The Wichita Grand Opera’s 2013-2014 season is a spectacular lineup with new productions of Rossini’s comedy “The Barber of Seville” and Puccini’s drama “Tosca,” plus a rare luxury: Rossini’s last masterpiece, “William Tell” of the famous overture.
In addition – continuing a longstanding tradition in European opera houses of collaboration with the world of dance – the Russian National Ballet Theatre returns twice to present lavish nineteenth-century Russian works: Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty” and Minkus’ “Don Quixote.”
Barber of Seville
Plot-wise, “The Barber of Seville” actually precedes “The Marriage of Figaro” (which the Wichita Grand Opera presented this past season) as the first of a triptych of comedies by Beaumarchais. The young Count Almaviva is in love with Rosina but her older guardian, Dr. Bartolo, wants her – and her dowry – for himself. Two rising stars of the opera world, Sharin Apostolou and Kaitlyn Costello, share the role of Rosina, while Italian bass-baritone and international star Stefano de Peppo sings the role of the blustering Bartolo. Stage director James Marvel returns to Wichita after engagements in Italy and France to direct this new production performed in English.
One of Puccini’s finest works, “Tosca” tells the tale of the corrupt Baron Scarpia, a police chief who uses his position to try to woo beautiful singer Floria Tosca. She, however, is in love with the artist Mario Cavaradossi and resists the Baron’s advances. International stars Zvetelina Vassileva and Hector Sandoval star as the diva Tosca and her rebellious lover Cavaradossi. Metropolitan Opera bass-baritone William Powers portrays the villainous Scarpia. Stanley M. Garner, a protege of director Franco Zeffirelli, directs this new production.
Due to its rarity on American opera stages, the WGO’s production of Rossini’s masterpiece “William Tell” could gain national attention for the company.
“Wichita is in for a treat this season,” said Parvan Bakardiev, the opera’s general director. “William Tell won’t be produced anywhere else in the U.S. this season, and it’s just the third new American production in the last 75 years.”
Many will recognize the last section of the overture as the theme from the 1950’s TV series “The Lone Ranger.” The story is based on Switzerland’s real-life national hero, William Tell, who lead a rebellion against the Austrians. The plot centers around young Arnold, who is faced with choosing between his love, Matilida, and avenging his father’s death.
American tenor Michael Spyres – having performed in recent years with opera companies in Milan, London, Berlin, Dresden, and Barcelona, among others – makes his Wichita Grand Opera debut as Arnold, one of the most-difficult tenor roles written. Italian-American maestro Steven Mercurio leads the cast in this production.
Russian National Ballet Theatre
On the heels of last season’s production of Swan Lake, Wichita Grand Opera brings back the Russian National Ballet Theatre in January for Tchaikovsky’s greatest ballet, “Sleeping Beauty.” The evil fairy Carabosse curses the young princess Aurora to prick her finger on a spindle and die. The benevolent Lilac Fairy intervenes and modifies the curse, so that Aurora will sleep for 100 years. She is finally woken by a kiss from a prince, and the two are married in a huge wedding celebration. Prima ballerina Maria Sokolnikova returns to Wichita as the Princess Aurora.
Later in April, the Russian National Ballet Theatre returns to present another essentially Russian ballet with a Spanish script and music by an Austrian composer: “Don Quixote.” Originally mounted for the Moscow Imperial Bolshoi Theatre, Ludwig Minkus supplied a score filled with Spanish-styled flair, and Marius Petipa provided the opulent choreography, which will be the basis of the national ballet’s production. Inspired by tales of medieval chivalry, Don Quixote, a middle-aged country gentleman, sets out to defend virtue and punish those who violate the code of honor. With his servant Sancho Panza as his armor-bearer, he travels to Barcelona, only to mistake Kitri, an innkeeper’s daughter, for his dream-lover Dulcinea. Amid dangers both real and imagined, they rescue this ‘damsel in distress’ and unite her with her true love before setting off for further adventures. Dmitry Zababourin dances in the title role of Don Quixote.
In addition to all this, there will be the Chairman’s Opera Ball, titled “The Great Gatsby,” featuring Michael Andrew and the Atomic Big Band on May 10 at the Crown Uptown Dinner Theatre, and “Opera on the Lake” a fully-staged, outdoor production on June 21 at Bradley Fair.