Roméo & Juliet
Wildly passionate and exquisitely heartbreaking, Roméo et Juliette by Charles Gounod frames a wonderfully operatic subject, a story of duty in contrast with forbidden love. Written 300 years after its Shakespearean origins, the opera eschews much of the courtly intrigue of the play, focusing instead on the lyrical and emotional arc of the love story. Its emphasis is on the forgotten compassion and human decency needed in every society. The vibrant world of Renaissance Verona grounds this poignantly orchestrated piece, structured around four masterful duets that present duality and an unprecedented concentration of amour. Once we emerge from our current moment of isolation and distancing, a story of overwhelming and profound love that, while tragic, also heals an ancient societal rift, can be a soothing salve for our audiences. In addition, this production of Roméo et Juliette will be the first time a piece by Charles Gounod has been seen locally in over 50 years!
The SBLO’s production will showcase local, national and international talent. New York-based stage director Nick Gisonde has agreed to return, after successfully directing our production of Rigoletto. His proven ability as a theatrical fight instructor, as well as his extensive directing experience in the US and Europe, makes him an ideal choice to lead exciting international talent, like baritone Seonho You and mezzo soprano Hansol Kang. These guest artists will perform alongside celebrated soprano Elizabeth Schleicher, Chicago-based baritone Warren Moulton, and accomplished local performers like mezzo-soprano Anna Board and soprano Karen Dickerson. Mariah Boucher will return to direct the music and experienced scenic designer Damen Mroczek has again agreed to anchor the production team.
Roméo et Juliette will be presented September 11, 12, 18 and 19 at LangLab South Bend. The opera will be fully staged, in the original French with English supertitles.
The second production in the SBLO season will be Three Decembers, created by contemporary composer Jake Heggie. The piece, comprised of 11 instrumentalists, will be a co-production by the SBLO and ENSEMBLE Concept/21 (EC/21), led by renowned composer Jorge Muñiz. This professional music ensemble is based in South Bend and dedicated to presenting 21st century music while actively promoting works by regional composers. Since 2013, EC/21 has astoundingly premiered 53 new works, most recently with acclaimed guest conductor Carmen-Helena Téllez.
Heggie’s Three Decembers is a two-act chamber opera, with a libretto by Gene Scheer that was adapted from Terrence McNally’s unpublished play Some Christmas Letters. (McNally’s recent death from coronavirus makes the piece an exceptionally timely choice.) The opera deals with the conflicts within ourselves and within our families, the families we wish for and the families we wind up with. Its three parts are set in three Decembers - in 1986, 1996 and 2006. The work tells the story of a famous actress, Madeline, and her two adult children as they struggle to know and love each other. Audience members of all ages will identify with the need for familial acceptance and recognition that are central to this opera.
This opera was commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera (in association with the San Francisco Opera and Cal Performances) and premiered there to great acclaim in 2008. Accomplished director Mark Albin, co-founder of Art 4, will return to direct this production.
In conjunction with Three Decembers, the SBLO will present a special evening with the work’s composer, Jake Heggie. Heggie will conduct a workshop for composition students prior to a pre-show lecture open to the general public. His involvement presents an exceptional chance for community members to have contact with a living composer and directly discuss his process.
Three Decembers will be presented December 4 - 6 at the Main Auditorium at IUSB. The opera will be fully staged and costumed, and presented in English.
The third production of the SBLO’s 2020-2021 season will be the immensely popular and frequently performed La Traviata. Giuseppe Verdi’s modern classic will be presented as a first-time collaboration between the SBLO and the South Bend Symphony Orchestra (SBSO), under the masterful direction of Maestro Alastair Willis. In addition, SBLO and the SBSO will also partner with the South Bend Chamber Singers, one of the best professional choirs in the region, skillfully led by Dr. Nancy Menk.
La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi has an Italian libretto, based on Alexandre Dumas’ La Dame Aux Camélias (1852), and may be the most performed opera in the world. It is an intimate, domestic opera that was originally staged in modern dress, blurring the lines between audiences and onstage characters. In composing the work, Verdi used musical styles typically reserved for kings, queens, and heroes to portray regular people. He elevated the lives of normal characters, including everyday ugliness (i.e. prostitution) and raw emotion, all while pushing the boundaries of opera as a form. However, La Traviata is not a calcified museum piece because its themes of love, sacrifice, disease and misfortune are still painfully with us. Because audience members might still mirror the plight of its characters, it is an immersive, rather than an escapist, work of art.
For the first time in decades, this production will bring together three professional performing arts groups from the region. The collaboration will yield an exceptionally local creation, broadening participation and cooperation to offer South Bend audiences an opera of superior quality and expression. This unique production will be directed by Carl Ratner, whose prodigious career includes work at The Metropolitan Opera (NY), The Bolshoi Theatre (Moscow) and Covent Garden (London).