by Pyotr I. Tchaikovsky • This rarely-performed Tchaikovsky gem, set in medieval Provence, tells the story of a kind-hearted young princess sheltered from the truth about herself – she was born blind. One day a stranger enters her private garden where, entranced by her beauty, he asks for a token to remember her by: a red rose. Through this simple request, many lives are changed forever. Love and duty, deception and faith collide in this gentle fairytale romance performed by a superb Russian/American ensemble, staged by German director Christian Räth (Tristan & Isolde), and featuring a gorgeous and lushly romantic score conducted by Dallas Opera Music Director Emmanuel Villaume.

Starring Ekaterina ScherbachenkoSergey SkorokhodovVladislav SulimskyJoanna MongiardoLauren McNeeseTamara MumfordAndrei BondarenkoMikhail Kolelishvili

Conductor Emmanuel Villaume • Director Christian Räth

Family Rating Drama, intense visuals. Rated PG

Opera in Brief

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15th Century, in the mountains of southern France, a princess named Iolanta has been blind from birth, but she has never been told that she is a princess or that she is blind. Her father, King René, does not wish her to know, believing he is protecting her. He has concealed her from the world and secluded her in a beautiful garden. She also believes that eyes are only for crying. Iolanta’s attendants sing to her and present her with flowers. She is getting anxious however, because she feels that something significant is missing from her life.

After Alméric, the King’s armor bearer, announces the King and a famous Moorish physican’s (Ibn-Hakia) arrival at Iolanta’s dwelling, Alméric is warned by Bertrand (who watches over Iolanta) to not reveal to Iolanta that her father is the King or to talk about light. The doctor diagnoses her and tells the King she can be cured, but only if Iolanta is prepared for the procedure by being told she is blind. Ibn-Hakia sings “Two worlds” which describes the interdependence of the mind and body within the divinely ordained universe, which merges spirit and matter. King René says no.

Robert, the Duke of Burgundy, is betrothed to Iolanta. He and his friend Vaudémont arrive at the court but they feel threatened because the place seems to hide a secret and danger. Robert tells Vaudémont he no longer wishes to marry Iolanta because he has fallen in love with the Countess Matilde. He sings the aria “Who can compare with my Matilde?” Vaudémont discovers the entrance to Iolanta’s garden, ignoring the sign that threatens death to those who enter. When Vaudémont sees Iolanta, who is sleeping, he is instantly enamored with her. Neither man knows who she is. Robert, shocked by his friend’s behavior, believes she is a sorceress who has bewitched Vaudémont. He leaves to bring troops to rescue him. Captivated by her beauty, Vaudémont asks Iolanta to give him a red rose as a keepsake. When she hands him a white one, he realizes she can’t see. He explains light and color to her and they fall in love.

The King discovers the couple and is furious with Vaudémont for revealing the secret of her blindness. Vaudémont pledges his love for Iolanta. Ibn-Hakia tells the King that the treatment may now be a success because she is aware of her condition. But Iolanta, not knowing what it means to see and with no will of her own, has no real desire to see. The King threatens to execute Vaudémont after he admits to seeing the sign at the garden’s entrance. The King tells Iolanta Vaudémont will die if the physician fails to restore her sight. Iolanta, horrified, agrees to the procedure. After the doctor and Iolanta leave, the King admits to Vaudémont that the threat was just to provide Iolanta with motivation to see. Robert returns with the troops and tells the King he has fallen in love with someone else but will still proceed with the marriage. The King cancels the arrangement. Iolanta’s sight is restored and the King consents to her marriage to Vaudémont. Initially she is disenchanted by what she can now see, but the wedding ceremony and her love for Vaudémont inspire her to sing of the magical new world now visible to her.

Cast Biographies

Ekaterina Scherbachenko (Iolanta) was the winner of the 2009 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition and member of the prestigious Bolshoi Theatre. At the Bolshoi, her roles have included Natasha Rostova in War and Peace, Mimì in La bohème, Liù in Turandot, Tatyana in Eugene Onegin, Micaela in Carmen and the title role of Iolanta. Outside her native Russia, Ms. Scherbachenko has appeared on tour with the Bolshoi at the Opéra de Paris (Palais Garnier) and at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. She has also performed at the Opéra de Lyon, the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari, the Royal Opera House – Covent Garden, the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, the Bayerische Staatsoper, the Teatro Real in Madrid. In 2014 she returned to the Glyndebourne Festival as Tatyana in Eugene Onegin as well as to the Metropolitan Opera for La bohème.

