Explore and celebrate opera's unique fusion of music and drama with Seattle Opera's 101 series or any of our behind-the-scenes interviews. Founded in 1963, Seattle Opera presents both European classics and new works of American opera.
A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS Q&A Highlights
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39:15After our world-premiere performances of A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS in February and March, audiences stayed to discuss the show with cast, crew, and staff. Hear highlights from those post-show Q&As. In addition to audience members, voices include those of Christina Scheppelmann (General Director), Khaled Hosseini (novelist), Sheila Silver (composer), Tess Altiveros (Nana/Woman #1/Wajma), Martin Bakari (Jalil/Wakil/Guard), Viswa Subbaraman (Conductor), Humaira Gilzai (Afghan Cultural Consultant), Ibidunni Ojikutu (Wife #2/Woman #2), John Moore (Rasheed), Rafael Moras (Tariq), Andrew Potter (Mullah/Sharif/Soldier), Sarah Coit (Wife #3/Fariba), Sarah Mattox (Wife #1/Woman #3), Ashraf Sewailam (Driver/Hakim), Karin Mushegain (Mariam), and Roya Sadat (Director).
Opera and Imperialism: Saint-Saëns's Samson and Delilah and the Representation of the "Other"
1:25:08Seattle Opera scholar-in-residence Dr. Naomi André, explores issues of orientalism, cultural representation, and musical exoticism in opera. French composer Camille Saint-Saëns wrote his biblical epic Samson and Delilah (1877) at a time when European powers were aggressively pursuing imperial expansion. As part of the cultural project of colonialism, Europe’s artists became fascinated with the representation of non-European peoples, frequently turning to caricatures and stereotypes to justify European incursions. Such orientalist portrayals present numerous challenges when presenting these works in the 21st century. When does inspiration become exploitation? Who gets to tell stories about whom? And what happens when issues of gender, religious belief, and nation intersect with the power dynamics that underlie these works?
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THE BARBER OF SEVILLE 101
18:12Figaro! Figaro! Figaro! Rossini’s cheerful comedy rounds out Seattle Opera’s season in May 2024. Seattle Opera Dramaturg Jonathan Dean introduces THE BARBER OF SEVILLE with musical examples drawn from Seattle Opera archival recordings from 1992 (conducted by Edoardo Mueller and starring John Del Carlo and Kevin Langan); 2011 (conducted by Dean Williamson and starring José Carbo, Lawrence Brownlee, Sarah Coburn, and Kate Lindsey); and 2017 (conducted by Giacomo Sagripanti and starring Sofia Fomina, Matthew Grills, Will Liverman, Kevin Glavin, and Daniel Sumegi).
X: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MALCOLM X 101
18:54In 1986 composer Anthony Davis and librettist Thulani Davis created an opera about the civil rights activist, with a story by Christopher Davis. The revised version comes to Seattle for the first time in winter/spring 2024, in a co-production shared with Detroit Opera, Opera Omaha, the Metropolitan Opera, and Lyric Opera of Chicago. Seattle Opera Dramaturg Jonathan Dean introduces X: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MALCOLM X 101, with musical examples from from the 2022 Boston Modern Orchestra Project recording of the opera conducted by Gil Rose and starring Davone Tines, Whitney Morrison, Ronnita Miller, Victor Robertson, Joshua Conyers, and Jonathan Harris. Special thanks to Glenn Hare.
20:44In Fall 2023 Seattle Opera will present Handel’s ALCINA, a magical opera seria about the vagaries of love, attraction, and gender. Seattle Opera Dramaturg Jonathan Dean introduces Handel operas and ALCINA, with musical examples from recital albums by Andreas Scholl and Sarah Connolly as well as recordings of ALCINA dating from 1959 (conducted by Ferdinand Leitner and starring Joan Sutherland); from 1962 (conducted by Richard Bonynge and starring Sutherland, Teresa Berganza, Monica Sinclair, and Luigi Alva); and 1999 (conducted by William Christie and starring Renee Fleming, Susan Graham, Kathleen Kuhlmann, Timothy Robinson, and Natalie Dessay).
