"But that's not all..."
Melinda Bargreen | The Seattle Times, April 27, 2007
Over in Bellevue, there's more singing at the Bellevue Opera in two performances this weekend of Johann Strauss Jr.'s frothy comic operetta, "Die Fledermaus." This company, operating since 2004 under its current title (it was originally founded back in 1978 as the Peccadillo Players, presenting Gilbert & Sullivan works), is one of several community operas that have sprung up in recent years around the Northwest.
In addition to the region's flagship company, Seattle Opera, and the 39-year-old Tacoma Opera, opera fans now can hear their favorite art form at such newer companies as the 5-year-old Skagit Opera (in Mount Vernon, where next season offers "HMS Pinafore," "Amahl and the Night Visitors" and "La Bohème"), and Kitsap Opera (Bremerton, founded in 1992), which presented its own "Die Fledermaus" last season.
There's also Seattle's new Black Box Opera Theatre, which staged such unusual fare as Viktor Ullmann's "The Emperor of Atlantis" in its first season last year. Lyric Opera Northwest, founded by singers Pamela Casella and Craig Nim, has presented productions in Bellevue's Meydenbauer Theater (including a "Madame Butterfly" last year); and to the south, Opera Pacifica (Olympia) has produced an annual opera (most recently, Massenet's "Werther") since its founding in 2002.
This weekend's Bellevue Opera "Die Fledermaus," a new production of this jolly romp through upper-class Vienna in a parade of mistaken identities, practical jokes, and quantities of champagne, has a cast headed by Jon Palmason (Eisenstein), Glenn Guhr (Falke), Amanda Brown (Rosalinda) and Cristina Villareale (Adele), plus chorus and orchestra led by conductor Bernard Kwiram. It's performed in English, a good choice in a libretto filled with jokes.
Rags to laughs: A new take on 'Cinderella'
Doug Margeson | King County Journal, April 7, 2006
Take a classic folk tale, mix in the comedy of mistaken identity, add music by Rossini and, well, you probably have a winner.
At least the folks from Bellevue Opera hope so. They will present Rossini's "La Cenerentola," a comic opera version of "Cinderella," at Sammamish Theatre.
"It's one of Rossini's finest comic operas; consistently lyrical, gay and effervescent," said Glenn Lutzenhiser, Bellevue Opera's artistic director.
"La Cenerentola," which Bellevue Opera will perform in English, is done in the Italian opera buffa style. That means it's played for laughs, hopefully in every scene.
The story involves Don Magnifico, Baron of Montefiascone. He has two daughters and one stepdaughter, Cenerentola, who serves as a house maid. Words come that Prince Ramiro is looking for the most beautiful girl in the land to become his bride. The baron, who is short on cash, schools his daughters in feminine wiles, dresses them to the nines and waits for the call. The prince eventually shows up, but dressed as his valet. The baron and his daughters treat him like dirt. Cenerentola treats him with the same courtesy as any guest.
Soon, the prince's valet shows up, disguised as the prince. The baron and the daughters simper accordingly and everyone gets invited to the ball — except Cenerentola.
Meanwhile, a beggar has been observing the whole business carefully. Cenerentola had given him some bread and coffee earlier in the day and he was impressed by her kindness. He also noticed that she was a looker and, by all standards, a far better prospect for the prince than anyone else at Villa Montefiascone. Turns out he's the prince's right-hand man and the prince hired him to make just such observations. He invites Cenerentola to the ball. There, he makes sure she is dressed in the finest gown he can find. And, he insists she wear a veil.
So, the prince, his valet and Cenerentola are all disguised. Cenerentola doesn't know about the prince's and the valet's disguises, they don't about hers and the baron and his daughters don't know about any of it. Things get complicated very quickly.
Maria Elena Armijo will play Cenerentola. Ross Hauk will play the prince. Cliff Watson will play the baron. Bernie Kwiram will direct the Bellevue Opera Orchestra in the production.
'La Boheme' is opera lover's opera
Doug Margeson | King County Journal, October 7, 2005
Always give the audience what it wants, George M. Cohan once said, and it holds true for opera, too. That's one reason Bellevue Opera chose ``La Boheme'' for its autumn show at Meydenbauer Center this weekend. ``It's the opera lover's opera,'' said Glenn Lutzenhiser, Bellevue's artistic director. ``It's total entertainment, a nearly perfect combination of story and music.''
