2015–2016 Season Seeking the Human Element

Becoming Santa Claus

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In an Elven kingdom in the Far, Far North, Prince Claus will celebrate his 13th birthday with the party to end all parties; however, a bright star has signaled a momentous birth. Claus decides to dazzle this newborn with an assortment of the very latest toys before discovering that love is the most treasured gift of all. A witty, wise and wonderful addition to your holidays!

Starring  Jennifer Rivera • Jonathan Blalock • Matt Boehler

Conductor Emmanuel Villaume • Director Paul Curran
Set and Costume Design Gary McCann • Lighting Design Paul Hackenmueller • Projection Design Driscoll Otto

Rated PG


Scene One. Evening: mere hours before the extravagant gala planned for the thirteenth birthday of Prince Claus. In the palace of the royal family of Nifland, an Elven realm in the very, very Far North, Ib, the no-nonsense leader of the palace staff, summons her staff: time to prepare the party!  But only nervous Yab and rebellious Ob appear; various disasters have beset the other scheduled servants. Ib despairs—so much remains to be done—when Yan appears; more inquisitive than experienced, true, but eager to help. Ib explains that Queen Sophine, regent, sorceress, and mother of Claus, has been planning this event so obsessively that she hasn’t permitted Ib or her team a much-desired day off for over three years. When Yan asks the obvious questions: why is this so important? And where is the King, vanished years ago under mysterious circumstances?—Ib stonewalls, until she is interrupted by the entrance of Queen Sophine herself, who inquires after the Prince.  None has seen him.

Alone, Queen Sophine tries to lure her recalcitrant son to the party; he balks until she reveals that his three treasured uncles (who happen to be Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, the three kings of Christmas legend) have confirmed attending. Prince Claus joins the Queen in awaiting them, but uncle after uncle fails to show up, until at last a Donkey-Messenger arrives to read a letter explaining all three Kings’ absence; a star in the west has summoned them to attend the birth of a mysterious child, so to the Prince they have sent, instead, regrets and gifts. Claus, clearly stung, storms out. Yan, still full of questions, plies the Queen with Champagne until she explains the Prince’s current temperament. His father the King, like his uncles just now, had too often sent the boy presents as substitutes for the father’s presence, until the formerly open-hearted boy turned brittle and grasping; desperate to restore her family, the Queen decided to exile his father for three years, and did so by casting a spell which…did what? Yan doesn’t learn. Prince Claus returns, demanding to learn from the Kings’ letter what gifts his uncles have prepared for this mysterious child; when learning the gifts are symbolic medicines and ointments like myrrh and frankincense—hardly the stuff of a child’s dreams-- Prince Claus proposes that the Elves devise, instead, a sleighful of the most spectacular toys ever made, and then he and the Elves will join his uncles at the Child’s crib to pay tribute their way. The Elves are skeptical: but, lured by the renewed promise of time off, agree.  

Scene Two. Midmorning the next day: the Elves’ Toyshop, deep in the bowels of the royal palace. Prince Claus demands a review of the gifts each of the four Elves have drafted during the previous night: to his eye, none of them are special enough. “They need to be new!” he urges (threatens?) Back they go to work: the toys improve, but the time is slipping away. Ib warns the Prince that at their current pace, they will never finish the presents in time to reach the child by the predicted time of his birth; Claus brags that he can persuade his mother to use her magic to solve that problem, but Ib isn’t so sure.  Prince Claus wheedles his mother to attend the unveiling of the now-completed toys, confident that their glamour will persuade her to step in. The Elves give the presentation their all, but the Queen remains unconvinced of the Prince’s good faith: she decides she won’t stand in his way, but she won’t help, either. Stung, but undeterred, the Prince sets off.

Scene Three. Twilight, half the world away: a stable outside of a small, poor town in the desert. Prince Claus and the Elves appear, a trove of wonders in tow. The Elves ask the drowsing Donkey they find (the messenger from the party) to announce the Prince’s arrival. But the Donkey informs them they’re too late: the child and his mother left three days ago. Yan asks them to tell them what happened when the Kings arrived at the manger. Moving as the Donkey’s response is, it doesn’t solve the problem of what to do with a sleigh full of these toys when there’s no one to give them to. The Prince’s solution changes everything.

Cast Biographies

Jennifer Rivera (Queen Sophine) Jennifer Rivera’s season features her debut with Dallas Opera, in the premiere of Mark Adamo’s Becoming Santa Claus, and New Orleans Opera as Sister Helen in Dead Man Walking. Concert appearances include the Music of the Baroque and the Houston Symphony. Last season included a return to Portland Opera for Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus, and her debuts with Opera Parallèle as Sister Helen Prejean in Dead Man Walking, and Brisbane Baroque as the titular Faramondo. Other recent appearances include: Boston Baroque, Gotham Chamber Opera, Central City Opera, Innsbruck Early Music Festival, and Opera Omaha. The mezzo’s discography includes: the title role in La Stellidaura vendicante and Nerone in Agrippina for Harmonia Mundi, Licida in L’Olimpiade for Sony Music and “The Garrison Keillor Songs” by Robert Aldridge.