DAS RHEINGOLD 101
17:24The introductory first opera of Wagner’s RING cycle is a unique and fascinating work in its own right: both a lively fantasy and a trenchant satirical allegory. Seattle Opera Dramaturg Jonathan Dean introduces DAS RHEINGOLD, with musical examples from previous Seattle Opera productions including 1977 (conducted by Henry Holt and starring Malcolm Rivers), 1995 (conducted by Hermann Michael and starring Julian Patrick), 2005 (conducted by by Robert Spano and starring Ewa Podles), and 2013 (conducted by Asher Fisch and starring Mark Schowalter). Special thanks to Alex Minami.
A Buddhist Perspective on TRISTAN & ISOLDE
30:43Seattle Opera subscriber Dr. Chris Rebholz, a practicing Buddhist, discusses Wagner’s Tristan with Seattle Opera Dramaturg Jonathan Dean. Fascinated by Buddhism when he wrote Tristan und Isolde, Wagner created an opera all about compassion, karma, desire, enlightenment, and the difficulty of reconciling both conventional and ultimate reality (aka “Day vs. Night”). Dr. Rebholz teaches adult classes on Buddhism at Seattle’s Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism. A clinical and forensic psychologist, in private practice, who specializes in evaluating neurodiverse adults for healthcare and the courts, she teaches corporate seminars on neurodiversity as well as continuing legal education on issues of mental health and the law. Musical examples from Seattle Opera’s 2022 Tristan und Isolde starring Mary Elizabeth Williams, Ryan McKinney, and Amber Wagner and conducted by Jordan de Souza.
The Wagner Problem: Performance and Programming in the 21st Century
1:17:35Richard Wagner is once again making an appearance on the Seattle Opera stage, renewing questions about the controversial composer’s compatibility with contemporary social values. Wagner’s objectionable views and dominant position in the opera canon have long vexed opera lovers, prompting some to wonder what role Wagner should play for modern opera companies. Join esteemed musicologists and music critics from around the globe as they reflect on the ethics of performing Wagner in the 21st century and envision a more equitable model for classical music. The conversation will address how opera companies might present works by problematic artists, as well as what they can do more broadly to diversify programming. What gets the privilege of being called classical music, and what gets left out of that definition? What role should opera companies play in the cultivation of new music? And how can we find a balance between traditional works and overlooked voices?
Singing Like Germans with Kira Thurman & Naomi André
54:02Join us for a conversation with Kira Thurman, author of Singing Like Germans: Black Musicians in the Land of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms, and Seattle Opera scholar-in-residence Dr. Naomi André. Drawing on her experience as a classically trained pianist who grew up in Vienna, Austria, Thurman traces the sweeping story of Black musicians performing in Germany and Austria over more than a century. As musicians like Marian Anderson and Grace Bumbry broke barriers on stage and in concert halls, they found opportunities in German-speaking Europe that were denied to them in the Jim Crow-era U.S. In doing so, they also challenged categories of Blackness and Germanness and complicated the public's understanding of how music is tied to racial and national identity.
MARY ELIZABETH WILLIAMS Discusses Isolde
34:42American soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams, beloved in Seattle for performances such as Tosca, Abigaille in NABUCCO, and Serena in PORGY AND BESS, just made her role debut as Isolde, the first time she’s ever sung a Wagner opera. She discussed the character, the singing, and her two-and-a-half year journey towards this achievement with Seattle Opera Dramaturg Jonathan Dean. This podcast features clips of Williams singing Tosca (conducted by Julian Kovatchev) and “Pace, pace, mio Dio” from LA FORZA DEL DESTINO (conducted by Carlo Montanaro), as well as Amber Wagner singing Brangäne in TRISTAN (conducted by Jordan de Souza).