Want a delightfully fun evening? Wolf Trap Opera takes a fresh look at L’Opera Seria, which until recently, was a little known classical opera, using their highly talented and accomplished, young performers. This second of WTO’s summer triumvirate of operas and last one at the Barns, begins on Friday, July 15, with additional performances on July 17, 20, and 23. I previously discussed this production in my blog post of March 17:
“L’Opera Seria (1769) by Bohemian composer Florian Gassmann (b.1729-d.1774) has played to recent acclaim in Europe according to Ms. Witman [WTO Director], though he is apparently better known for his well-regarded symphonies and chamber music. A fall from a carriage led to his untimely death. I read that the opera is a satire on the state of opera seria in his day (opera seria is defined in Wikipedia as an Italian musical term which refers to the noble and “serious” style of Italian opera that predominated in Europe from 1710 to 1770). I am not familiar with this opera or the composer’s work, but given that the lead sopranos are named Smirky, Out-of-Tune, and Purple-Face, I am willing to venture that it is a comedy. And I am willing to bet that the young performers will extract every ounce of enjoyment from it for your evening’s pleasure.”
I have done a little more reading, and yes, it is a comedy, one where the composer skewers many of the players in the popular opera community of his day for their vanities. I find this a little surprising. Gassman was very well known in his day and definitely part of the establishment of his era. I also find it pleasing in that it is evidence of his integrity and adherence to principles. He was eventually appointed Court Composer by Emperor Joseph II of Austria, enjoying a good deal of prestige and respect. As an aside, he was responsible for the appointment of a student of his as his successor, Antonio Salieri, Mozart’s old friend. Gassman is credited with breaking with traditional Italian Opera and furthering Christoph Gluck’s progressive style of the musical drama and for imaginative use of the orchestra. If you go or if you have a copy already, read “A Portrait of the Composer,” on pages 21-22 in the WTO Summer Program Brochure, to see how an expert musicologist like Christoph-Hellmut Mahling is able to discuss the backgrounds of composers and their operas; I am impressed. Director Matthew Ozawa and the creative team have been challenged to reduce a roughly four-hour opera into a three-hour condensed version while remaining true to the composer’s intent and musical composition and the librettist’s (Calzabigi) script. I am very much looking forward to the enjoying the fruits of their efforts.
principal characters and performers in order of appearance,
Falito (Failure, the impresario) – Richard Ollarsaba: bass-baritone; Bachelor of Music from Cleveland Institute of Music; Master of Music from University of North Carolina; just completed a residency at the Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at the Lyric Opera of Chicago; played roles in nine operas thus far, many with the LOC.
Delirio (Raving, the librettist) – Kihun Yoon: baritone; Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Han Yang University in South Korea; also a member of Los Angeles Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program; appeared in eight operas thus far.
Sospiro (Sigh, the composer) – Jonas Hacker: tenor; Bachelor’s degree from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Master’s degree from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor; also a Resident Artist at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia; appeared in ten operas thus far.
Stonatrilla (Out-of-Tune, the prima donna) – Clarissa Lyons; soprano; Bachelor of Arts from University of California, Berkeley and Master’s degrees from The Manhattan School of Music and Bard College Conservatory; in her first year of The Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program; appeared in four operas thus far.
Smorfiosa (Smirky, the seconda prima donna) – Mane Galoyan; soprano; Bachelor’s degree from the Yerevan State Komitas Conservatory of Armenia; a member of the Houston Grand Opera; appeared in three operas thus far.
Ritornello (Refrain, the primo musico): Alastair Kent; tenor; Bachelor of Music from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts; also a Resident Artist at the Vocal Academy of Arts in Philadelphia; appeared in six operas already.
Porporina (Purple Face, secondo uomo): Amy Owens; soprano; she holds degrees from Brigham Young University and Rice University; a former Wolf Trap Studio Artist who appeared in last year’s The Ghost of Versaille; appeared in two operas already and also sang Mater Gloriosa in Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, to be released as a commercial recording.
More complete biographical information and their photos of the performers can be found here. My counts of operas appeared in are estimates from reading the bios and are likely not completely accurate. My purpose in including bio information is to impress on my readers that these young artists are already accomplished, professional artists. All of these singers performed in the recent Aria Jukebox concert; see my blog post of June 28 for comments. You will hear some outstanding performances by talented people, excellent value for your entertainment dollar.
ticket info as of July 4
I don’t know for sure that L’Opera Seria is going to be a sellout, but the better seats are in short supply; thus, I recommend buying your tickets as soon as you can:
July 15 – tickets $36-78; 164 seats left, limited prime seats
July 17 – tickets $48-88; six seats left with full view
July 20 – tickets $32-52; 118 seats overall, but limited prime seats; best value day
July 23 – tickets $36-78; 144 seats, but again limited prime seats
Tickets can be purchased online here, http://www.wolftrap.org/opera.aspx. As noted above, this is a typical length opera of three hours with two intermissions. Plan your bathroom breaks accordingly
hints for the Barns
By large opera house standards all the seats in the Barns are close to the stage. Rows P, Q, and R have reduced prices and appear to me to be the cheap seats with good views. Other cheap seats can have partially obstructed view or the inability to view subtitles; these are well marked as such when making ticking selections online.
The seats on the floor are not tiered and so you risk having partially obstructed view if a person taller than you sits in front of you. The prime balcony seats are the same price as the prime orchestra seats, but they are tiered which might be an advantage. The front row of the balcony seats have a large wooden rail topping the balcony fence that I could see over to have full view of the stage if sitting upright, but not if slouching; the rows behind the front balcony row might be better for shorter folks. Each of two paths to the seats in the balony ends with a support beam that makes some seats partially obstructed view. They are small but there. Again, the website makes this clear.
The snacks and the beverages in the dining room are varied and good, but can be pricey; see menu here. Make sure you know the cost before ordering. But any splurge here is largely reimbursed by the free parking and the relatively easy egress after the performance.
most important hint
Besides buy your ticket now, the most important hint is don’t forget the pre-Opera talk held one hour before the performance in the Center for Education next to the theater!!! I am always glad that I attended the pre-show talk.