Sergey Skorokhodov (Count Vaudémont), tenor, makes his house debut at The Dallas Opera in this production of Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta. The Russian native has sung this part many times at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg and all over the world, often alongside soprano Anna Netrebko. Recent engagements include Ivan in The Nose at the Metropolitan Opera, Alfredo in La traviata at the Deutsche Oper Berlin and Berlin State Opera, Grigorij in Boris Godunov at the Bavarian State Opera Munich and Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos in Taipei. In 2015 Mr. Skorokhodov appears with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and conductor Riccardo Muti in a concert series and then goes on tour for Iolanta, again alongside Ms. Netrebko, in Monte Carlo and at the Royal Albert Hall London.

Joanna Mongiardo (Brigitta) is making her Dallas Opera debut with this role in Iolanta. Her 2014-2015 season includes a role debut in the title role of Rossini’s Semiramide with Opéra de Nice Côte d’Azur and a return to the Back Bay Chorale for Mozart’s “Mass in C minor”. Ms. Mongiardo’s signature roles include Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier, Juliette in Roméo et Juliette, Anne Trulove in The Rake’s Progress and Blonde in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, which she has performed more than 30 times at companies including Grande Théâtre de Genève, Opéra de Nice Côte d’Azur and Deutsche Oper am Rhein. Her signature concert work is Carmina Burana, which she has performed at orchestras including the Philadelphia Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, and Oratorio Society of New York.

Lauren McNeese (Laura), mezzo-soprano, returns to The Dallas Opera after having debuted with the company as the Zweite Dame in Die Zauberflöte. Ms. McNeese has appeared with the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Los Angeles Opera, Minnesota Opera and many others. Most recently she performed Cherubino in Tulsa Opera’s Le nozze di Figaro and the title role in La Cenerentola with Opera Omaha and Intermountain Opera. Other highlights include the roles of Wellgunde in Das Rheingold with San Francisco Opera, Dorabella in Così fan tutte with Arizona Opera, L’enfant in L’enfant et les sortilèges and La Ciesca in Gianni Schicchi with Opera Company of Philadelphia, Stephano in Roméo et Juliette with Michigan Opera and Il barbiere di Siviglia with PortOpera.

Tamara Mumford (Marta), mezzo-soprano, makes her debut at The Dallas Opera in Iolanta and returns to Opera
Philadelphia for the world premiere of
Yardbird as Baroness Pannonica. A graduate of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, Ms. Mumford has appeared in more than 140 performances with the company, most recently as Smeaton in the new production of Anna Bolena (broadcast live in HD). Other notable engagements have included the world premiere of John Adams, The Gospel According to the Other Mary with the Los Angeles Philharmonic (in L.A. and in Europe), the title role in Henze’s Phaedra and the title role in The Rape of Lucretia at Opera Philadelphia and Ottavia in L’incoronazione di Poppea at the Glyndebourne Opera Festival and the BBC Proms.

Andrei Bondarenko (Robert) In the 2014-2015 season, engagements for this baritone include Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro at the Teatro Real Madrid, Robert in Iolanta with the Gürzenich Orchestra, Marcello in La bohème at Bayerische Staatsoper Munich and the Opernhaus Zürich, Rachmaninov’s Spring Cantata with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Belcore in The Elixir of Love for Israeli Opera, Eugene Onegin in São Paulo and the title role of Billy Budd at the Cologne Opera. He will also record the title role in Don Giovanni for Sony Classics. Recent highlights include Eugene Onegin for Cologne Opera, Staatstheater Stuttgart and Glyndebourne Festival, Andrei in War and Peace for the Mariinsky Theatre and his solo recital debut at the Wigmore Hall accompanied by Gary Matthewman.

