Legendary Mezzo-Soprano Frederica von Stade Stars as Myrtle Blesdoe,
a Role Originally Written for Her
Chicago Opera Theater (COT) presents a spring production of Ricky Ian Gordon’s fascinating “A Coffin in Egypt” April 25 through May 3 at The Harris Theater for Music and Dance (205 E. Randolph). The opera, written for legendary mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade tells the haunting tale of memory and murder, racism and recrimination, based on a play by Horton Foote.
The production runs April 25 and 29 and May 1 and 3, 2015. Tickets are now on sale at chicagooperatheater.org for $35-$125.
“It is an incredible honor and rare opportunity to have the regal Frederica von Stade fill the powerful lead role in ‘A Coffin in Egypt’ written precisely for her,” said Andreas Mitisek, Chicago Opera Theater’s General Director. “Working closely with the renowned composer Ricky Ian Gordon and librettist and director Leonard Foglia, COT will present an intriguing and powerful production with a touching score that tells an unforgettable story of one woman’s last moments of reflection and forgiveness.”
Supporting Frederica von Stade in her tour de force performance are: veteran actors, David Matranga, and Carolyn Johnson, Lyric Opera Ryan Center alums soprano Kimberly E. Jones and tenor Bernard Holcomb, current COT Young Artists baritone Nicholas Davis, and mezzo soprano.The production will be directed by librettist Leonard Foglia and conducted by Emanuele Andrizzi.
Performance Schedule and Ticket Information
“A Coffin in Egypt” will be performed at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph. The performance schedule is as follows:
• Saturday, April 25, 2015 – 7:30 p.m.
• Wednesday, April 29, 2015 – 7:30 p.m.
• Friday, May 1, 2015 – 7:30 p.m.
• Sunday, May 3, 2015 – 3 p.m.
Tickets are priced from $35 - $125 and can be purchased by calling 312.704.8414 or via chicagooperatheater.org. Tickets can also be purchased at the Harris Theater box office.
About “A Coffin in Egypt”
Myrtle Bledsoe is at the end of her life in Egypt, Texas, trying to face her past and deciding whether or not her life was well–lived. In her earlier years, she was a member of the bigoted upper class of Texas, but also seemed to have a sense of injustice. In order to escape her neglectful, adulterous husband, she travelled to New York, London, Paris, Rome and the nation of Egypt with her two daughters. When the money runs out during the Great Depression, Myrtle is forced to come back to her husband’s plantation, where she outlives him and her two daughters and is left alone to resolve old conflicts and reflect on her life. We watch Myrtle as she struggles to find peace at the end of her life.
About Ricky Ian Gordon: Composer
Ricky Ian Gordon was born in Oceanside, New York in 1956. After studying composition at Carnegie Mellon University, Gordon's work quickly took off in art song, opera and musical theater. Gordon's work has been performed by renowned singers such as Renée Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Nathan Gunn, Judy Collins, Kelli O'Hara, Audra MacDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, Nicole Cabell, the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Frederica Von Stade, Andrea Marcovicci, Carolyn Blackwell, Betty Buckley and many more.
Gordon has received numerous honors such as The Stephen Sondheim Award, The Helen Hayes Award, an Alumni Merit Award for exceptional achievement and leadership from Carnegie-Mellon University, the Shen Family Foundation Award, grants from the National Endowment Association and The Gilman and Gonzalez-Falla Theatre Foundation Award. Gordon was commissioned by both Opera Theatre of St. Louis to compose 27 with librettist Royce Vavrek, an opera about Gertrude Stein at 27 rue de Fleurus, for acclaimed mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe and The Metropolitan Opera, with Pulitzer Prize/McArthur Award winning playwright Lynn Nottage, to adapt her award-winning play “Intimate Apparel.”
