Leonore Overture

collects the music and arts criticism of Keith Powers

Boston sings: fall opera highlights

Boston Lyric Opera opens its season on Sept. 27 with Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci” at the DCI Steriti Memorial Rink.

Boston Lyric Opera opens its season on Sept. 27 with Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci” at the DCI Steriti Memorial Rink.

Opera audiences know how to be friendly. A gregarious lot who love the art-form—and love gossiping and learning about it—opera-goers don’t just get to the show. They show up ahead of time. They meet just to catch up, then see the performance, then to go to opera after-parties—yes they have those, even in Boston. And then they spend free time social media-ing about the whole experience. 

With dozens of semi-staged operas, chamber works and highlights concerts, hardly a weekend goes by without an opera performance.

The Boston Opera Alliance (bostonoperacalendar.org), a consortium of a couple dozen companies, keeps fan-boys and -girls alert to the social whirl. Even if fandom isn’t your thing, keep an eye on this site and others for productions, parties, partnerships and anything opera-ish. 

Opera on Tap (operaontap.org/boston) hosts comic brunches, playground operas for kids and cosplay events as well. MassOpera (massopera.org) and Boston Opera Collaborative (bostonoperacollaborative.org—don’t miss the Opera Bites program in Feb. at Longy), Promenade Opera Project (promenadeoperaproject.com) and NEMPAC (nempacboston.org) are also good resources.

The fall season gets right into the swing of things in September, with the Boston Lyric Opera, Odyssey Opera, White Snake Productions and others all staging productions. White Snake begins with a world premiere of “I Am A Dreamer Who No Longer Dreams,” a collaboration between composer Jorge Sosa and librettist Cerise Lim Jacobs.

The Boston Lyric Opera (blo.org) has visited some unusual venues in its long search for a permanent home. Audience have benefited—when is the last time you saw an opera in an ice-skating rink, or a basketball court—and the company thrives under director Esther Nelson.

BLO takes to the ice again—beginning with Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci” at the DCI Steriti Memorial Rink in the North End, Sept.  27. Tenor Rafael Rojas and soprano Lauren Michelle sing Canio and Nedda, respectively. No there isn’t a Zamboni, or any ice at all—in fact, the venue, which the BLO used to stage Bernstein’s “Trouble in Tahiti” last May—becomes a quite elegant setting.

The intriguing BLO season continues in November (Emerson Paramount, this time) with Gregory Spears 2016 “Fellow Travelers,” a dive into the grim politics of McCarthy-era America. Bellini’s bel-canto smash “Norma” takes the Emerson Cutler stage in March, with soprano Elena Stikhina returning after her American debut in 2017’s “Tosca.” And in a once-a-decade treat, the BLO visits Baroque opera, with Handel’s “Guilio Cesare” in May (back to the ice rink), with Canadian countertenor David Trudgen singing the title role.

Gil Rose’s Odyssey Opera (odysseyopera.org) continues to find gemstones under rocks. Entering its seventh season, the company looks for works that missed the star-train and have been neglected ever since. This season, it’s Tudor time, with a handful of one-time performances that examine another grim political time, the turmoil of England’s reign under Henry VIII. 

OO begins at Jordan Hall Sept. 21 with Saint-Saëns’ “Henry VIII,” a drama about the love triangle that led to the beginning of the Anglican church—and the end of many who opposed it. Baritone Michael Chioldi sings the beheader’s role. 

While she can, Hilary Ginter sings Anne Boleyn in Saint-Saëns “Henry VIII,” which opens the Odyssey Opera season Sept. 21 at Jordan Hall.

While she can, Hilary Ginter sings Anne Boleyn in Saint-Saëns “Henry VIII,” which opens the Odyssey Opera season Sept. 21 at Jordan Hall.

The performance marks a premiere of sorts, as Rose and others have restored nearly 50 minutes of music that was removed from the original production in 1883. Other OO operas this season include Tudor-focused works by Benjamin Britten, Rossini Neapolitan, Edward German, and a world premiere, “The Chronicle of Nine,” by American composer Arnold Rosner, in February.

Boston Baroque makes opera a big part of its 019-20 season, beginning in October with “Opera Meets Symphony,” their first of two excuses to bring the brilliant soprano Amanda Forsythe to audiences. She returns in Handel’s “Messiah” at the holidays. Martin Pearlman’s ensemble also stages Handel’s “Ariodante” in April with soprano Paula Murrihy.

Forsythe again shares the stage, with counter-tenor Philippe Jaroussky, when the Boston Early Music Festival (bemf.org) offers a pastiche of Orpheus myths—selections from Monteverdi, Sartorio and others—on Thanksgiving weekend at Jordan Hall. In October BEMF also hosts the Pacific Baroque Orchestra with soprano Karina Gauvin, performing an aria sampler entitled “Russian White Nights.”

New England Conservatory (nec.edu) presents the late and beloved Dominick Argento’s “Postcard from Morocco” in November. Further into the season, Handel & Haydn Society (handelandhaydn.org) assembles a great cast under the direction of Aidan Lang (staging) and Harry Christophers (music) for Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas” in March at Jordan Hall. Also in the spring, the Boston Symphony Orchestra (bso.org) continues its commitment to opera stagings with act three of Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” in April, bringing tenor Jonas Kaufmann and soprano Emily Magee to sing the lovers’ roles. And if you can’t find a live singer onstage, the Met Opera simulcasts (metopera.org) now has more than a dozen Boston-area screen locations.

Keith Powers covers music and the arts for GateHouse Media and WBUR’s ARTery. Follow @PowersKeith; email to keithmichaelpowers@gmail.com.

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