Portland Opera 50th Anniversary

2014/15 Season Features Five Productions New to Portland:

Die Fledermaus, Carmen, Show Boat, The Rake’s Progress and The Elixir of Love

“We at Portland Opera have so much to celebrate in our 50th Anniversary Season and no one knows better how to orchestrate festivities than an opera company,” said General Director Christopher Mattaliano, “Our 2014/15 Season represents all that is best in opera and musical theater: compelling stories of comedy, drama, and romance told through great music; outstanding performers led by internationally renowned conductors and directors; splendid scenery and captivating costumes in five productions that are new to Portland.”

“We begin with a salute to our heritage: Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus was Portland Opera’s first production in 1964, so we’ve chosen it to launch the 50th Anniversary Season. Our final production of 2014/15, Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love, represents the Portland Opera of today and tomorrow—performed in the intimate Newmark Theatre and showcasing the company’s rising young stars, the Resident Artists. In between, there’s an all-time favorite in Carmen, America’s most majestic musical in Show Boat, and a contemporary classic in The Rake’s Progress, staged in David Hockney’s legendary designs.

“Our Board of Directors deserves thanks for endorsing this extraordinary season,” Mattaliano continued. “To offer five productions of such scope during a time when so many other companies around the country are cutting back is a testament to their faith in our supporters and our audiences. I also want to salute my predecessors, Henry Holt, Herbert Weiskopf, Stefan Minde and Robert Bailey, each of whom significantly raised the company’s aspirations and increased its artistic standards. I’m honored to serve as Portland Opera’s fifth general director and look forward with keen anticipation to guiding the company into its sixth decade.

DIE FLEDERMAUS   Johann Strauss II

Each performance to feature surprise guest stars

On December 11, 1964 in the Madison High School auditorium, conductor Henry Holt gave the downbeat for Die Fledermaus, launching Portland Opera’s inaugural production. This champagne-fueled operetta from 1874 is the magnum opus of Johann Strauss II, the “Waltz King” whose works include “The Blue Danube” and “Tales from the Vienna Woods,” along with such fantastically successful stage works as The Gypsy Baron, A Night in Venice, and Die Fledermaus.

When wine, women and song unite at Prince Orlofsky’s masked ball, elaborate plots are uncorked and romantic assignations go astray. At the epicenter of it all is Gabriel von Eisenstein, disguised as suave “Monsieur Renard” and blissfully unaware that the piquant Hungarian countess he is wooing is actually his own wife, Rosalinde. By daybreak the party guests have all ended up at the city jail, where the von Eisensteins find their passion for each other rekindled and everyone is free to leave…after a final chorus in honor of champagne, of course.

In addition to honoring Portland Opera’s artistic heritage, Die Fledermaus will celebrate the distinctive quality of Portland today. At every performance, the masked ball will feature surprise PDX-based guest stars, entertaining the audience with their special and often unexpected talents.

Soprano MARY DUNLEAVY and baritone DANIEL BELCHER return as Rosalinde and Gabriel von Eisenstein. They are joined by SUSANNAH BILLER as Adele, JENNIFER RIVERA as Prince Orlofsky, and former Resident Artist ANDRÉ CHIANG as Doctor Falke. Portland Opera Music Director George Manahan conducts; CHAS RADER-SHIEBER, who made his Portland Opera debut with Rinaldo in 2013, directs.

Keller Auditorium

November 7, 9, 13 & 15, 2014

CARMEN   Georges Bizet

Portland favorite Sandra Piques Eddy returns in the title role

With its extraordinary popularity today, it is hard to realize just how revolutionary Carmen was when it premiered in 1875. Bizet’s brilliant score followed none of the rules of the day, breaking musical and theatrical boundaries of every sort. The title character was an exotic gypsy who dominated every man she encountered, a temptress who could be tamed only by death. To audiences and critics of the time she was “the very incarnation of vice,” outlined in music that was “dull and obscure.”

Today Carmen is seen as the epitome of opera. Famous stagings of it abound, theatrical and film versions of it are enormously popular, and its music has been featured in countless commercials, advertisements, and movies.

Those who have successfully conquered the title role are legendary and mezzo-soprano SANDRA PIQUES EDDY is quickly becoming part of this elite group: “There have been many great Carmens through the years; Marilyn Horne, Agnes Baltsa, Tatiana Troyanos, to name a few. Sandra Piques Eddy deserves to be placed alongside those legends.” (Opera Online) “A wonderful singing actress whose Carmen used her burgundy rich low register as a powerful tool of seduction.” (Chicago Tribune). 

The cast also features soprano and former Resident Artist JENNIFER FORNI as Micaëla, tenor BRIAN JAGDE as Don José and baritone ERIC GREENE as Escamillo. The production is directed by ERIC EINHORN and conducted by GEORGE MANAHAN, Portland Opera’s Music Director.

Keller Auditorium
February 6, 8, 10, 12 & 14, 2015

SHOW BOAT   Music by Jerome Kern    Words and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Portland premiere of the award-winning Hal Prince version 

Show Boat revolutionized the American musical theater, thanks to its epic story and musical sophistication. This saga of three romances that blossom aboard a Mississippi River show boat reflected the true face of America as it was…and still is today, more than 80 years later. Love tragic and triumphant. The joys and challenges of marriage and parenthood. Struggles against prejudice, racism and economic injustice.

