Two classic titles, an encore of the Russian National Ballet Theatre, a lakeside pops concert and the Christmastime return of a Wichitan made good on the national stage.
That’s what awaits fans of Wichita Grand Opera in 2017-18, as the company begins its season on Sept. 10 with a preseason special event at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Wichita.
“There is a diversity to the things we are doing and the places we are doing them and how we are doing them,” said Parvan Bakardiev, who this summer added the title of artistic director to his president and CEO designation. “We’re calling it ‘opera for everyone.’”
As artistic director, Bakardiev succeeds Margaret Ann Pent, who founded Wichita Grand Opera in 2000 and also served as its managing director.
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“The opera has done a lot of great things thanks to her,” Bakardiev said.
The Sept. 10 preseason concert brings the opera company back to Holy Cross Lutheran, which had capacity crowds for Benjamin Britten’s “Noah’s Flood” last spring, as well as a patriotic concert on July 2.
This time, the company is performing “Stabat Mater,” which Rossini composed after his several-year exile following “William Tell.”
Soprano Yunnie Park, who performed in Wichita Grand Opera’s “Turandot” in 2015 and “Rigoletto” in 2016; tenor Kirk Doherty, featured last year in “La Boeheme”; mezzosoprano and WGO alum Suzanne Hendrix; and internationally acclaimed opera star Alan Held, now director of the opera program at Wichita State University, will be featured.
Martin Mazik will return to conduct the Rossini work.
“It’s a fabulous work,” Bakardiev said.
“Madama Butterfly” will be performed at Century II Concert Hall on Sept. 30, Bakardiev said.
Park, whom Bakardiev called “beyond beautiful and a very talented Korean soprano” and Doherty will perform the lead roles.
“It’s a great cast and great production elements, such as the set and costumes from a studio in Italy,” he said.
A Dec. 9 concert at Century II will be headlined by Chris Mann, the Wichita native who finished fourth on NBC’s “The Voice” in 2012, and has since performed the title role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” more than 700 times on Broadway.
The concert will primarily be Christmas music, Bakardiev said – Mann released a holiday album in 2012 – but will likely include some music from “Phantom.” Mann’s newest album, “Urban Songbook,” is scheduled for release before the end of the year.
Mann, a Southeast High School graduate, has a vocal performance degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Bakardiev said. The concert will be conducted by Steven Mercurio, who has three previous performances in Wichita, and has had the baton for Luciana Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Sting, as well as composer David Foster’s PBS specials.
“He is working closely with Chris Mann to work the program out,” Bakardiev said of Mercurio. “They’ll both have input on that. We want to present it as a homecoming and a celebration of Christmas to attract young and old.”
In the new year, Verdi’s “La Traviata” will take the stage on April 7, directed by Robert Stivanello, who was behind WGO’s “Rigoletto” in 2016.
“We are delighted that he is back,” Bakardiev said. It will be the third performance of the Verdi and the first time the company has performed “La Traviata” in a decade, he added.
The Russian National Ballet Theatre returns April 29, with “Cinderella,” acclaimed for its dazzling and colorful costumes and sets.
“We always try to produce at least one classical ballet,” Bakardiev said.
The season concludes with “Opera on the Lake,” a return to the waterfront at Bradley Fair on May 31, with concertgoers invited to bring lawn chairs and blankets for the free performance.
“We’re calling it pop-opera, or popera,” Bakardiev said. “We’re mixing the popular elements with elements that people don’t even know are opera.”
The other spot in Wichita Grand Opera’s schedule is the Opera Ball on May 5, the company’s premier social event of the season which will also commemorate the opening of Mark Arts on the corner of 13th Street and Rock Road in Wichita.
More information, including the featured performers, will come at a later date, Bakardiev said.
Season tickets are available, ranging in price from $272 for four productions (“Butterfly,” Mann, “La Traviata” and “Cinderella”) to $67 for two. Single tickets will be available beginning Aug. 21, with prices ranging from $37 to $85.
More information is available at the WGO box office, on the second floor of Century II, or by calling 316-262-8054 or selectaseat.com online.
WICHITA GRAND OPERA 2017-18 SEASON
All performances are at Century II Concert Hall, 225 W. Douglas, unless otherwise noted
Sept. 10: “Stabat Mater,” Holy Cross Lutheran Church, 600 N. Greenwich
Sept. 30: “Madama Butterfly”
Dec. 9: Chris Mann: Home for Christmas
April 7: “La Traviata”
April 29: “Cinderella” by Russian National Ballet
May 5: “Opera Ball,” Mark Arts, 1307 N. Rock Road
May 31: “POPera: Simply Irresistible,” Bradley Fair, 2000 N. Rock Road