Jonathan Blalock (Prince Claus) (Charron and Peter Denker Rising Star), tenor, winner of the 2014 Agnes Varis Prize for Bel Canto from the Opera Orchestra of New York, recently left a lasting impression with his performance in Paul’s Case at The Prototype Festival—a performance which Alex Ross in The New Yorker named as one of the top ten musical events of 2014. In addition to his acclaim for work in 20th and 21st Century Opera, he has appeared in a number of world premieres, including The Secret Agent and Jorge Martin’s Before Night Falls. Mr. Blalock’s recent productions featured several exciting role debuts including Ramiro (La Cenerentola) with Opera Roanoke, The Mole (The Fantastic Mr. Fox) with both Opera San Antonio and Odyssey Opera, Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni) with Cedar Rapids Opera, and Count Almaviva with Loft Opera in New York City. Future season debuts include both Nashville Opera and Los Angeles Opera.

Matt Boehler (Donkey/Messenger) Acclaimed for both dramatic skill and vocal prowess Matt Boehler recently returned to the Metropolitan Opera as Bertrand in Iolantha and to Madison Opera as Rocco in Fidelio.  He debuted with Théâtre Royal de La Monnaie as the Erster Schäfer in Daphne, Michigan Opera Theater as Méphistophélès in Faust, and Des Moines Metro Opera as Osmin in Die Enführung aus dem Serail.  His recent residency with the Theater St. Gallen saw his role debut as Daland in Der fliegende Holländer, Leporello in Don Giovanni, Pfarrer/Dachs in The Cunning Little Vixen, and Sparafucile in Rigoletto, as well as Baldassare in La favorite with St. Galler Festspiele. A frequent collaborator on contemporary works he has premiered John Musto’s works: The Inspector and Bastianello, and William Bolcom’s Lucrezia.  

Hila Plitmann (Yan) Grammy award-winning soprano Hila Plitmann is known worldwide for her astonishing musicianship and light, beautiful voice. In constant demand as a singer of new and contemporary music, Ms. Plitmann continues to appear as a soloist in numerous world premieres, including this production of Mark Adamo’s Becoming Santa Claus. She has worked with many leading conductors, including Leonard Slatkin, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Thomas Adès and Kurt Mazur. She performs regularly with orchestras such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, and the London Symphony Orchestra. Some of her future involvements are the world premieres of Richard Danielpour’s String Quartet no. 7 with the Del Ray String Quartet, under NAXOS, and Paola Prestini’s opera Gilgamesh in Boston, as part of the Ouroboros Trilogy Opera Project.

Lucy Schaufer (IB) The mezzo-soprano’s most recent and future engagements include Susanna in The Ghosts of Versailles, Marcellina in Le nozze di Figaro, Berta in Il barbiere di Siviglia for Los Angeles Opera, Jenny in Knussen’s Higglety Pigglety Pop for Aldeburgh Festival and the Barbican in London, Der Trommler in Der Kaiser von Atlantis, Ma Moss in The Tender Land for Opéra de Lyon, Swiss Grandmother in The Death of Klinghoffer for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and English National Opera, Ruth Crawford Seeger’s Three Songs for Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Maddy in Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers for Florentine Opera, Aldonza in Man of La Mancha for Central City Opera, as well as a Bernstein concert with the John Wilson Orchestra, as part of the 2015 BBC Proms. Ms. Schaufer’s first solo recording, Carpentersville (co-produced with ABC Classics), was the Editor’s Choice in Classical Music Magazine.

Keith Jameson (YAB) Tenor Keith Jameson regularly appears on the major opera stages throughout the United States. He has been heard regularly at the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, New York City Opera, Dallas Opera and Santa Fe Opera. His appearances with The Dallas Opera include Don Curzio in Le nozze di Figaro and the Simpleton in Boris Godunov. In the concert and recital stages he has performed at Carnegie Hall, Phoenix Symphony and the Berkshire Bach Society at Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood. He also performed Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass and Haydn’s Creation with Boston Baroque, which were recorded for commercial release. He is also the Founder and Director of the Greenwood Music Festival in Greenwood, SC, which had its inaugural season in, 2007. (www.KeithJameson.org)

