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Season to include Verdi’s Rigoletto, Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice,
and Tobias Picker’s new opera Awakenings

TULSA, OK (December 10, 2019) — General Director Ken McConnell and Artistic Director Tobias Picker today announced Tulsa Opera’s 73rd season comprising Verdi’s Rigoletto; Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice in a new production with dance; and Mr. Picker and librettist Aryeh Lev Stollman’s new opera Awakenings, based on the book by Oliver Sacks and directed by Tulsa native James Robinson.

Mr. McConnell said:

“We are very much looking forward to the coming season, which includes operas spanning nearly three centuries. From an 18th-century adaptation of opera’s oldest tale, to Verdi’s first masterpiece, to a brand-new opera by Tulsa Opera’s Artistic Director Tobias Picker, there is truly something for everyone. We hope that through this variety of programming and the formidable talents of our guest artists, we are able to strengthen even further the community’s great love for opera.”

Mr. Picker said:

“The best kind of season is one that is as stimulating for the performers and creative team as it is for the audiences, and that is exactly the type of season we have ahead of us in 2020–21. We have some of the most important artists of our time joining us as we probe—in just three works—much of the history of the art form. I am especially excited about the Tulsa Opera and Oklahoma premiere of Gluck’s wildly popular version of the Orpheus myth and honored that my own latest opera, Awakenings, is included in the season as part of that history.”

All performances will be held in the Chapman Music Hall at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. Rigoletto opens the season on October 9, followed by Orfeo ed Euridice on February 6, and Awakenings on April 30.


Verdi’s Rigoletto
October 9 & 11, 2020

Depicting a licentious duke whose affections lead to disaster, Verdi’s Rigoletto returns to Tulsa Opera, having last been staged a decade ago. Soprano and Oklahoma native Sarah Coburn, who has starred in productions at leading opera houses around the world—including the Metropolitan Opera and Wiener Staatsoper—returns to Tulsa Opera to sing the role of Gilda, the jester Rigoletto’s beautiful daughter. The cast also includes mezzo-soprano Allegra De Vita, who makes her company debut as the seductive Maddalena, a role she sang at Austin Opera during the 2019–20 season. Ms. De Vita is a 2018 graduate of Washington National Opera’s Young Artist Program and has appeared in many of WNO’s recent productions, as well as in performances at the Glimmerglass and Spoleto Festivals, among other presenters and companies.

Rigoletto is staged in a production by Tomer Zvulun, originally commissioned for Boston Lyric Opera, Atlanta Opera, and Omaha Opera. The production is directed by Ellen Jackson, currently an Artist-in-Residence at the Atlanta Opera Studio. Conductor Steven White, who recently made his San Diego Opera debut in Rigoletto and has also conducted Verdi in productions at the Metropolitan Opera, leads from the pit in his Tulsa Opera debut.


Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice
February 6, 2021

The Tulsa Opera season continues with the company premiere of Gluck’s otherworldly Orfeo ed Euridice, a 1762 adaptation of one of the most popular stories in all of opera. The role of Orfeo is sung by Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Grand Finals Winner countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, who makes his Tulsa Opera debut as the first countertenor to ever perform with the company. Soprano Lauren Snouffer stars in her company debut as Euridice, having previously sung the role of Amore at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Orfeo ed Euridice is semi-staged with London-based dancers Daniel Hay-Gordon and Eleanor Perry, who both perform in their Tulsa Opera debuts. Mr. Hay-Gordon has appeared as dancer with English National Ballet, Rambert Dance Company, The Royal Ballet, Salzburg Festspiele, and with trailblazing German dancer / choreographer Pina Bausch’s company.  He also debuts as the production’s director, and choreographer. His choreography credits include productions at The Royal Ballet, Staatsoper Berlin, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and—this past summer—Los Angeles’ Hollywood Bowl. Also making his company debut is conductor Peter Ash, who is known too for his work as a composer, particularly The Golden Ticket, a 2010 operatic adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.


Picker’s Awakenings
April 30 & May 2, 2021

Tulsa Opera presents Tobias Picker and Aryeh Lev Stollman’s new opera Awakenings, based on the 1973 book by famed neurologist Oliver Sacks. Awakenings, Mr. Picker’s sixth opera, tells the true story of his late friend, Dr. Sacks, who brought new hope to survivors of the great sleeping-sickness pandemic, encephalitis lethargica, which swept across the globe in the early 20th century. Although millions died, many thousands lived on, left immobile like living statues. After nearly half a century, most of these had died as well, and those who had survived remained locked away in hospital wards, forgotten and “asleep.” In the late 1960s, as told in the book by Dr. Sacks, and adapted into a libretto by Lambda Literary Award-winning writer and neuroradiologist Aryeh Lev Stollman, Dr. Sacks began experimenting with the drug L-DOPA used to treat Parkinson’s Disease, and began to “awaken” these patients—men and women who had never stopped thinking or feeling—temporarily bringing them back to an active and engaged life.