Face it, that doesn't happen very often in opera. In even the best ones, the story seems extraneous to the music, or vice versa. Not ``La Boheme.'' Giacomo Puccini did a masterful job of moving the story along, integrating music with the action to create rapid and engrossing mood swings, Lutzenhiser said.
``One moment you will be laughing, the next moment you will be stopped cold by the pathos. It's quite a ride,'' he said. The story involves youthful writers, musicians and other artistic wannabes living in Paris's Latin quarter in 1830. The city belonged to the young -- there weren't many middle- aged Frenchmen left 15 years after Waterloo -- and they make the best of it. The fact they have no money actually fuels their free-spirited attitude.
``If there's a message to `La Boheme,' and I'm not sure there is, it's that there's nothing romantic about being broke, cold and hungry. Some of us have trouble realizing that,'' Lutzenhiser said.
Bellevue Opera's production will feature a cast of more than 30, including the Snoqualmie Valley Children's choir. Stuart Lutzenhiser will play Rodolfo. Raluca Marinescu will play Mimi. Glen Guhr will play Marcello. Signe Mortenson will play Musetta. Jack Morris is directing the production. Alex Innecco will conduct the orchestra. Sherry Christensen is costume designer.
Bellevue Opera takes on Verdi's 'La Traviata
Doug Margeson | King County Journal, April 22, 2005
Grand Opera is supposed to be grand -- which isn't easy when you're a small community company. But Bellevue Opera will give it everything it has to make this weekend's production of Verdi's "La Traviata" anyone possibly can.
"We have been working on it more than a month, and that's just the singing, "said Glenn Lutzenhiser, artistic director. The other work has taken even longer than that.
The other work includes some 10 18th century ball gowns for the female singers. Each one was hand-made by Bellevue's Sherry Christensen. Then there's the production work by the 15-member stage crew -- all unpaid volunteers -- the seemingly endless rehearsals by Alex Innecco's 25-member orchestra and the steadfast patience and professionalism of Meydenbauer's lighting and sound crews, Lutzenhiser said.
It's all worth it for two reasons.
First, there's the music. Verdi's soaring score is one of opera's best, Lutzenhiser said. Second, there is the growing popularity of opera on the Eastside. Bellevue Opera's productions of "Rigoletto "in July and "Pearls of the Orient" in October both played to enthusiastic, sold-out crowds.
"They were far more successful than we ever expected. People here like their opera." Lutzenhiser said.
"La Traviata" was a controversial opera when it premiered in Venice in 1853. Adapted from Alexandre Dumas's novel, it tells the tale of the courtesan Violetta Valery. A courtesan was a high-priced prostitute -- very high-priced, which means they were available only to the aristocracy. They were a common feature of European high society, albeit one that was carefully hush-hushed so that the aristocracy could maintain the cache of moral superiority to the masses. Not only did Dumas make the institution of the courtesan known the world at large, he made his protagonist a sympathetic character. She falls for the noble Alfredo and he falls for her. They run off together and live in happiness until Alfredo's father Giorgio catches up with them. He says Violetta has callously seduced his son -- which she has not -- and disgraced the family name which, by the nature of her profession, she has.
Violetta decides to leave Alfredo for his own good. He thinks she is simply dumping him, insults her as a common streetwalker and leaves her to die of tuberculosis. Alfredo, Giorgio and others come to realize the error of their ways, but in those days, tuberculosis was final.
Venetian authorities hated the opera, particularly the story itself and particularly because Verdi staged it in current Victorian costumes and settings. Surely, we can't let people think such things happen these days, the censors said. Verdi knew better, but he was stuck. So, he rewrote it for the 17th century, tightened up the music and made sure Violetta was played by a the prettiest singer he could find. It worked, and within weeks, opera houses around Europe were clamoring to perform "La Traviata".
Christine Goff is directing Bellevue Opera's production of "La Traviata". Tracy Rhodus plays Violetta. Stuart Lutzenhiser plays Alfredo. Glen Guhr plays Giorgio.