Cap’n Andy Hawks loses his leading lady with the revelation that she is of mixed-race parentage. Despite his wife’s objections to “life upon the wicked stage,” he turns their daughter Magnolia into his new star. The impressionable young woman soon meets Gaylord Ravenal, a riverboat rake who quickly progresses from her onstage acting partner to husband and father of their child. Snags soon scuttle their happiness, however, and it takes a two-decade journey to reunite the three generations on their beloved show boat, with youngest family member Kim now in the starring role.

Jerome Kern’s score teems with powerful choruses, romantic duets and masterful songs, including “Bill,” “Make Believe,” “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man,” and above all, “Ol’ Man River.”

The Portland Opera production utilizes the version premiered in 1994 by director HAL PRINCE, which The New York Times described as a “gloriously bold re-examination of the indestructible classic…a sweeping panorama that embraces four decades of American history, fashion and mores. Prince’s acute social conscience has prompted him, whenever and wherever possible, to emphasize the racial rift that runs the length of the musical like a fault line in an earthquake zone.”

Baritone LIAM BONNER portrays Gaylord Ravenal and ANGELA RENEE SIMPSON plays the role of Queenie. HAL FRANCE, who made his Portland Opera debut with Turandot in 2003, returns to conduct.

Keller Auditorium

May 1, 3, 5, 7 & 9, 2015

THE RAKE’S PROGRESS   Igor Stravinsky

Portland Opera premiere

Scenery & costumes designed by David Hockney

Concurrent Hockney exhibit at the Portland Art Musuem

Igor Stravinsky surprised and delighted the musical world in 1951 with his only full-length opera, which features a plot suggested by William Hogarth’s eight-painting chronicle, “A Rake’s Progress.” Stravinsky’s musical inspiration comes from Mozart, with his opera blending raucous comedy with life-and-death drama á la Don Giovanni. Arias, duets and ensembles are accompanied by a nimble neo-classical orchestra displaying Stravinsky’s celebrated wit and spiky humor.

Tom Rakewell renounces a life in the country with his fiancée, Anne Trulove, in favor of a Faustian bargain with Nick Shadow. Shadow leads the young man first to riches and then to ruin in the dissolute world of London’s pleasure parlors. Tom saves his soul in a game of chance, but is condemned to a madhouse, where Anne sings him to sleep before he dies. The principal characters sing the moral of the tale:  “For idle hearts and hands and minds, the Devil finds a work to do.”

In 1975, artist David Hockney created now-legendary scenic and costume designs for The Rake’s Progress at England’s Glyndebourne Festival. Interpreting Hogarth’s visual world through his own playful sensibilities, Hockney brought the opera’s time and place to exuberant life. The Rake’s Progress will be complemented by the Portland Art Museum’s own David Hockney exhibit, giving audiences the chance to explore the stimulating world where great opera intersects great visual art.

Tenor JONATHAN BOYD returns as Tom Rakewell. He is joined by soprano MAUREEN MCKAY as Anne Trulove, Portland’s own ANGELA NIEDERLOH as Baba the Turk, and DAVID PITTSINGER as Nick Shadow. Conductor ARI PELTO and director ROY RALLO each return to Portland Opera with this production.

Keller Auditorium

June 11, 12 & 14, 2015

THE ELIXIR OF LOVE   Gaetano Donizetti
Production new to Portland Showcases Portland Opera Resident Artists

The final production in the 50th anniversary season, Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love, features the company’s Resident Artists and will be staged in the intimate, 880-seat Newmark Theatre. The Elixir of Love is the company’s seventh chamber opera to be performed there; many performances of previous productions there have sold out.

During a career cut tragically short by his early death, Donizetti composed more than 70 operas, with masterpieces ranging from the profoundly tragic, such as Anna Bolena and Lucia di Lammermoor, to high-spirited comedies such as The Daughter of the Regiment and Don Pasquale. The Elixir of Love, composed in 1832, is his most warm-hearted creation, notable for its charming characters, its melodic grace, and the poignant tenor aria “Una furtive lagrima.”

As the opera begins, Nemorino has been unlucky in love. High and mighty Adina laughs off his every attempt to strike up a romance with her, especially after handsome Sergeant Belcore rides into town. Desperate, Nemorino enlists in Belcore’s battalion and invests his bonus in a large dose of Doctor Dulcamara’s “Elixir of Love.” Giddy with hope (and wine), Nemorino suddenly seems younger, handsomer, and richer to all the village girls. Even Adina starts responding to his home-spun charms, so she packs Belcore off to conquer other hearts and pledges her own to Nemorino.

The Elixir of Love will be set in the American Wild West, a delightfully inventive and uniquely appropriate locale for the action. The stage director will be NED CANTY, who made his Portland debut with La Calisto in 2009. The scenic designer is CURT ENDERLE, who also designed La Calisto. The costumes are designed by CHRISTIANNE MYERS.

Newmark Theatre

July 17, 19, 23, 25 & 30; August 1, 2015


Five-show subscription packages to the 2014/15 Season begin at just $170 and are now on sale. Subscriptions guarantee Portland Opera patrons the best available seating, priority for seating change requests, no-fee ticket exchanges, and many other subscriber benefits.

Subscription packages can be purchased:

  • By Phone:  503-241-1802 or 866-739-6737  |  Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm
  • Online:  PortlandOpera.org

About The Author: Editor