Mikhail Kolelishvili (King René), bass, returns to The Dallas Opera in Iolanta. He previously sang Varlaam in
Dallas Opera’s production of
Boris Godunov. In the fall of 2014, Mr. Kolelishvili made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Priest in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. In May 2015, he will sing the bass solo in “Babi Yar” with Maestro James Conlon and the Cincinnati Symphony. In 2015-2016, Mr. Kolelishvili makes his Paris Opera debut as Bonze in Madame Butterfly and Monterone in Rigoletto. He was a finalist of the BBC Cardiff voice competition and the winner of the World Voice Masters competition in Monte Carlo. Mr. Kolelishvili has sung principal guest roles at Opera Nacional de México, Opéra Toulouse, Opéra Comique Paris, Toulon Opera and Israeli Opera among others.

Andrew Bidlack (Alméric), tenor, recently starred as Rob Hall in the world premiere of Everest and as Albert inDie tote Stadt for The Dallas Opera. He has also portrayed the roles of Tamino in Die Zauberflöte and Count Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia at Florida Grand Opera and as Tonio in La fille du régiment at Palm Beach Opera. Mr. Bidlack recently had his Lyric Opera of Chicago debut as The Young Collector in A Streetcar Named Desire, which he also performed alongside Renée Fleming at Carnegie Hall. Among his roles in contemporary music are Ishmael in Moby-Dick and Tancredi in The Inspector at Wolf Trap. Future appearances include Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi for Intermountain Opera Bozeman, and joining Cincinnati Opera’s Morning Star.

Vladislav Sulimsky (Ibn-Hakia), baritone, makes his Dallas Opera debut in Iolanta. Last season, Mr. Sulimsky toured with Anna Netrebko in a series of Iolanta concerts in Europe. The same tour with Ms. Netrebko will be reprised in 2015. Also in 2014, Mr. Sulimsky made his Theater an der Wien debut as Prince Nikita in Tchaikovsky’s The Enchantress. Mr. Sulimsky has appeared at Opéra de Paris, Teatro alla Scala, Teatro Real Madrid and Teatro Regio Torino in the title role of Eugene Onegin. In 2009, Mr. Sulimsky was a Grammy Nominee for the Mariinsky Theatre recording of Shostakovich’s The Nose. Mr. Sulimsky has been a soloist of the Mariinsky Theatre since 2004 and is also regularly invited to sing leading roles at the Bolshoi Theatre.

Jordan Bisch (Bertrand), bass, made his debut at The Dallas Opera as Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor. He recently appeared as Commendatore in Don Giovanni at Seattle Opera and made his debut at the New Orleans Opera as Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor. A graduate of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, Mr. Bisch has appeared in several productions there including Il barbiere di Siviglia, La sonnambula, Aida, Idomeneo, Roméo et Juliette, and Don Carlos (Japan). He also appeared as Kecel in the Juilliard/Metropolitan Opera joint production of The Bartered Bride, conducted by James Levine. Other recent engagements have included Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte at the Washington National Opera and Opera Philadelphia and Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor at Arizona Opera and Florida Grand Opera.

Production Biographies

Emmanuel Villaume (Conductor) (Mrs. Eugene McDermott Music Director in honor of Graeme Jenkins) Emmanuel Villaume is in his second season as Music Director of The Dallas Opera and conducted Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro this season. He made his debut with the company in 1998 conducting Faust and returned to conduct The Marriage of Figaro. He is a frequent guest conductor at the world’s leading opera companies, including the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Los Angeles Opera, the Washington National Opera, Santa Fe Opera, London’s Royal Opera, the Paris Opera, Monte Carlo Opera, Venice’s La Fenice, the Munich Staatsoper, Berlin’s Deutsche Oper, the Hamburg Staatsoper, Madrid’s Teatro Real, and Buenos Aires’ Teatro Colón. He has led the Montreal Symphony in Montreal and at Carnegie Hall, the Chicago Symphony, the Boston Symphony, the orchestras of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, St. Louis, Detroit, Minnesota, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Beethovenhalle Orchestra of Bonn, and the China National Opera Orchestra for the 2008 Olympic Games. He is currently Chief Conductor of the National Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra. He served as the Spoleto Festival USA’s Music Director for Opera and Orchestra from 2001 to 2010. Maestro Villaume has recorded for Deutsche Grammophon (including Iolanta featuring Anna Netrebko) Decca and EMI. In September, he will assume a new post as Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Prague Philharmonia, in addition to his work in Dallas.

