Tulsa Opera is closing out its 65th season in grand fashion with a production of Verdi’s “Aida” that is at once sumptuously grand and surprisingly, searingly personal.
Few places and times inspire artists to such heights of excess as ancient Egypt – all that space, all that wealth, all those pyramids, all those enigmas. Tulsa Opera’s production certainly has its epic aspects, with more than 100 singers, supers, dancers and musicians on stage for the Triumphal March of Act Two, and gigantic set pieces that loom impassively over the action.
But director Stanley M. Garner and his fine cast understand that what is truly epic about “Aida” is its emotional content – the very personal dilemmas of a few people in extraordinary circumstances. Without that, “Aida” can simply be pomp without any circumstance.
That was not the case at Saturday’s opening night performance at the Tulsa PAC. From start to finish, this “Aida” was a winner, filled with beautiful, emotive singing, accompanied by an orchestral performance that was sumptuous and dynamic, all working together to bring forth every possible nuance in Verdi’s music.
For example, as Amneris, the Egyptian princess who has everything except the man with whom she’s infatuated, Dana Beth Miller makes every mercurial mood change palpable.
From Amneris’ craftiness at drawing out why her slave Aida is so distraught, then exulting in that knowledge, or from her desperate pleading Radames to save himself from the judgment he faces to her fury at being scorned yet again, Miller embodied this character so completely, so believably, that one hardly needed the surtitles to know exactly what Amneris was thinking and feeling.
And it was all expressed in a voice of great, yet precisely wielded power, able to cut through the densest ensembles.
Adrienne Danrich’s Aida was equally good – her first scene seemed to be a bit underpowered, but as the evening unfolded, so did Danrich’s voice, growing more nuanced and focused. She was especially strong in Act Three, with its elegiac “O patria mia,” the harsh dialogue with her father, and her duet with Brian Landry as Radames, “Pur ti riveggo, mia dolce Aida,” which culminated with Danrich floating the final high note perfectly.
Landry, in his debut as Radames, was especially good in the more forceful scenes – the dreams of military glory, the defiance in the face of death, even in his efforts to convince Aida to escape with him, music that allowed his muscular, exuberant tenor to have free rein.
On the other hand, his performance of the ruminative aria “Celeste Aida” had all the notes in place, but the tone was not as delicate, as tender – as “lovestruck,” if you will – as might be expected. It was a rare moment when one of the singers was telling the audience what he was thinking, rather than showing it.
Peter Lindskoog brought a nicely nasty edge to Amonasro, Aida’s revenge-minded father, Harold Wilson’s resonant baritone made for a magisterial high priest Ramfis and Michael Ventura was a stately King of Egypt.
Phena Hackett gave a wonderfully ethereal voice to the High Priestess and Stefan Barber declaimed his message well.
Garner’s staging was deftly economical, even when there were a hundred or so people on stage.
Crowd scenes were arranged in artful stasis, to evoke the pictographs on ancient temple walls, while the more intimate scenes allowed the music to do the majority of the work.
Tulsa Opera artistic director Kostis Protopapas conducted the Tulsa Opera Orchestra in a most colorful and perfectly balanced performance, that featured standout moments by cellist Kari Caldwell, oboist Lise Glaser and bassoonist Carolyn Beck. Protopapas also prepared the Tulsa Opera Chorus, which gave its collective voice to the Triumphal March as well as the more enigmatic music of the Temple of Vulcan scene.
Ma Cong choreographed the dances – a stately religious display for Act One, a fast-paced whirl of celebration for Act Two, all performed by dancers of Tulsa Ballet II.
Mark Stanley created the lighting design that bathed the sets and costumes, on loan from New Orleans Opera, with a bronze glow.
“Aida” continues with performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Tulsa PAC.
For tickets: 918-596-7111, tulsaworld.com/mytix
Photo: Adrienne Danrich sings the title role in Tulsa Opera’s production of “Aida,” at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. The opera has two more performances. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
An evening of family tradition, elegance and beauty awaits those attending the 53rd annual Tulsa Opera Debutante and Squire Ball on Saturday at Southern Hills Country Club.
Calling it a “once in a lifetime experience,” Kristen Kenneally, who is ball co-chairwoman with Cindy Wheeler, noted, “This is the most elegant family event in Tulsa before these young adults depart for college.”
“Memories like none other are made at the Tulsa Opera Ball, and they last a lifetime,” Wheeler said. “It truly is a family affair where parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and family friends take part in this important stepping stone in the lives of the high school seniors whose parents are Tulsa Opera supporters.”
