From “Salome” to “The Barber of Seville,” this season has a diverse audience in mind
By Kai Oliver-Kurtin | Downtown News
The San Diego Opera opened its 2012 international season on Jan. 28 with “Salome,” a dramatic and electrifying opera based on the Oscar Wilde play. With four diverse operas and a much-anticipated recital in store for the season, it is no surprise that San Diego Opera has captivated audiences year after year at the Civic Theatre downtown since its foundation in 1950.
Richard Strauss’s “Salome” features the famed “Dance of the Seven Veils” followed by a gruesome beheading. An adaptation of the biblical story, “Salome” involves John the Baptist and the court of King Herod for a shocking and action-packed performance.
“Opera is a combination of all the arts,” said Edward Wilensky, San Diego Opera’s director of media relations. “It incorporates singing, acting, drama, dance, a full symphony and special effects.”
Wilensky added, “Opera is one complete art form that works together. It’s not a museum piece; it’s a living, breathing art form.”
Taking the stage with a multimedia opera beginning Feb. 18, the West Coast premiere of Jake Heggie’s “Moby-Dick” will illustrate Captain Ahab’s obsession with seeking revenge. Based on Herman Melville’s 19th century classic, “Moby-Dick” will engage high-tech projections and a set dangling 40-feet above the stage.
“This season there are three established operas that offer new twists on the originals,” Wilensky said. “Things like different staging, costuming, nuances and new locales. We don’t change the music or singing, but present the opera in a new way. We always stay true to the art.”
Opening March 10, Gaetano Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale” will bring laughter to its audiences with a story of marriage and trickery. Complete with a mariachi band, “Don Pasquale” will be relocated to the American Wild West and tells a humorous story of a man and his enamor with younger women.
For one night only, famed soprano Renée Fleming will be center stage for a benefit concert with the full San Diego Symphony Orchestra. On March 24, Fleming’s performance will include a selection of opera arias, art songs, Broadway hits and selections from her album “Dark Hope.”
“Opera, like all good art, changes lives,” Wilensky said. “Attending the arts makes you take time off, turn off the cell phone and let’s you fall in love for a few hours. For a brief window of time it offers an escape.”
Beginning April 21, Gioachino Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” will close out the season will the familiar tune of “Figaro.” This comedic opera features Figaro as a barber and matchmaker, challenged with assisting the Count in winning one woman’s attention. The eccentric set designs are based on Belgian artist Rene Magritte’s surrealist style.
“San Diego Opera has sustained its popularity over the years by attracting some of the world’s leading singers,” Wilensky said. “The singers you see here, you’ll also see in New York, Paris, Vienna and Berlin.”
The San Diego Opera plans its seasons four to five years in advance. Artistic Director Ian Campbell is already finalizing their 2015 season, hand-picking and locking in dates for the world’s best opera singers. The company aims to introduce at least one new opera to the community each season, in addition to one well-established masterpiece. This year “Moby-Dick” is new to San Diego and next season “Murder in the Cathedral” will make its debut.
“The community is excited about art, especially new art,” Wilensky said, “and they’re willing to take a chance on it.”
The theatre holds 2,887 seats, with some operas requiring additional space for a larger orchestra. San Diego Opera attracts both a seasoned audience, with university students and a younger generation in the seats as well.
The Civic Theatre is located at the intersection of 3rd Avenue and B Street in downtown. For more information visit sdopera.com.