Christian Räth (Stage Director and Production Designer) A native of Hamburg, director Christian Räth is renowned throughout the USA, Europe and Japan. His appearances at The Dallas Opera include Beethoven’s Fidelio and Verdi’s Luisa Miller. In 2012 Räth designed and directed the critically acclaimed production of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, returning in 2015 to direct and design Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta. Other recent work elsewhere includes: Un giorno di regno (King for a Day) for the 2013 Glimmerglass Festival, Falstaff in Washington, Roméo et Juliette in Houston, Die Zauberflöte in Cairo and Carmen in Geneva. Future plans include projects with the Wiener Staatsoper, Metropolitan Opera, Washington National Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Portland Opera, Grand Théâtre de Genève, Opéra national du Rhin and Teatro Real, Madrid.

Susan Cox (Costume Designer) previously worked with The Dallas Opera and Stage Director Christian Räth for Richard Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde. She has worked as a costume designer, professor, draper and a technical artist specializing in body puppets and costume crafts. Ms. Cox has designed for organizations as varied as Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus, New York City Opera, The University of New Mexico, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop (both in Los Angeles and New York), Irene Corey Design Associates, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and theatre companies and costume shops from Broadway to the Napa Valley. Her designs are represented in film, television, dance and theater. Ms. Cox is currently an associate professor in the Drama Department at the University of Dallas.

Elaine J. McCarthy (Projections Designer) maintains an international career spanning 20 years and nearly every area of live performance. Her opera credits include Moby-Dick and Tristan und Isolde with The Dallas Opera, Mazeppa with the Metropolitan Opera, Dead Man Walking with New York City Opera, War and Peace with the Metropolitan Opera and Kirov Opera, Tosca with Opera Festival of New Jersey, and Tan Dun and Peter Sellars’s The Peony Pavilion at the Wiener Festwochen. Additional career highlights include the Broadway productions of Wicked, Spamalot, Assassins, Man of La Mancha, Into the Woods, Thurgood, and Judgment at Nuremberg, as well as the Off-Broadway productions of Frequency Hopping (set and projections) and Distracted (set and projections).

Thomas C. Hase (Lighting Designer), has designed for Carmen, The Aspern Papers, La traviata, The Winspear Opening Galas, Otello, and La bohème all for The Dallas Opera. His body of work includes designs for The Next Wave Festival in New York, Broadway and many regional opera and theatre companies across the U.S. He has also designed throughout Europe and Asia for many of the national theaters and state opera companies. Mr. Hase has been the resident lighting designer and director for Cincinnati Opera for 18 years. He recently lit the musical Doctor Zhivago, which is moving to Broadway. Upcoming projects include La finta giardiniera for Santa Fe Opera and Billy Budd for the Nationale Reisopera in Holland.

David Zimmerman (Wig and Make-up Designer) David Zimmerman has worked with The Dallas Opera and other opera companies around the world. These include the Metropolitan Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Santa Fe Opera, Paris National Opera, and Opera Santa Barbara. Mr. Zimmerman’s career extends to Broadway as well, where he has worked on shows including Wicked, Rocky Horror, Show Boat, South Pacific and Evita. His personal clients include Deborah Voigt, Joyce DiDonato, Patricia Racette, Martha Stewart, Olympia Dukakis, and Ricky Martin. He has also done the make-up for the DIFFA Fashion Runway, Dallas Fashion and Art Charity, and the fashion event. His print credits include two features in Opera News plus features in both Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. Television and film credits include Glamour magazine’s Women of the Year and a feature film.

Alexander Rom (Chorus Master) A native of Kharkov, Ukraine, Alexander Rom holds a Masters Degree in Choral Conducting from Leningrad Conservatory of Music. Since immigrating to the U.S., he has worked as a performer, conductor, educator, voice teacher, opera coach, and composer. He has been the chorus master for The Dallas Opera since 1990 and an opera coach with the Metropolitan Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Savonlinna Opera Festival, Cincinnati Festival, and Ravinia Festival. He has worked with world renowned singers including Paul Plishka, Mirella Freni, Nikolai Ghiaurov, Jorma Hynninen, Helga Dernesch, Martti Talvela, Joyce DiDonato, and Jerry Hadley. Maestro Rom is an honorary Visiting Professor at Sibelius Academy Helsinki Conservatory and was a Visiting Professor at Savonlinna Opera Festival Music Institute.

Sung in Russian with English supertitles

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Performances (2015)
The season's performances of this production have concluded.