“This is so much more than just a series of parties and activities,” Kenneally said. “The debutantes and squires learn to waltz, have lessons in etiquette and are exposed to arts, particularly opera.”
The evening’s entertainment will be provided by SquadLive from Norman.
Wheeler and Kenneally’s children – Margaux Wheeler and Dominic Kenneally – will be among those presented.
Ball patrons are Mollie Williford, and Mark and Cinda Marra.
The ball culminates a six-months-long journey of parties and preparation. These included a welcome party at The Summit Club with entertainment by Tulsa Opera; a bowling party at the downtown Dust Bowl; a video scavenger hunt at Girouard Vines Urban Winery; and a fathers-and-squires and mother-and-debs dinner hosted by Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse. They also attended Tulsa Opera’s “The Most Happy Fella” and were the guests of the Eric Davis family for Cirque du Soleil at the BOK Center.
Bruce G. Weber Jewelry will continue its tradition of presenting each of the debutantes with a pearl necklace, which will be worn at the ball. Each squire will wear engraved cuff links courtesy of Moody’s Fine Jewelry.
Debutantes and squires, and their parents include: Madeleine Auffenberg, daughter of Jan and Dan Auffenberg; Taylor Davis, daughter of Tricia and Eric Davis; Aubrey Downing, daughter of Kim and David Downing; Connor Doyle, son of Karlyn and Kevin Doyle; Hannah Frizzell, daughter of Kelly and Greg Frizzell; Katie Girouard, daughter of Jan and Chris Girouard; Abby Jordan, daughter of Shawn and Patrick Jordan; Dominic Kenneally, son of Kristen and Timothy Kenneally.
Also, Lauren Langholz, daughter of Alyson and Larry Langholz; Matthew Marra, son of Cinda and Mark Marra; Grant Murphy, son of Cheryl and Steve Murphy; Philipp Piplits, son of Barbara and Martin Piplits; Reid Stinson, son of Sherry and Charlie Stinson; Cameron Taylor, son of Lee and Dr. Jordan Taylor; Richard Allen Williford II, son of Louise Williford and Richard Allen Williford Jr.; and Margaux Wheeler, daughter of Cindy and Larry Wheeler.
Schools represented at the Tulsa Opera Ball this year include Bishop Kelley, Booker T. Washington, Cascia Hall, Holland Hall, Memorial and home school.
Tickets are still available for the ball by calling Tulsa Opera, 918-582-4035.
Photo: Lauren Langholz (left), Hannah Frizzell, Aubrey Downing and Margaux Wheeler are among the debutantes attending the 53rd Tulsa Opera Ball on Saturday at Southern Hills Country Club. ERVING PHOTOGRAPHY / Courtesy
Sherrill Milnes will enlighten singers, audience in connection with the Crescendo Music Awards
World renowned opera baritone Sherrill Milnes will conduct a master class for young professional singers before a live audience on Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 2 pm at the Meinig Recital Hall in the Lorton Performance Center at the University of Tulsa. The class is presented as part of the Rotary Club of Tulsa’s 15th Annual International Crescendo Music Awards and in cooperation with Tulsa Opera. Both singers and audience members will benefit as Mr. Milnes shares valuable insight on vocal expression and explores the unique qualities of performance that make for world class professional vocal careers. Audience members will also have the opportunity to meet Mr. Milnes during class intermission.
A Five-time Grammy® nominated, three-time Grammy® winner and 2008 Opera News Award winner, Milnes is internationally recognized as the leading Verdi Baritone of his time. A world renowned opera star who sang for over four decades, Milnes has conquered all of the great opera capitals of the world, including the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; La Scala, Milan; Berlin’s Deutsche Opera; the Paris Opera; Buenos Aires’ famed Teatro Colon; the Liceu in Barcelona; the Bavarian State Opera in Munich; the Salzburg Festival; the Hamburg Opera; and Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre. Milnes is Commendatore of the Italian Republic and a Chevalier of the French Republic and was inducted into the Lincoln Academy, the highest honor the State of Illinois can bestow. He has had the honor of performing for every United States President since Gerald Ford.
Milnes has worked extensively with young singers throughout his career. He has led master classes at the Juilliard and Manhattan Schools in New York, at most major universities throughout the country and at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. More extensive teaching has been done in education institutions around the world including the Yale University School of Music; Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow; the Northern Royal College of music in Manchester, England where he is also a fellow; the Israel Vocal Arts Institute in Tel Aviv; Montreal; Puerto Rico; and the International Institute of Vocal Arts in Italy. The legendary artist and educator is now Distinguished Professor of Music Emeritus from Northwestern University and continues to teach and judge vocal competitions around the world. Having founded the VOICExperience Foundation with his wife soprano Maria Zouves, they have mentored singers through training programs and built opera audiences throughout the nation, most recently creating the Savannah Voice Festival, launching in the summer of 2013.
