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Pop Filter Hot Pick: Pittsburgh Opera continues 75th anniversary programming, unveils new season

Why you should go: Pittsburgh Opera is kicking off 2014 by continuing its 75th anniversary programming and unveiling plans for its 76th season.

Highlights of the Opera's new season mix for 2014-2015 include a gala ball and concert, three operas produced at the Benedum Center, and two Resident Artist operas consisting of an annual production at Pittsburgh CAPA Theater and the newly launched Second Stage Project. Additionally, the Opera will reprise Auld Lang Syne on New Year’s Eve--back by popular demand--and introduce a change of start time for its Friday evening performances.
Next up for Pittsburgh Opera is its production of Paul's Case, as part of its new Second Stage Project, from February 22nd through March 2nd at its Strip District HQ. Bringing Willa Cather’s 1905 story to the theatrical stage, Paul's Case chronicles the experiences of a Pittsburgh boy whose social aspirations lead him to vibrant and bustling NYC. Featuring music by Gregory Spears and libretto by Gregory Spears and Kathryn Walat, the chamber opera in two acts premiered in April 2013 at Washington, D.C.'s Artisphere. Part of the 2014 American Opera Series, the haunting story follows Paul as he takes up residence in Manhattan's legendary Waldorf-Astoria, and ultimately meets his fateful demise.

Launched during the current season with Paul's Case, Pittsburgh Opera's new Second Stage Project features works selected based on several criteria: adventurous subject matter, the voices of current Resident Artists, and the opportunities afforded by the intimate flexible performance spaces at the Opera's Headquarters, in comparison to the grand scale and traditional proscenium of the Benedum Center. Both Paul's Case and next season’s Second Stage Project, Mohammed Fairouz’s Sumeida's Song, were written within the past five years by young composers who are both under age 40, thus representing a new generation of opera. These new pieces are generally free from the musical styles and theatrical conventions that many people associate with opera. Both works demand skilled vocal athleticism and significant acting abilities, are under two hours in length and represent unconventional approaches to the genre.

On the near horizon for the Opera is Puccini's La bohème, opening on March 29th at the Benedum. Featuring music by the legendary Italian composer Giacomo Puccini and libretto by his collaborator Luigi Illica, Pittsburgh Opera's production will be conducted by Antony Walker and directed by Tomer Zvulun. Opera-goers will be transported to Christmas Eve in Paris' lively Latin Quarter, where a young poet meets the love of his life during the 1840s. Friendship, romance, poverty, illness and survival will converge in four acts, as the Opera's captivating set evokes the charm, vibrancy and allure of 19th-century Paris. Making its world premiere in Turin, Italy in 1896 at the Teatro Regio, La bohème has become part of the Italian opera canon, and remains one of the most frequently performed operas worldwide.

The timeless myth of Orpheus and Eurydice will be re-imagined in the Opera's presentation of Orphée, opening on April 26th at the Benendum. Based on the 1950 cinematic retelling of the age-old story of Orpheus--a legendary musician, poet and prophet in ancient Greek myth--by the French writer and and filmmaker, Jean Cocteau, the production features music and libretto by contemporary composer Philip Glass. The first opera of Glass' Cocteau Trilogy, the compelling work depicts the life of a poet who is misunderstood by his peers, becomes involved with a mysterious princess and faces themes of mortality, isolation, creativity and love. A chamber opera in two acts for ensemble and soloists, Orphée premiered in May 1993 at the American Repertory Theater in  Cambridge, MA.

Looking ahead to its 76th season, Pittsburgh Opera will host the 60th annual Diamond Horseshoe Ball and a gala concert, produce three operas at the Benedum, two Resident Artist operas and Auld Lang Syne on New Year’s Eve, and will launch a new start time of 7:30 p.m. for its Friday evening performances.

The Opera will officially kick-off its 76th season on Saturday, October 18th, 2014 with Grand and Glorious, an opening weekend gala concert at the Benedum Center. During the opulent event, Pittsburgh Opera Music Director Antony Walker will conduct the Pittsburgh Opera Orchestra, featuring  soloists such as tenor Carl Tanner, soprano Angela Meade and mezzo-soprano Marianne Cornetti, along with the Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artists. Featured musical selections will include the Overture to William Tell and more.

Highlights of Pittsburgh Opera's 76th season include: Verdi’s Otello at the Benedum (November 8, 11, 14 & 16, 2014); Handel’s Rodelinda at CAPA High School's Theater (January 24 – February 1, 2015); Fairouz’s Sumeida’s Song at the George R. White Studio (February 21 – March 1, 2015); Bizet’s Carmen at the Benedum (March 21 – 29, 2015), and the debut of
Donizetti’s Daughter of the Regiment (La fille du régiment), May 2 – 10, 2015, also at the Benedum.

Also on the calendar is Pittsburgh Opera’s two signature fundraisers, the 60th annual Diamond Horseshoe Ball on October 17, 2014, and the Maecenas XXXI on May 16,th 2015 (location TBA), to close its 76th season. In response to survey feedback from subscribers and single ticket buyers, Pittsburgh Opera is changing the start time of its Friday performances from 8 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. during its 2014-2015 season.

Go beyond the stage to explore the art form in-depth and behind-the-scenes, at one of the Opera's many public programs, including low-cost Rising Stars performances, monthly Brown Bag concerts, educational Opera Up Close events, Art Song Recitals, Meet the Artist discussions, WQED FM 89.3 previews, and the Pittsburgh Opera Film Series, held in collaboration with Point Park University.

View sneak peek videos of the Opera's 2014-2015 season.

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