal battle. “We knew nothing about aviation/defense/electronics or manufacturing when we took over the company and most people insisted we’d fail,” he says. “We had confidence otherwise.”

     

     

    The family continues to work in Brickell, where the HEICO Corporation’s principle executive offices are located.HEICO is the only major, international aerospace company with executive offices in the area. “We like to spend time together, whether at home, traveling or enjoying South Florida’s great natural attributes, like time on Biscayne Bay and being outdoors, as well as taking advantage of our area’s burgeoning and impressive cultural art scene,” says Victor. “We were raised to have empathy for others and a deep appreciation for our good fortune in life, coupled with a deep sense of duty to help out in the community. Our mother, my wife, Lisa, and Eric’s wife, Kim, are particularly philanthropically active. Philanthropy is an example of how Americans come together for a stronger future, and that resonates strongly with all of us. The U.S., and particularly South Florida, are remarkable and special — we all have a responsibility to contribute to making our home even better than how we found it.”; FGO.com.

  • THE OPERA SOCIETY HONORS DIVA DIANA SOVIERO
    03/14/2022

    World-famous soprano and master teacher receives the Founder's Award 

     

    Fort Lauderdale, FL, DATE ---  The Opera Society, an affiliate organization of Florida Grand Opera, will honor international opera star and award-winning master teacher Diana Soviero with the Dr. Arturo di Filippi Founder's Award at the Coral Ridge Yacht Club in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, March 19. Ms. Soviero served as Director of FGO's distinguished Young Artists' Program in the 1990s and from 2017-18. She also appeared with FGO many times, undertaking leading roles in La traviata, I pagliacci, Manon Lescaut, Madama Butterfly, and many others. 

     

    "We are honored to have Diana as an important part of the FGO family," said FGO CEO and General Director Susan T. Danis. "Her impact on our company and the next generation of opera singers is immense. This award is indeed a fitting tribute to her amazing artistry. "  

     

    The program includes lunch, live harp music, and performances by FGO Studio Artist, soprano Page Michels, and Miami soprano Chelsea Bonagura, a student of Ms. Soviero. Three sculptures created and donated by Dr. Stanley Goodman will be raffled, with all proceeds benefitting Florida Grand Opera. As a highlight of the afternoon, Ms. Soviero will speak about her extraordinary life in opera. 

     

    One of the most recognized American opera singers of the twentieth century, Ms. Soviero appeared in leading roles at the world's most famous opera houses, including The Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Teatro dell'Opera di Roma, Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, Vienna Staatsoper, Opéra national de Paris, Opéra de Paris Bastille, Hamburg Staatsoper, Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, Chicago Lyric Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and San Francisco Opera. Opera Magazine called her "One of the world's greatest singing actresses." Over her forty-year career span, Ms. Soviero was particularly renowned for her interpretation of Puccini heroines such as Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly, Mimì, and Musetta in La bohème, Liù in Turandot, and the title roles in Tosca, Manon Lescaut, and Suor Angelica. She is also esteemed for her work in the French repertoire, including Marquerite in Faust, Juliette in Roméo et Juliette, and the title role in Manon. Other critically acclaimed leading roles include Violetta in La traviata, Nedda in I pagliacci, and Margherita in Mefistofele. Her final stage appearance was as Mrs. De Rocher in Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking at Baltimore Opera. Her discography includes recordings on the Analekta, Telarc, and Chandos labels. 

     

    In the last decade, Ms. Soviero has dedicated herself to teaching singers. In addition to her large private vocal studio in New York City, she is a member of the voice faculty at the Mannes School of Music and gives masterclasses across the country. 

     

    Ms. Soviero has received many accolades for her work as a master teacher. These include the VERA (Voice Education Research Award) Award from The Voice Foundation,   Lifetime Achievement Awards from The Giulio Gari and Gerda Lissner Foundations, and the Anton Coppola Excellence in Arts Award. In November 2018, Eurostampa published a biography of her life,  entitled "Diana Soviero: the artistry and beyond," written by Professor Alina D. Zamfir. In January 2019, Opera Index, Inc. honored her at its Annual Distinguished Achievement Award Dinner.  

     

    "The Opera Society's members are looking forward with much anticipation to Ms. Soviero sharing memories of her distinguished life in opera," said Claire Crawford, President of the Opera Society and Chair of the Diva Luncheon. 

     

    The luncheon is open to all and takes place on Saturday, March 19, 2022, 11:30 am, at the Coral Ridge Yacht Club in Fort Lauderdale. All proceeds benefit Florida Grand Opera, a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization. Tickets are available for $100 per person. Contact Maria Salgado at mariasalgado@me.com or visit www.theoperasociety.org for reservations. 

  • Susan T. Danis joins the stars
    01/07/2022

    Susan T. Danis joins the roster of stars on "Fred Plotkin on Fridays"

    Opera expert and broadcaster Fred Plotkin, author of the popular Operavore blog, invited Florida Grand Opera CEO and General Director Susan T. Danis to join the ranks of his star-studded galaxy of guests.  When the pandemic hit, Plotkin leveraged his connections to create an hourlong interview show on Zoom, streaming live every Friday on Idagio, YouTube, and Vimeo. 

    In the January 7, 2022 broadcast, Danis and Plotkin discuss everything from Miami traffic to noted mutual connections to FGO's adventurous 80th Anniversary Season. 

    The interview can be seen here

  • FGO Studio Artist Alumni Key'Mon Murrah Wins a Sullivan Foundation Award
    11/19/2021

    2020-2021 Studio Artist, countertenor Key’Mon Murrah,has won a prestigious Sullivan Foundation Award. 

  • Florida Grand Opera joins the Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce
    11/18/2021

     

    On September 15, 2021, FGO proudly joined the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce.
     

    In the photo (left to right), Victor Kendall, FGO Chief Advancement Officer. Susan T. Danis, FGO General Director, and CEO. Melissa Milroy, Chair Elect of the Chamber. Stephanie Zeverino, Chair of the Trustees ,Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce.

     

  • Road to Reopening: FGO CEO Susan T. Danis on Post-Pandemic Plans
    11/16/2021
    Road To Reopening: Florida Grand Opera CEO Susan T. Danis On Post-Pandemic Plans

    Road To Reopening: Florida Grand Opera CEO Susan T. Danis On Post-Pandemic Plans
     

    The Opera's main stage season begins in January 2022.
     

    by Alan Henry Sep. 3, 2021  for BroadwayWorld.com
     

    BroadwayWorld is checking in with theaters around the country as they prepare to reopen this summer. Next in our series we check in with Florida Grand Opera's General Director and CEO Susan T. Danis.

     

  • FGO Announces 80th Anniversary Season
    11/17/2021
    Florida Grand Opera Announces 80th Anniversary Season

    Florida Grand Opera Announces 80th Anniversary Season

     

    The season will open in January 2022 with A Streetcar Named Desire.
    by Stephi Wild Jul. 20, 2021 for BroadwayWorld.com 

 

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