Kevin Burdette (OB) In summer 2015 Kevin Burdette sang Sulpice in La fille du régiment and Stobrod/Blind Man in Higdon’s Cold Mountain (world premiere) with Santa Fe Opera. In 2015-16 he performs Dulcamara in L’elisir d’amore and reprises Cold Mountain with Opera Philadelphia; sings Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance with Atlanta Opera (debut); and Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd with Portland Opera. Last season he sang Bartolo in Il barbiere di Siviglia (Opera Philadelphia); created the role of Beck Weathers in Talbot’s Everest (The Dallas Opera); reprised The Ogre in Montsalvatge’s El gato con botas (Gotham Chamber Opera); and sang Leporello in Don Giovanni (Boston Lyric Opera). He sings Stefano in Adès’ The Tempest with the Metropolitan Opera on DVD (2014 Grammy Award and French Diapason d’Or).

Production Biographies

Mark Adamo Composer-librettist Mark Adamo is preparing for the première of his fourth full-length opera, Becoming Santa Claus, commissioned by The Dallas Opera for December 2015. It succeeds The Gospel of Mary Magdalene (San Francisco Opera, June 2013) Lysistrata (Houston Grand Opera, 2005; New York City Opera, 2006; Washington National Opera, 2008; and Fort Worth Opera, 2012) and Little Women (90+ international productions; CD release, 2002; Blu-ray/DVD release, 2010.) Chamber commissions include Aristotle, introduced to New York, Boston, and Davis, California by Thomas Hampson and the Jupiter String Quartet, under the auspices of Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; The Racer’s Widow, for New York Festival of Song. Adamo’s first concerto, Four Angels: Concerto for Harp and Orchestra, was commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra in 2007. Its slow movement, Regina Coeli, is featured on Late Victorians, (2008) Eclipse Chamber Orchestra’s all-Adamo recording for Naxos, which includes first recordings of Late Victorians, his cantata for singer, narrator, and chamber orchestra; Alcott Music, a suite from Little Women; and the Overture to Lysistrata. His choral work has been commissioned and performed by Chanticleer, Choral Arts Society in Washington, and The New York Virtuoso Singers.  His music is published exclusively by G. Schirmer.  www.MarkAdamo.com.

Emmanuel Villaume (Conductor) (Mrs. Eugene McDermott Music Director in honor of Graeme Jenkins). Emmanuel Villaume is in his third year as Music Director of The Dallas Opera after conducting Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro and Iolanta this past season. He made his debut with the company in 1998 conducting Faust. 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 also Chief Conductor of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra. He served from 2001-2010 as the Spoleto Festival USA’s Music Director for Opera and Orchestra. Maestro Villaume has conducted award-winning recordings for Deutsche Grammophon (including Iolanta featuring Anna Netrebko), Warner Classics (Heroique with Bryan Hymel), Decca and EMI. In September, he will assume a new post as Music Director and Chief Conductor of the PKF--Prague Philharmonia, in addition to his work in Dallas.

Paul Curran (Stage Director) Born in Glasgow, Mr. Curran graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney in 1992. Fresh from drama school, he was taken on as assistant to Baz Luhrmann, after which he established himself as a director of opera, drama and musicals worldwide. Among his productions are La donna del lago (Metropolitan Opera and Santa Fe Opera); The Tsar’s Bride (The Royal Opera, Covent Garden); Rusalka (National Theatre Tokyo); Tannhäuser (La Scala); Peter Grimes (Kennedy Centre Washington D.C., Oslo, Santa Fe); Tristan und Isolde (La Fenice); Tosca (Mariinsky St Petersburg, Canadian Opera Company); Mirandolina (Wexford); La traviata (Bucharest). Previously for Garsington Opera: La finta giardiniera. From 2007 to 2012 Mr. Curran was Artistic Director of the Norwegian National Opera in Oslo. He has translated several plays by Chekhov and Molière, and volunteers as often as he can with Los Angeles-based charity GayforGood, painting schools, clearing orchards and gardens. 

Gary McCann (Set and Costume Designer) works as a set and costume designer for opera, musicals, and theatre productions. Originally from Northern Ireland, he is now based in Greenwich, London. His designs have been produced on Broadway, in London’s West End, at the National Theatre, UK, and at major opera houses all over the world such as the Vienna State Opera and Norwegian National Opera. His work will be on display in summer 2015 at the Victoria and Albert Museum as part of the Make/Believe exhibition, and his art installations in 18th century follies can be seen at Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire until November. He recently designed the 50th anniversary tour of The Sound of Music, which is currently on tour in the UK. 

David Zimmerman (Wig and Make-up Designer) has worked with The Dallas Opera and other opera companies around the world. These include the Metropolitan Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint 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 Yelp.com 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.

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Sung in English with supertitles

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