For nearly a half a century Tacoma Opera has been bringing masterpieces of that venerable-yet-versatile art form to our city’s stages. Everything from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” to the ’70s era grand opera spoof “The Stoned Guest” has been presented to audiences by Tacoma Opera. (Perennial favorite “Die Fledermaus” has been presented in four separate seasons.)
The 2010/11 season (begun in November with Gaetano Donizetti’s “The Elixir of Love”) continues Feb. 5 and 6 with a double feature of chamber operas that explore the theme of “innocence versus experience.”
At the “innocence” end of the spectrum is “An Incomplete Education,” composed in 1878-79 by the French romantic composer Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894). The story concerns the plight of a young, newlywed couple who realize that they are ignorant of the niceties of the wedding night. None of their relatives or tutors is able to give adequate instruction to the frustrated love birds and they are forced to work things out for themselves.
A friend of impressionist painters including Claude Monet and Edouard Manet, Chabrier was admired by later generations of composers. Tacoma Opera’s version of “An Incomplete Education” was translated from the French by Tacoma resident Glenn Guhr.
The Austrian composer Joseph Haydn, sometimes called the “father of the symphony,” wrote “The Budding Soprano” in 1766 (called “La Canterina” in Italian). It is the story of a soprano who receives lavish gifts from an admirer and is provided with an apartment (which she shares with a female friend) by a wealthy benefactor. Somewhat like Marilyn Monroe’s character in “Gentlemen Prefer Blonds” from whence comes the song “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” main character Gasparina uses her feminine wiles to obtain jewelry and riches from her love-smitten boyfriends.
The composer, Haydn, was a friend of Wolfgang Mozart and was one of Ludwig van Beethoven’s teachers. Tacoma Opera’s production is the Northwest premiere of this work.
The double billing of “An Incomplete Education” and “The Budding Soprano” functions as Tacoma Opera’s “Young Artist Showcase” for the season. Now in its 9th year, the “Young Artist Showcase” features recent graduates from area universities in leading roles in chamber operas.
This year features the talents of sopranos Breanna Edwards of Seattle Pacific University and Katie O’Grady, a recent graduate of Pacific Lutheran University. Mezzo-soprano Julia West portrays Apollonia in “The Budding Soprano.” Tenor roles are sung by Oliver Donaldson while David Borning, a baritone, rounds out the group of young artists showcased this season.
The season continues in March with two operas dealing with troubled marriages. Ruggero Leoncavallo’s 1892 classic “Pagliacci” brings us the iconic image of the sad clown who gives in to murderous passion when he discovers his wife’s infidelity. Pagliacci is a perennial favorite of the American stage. The Metropolitan Opera in New York has performed the opera 712 times since 1893. An aria from this opera sung by Enrico Caruso was the first record to ever sell one million copies.
Also presented will be Leonard Bernstein’s 1952 “Trouble in Tahiti,” which dissects the troubles of a married couple living in an American suburb in the 1950s. Bernstein used vernacular speech patterns in his libretto and combined them with popular musical forms of his day.
Presenting operas penned in 1766 (“The Budding Soprano”), 1879 (“An Incomplete Education”), 1892 (“Pagliacci”) and 1952 (“Trouble in Tahiti”) by four time tested giants of musical composition, Tacoma Opera has laid out a veritable history of opera that Tacoma audiences can really sink their teeth into.
The February shows are performed at Theatre on the Square while the March performances will be held at Pantages Theater. For further information visit www.tacomaopera.com or call (253) 627-7789.