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Legendary proto-bloggist Corno di Bassetto has recently retired to the Eugene area and is going to blog for us! Bassetto, who also published some theatrical works and essays under the pen name “George Bernard Shaw,” has extensive knowledge of music and was known for trenchant expression of his opinions. We look for more of the same form him now and welcome him to the Eugene Opera community!


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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


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.


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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Opera Review: ‘La Traviata’ at the Hult Center
By  | January 2, 2014
from:  theepochtimes.comRead more: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/428764-opera-review-la-traviata-at-the-hult-cent/#ixzz2pMN9SnNa

Leah Partridge (Violetta) and Vale Rideout (Alfredo) In Act I of Eugene Opera's La Traviata

Leah Partridge (Violetta) and Vale Rideout (Alfredo) In Act I of Eugene Opera’s La Traviata

EUGENE, Ore.—New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31, 2013, ushered in opening night of Verdi’s immortal opera, La Traviata, in teeming-with-arts Eugene, Oregon.

Eugene Opera’s present home in Eugene’s elegant Hult Center for the Performing Arts is a far cry from the company’s beginnings in 1976, where a few hundred witnessed a performance at a high school auditorium.

Now in its 37th season, under general director Mark Beudert since 2006, the company has not only presented major classics by Verdi, Puccini, etc., but has recently expanded into more adventurous territory, exemplified by recent productions of Nixon in China and Dead Man Walking.

For La Traviata three visiting stars have joined the company: soprano Leah Partridge portrays Violetta, a courtesan, who suffers from tuberculosis; tenor Vale Rideout plays her lover, Alfredo; bass-baritone Jake Gardner portrays Alfredo’s father, Giorgio Germont.

All three have enjoyed national and international assignments with major opera companies, as well as recording stints.

La Traviata is particularly melodic, and full of dramatic tension and surprises. Briefly, on meeting Alfredo, Violetta falls head-over-heels in love with him and decides to give up her flirtatious ways.

The attraction is mutual; however, Alfredo’s father throws a damper on the couple’s relationship and insists Violetta give up his son. Violetta nobly agrees, lying to Alfredo that she loves another.

In the end, the truth comes out; the lovers reunite, but it is too late. Violetta, overcome by her disease, dies in Alfredo’s arms.

Leah Partridge’s soprano soars with power and sensitivity; her coloratura passages are particularly precise. An added plus: She is stunning to look at, moves beautifully, and, as is the case, fortunately, with many current singers, she is a fine singing-actress.

Vale Rideout makes an excellent partner for Ms. Partridge. His voice is mellifluous; he conveys caring and concern for his vis-a-vis. Jake Gardner is a standout: His voice conveys power and authority, a perfect match in every way for the role of Germont.

The stage director is Bill Fabris. Music director Andrew Bisantz returns for his sixth season. Mr. Bisantz supplied an added fillip by presenting a pre-show talk on the genesis of Verdi’s La Traviata.

For those who may not know, the opera was inspired by Verdi’s appreciation of Alexander Dumas the younger’s novel, La Dame aux camelias, which developed into Camille. (Remember the film with Greta Garbo?)

This production of La Traviata offers a welcome addition to the roster of Eugene Opera presentations. The production will have two more performances: Jan. 3, 2014 and Jan. 5, 2014.

For tickets and further information: 541-682-5000, or eugeneopera.com

The season concludes in March, 2014 with Puccini’s “The Girl of the Golden West,” featuring three Metropolitan Opera stars: Emily Pulley, Raúl Melo, and Aaron St. Clair Nicholson.


Diana Barth writes and publishes New Millennium, an arts publication. For information: diabarth@juno.com.

Read more: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/428764-opera-review-la-traviata-at-the-hult-cent/?photo=2#ixzz2pMOjXb90



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By Marilyn Farwell

For The Register-Guard

PUBLISHED: 12:00 A.M., JAN. 3

Eugene Opera relied once again on the tried and true for its traditional New Year’s Eve production, and while I tire of repeated Carmens and Bohemes, Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata,” of 1853, an operatic gem from his incredibly creative middle period, is music I always welcome.

Eugene Opera’s production was predictably traditional, and the singing was competent but not exceptional. Leah Partridge, however, elevated the performance with her poignant portrayal of the lead character, the consumptive Violetta.

The test this production presented for the company was whether it could maintain the musical and dramatic standards it set for itself in last year’s powerful “Dead Man Walking.” Stage director Bill Fabris kept the action moving, and conductor Andrew Bisantz drew out the pathos of the story in long, breathless lines, contrasting these phrases nicely with the bubbly party music.

But with staid trompe-l’oeil backdrops relieved only by sparkling costumes representing mid-19th century Paris, and with staging that did not upset anyone, this production did not match the excitement of the modern operas the company so beautifully produced in the past two seasons.

The three major characters of “La Traviata” (The Fallen Woman) are typical of 19th-century romantic opera: The tenor and soprano are lovers whom the baritone forces apart until the last act, when one of them dies. Perhaps because of opening night jitters, two of the principle artists had serious intonation problems.

