By Alejandra Serna, Florida Grand Opera
It’s a new era at Florida Grand Opera (FGO)! Under the leadership of new CEO and General Director Susan T. Danis, Florida’s oldest performing arts organization is revamping its artistic product, starting with the upcoming season. “The themes of these pieces will resonate with you regardless of which of the many diverse communities in South Florida you call home,” said Danis. “This season will be a unique and exciting one, thrilling both first timers and opera lovers.”
Offering something for everyone, the new season features Marvin David Levy’s Mourning Becomes Electra, Verdi’s Nabucco, Puccini’s Tosca, and Massenet’s Thaïs.
Sung in English, Mourning Becomes Electra returns to the stage after a nine-year hiatus on November 7, 2013, for its Southeast American premiere at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, a venue that pays homage to its Broward-based composer. Based on the oldest play cycle in recorded history, the story follows Eugene O’Neill’s dramatic adaptation of the Greek tragedy, staged in 19th century New England. The Mannons, a cursed family, face the consequences of their own misdeeds as a dark plot unravels alongside hauntingly beautiful melodies and arias. Presented in an all new production built by FGO with a topnotch Broadway design team, a stellar cast brings this somber story to life with the highly-acclaimed American soprano Lauren Flanigan as Christine Mannon.
The season continues on January 25, 2014, as Nabucco comes to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. Credited with launching Verdi’s career, Nabucco is a passionate love story set against the backdrop of the Israelites’ struggle against Babylonian domination. Themes of nationalism and resisting tyranny spoke to 19th century Italians as they fought Austrian occupation, forever associating the opera with Italian nationalism. In Miami, a double cast of international stars tells of Nabucco, king of Babylon, and his descent into madness as his daughters, Abigaille and Fenena, fight for control of his kingdom and domain over the heart of Ismaele, an Israelite leader. Taking the lead as the ominous king are Hispanic baritones Dario Solari and Nelson Martinez. Abigaille, a notoriously difficult role known for its high tessitura, is sung by seasoned sopranos Maria Guleghina and Susan Neves, each making her debut with FGO.
The timeless sets of Ercole Sormani lay the foundation for Puccini’s lyrical masterwork – Tosca. Opening on March 29, 2014, at the Arsht Center, this riveting psychological drama builds on torture, murder, and suicide to yield one of opera’s most stunning conclusions. Floria Tosca, a famous opera singer, fights to save her lover in a gripping tale of passion and political turmoil told through Puccini’s inventive orchestration. Two dazzling sopranos, Kara Shay Thomson and Jouvanca Jean-Baptiste, lead a talented double cast as American baritone Todd Thomas embodies the notorious Scarpia.
To close out the season, FGO has chosen an exotic French piece, Massenet’s Thaïs. Not seen at FGO since 1976, Thaïs makes a comeback at the Arsht Center on May 3, 2014, in production conceived and designed by the Canadian-French team André Barbe and Renaud Doucet. Known for tones of eastern mystique and religious eroticism, the opera follows the spiritual journey of a cenobite monk as he seeks to convert an Alexandrian courtesan. Lending their charms to the enchanting and challenging role of Thaïs are sopranos Eglise Gutiérrez and Angela Mortellaro. To the thrill of patrons and critics alike, the young Spanish conductor Maestro Ramón Tebar, FGO’s Music Director, takes command of the orchestra all season long.
Subscriptions for Florida Grand Opera’s 2013-2014 season start at only $36. Purchases can be made through the FGO Box Office located at the Doral Center on 8390 NW 25 St., Doral, FL 33122, Monday through Friday from 10am to 4pm. Tickets and additional information also available by phone at (800) 741-1010 or online at www.FGO.org.