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Archive for the ‘Cast’ Category

All photographs by Eugene Opera’s official photographer, Cliff Coles:

Here’s Minnie’s saloon, “The Polka”

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Sheriff Jack Rance (Aaron St. Clair Nicholson) shakes hands with the only Wells Fargo agent in operatic history, Ashby (William Hulings)

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This image tells us a lot about Our Girl Minnie (Emily Pulley)

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As does this–Minnie and The Miners:

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And this:

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Ashby and The Miners:

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Rance and Nick (Brenden Guillory), the “Polka’s” bartender:

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Minnie and Dick Johnson, aka Ramirrez (tenor Raul Melo) in an intimate moment in Act II:

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The Native Americans, Wowkle (Lina Delmastro) and Billy Jackrabbit (Joseph Bonnevie)–just two of our many international, national, and local artists who, under the inspired guidance of director David Lefkowich and our Music Director Andrew Bisantz, have made more of these characters than was thought possible:

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http://registerguard.com/rg/entertainment/arts/31253798-60/opera-west-eugene-melo-bandit.html.csp

OPERA

The bold West sings its way into the heart of Eugene

A tale of the American frontier, translated by Giacomo Puccini

By Randi Bjornstad

The Register-Guard

PUBLISHED: 12:00 A.M., MARCH 13

The wild, wild West comes to the stage this weekend — sure as shootin’ — as Eugene Opera presents “The Girl of the Golden West.”

It’s a classic spaghetti Western love triangle, set in Gold Rush-era California: good woman (rough-and-tough outside, heart of gold within) falls in love with misunderstood bandit, breaking the heart of honorable sheriff who loves her so much that he lets them both get away.

And it’s a spaghetti Western in another way, too, because it was written by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini, one of the biggest names in opera — you can even call it “La Fanciulla del West” if you want — for the New York Metropolitan Opera, which first performed it in 1910.

It was quite an event back then. Enrico Caruso sang the part of bad guy Dick Johnson, aka Ramerrez, to Emmi Destinn’s Minnie. And Arturo Toscanini himself conducted.

Wow again, because the three leads in the show — soprano Emily Pulley as Minnie, tenor Raul Melo as Johnson/­Ramerrez and baritone Aaron St. Clair Nicholson as Sheriff Rance — all are veterans of the Metropolitan Opera stage.

They’ll be joined by Eugene’s own William Hulings as Ashby, the Wells Fargo agent on the trail of the bandit, and Brennen Guillory, a Lutheran pastor from Junction City who plays Nick, the bartender.

Andrew Bisantz — now in his fourth season as Eugene Opera’s music director, besides working with orchestras all over the country and the world — will conduct.

Pulley has sung the role of Minnie for years, and it has personal as well as professional meaning for her.

“I remember the first time I saw the show, I fell in love with the character,” she said. “That time period is part of the myth of the American West, and if I’d lived in that time, Minnie is the character I would hope to have been.”

Then Pulley pulls out her cellphone and scrolls through photos until she comes to one of her great-great grandfather, John Frederich Grau.

“He called himself J. Fred, and he was a sheriff in the Oklahoma Territory at about the same time this opera is set, so I think of him,” she said.

“I love this show because Minnie — she’s one of only two women among the main characters — is sister, mother, friend and teacher to all of the miners. She even teaches them about the Bible.

“This is basically a story of redemption in the Old West. These are all such human, human characters.”

For Melo, singing the Johnson/Ramerrez role is a first.

“I’m really excited to be doing it; I get to be a cowboy,” Melo said. “This opera is the trope for practically every movie Western, with the good woman who sees the good in a man and saves him from the wrong path.

“Even the music from this opera has been stolen for all kinds of other movies, including the big love tune in ‘Phantom of the Opera.’ Same key and everything.”

Melo has plumbed the depths of his role, a combination of the bandit Ramerrez and the pretender cowboy, Johnson.

“What I’m trying to do is not to act like I’m not a bandit, just not to say it,” he said. “So the question is, ‘Why is this character a bandit?’

“And the answer is, because this is all part of history. It’s a very complex backstory.”

A history lesson

The opera takes place circa 1900, about the time the U.S. government declared the end of the Western frontier, Melo said.

“Before that, parts of the West had been under Spanish control for centuries, then Mexican, and then American,” he said.

As time passed and governance changed, “Land was taken away from many of the big landholders — some of them were even killed — their cattle were stolen and their way of live destroyed. There was nothing left for their sons but to become bandits, and of course there was also some taking of revenge.”

But in the opera, Melo gets “only 12 measures” to convey this complicated history.

“I have this crazy, very difficult thing to sing: Yes, I’m a bandit; no, I didn’t rob you; yes, I’m ashamed; that’s the way life is — and then I have this high note that lasts for six measures.”