Vale Rideout, who played Alfredo, has a pleasant, light, and agile tenor that he used impressively to shape his musical lines, but for too much of the opera he sang on the sharp side of his notes. He came into his own dramatically and musically in the last two acts.

Baritone Jake Gardner as the father, who disturbs the lovers’ plans, looked the part, has a solid voice, but too often sang flat.

It was left to Partridge to rescue the evening’s singing, and this she did impressively. Her vocal timbre changes depending on the pressure she exerts on her vocal chords. At a pianissimo level, her voice can be rich and sweet, as she demonstrated in the moving section, “Dite alla giovine” in Act II. At a higher volume her sound can turn harsh, as it did in Act I’s “Sempre libera.” Most notably, however, she carefully sculpted her musical lines to the meaning of the words. Divas also must treat dying as an art, and in the last act Partridge demonstrated that she has mastered the form.

The orchestra played well, especially in the Prelude, but because Bisantz chose to elongate the pathos of this opening section, he had nowhere left to go when this music was repeated before the last act.

Save for a few disconnections between the pit and the chorus, John Jantzi’s chorus was in good voice and gave the party scenes a sense of brio. Of the numerous comprimario roles, Brooke Cagno as the maid and Nicholas Larson as Gastone stood out.

Marilyn Farwell, a professor emerita of English at the University of Oregon, reviews vocal and choral music for The Register-Guard.


La Traviata

When: 7:30 p.m. today; 2:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Hult Center, Seventh Avenue and Willamette Street

Tickets: $20 to $69; hultcenter.org or 541-682-5000

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Opera America is asking for first opera experiences.  Mine was Wozzeck at the Met:  Evelyn Lear, Geraint Evans, Colin Davis.   I loved it!


Don’t forget the AMPs this Sunday!



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Each year, organizations and individuals throughout North America delight and engage opera fans old and new with hundreds of free events. From backstage tours to flash performances and YouTube contests, National Opera Week has activities for everyone, everywhere.  

Here’s a message from Thomas Hampson, honorary Chairperson of this year’s National Opera Week:

Check out Opera America’s website to find out all the National Opera Week events:


including the only NOW event in Oregon, the Eugene Opera ARTIST MENTOR PROGRAM in performances of Mozart’s THE IMPRESARIO and Puccini’s GIANNI SCHICCHI at the Very Little Theater this coming Sunday!



Sunday, November 03, 2013
2:30 PM

Very Little Theater
2350 Hilyard St
Eugene, OR 97405

Tickets are $17 adults/$15 students and seniors

FOR TICKETS CALL 1-800-821-6233


The Eugene Opera ARTIST MENTOR PROGRAM is made up of local members of our company who perform for the love of opera and of Eugene Opera!  Under the direction of Dr. John Jantzi, Eugene Opera’s Chorus Master, they make visits year round to schools, vineyards, retirement homes, and many other venues.  During the Eugene Opera main stage season, they serve as members of the ensemble and frequently study with and learn from our international stars.    THE IMPRESARIO is Mozart’s comic take on the trials and tribulations of running an opera company–and dealing with prima donnas!   GIANNI SCHICCHI (Puccini’s only comic opera) is a sassy take on pre-renaissance Florence. Both operas are fully costumed and staged, and performed in English with piano accompaniment.   It’s an enjoyable afternoon for the entire family, and a great introduction to Eugene Opera’s season of LA TRAVIATA and Puccini’s THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST!


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Jake Heggie is the American composer of the operas Moby-DickDead Man WalkingThree DecembersThe End of the Affair and To Hell and Back, as well as the stage works For a Look or a Touch and At the Statue of Venus. He has also composed more than 200 songs, as well as concerti, chamber music, choral and orchestral works. His songs, song cycles and operas are championed internationally by many of the most celebrated singers of our time, including Isabel Bayrakdarian, Joyce Castle, Stephen Costello, Joyce DiDonato, Susan Graham, Ben Heppner, Patti LuPone, Robert Orth, Kiri Te Kanawa, Morgan Smith, Frederica von Stade, Talise Trevigne, and Bryn Terfel, to name a few. The operas— most of them created with the distinguished writers Terrence McNally and Gene Scheer — have been produced internationally on five continents. Since its San Francisco premiere in 2000, Dead Man Walking has received more than 150 international performances. Moby-Dick, which recently received its 2010 world premiere in Dallas, was commissioned by The Dallas Opera with San Francisco Opera, San Diego Opera, State Opera of South Australia and Calgary Opera. Upcoming projects include a new opera, Great Scott (libretto and story by McNally) for The Dallas Opera’s 2015/16 season and starring DiDonato; plus works commissioned by San Francisco Performances, Music of Remembrance, the Seattle Commissioning Club, Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival, as well as Ahab Symphony, commissioned by University of North Texas at Denton, where Heggie was guest-artist-in-residence during the 2010/11 academic year.

Jake will be appearing in two public masterclasses with composition students from the University of Oregon tomorrow:


seminar and master class with Dead Man Walking opera composer Jake Heggie

On March 13, the composer talks with UO student composers to offer feedback.
On March 14, the composer reflects on the music of the opera.

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