The event will feature performances by Tulsa Opera Studio Artists and other talented young artists. Doors open at 2:00 pm with class beginning at 2:15 pm. Q & A during Intermission. Class runs 2.5 to 3 hours. There is no cost to attend.
This Master Class is made possible by a generous gift from Scott and Margee Filstrup, and is presented by the Rotary Club of Tulsa International Crescendo Music Awards; Joseph A. Bias, Founder; and Tulsa Opera.
Read why Tulsa Opera’s production of The Most Happy Fella is a must see!
Frank Loesser’s The Most Happy Fella seemed an obvious choice as our featured American work this season. Often referred to as “the most operatic work ever written for the Broadway stage,” the complexity of the production and the emphasis on vocal quality set it apart from other Broadway works, making it a natural fit for adventurous opera companies like Tulsa Opera.
Read the article featured in the February issue of Intermission Magazine and learn more about this rare revival of a major work by Frank Loesser, one of Broadway’s most iconic composers. You’ll understand why Tulsa Opera’s production of The Most Happy Fella is a must see.
The current incarnation of this ensemble, a project of Tulsa Opera’s education and outreach programs, will reprise this work by Hans Krasa with two performances, Sunday and Jan. 20.
“This year is also the 70th anniversary of the opera itself,” said Aaron Beck, Tulsa Opera’s director of education and outreach. “It’s such a historically significant piece, and one that people continue to relate to, that it seemed the logical thing to perform it for our 15th anniversary.”
The production will feature the 35 members of the Tulsa Youth Opera, along with baritone Tim Petty as Brundibar. Stanley M. Garner, who has directed a number of Tulsa Opera productions including its 2011 “Norma,” is the stage director. Beck will conduct the performance. Read the Tulsa World article by James D. Watts.
Memories made at the Tulsa Opera Debutante and Squire Ball are ones that bring smiles and last a lifetime.
The 53rd annual ball, which will be held April 6 at Southern Hills Country Club, will be another evening of family tradition, elegance and beauty.
Ball co-chairwomen Cindy Wheeler and Kristen Kenneally say they envision a family event where parents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, as well as grandparents can take part in the occasion, which is marked by formal presentation of the debutantes and squires, a group of high school seniors whose parents are Tulsa Opera supporters.
“This is the most elegant family event in Tulsa before these young adults depart for college,” Wheeler and Kenneally agreed. Read the Tulsa World article by Danna Sue Walker.
A special pre-performance event will bring the audience closer to the fascinating story behind Dead Man Walking. Hear perspectives from the composer of the opera, Jake Heggie, at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24 in the Center for Creativity on Tulsa Community College’s Metro Campus. Kostis Protopapas, artistic director for Tulsa Opera, will host this “Inside Composer’s Studio” event. Heggie will take you behind the scenes of his contemporary American drama that tells the true story of a woman’s journey to help a convicted murderer find his way to truth and redemptive love.
This event is free and open to the public.
“Often we think of opera as something of or about the past. No work challenges that notion more than Dead Man Walking does. It is a piece that stares a difficult issue straight in the eye, and tells a heartwrenching story of the here and now. No period costumes, chandeliers, star-crossed lovers or tunes from your “Favorite Arias” compilation here. Instead, a story set in 1980s Louisiana, a brutal double-murder, a prisoner, the anguished parents of the victims, and one woman thrust into the center of one of the most explosive and complex moral issues of ontemporary America: capital punishment. This Oklahoma premiere is a compelling story from contemporary America, told in quintessentially American musical style.”
Sister Helen Prejean will discuss issues of capital punishment at The University of Tulsa’s Lorton Performance Center on February 21 at 6 p.m. Sister Helen’s visit to Tulsa is in support of Tulsa Opera’s production Dead Man Walking, opening February 25. The lecture, a collaborative effort of the TU College of Law and Tulsa Opera, is free and open to the public. Read more about the event at the University of Tulsa School of Law’s website.
The New Yorker magazine critic Alex Ross called Tulsa Opera “one of the sturdier and more adventurous organizations in its class.” He commented on Tulsa Opera’s history of supporting rising talent and the importance of regional opera companies in advancing this art form. Read the New Yorker article. The New Yorker article was so noteworthy the Tulsa World included a write up of the review. Read the Tulsa World article by James D. Watts.