It’s not so much the difficulty of holding the note that concerns him, but “the dread of what color I turn,” Melo quipped. “No amount of makeup will cover that purple.”

When it comes to being on the losing end in the pursuit of Minnie, St. Clair Nicholson said, the sheriff may be the antagonist, “but he’s not evil.”

“He feels his own kind of love, but he’s a man of honor,” he said. “His honor and his obsession battle within him, but he keeps his word.”

It may all be a bit melodramatic, but that’s the way of both spaghetti Western movies and operas, “and I think this one is a masterpiece that really appeals to people,” St. Clair Nicholson said.

A genuine horse opera

As for Hulings, “The Girl of the Golden West” is his debut performance with Eugene Opera, “and I’m excited to be in the same room with these folks,” he said.

“I’m continually watching what they do, and they’ve been tremendously welcoming, and I’m also trying to bring my theater experience along.”

This production is a premiere for Eugene Opera, and general director Mark Beudert sees it as a real crowd-pleaser.

Even for people who don’t know much about opera or think they don’t like it, “This won’t be boring,” Beudert said, because of the spirited acting this group of opera singers is known for, the nontraditional cowboy costuming, the American West plot line and the participation of local people who make up the supporting cast.

At the same time, he said, coming to it with an appreciation of history that recognizes the contributions — and confrontations — among people of all cultures who settled the West also is important.

“This opera is not like fast food. You have to chew it, but it’s tasty, and it’s good,” Beudert said. “And it’s being performed by people who want to share the meal with everyone.”

Follow Randi on Twitter @BjornstadRandi. Email randi.bjornstad@registerguard.com.

OPERA PREVIEW

The Girl of the Golden West

When: 7:30 p.m. March 14 and 2:30 p.m. March 16

Where: Silva Concert Hall, Hult Center, Seventh Avenue and Willamette Street

Tickets and information: $20 to $69 (541-682-5000, hultcenter.org ,eugeneopera.com )

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Isn’t that the greatest headline?  It’s from an article in this week’s Eugene Weekly, about Eugene Opera and our production of Dead Man Walking:

http://www.eugeneweekly.com/article/opera-not-dead

Opera: Not Dead

ARTICLE | MARCH 14, 2013 – 1:00AM | BY BRETT CAMPBELL

A few years ago, the Eugene Opera seemed moribund — a “dead man walking,” to use the phrase applied in prison to an inmate condemned to death. But in the past couple of years, it’s gotten a reprieve — or rather engineered a resurrection. Instead of taking the timid, ultimately self-defeating course of pandering to an aging core audience with endless recyclings of the same top ten operatic/symphonic warhorses (see: Portland Opera, Eugene Symphony, Oregon Symphony) by dead European composers, artistic director Mark Beudert decided to embrace the present and future, choosing contemporary American works by the great West Coast composer John Adams (Nixon in China) and, opening this weekend, Dead Man Walkingby another acclaimed Bay Area-based star, Jake Heggie.

Since its premiere in 2000, Heggie and playwright Terrence McNally’s compelling opera has put the lie to two tired myths about contemporary classical music to rest: that it never survives beyond its premiere (it’s been produced over 30 times) and that it has to be musically off-putting. Heggie knows how to write engagingly for voice; he could have easily been a Broadway composer. Based on the book by Sister Helen Prejean (later turned into a powerful movie starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn), Dead Man Walking, which chronicles a nun’s struggle to help a condemned murderer find redemption, is perfectly suited for the high drama and passion that opera does so well.

How can Eugene Opera succeed by looking forward when so many other conservative classical music institutions go so rigidly retro? First, it makes sense that contemporary audiences — not the supposedly close-minded core audiences so many companies build their subscription series around, but the broad audience of people who love music — will be interested in art that deals with contemporary concerns. Second, the opera has embedded it, like Nixon, in a larger tapestry of city wide events — Prisons, Compassion, and Peace — that started in January and continues with a conference at the UO Law School and other events at the Eugene Public Library, City Club, Downtown Initiative for the Visual Arts and more, including talks by Sister Prejean and Heggie. (See the Opera’s website for details.) By explicitly connecting contemporary classical music to contemporary culture, Eugene Opera is helping make opera relevant to 21st-century Oregon.

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Photography:  Cliff Coles

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Perhaps the most heart-breaking moment from Dead Man Walking:  the de Rocher family posing for a picture during their last visit with Joseph.

DMW JdR and family

Photography:  Cliff Coles

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DMW Act II Elvis

Photography:  Cliff Coles

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Michael Mayes in an unforgettable moment!

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Photography:  Cliff Coles

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