Tickets on Sale Now for 75th-Anniversary Gala Performance at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25th, in Chapman Hall at Tulsa Performing Arts Center
Classic Opera Set in Ancient Egypt Tells Story of Torn Allegiances and Forbidden Love Between an Enslaved Ethiopian Princess and a Military Commander of Her Egyptian Captors
TULSA, Okla. (Feb. 1, 2023) – Tickets are on sale now for Tulsa Opera’s 75th-anniversary gala concert production of the classic grand opera Aïda on a stage filled with internationally renowned singers and a chorus of 70 local singers with a live orchestra. The performance is set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25th, in Chapman Hall at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center.
“Our production of Aïda will fill the theater with a stirring performance of one of the world’s most recognized dramatic operas,” said Ken McConnell, Tulsa Opera general director and chief executive officer. “Composer Giuseppe Verdi’s Aïda is a Tulsa favorite and, for good reason, it is frequently performed to audience ovations around the world. We last performed this opera in 2013; our company’s 75th anniversary makes for a perfect time to bring it back to the Tulsa stage.”
Tulsa Opera’s production of Aïda brings together two local choruses and the company’s own orchestra to a stage graced by singers who have performed to accolades in the most prestigious opera stages in the United States and around the world.
“We are delighted to bring together a cast that can really deliver the romance, the conflict, the heartbreak and the tragedy of this thunderous love story set in ancient Egypt,” said Tulsa Opera Artistic Director Aaron Beck.
“Tulsa audiences will recognize two performers from our popular ‘baseball Rigoletto’ at ONEOK Field in 2020. And with our casting of the princess Aïda and her love interest Radamès, it turns out that we are reuniting on stage two singers who unexpectedly performed those same roles opposite each other – to rave reviews – at The Metropolitan Opera in New York when there was a last-minute cast change one night in December. This should be exciting to see,” Beck said.
“Our performers each have taken different paths to where they are today as recognized opera stars. Some don’t fit the mold of what most people think of when they picture an opera singer, or even an opera audience. Some have overcome hardships, and even quit singing for years, to get where they are today. They have rich life stories that infuse their performances. We welcome these talented performers here to help mark Tulsa Opera’s 75th year,” Beck said.
Tickets are available for purchase from the Tulsa Performing Arts Center box office and website or by calling the Tulsa Opera Ticket Office at 918-582-3133. Ticket prices range from $65 to $150.
- 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25th, in Chapman Music Hall at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center
- A concert production of “Aida” where the staged is filled – with costumed principal performers and newly commissioned scenic projections, a large chorus and the full Tulsa Opera Orchestra
- Chorus of 70 singers – combination of the Tulsa Opera Chorus and the Tulsa Opera Signature Chorale
- Performed in Italian with English “supertitles”
- Run time is two hours and 40 minutes, which includes one 20-minute intermission
Aïda, the Ethiopian princess – Noted Verdi soprano Michelle Bradley performs the title role of the Ethiopian Princess Aïda who is enslaved by her Egyptian captors. Bradley most recently performed as Aïda at The Metropolitan Opera in New York. She had been scheduled to take that spot in The Met’s production early this year, but she began performing the role in December when another performer dropped out after the first performance.
On her early years: “I tried to be Whitney Houston. I loved her smile. How she carried herself…. Leontyne Price is the reason I fell in love with opera. When I heard that album, I knew what I wanted to do.”
On her opera career when, in her early 30s, she accepted a job as a church music director in Houston: “I hadn’t really done anything of note…. My thinking was that I had given it everything I could and if this didn’t work out, it was probably a sign that I might need to go on with my life…. As soon as I accepted that job, the [Metropolitan Opera] called….” – Michelle Bradley in Opera Wire
Radamès, the Egyptian military commander – Aida’s beloved, Radamès, is sung by tenor Limmie Pulliam, who in December made his Metropolitan Opera debut in that same role. He became the first Black singer to perform Radamès at the Met when in December he filled in for a performer who cancelled.
On the 12-year break he took from singing: “I became a bit disheartened with the [opera] industry. There were so many requirements that were heaped upon artists to not only sound good, but they wanted you to, you know, to look a certain way. So it was difficult for an artist of size to have much career advancement. And I’d always made myself a promise that if it ever stopped being fun, I would move on to do something else. And so I kept that promise to myself, and I moved on.
“I worked in collections and used my language skills I had acquired in studying opera to do foreign-language calls for collection agencies. I did that for a bit. And then I ended up in the security industry working for a large concert producer before starting my own firm and providing security services.” – Limmie Pulliam on NPR
On his reintroduction to singing in 2007 at age 31 when he was working as a field organizer for the Obama campaign in his home state of Missouri when he was convinced to fill in for someone who failed to show up to a campaign event to sing the national anthem: “I sang at the event and ended up singing at several other events. And in doing so, I noticed some very interesting changes in my voice. It had taken on a more mature, burnished quality. And it had grown substantially in size. And it really piqued my interest as to the type of repertoire I could possibly sing with this new instrument.
“It took a good three years or so before that first staged operatic engagement came, and it came because I was posting clips of my singing on YouTube and other platforms and just sharing wherever I could, and reaching out to friends who were still in the industry and letting them know I was back and basically trying to sing for anyone who would hear me.” – Limmie Pulliam in The New York Times article on his recent debut performances at The Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall
Amneris, the daughter of the Egyptian king – Triple Grammy-winning mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung sings the role of the Egyptian princess whose enslaved servant is Aida. Her character loves Radamès, though he secretly holds feelings only for Aïda. Among DeYoung’s accomplishments, her alma mater California State University at Northridge honored her with a Doctorate in Fine Arts for her contributions to the music industry.
Tulsa Opera’s Aïda features two familiar voices from the company’s popular “baseball Rigoletto” a “pandemic performance” staged in October 2020 at ONEOK Field. The production was hailed as “as the operatic equivalent of an inside-the-park home run” by the Tulsa World’s James Watts.
High Priest Ramfis – Morris Robinson, bass, performed as Sparafucile in Tulsa Opera’s “baseball Rigoletto.” Robinson was the first Black opera artist to sign with a major classical record label and has been heard in opera houses from La Scala to the Metropolitan Opera to the Sydney Opera House.
“A lot of the purists, they don’t believe my story. They don’t believe it until they witness it themselves.”
“At a young age, from a family and culture that reveres singing, Robinson aspired to be a drummer instead. He ignored college music scholarships and conservatory programs for a free-ride to play football at a military college. Afterward, bypassing all thought of studying music at grad school, he worked for a Fortune 500 company in regional sales of data storage.
“At 30, in finally attempting to sing professionally, he tried out for the chorus of Aïda at the Boston Lyric Opera, the biggest company in New England. A week later, the music director handed him music for a solo role, accompanied by a plea: ‘Please don’t screw it up.’ – The Los Angeles Times
Amonasro – Todd Thomas, baritone, performed the title character in “baseball Rigoletto.” He has performed other leading Verdi roles with opera companies throughout the world.
High Priestess – Victoria Lawal, soprano, is a Nigerian-American performer who has starred in world premieres commissioned by LA Opera and The Glimmerglass Festival. Besides performing, Lawal, who grew up in Houston, is engaged in literary and advocacy projects.
“This path has not been easy. I have been met with a lot of resistance as a Black Femme artist. I have been suppressed, as many of us have, by an art form that was not built with equity in mind. In the Operatic world, many of the opportunities and connections deemed necessary for a career are not made accessible to those from communities where the arts are not valued. I believe it is crucial to utilize any platform we have as artists in the professional sector to uplift those around us.” – Victoria Lawal in Voyage LA Magazine