THE DALLAS OPERA PROUDLY PRESENTS AN EAGERLY ANTICIPATED WORLD PREMIERE:
BECOMING SANTA CLAUS
By Mark Adamo
CONDUCTED BY MUSIC DIRECTOR EMMANUEL VILLAUME
STARRING JENNIFER RIVERA, JONATHAN BLALOCK AND MATT BOEHLER
PRESENTING SPONSOR, THE MOODY FOUNDATION
PERFORMANCES: December 4, 6(m), 9 & 12, 2015
In the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House
AT&T Performing Arts Center, Dallas
HOSPITAL SIMULCAST ON SUNDAY, DECEMBER 6 at 2:00
CHILDREN’S HEALTH (Dallas and Plano), SCOTTISH RITE
And UT MEDICAL BRANCH AT GALVESTON
Additional Support for this Dallas Opera Commission from Dr. and Mrs. Tom Mayer, and Maile and Charles Shea,
and The Twelve Months of Kindness Committee
DALLAS, NOVEMBER 11, 2015 – The Dallas Opera is delighted to present an original, musically compelling and visually stunning world premiere: Mark Adamo’s BECOMING SANTA CLAUS, opening on Friday, December 4th at 7:30 p.m. in the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center.
Additional performances in this exclusive engagement will take place on Sunday, Dec. 6th (2:00 p.m. matinee); Wednesday, Dec. 9th and Saturday, December 12, 2015 with support from the presenting sponsor, The Moody Foundation.
This new opera, from the composer of Little Women, is about the imagined origins of that holiday icon, Santa Claus. Both music and book for this family-friendly opera were created by Mark Adamo and commissioned by The Dallas Opera.
BECOMING SANTA CLAUS stars mezzo-soprano Jennifer Rivera as Queen Sophine in her Dallas Opera debut, tenor Jonathan Blalock (the Charron and Peter Denker Rising Star for the 2015-2016 Season) portrays the troubled Prince Claus, bass Matt Boehler sings the dual roles of Donkey/Messenger, while the elves are portrayed by Grammy winning soprano Hila Plitmann (Yan), mezzo-soprano Lucy Schaufer (Ib), tenor Keith Jameson (Yab) and bass Kevin Burdette (Ob).
Juan José de Leon, originally cast in the role of Prince Claus, withdrew from the production as rehearsals got underway, due to a severe illness in the family.
“As the final of three world premieres this calendar year,” says Dallas Opera General Director and CEO Keith Cerny, “I’ve been looking forward to Becoming Santa Claus with particular pleasure. The opportunity to hear our highly esteemed music director, Emmanuel Villaume, conduct a Dallas Opera world premiere makes this a noteworthy occasion—as does Paul Curran’s staging and choreography, Gary McCann’s set and costume designs, and the outstanding singers who will be creating these memorable characters for the very first time.
“Lucky for us, we won’t have to wait until Christmas morning!”
In addition to Winspear Opera House performances, The Dallas Opera, with key support from The Moody Foundation, will take an active role in bringing a touch of the holiday spirit into children’s hospitals and pediatric care units in Dallas, Plano and Galveston: TDO will simulcast the December 6th Sunday matinee, beginning at 2:00 p.m., to several remote locations: Children’s Health (Dallas and Plano), Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children (Dallas), and University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, where hospitalized children will be able to experience this touching and magical tale with their families and care-givers.
The Dallas Opera has created a special coloring book, Becoming Santa Claus, to be distributed to children’s hospitals in advance of the simulcast. Dallas-area high school art students submitted designs earlier this year, to be incorporated into this unique coloring book. Their original creations will be exhibited in the Winspear Lobby throughout these performances.
Set in an Elven kingdom in the far, far north, BECOMING SANTA CLAUS will be conducted by Music Director Emmanuel Villaume (The Mrs. Eugene McDermott Music Director), now in his third season with The Dallas Opera. Maestro Villaume recently assumed the position of Music Director and Chief Conductor of the PKF – Prague Philharmonia (in addition to his duties in Dallas), and he continues to conduct and record critically acclaimed performances with the most important artists of our day, from Anna Netrebko to Bryan Hymel.
Guest engagements in the U.S. this season include Roméo et Juliette at the Lyric Opera of Chicago as well as his return to Santa Fe Opera in the summer of 2016.
Following his triumph in Manon at London’s Royal Opera House in 2014, Villaume returns to Covent Garden for performances of Tosca. Manon was also the vehicle of Maestro Villaume’s return to the Metropolitan Opera in January 2015, about which the New York Times proclaimed, “It is the most vivid, exciting take on Manon at the Met in many years, and sets the bar high, early on, for the company’s spring season.”
Emmanuel Villaume returns to the Royal Opera House, Muscat in December 2015 for a concert with the PKF and guest soprano Sondra Radvanovsky.
“It’s a thrilling responsibility, at any time, to conduct a major world premiere,” explains Music Director Emmanuel Villaume. “However, my excitement about Becoming Santa Claus stems from the piece itself, which contains Mark’s witty, glittering dialogue; heartfelt sentiment; and absolutely beautiful music. It is my hope that audiences will find themselves utterly transported when they take their seats in the Winspear Opera House on opening night.”
“Becoming Santa Claus—which has been an amazing experience for everyone involved,” Villaume added, “may prove to be an extraordinary experience for music lovers of all ages.”
The world premiere of Mark Adamo’s fourth full-length opera will be staged by Director Paul Curran, who also serves as the choreographer for this production, in his company debut. Mr. Curran, the James R. Seitz, Jr. Stage Director in honor of John Gage, was the artistic director of the Norwegian National Opera for several years and has been instrumental in creating landmark opera productions including La donna del lago for the Metropolitan Opera and Santa Fe Opera, The Tsar’s Bride for Covent Garden, Tannhäuser for La Scala, Peter Grimes for the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and many more.
