Eastman Opera Theatre (EOT) is delighted to announce its 2023-2024 season, which offers a diverse lineup of works. In the fall, EOT will perform A Double Bill: Mythology Through a New Lens!, which features Jake Heggie’s To Hell and Back (2006) and Nkeiru Okoye’s We’ve Got Our Eye on You (2016). The winter production is also a double bill, featuring Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos Prologue (1916) and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (1689). The season concludes with a Kodak Hall mainstage production of Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites (1957).
“We are so excited to share Eastman Opera Theatre’s 2023-24 season with you. The repertoire explores the idea of belief through mythology and religion and its power to challenge and transform us,” says Timothy Long, who will commence his first season as EOT’s Artistic and Music Director this fall. “The music of Nkeiru Okoye, Jake Heggie, Richard Strauss, Henry Purcell and Francis Poulenc will enlighten and entertain with compositions from the Baroque era through the 21st century.”
On November 2-5, the season will launch with A Double Bill: Mythology Through a New Lens! in Kilbourn Hall, where both operas will be sung in English with supertitles. Alongside conductor Wilson Southerland, Patrick Diamond makes his Eastman directorial debut. To Hell and Back, with music by Jake Heggie and libretto by Gene Scheer, contains a 40-minute score reflective of music by Britten, Bernstein and Copland. Utilizing Baroque sounds alongside modern musical language, the story is inspired by the myth of Persephone and told in five scenes by a cast of two. Focused on the loving relationship between a woman, Anne, and her daughter-in-law, Stephanie, the story revolves around the shattering acknowledgement that Stephanie is a victim of spousal abuse at the hands of Anne’s son.
We’ve Got Our Eye on You, composed by Dr. Nkeiru Okoye with a libretto by David Cote, “delivers a humorous but uplifting message about giving in to desire prematurely… It challenges today’s ‘hookup’ phenomenon that is especially pervasive amongst teens and college students,” according to Dr. Okoye. This amusing Gilbert & Sullivan-esque show, loosely inspired by Greek mythology, employs a brand of humor that is similar to Monty Python’s.
“EOT is excited to feature a double bill of two 21st-century operas by important living composers. Dr. Okoye and Jake Heggie offer stories of abuse, redemption, empowerment and desire. The musical styles of these pieces run the gamut from Baroque to Broadway,” shares Wilson Southerland, Associate Music Director for EOT.
The Winter Double Bill, directed by Octavio Cardenas and conducted by Timothy Long, will run from January 25-28 and February 1-4, 2024, in Eastman’s Opera Studio, an intimate black box theatre in Annex 804. Ariadne auf Naxos is comprised of two parts: the Prologue and the Opera, but in this performance EOT will only perform the Prologue. With music by Richard Strauss and a libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Ariadne auf Naxos will be sung in German with English supertitles. This comic romance takes place in the home of the richest man in Vienna, who has just thrown a dinner party and ordered entertainment for his guests. Hijinks ensue when a composer and his serious opera company arrive at the same time as a troop of improvisational comedians… and all are told that they must find a way to perform simultaneously.
Conversely, Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, libretto by Nahum Tate, realized and edited by Benjamin Britten and Imogen Holst, is a romantic tragedy. The opera opens with Dido, the lovelorn queen of Carthage, aching for Aeneas, a Trojan hero, to return to her. Upon their eventual reunion, all seems to be going well for the couple, but unbeknownst to them a coven of witches is plotting the downfall of Carthage and its queen. Deception and misunderstandings ensue triggering an irreversible anger in Dido that ultimately leads to her demise.
Long shares, “our winter double-bill is a combination of two great works in the operatic canon. The stories from the Ariadne auf Naxos Prologue and Dido and Aeneas bring together stories of extravagance and abandonment from over two hundred years apart. They show the timeless resilience of the human condition.” He continues, “Benjamin Britten’s 20th century edition of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas ties the two pieces together with a modern aesthetic.”
EOT’s spring 2024 production, Dialogues des Carmélites, will take place April 4-7 in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. Directed by Patrick Diamond and conducted by Timothy Long, it will be sung in French with English supertitles. This quasi-historical opera, with music and libretto by Francis Poulenc, is set in Paris at the close of the 18th century. As signs of the French Revolution begin to unsettle the country, a fearful young noblewoman seeks sanctuary in a convent, where, in the midst of unspeakable tragedy, her faith in God will be tested.
Tickets to all of these performances will be sold through Eastman’s Box Office website, though they are not yet available for purchase.
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About Eastman Opera Theatre:
Eastman Opera Theatre offers a comprehensive program of training and performance opportunities for the modern singer-actor. Each year, productions feature a wide range of musical styles, unusual lyric forms, and both traditional and contemporary repertoire that prepare the motivated student for the professional lyric theater world of tomorrow.
Most productions have two complete principal casts (given an equal number of performances), are fully designed, performed in the original language, and depending on the venue, use full orchestral accompaniment. Studio productions, scenes programs, and outreach events are also offered to further enhance the variety of performance opportunities. Eastman Opera Theatre utilizes both undergraduate and graduate students in all roles for all productions.
Recent and past productions include Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas; Davis’ Lear on the 2nd Floor; Sondheim’s Into the Woods; Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea; Glass’ Hydrogen Jukebox and Les Enfants Terribles; Guettel’s The Light in the Piazza; Gordon’s The Tibetan Book of the Dead; Mozart’s Don Giovanni; and Puts’ Elizabeth Cree. EOT is committed to working with living composers and librettists. Recent production collaborators have included Anthony Davis, Adam Guettel, Jake Heggie, Gene Scheer, Ricky Ian Gordon, Kevin Puts, and Mark Campbell.
About Eastman School of Music:
The Eastman School of Music was founded in 1921 by industrialist and philanthropist George Eastman (1854–1932), founder of Eastman Kodak Company. It was the first professional school of the University of Rochester. Mr. Eastman’s dream was that his school would provide a broad education in the liberal arts as well as superb musical training.
More than 900 students are enrolled in the Collegiate Division of the Eastman School of Music—about 500 undergraduates and 400 graduate students. They come from almost every state, and approximately 23 percent are from other countries. They are taught by a faculty comprised of more than 130 highly regarded performers, composers, conductors, scholars, and educators. They are Pulitzer Prize winners, Grammy winners, Emmy winners, Guggenheim fellows, ASCAP Award recipients, published authors, recording artists, and acclaimed musicians who have performed in the world’s greatest concert halls. Each year, Eastman’s students, faculty members, and guest artists present more than 900 concerts to the Rochester community. Additionally, more than 1,700 members of the Rochester community, from young children through senior citizens, are enrolled in the Eastman Community Music School.
About the University of Rochester:
The University of Rochester is one of the nation’s leading private research universities, one of only 62-member institutions in the Association of American Universities. Located in Rochester, N.Y., the University gives undergraduates exceptional opportunities for interdisciplinary study and close collaboration with faculty through its unique cluster-based curriculum. Its College, School of Arts and Sciences, and Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences are complemented by the Eastman School of Music, Simon School of Business, Warner School of Education, Laboratory for Laser Energetics, School of Medicine and Dentistry, School of Nursing, Eastman Institute for Oral Health, and the Memorial Art Gallery.