Tulsa native James Robinson directs Awakenings in his Tulsa Opera debut, following his highly successful production of Porgy and Bess at the Metropolitan Opera earlier this season. Additional company debuts include Richard Tucker Award-winning tenor Paul Groves as Leonard, a patient awakened from an immobile state; mezzo-soprano at all of the world’s major opera houses and leading interpreter of contemporary American opera Frederica von Stade as Leonard’s mother Iris; and—starring as another of Dr. Sacks’s patients, Rose—soprano Mary Dunleavy, who won early acclaim as Queen of the Night at Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Houston Grand Opera, among others, and has since gone on to star in a wide variety of roles around the globe. After appearing in Carmen and Mr. Picker’s Emmeline during the 2019–20 season, baritone Jarrett Logan Porter returns to Tulsa Opera to sing the role of Oliver Sacks. Also returning after previous appearances with the company are soprano Adrienne Danrich, who appeared in the title role of Tulsa Opera’s 2013 Aida and now sings the role of the patient Miriam, and Resident Conductor and Head of Music at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Roberto Kalb leading from the pit.

Awakenings is a co-production with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, where the opera will receive its world premiere in June 2020. The creative team comprises Set Designer Allen Moyer, Costume Designer James Schuette, Costume Designer Greg Emetaz, Lighting Designer Christopher Akerlind, and Wig and Makeup Designer Tom Watson.


Tulsa Opera

Formed in 1947, Tulsa Opera is the first performing arts organization established in Oklahoma and the 12th oldest opera company in North America. The company excels at producing bold, brave, and fresh productions of opera classics, and accomplishes this by identifying excellent young singers, then pairing them with conductors and stage directors who can improve their artistic talents. In 2019, Tulsa Opera made history in presenting the first Trans woman in a principal role on the operatic stage in the United States.  In addition to presenting a main stage season, the company fosters young talent through its Tulsa Youth Opera and Resident Artist programs and promotes music education through outstanding initiatives such as Raise Your Voice!, a partnership with Tulsa Public Schools that brings music back into classrooms where music programs have been discontinued. Tulsa Opera, throughout its history, has articulated the desire of local leaders to create and maintain a world-class city. Opera is in Tulsa’s DNA, and communication with opera patrons confirms that the Tulsa community has a robust – and now reinvigorated – commitment to the company’s success.

Ken McConnell, General Director

Mr. McConnell joined Tulsa Opera in 2014, after seeing the company’s Carmen. From the cast and the orchestra, to the stage, set, and the dressers – everything drew him into the world of opera, and he’s been devoted to the art form ever since.  Prior to his current position, Mr. McConnell served as Tulsa Opera’s Chief Administrative Officer, managing a multimillion-dollar budget, a staff of ten, plus the scores of people needed to bring an opera to life. In 2016, Tulsa Opera ended its fiscal year with its lowest debt a decade, and for the last three years the company has operated on a surplus. During Mr. McConnell’s tenure at Tulsa Opera, the company has presented nearly 30 productions across the main stage operas and Tulsa Youth Opera and Tulsa Opera’s Young Artist presentations.

Tobias Picker, Artistic Director

Mr. Picker has served as Artistic Director of Tulsa Opera since 2016. His operas have been commissioned by Santa Fe Opera (Emmeline), Los Angeles Opera (Fantastic Mr. Fox), Dallas Opera (Thérèse Raquin), San Francisco Opera (Dolores Claiborne), and The Metropolitan Opera (An American Tragedy), and have gone on to be produced by numerous distinguished companies in the United States and Europe. The Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s recent recording of Fantastic Mr. Fox has been nominated for a 2020 Grammy Award. Mr. Picker’s symphonic works, including three symphonies, four piano concertos, concertos for violin, viola, cello, oboe, song cycles, and tone poems, have been commissioned and performed by the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, and major orchestras throughout the world. Mr. Picker is a lifetime member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His music is published exclusively by Schott Helicon Music Corporation.

Tulsa Opera’s 2020–21 subscriptions are now available at tulsaopera.com.

Additional casting to be announced at a later date.

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