The Glasgow native has translated plays by Chekhov and Molière and works on opera, musicals and dramas around the world.
Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Rivera (Queen Sophine), a former New York City Opera “Debut Artist of the Year,” has earned accolades on both sides of the Atlantic for her extraordinary vocalism and versatility, prompting Opera News to write of her “ravishing mezzo bloom from top to bottom.”
Tenor Jonathan Blalock, winner of the 2014 Agnes Varis Prize for Bel Canto from the Opera Orchestra of New York, made a lasting impression in Paul’s Case at The Prototype Festival, which Alex Ross of The New Yorker called one of the top ten musical events of the year. Steve Smith of The New York Times wrote: “Blalock is riveting in the title role; his voice sweet and true, his thin smile telegraphing Paul’s honeyed contempt for his working class surroundings.”
Mr. Blalock’s Dallas Opera debut is made possible with support from the Charron and Peter Denker Rising Stars Endowment Fund.
Bass Matt Boehler appears in the dual roles of Donkey/Messenger. His voice, wrote Madison.com, “has fantastic dexterity and power.”
Set and Costume Designer Gary McCann is one of a phenomenal production team that includes Lighting Designer Paul Hackenmueller and Driscoll Otto, designing projections for this world premiere production.
Mr. McCann, originally from Northern Ireland and now based in London has worked on Broadway, the West End, at the National Theatre (U.K.) and in major opera houses and theaters throughout the world. His design work was on display last summer in the MAKE/BELIEVE exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Paul Hackenmueller has designed lighting for Broadway productions including Disgraced, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, Superfly, Fela!, Desire Under the Elms, A Bronx Tale, Mauritius, The Frogs and Martin Guerre. He has also designed concert lighting for the likes of Norah Jones, Beyoncé, John Legend, Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, Garth Brooks, Tony Bennett, Gloria Estefan and many more.
Driscoll Otto’s projection projects include The Urban Dictionary Plays and The Netflix Plays with Arts Nova; The Steadfast with Slant Theater Project; Long Day’s Journey with York Shakespeare Company; numerous productions for the New York Musical Theatre Festival. At the regional level, Otto has designed for Dallas Theater Center, Trinity Repertory Theatre, Shakespeare Dallas and many more.
The Becoming Santa Claus experience will begin the moment patrons enter the Winspear Opera House. Lobby performances from hand-bell or children’s choirs will be enjoyed, along with hot chocolate and cookies offered at concession stands.
There are other wonderful surprises in store in The Dallas Opera’s Becoming Santa Claus but, just like Christmas, you’ll have to wait and see (although we can promise you the beautiful Moody Foundation Chandelier in the Winspear Opera House will join in the holiday fun!).
Discover the real meaning of this very special season all over again, and make this world premiere opera your most joyful, tuneful family tradition!
Additional support for The Dallas Opera’s BECOMING SANTA CLAUS is provided by Dr. and Mrs. Tom Mayer and Maile and Charles Shea (in loving memory of Chloe Simone Shea), and The Twelve Months of Kindness Committee.
Prince Claus is about to celebrate his thirteenth birthday with a party to end all parties. If the evening proceeds without a hitch, a family curse will be lifted; and the working elves will get their first day off in a thousand days. However, Queen Sophine’s best-laid plans for her son fall victim to a host of last-minute cancellations from royal relatives scattered around the world.
A bright star has signaled a momentous birth. Claus, who has filled the emotional gaps in his own life with possessions, decides to dazzle this newborn with an assortment of the very latest toys before discovering for himself that love is the most treasured gift of all.
“I have had, largely, a brilliant time in opera, but already,” writes composer Mark Adamo, “working with this company—The Dallas Opera—has been, in a word, heaven. I hope you like the show; I love it here. But, while a list of people to thank could span the state, I must single out the Mayer family. Their support of this piece has been extraordinary.”
Mark Adamo is the creator and driving force behind The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, Lysistrata, and one of the most successful contemporary operas of our day: Little Women—a work which has had more than ninety international productions and been released on DVD and Blu-ray.
In addition to his operas, Mr. Adamo is an acclaimed composer of new chamber and choral works. These include Aristotle for Thomas Hampson and the Jupiter String Quartet, under the auspices of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; The Racer’s Widow for New York Festival of Song; Four Angels: Concerto for Harp and Orchestra commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra, as well as works commissioned and performed by Chanticleer, the Choral Arts Society in Washington and The New York Virtuoso Singers.
More information is available at www.markadamo.com.
SYNOPSIS: BECOMING SANTA CLAUS
By Mark Adamo
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 sleigh full 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.
Additional performances of BECOMING SANTA CLAUS sung in English, with English language supertitles projected above the stage will take place in the magnificent Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House on December 6(m), 9 & 12, 2015. This family-friendly world premiere is suitable for children old enough to read. Don’t be surprised if Mark Adamo’s newest opera proves to be the surprise hit of the North Texas holiday season!
Tickets start at just $19. They may be purchased online, 24/7, at www.dallasopera.org or by contacting the friendly professionals in The Dallas Opera Ticket Services Office at 214.443.1000.
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Ticket Information for the 2015-2016 Dallas Opera Season
All performances are in the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center unless otherwise described. Single Tickets range from $19 to $275. Flex Subscriptions are on sale now starting at $75. Family performance tickets are just $5. For more information or to make your purchase, contact The Dallas Opera Ticket Services Office at 214.443.1000 or visit us online, 24/7, at www.dallasopera.org.