“To paraphrase one of the most significant sports figures (Michael Jordan) in history, ‘We’re back,’” Christopher McBeth, Utah Opera’s artistic director, said in a statement. “Because of the incredible community and donor support over the last year, Utah Opera looks forward to bringing outstanding large-scale opera performances back to the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre and welcoming audiences to a very special season.”
On Tuesday, Utah Opera announced its schedule for the upcoming season — all of the productions are carried over from the previous two seasons that were affected by the pandemic.
Last month, Salt Lake County Arts & Culture announced that four major venues — including Utah Opera’s home at the Capitol Theatre — would be reopening to the public on March 25. In response, Utah Opera announced it would be putting on an adaptation of George Bizet’s classic opera “Carmen” in May.
The reopening in March comes with health and safety guidelines that include reduced audiences, 6-foot distancing between households and mandatory face coverings, according to a news release.
“We are grateful to our community of music lovers and supporters, our musicians, staff, guest artists and board members for their passion while we have all been grappling with the situations of the past year,” said Utah Symphony | Utah Opera President and CEO Steven Brosvik in a statement. “We are excited to resume live performances this spring.”
Here’s a rundown of Utah Opera’s 2021-22 season.
‘The Barber of Seville’ — Oct. 9-17
Utah Opera had only one final dress rehearsal left when the pandemic hit and canceled its production of “The Barber of Seville” in March 2020.
Now, the company is opening its 2021-22 season with the Rossini classic.
The production will see the return of many Utah Opera favorites, including conductor Gary Thor Wedow and baritone Michael Adams, who plays the barber behind the famous “Figaro! Figaro! Figaro!” aria. The production will also star former Utah Opera resident Sarah Coit, Matthew Grills and Matthew Burns.
“The Barber of Seville” is an opera standard, but Utah Opera is putting a colorful twist on the production, setting the story in 1980s Spain.
“The thing that I saw — especially when I walked into the theater and saw the set for the first time — is it’s just so much color onstage,” Carol Anderson, Utah Opera’s principal vocal coach, told the Deseret News last year before the production was canceled. “It’s just really vibrant and exciting, and that translates into the action in the scenes as well. It’s a standard piece that’s going to be seen through a new lens.”
‘Flight’ — Jan. 15-23, 2022
Six years before Steven Spielberg’s “The Terminal” hit theaters, the story of a man who lived in the Charles de Gaulle Airport was an opera called “Flight.”
“Flight” tells the story of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, an Iranian refugee who lived in the Paris airport from 1988 to 2006. The production was originally included in Utah Opera’s 2020-21 season before getting delayed due to the pandemic.
Now, Utah Opera is finally bringing “Flight” to life. Starring as the character The Refugee is John Holiday — a countertenor who made it to the season finale of “The Voice” last year.
“When I sing, my prayer is that it will help to elevate someone out of a position where they feel like there is no more hope,” Holiday told the Deseret News.
“We wouldn’t have ‘La Boheme’ or ‘Madame Butterfly’ — which was a disaster at its opening — if it hadn’t been a contemporary opera in and of its time. ‘Carmen’ was the same way, was a dismal failure at the box office when it first premiered,” McBeth previously told the Deseret News. “If it had not been for composers, producers presenting what was then a modern and contemporary piece, we wouldn’t have these cherished pieces today. So that’s a big reason why we need to continue to not only present contemporary operas, but to continue to invest in creating contemporary operas for the future of the art form and our audiences.”
‘Tosca’ — March 12-20, 2022
Giacomo Puccini’s “Tosca” is one of the most popular and frequently performed operas in the world, and this upcoming production will mark Utah Opera’s seventh time staging it, The company first performed “Tosca” during its first season in May 1978, according to a news release sent to the Deseret News.
The lead roles will be performed by three powerhouse vocalists — soprano Katie Van Kooten as the fiery young diva Tosca; tenor Dimitri Pittas as Tosca’s lover, Cavaradossi; and baritone Stephen Powell as the police chief, Scarpia, who threatens to destroy their lives.
Israeli director Omer Ben Seadia will direct “Tosca,” which Utah Opera last performed in 2015.
‘The Pirates of Penzance’ — May 7-15, 2022
Utah Opera will conclude its 2021-22 season with Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance.”
Although the company presented the production at the Deer Valley Music Festival in 2006, Utah Opera has never performed “Pirates of Penzance” on the Capitol Theatre stage, according to a news release sent to the Deseret News.
Last year, McBeth told the Deseret News that the production — which stars soprano Madison Leonard, baritone Craig Irvin, mezzo-soprano Leia Lensing, tenor John Riesen and Utah Opera Resident Artists Edith Grossman and Julia Gershkoff — marks the company’s commitment to staging at least one family-friendly production each year.
“With over 400 years of repertoire, it’s not hard to find a bunch of exciting ideas to put together,” McBeth said. “Planning a season, that’s just good fun.”
Note: Utah Opera season subscriptions go on sale March 23. Patrons can purchase by calling (801) 533-6683 or visiting utahopera.org. Single tickets for the upcoming productions will be available to the general public starting June 15.