Just recently, Gordon completed an operatic adaptation of Giorgio Bassani's novel “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis,” with librettist Michael Korie; “The Grapes of Wrath,” and “Morning Star” with a libretto by William M. Hoffman, premiering at Cincinnati Opera in their 2015 season. In addition, Gordon’s opera “The Tibetan Book of the Dead,” with a libretto by Jean Claude Van Itallie, which was commissioned by and premiered at Houston Grand Opera in 1996, had its West Coast Premiere with The Bay City Symphony in May, 2014 .
Gordon's “A Coffin in Egypt,” was co-commissioned by Houston Grand Opera, The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and Opera Philadelphia. Known for opera, art song, and musical theater, composer Ricky Ian Gordon and librettist/director Leonard Foglia based the opera on a play by Horton Foote, providing the perfect showcase for beloved mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade.
About Emanuele Andrizzi: Conductor
Emanuele Andrizzi is a conductor with a strong connection to the rich musical tradition of Rome's Conservatory from which he graduated with diplomas in opera and orchestral conducting, and a ten-year diploma in composition. During the past decade, he has worked extensively throughout Europe and the U.S. as a conductor, pianist and music teacher. He is making his Chicago Opera Theater debut with this production.
As a conductor, Andrizzi has collaborated with various symphonic and operatic companies. In the last few years, Mr. Andrizzi has conducted the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Orchestra della Città di Ravenna, New Philharmonic Orchestra, Chicago Opera Vanguard and the Cervantes Orchestra, among others. In addition, he has worked in some of the finest opera theaters both in the US and in Europe, including the Los Angeles Opera, the Dallas Opera and the Rome’s Opera Theater. He has also collaborated with important music festivals, including the Millennium Park Festival and the Ravinia Festival.
An active teacher and performer, Andrizzi has worked since 2013 as the Conductor and Head of the Orchestra Program at the prestigious Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. In addition, he often collaborates with young artist programs. Lately, he conducted Rossini’s “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” at the Ryan Opera Center - the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Young Artist Program, - Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” and Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor” at the International Festival La Musica Lirica and Mozart’s “Così Fan Tutte” at Northwestern University. Andrizzi has taught and collaborated with important European musical institutions, including Rome’s Conservatory, the Piaget University and the Escola Profisional de Música of Mirandela. Andrizzi will lead the All-State Orchestra in January 2016.
Andrizzi is a recipient of the Honorable Mention award at the International Competition for Conductors of Contemporary Music “4X4 Prize” and a winner of the “P. Barrasso” International Competition for Chamber Music. In addition to his diplomas in conducting and composition at the “Santa Cecilia” Conservatory in Rome, Andrizzi has earned a doctorate in Orchestral Conducting at Northwestern University, a MFA in Conducting at Bard College and a Performance Diploma in Piano at the “A. Casella” Conservatory.
About Leonard Foglia: Librettist and Director
Leonard Foglia is a theater and opera director as well as librettist and author. His work has been seen on Broadway, across the country, as well as internationally.
As a director, Foglia’s opera credits include the premiers of three operas by Jake Heggie: “Moby-Dick” (Dallas Opera, San Francisco, San Diego, Calgary, Opera of South Australia, The Kennedy Center) – The San Francisco production was filmed for PBS Great Performances; “Three Decembers” (Houston Grand Opera, San Francisco, Chicago) and “The End Of The Affair” (HGO, Madison, Seattle). Foglia’s production of Heggie's ”Dead Man Walking” has been seen across the country.
As a librettist, Foglia’s first opera “Cruzar La Cara De La Luna” (To Cross the Face of the Moon), music by Jose "Pepe" Martinez, was commissioned by Houston Grand Opera where it had its premier in 2010 and was performed at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris in the fall of 2011. Since then it has been presented by Houston Grand Opera as well as San Diego Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Arizona Opera.
As a director, Foglia’s theater credits include the original Broadway productions of “Master Class;” Thurgood” (which was filmed for HBO), and “The People In The Picture” as well as the revivals of “Wait Until Dark” and “On Golden Pond.” Off Broadway, as well as on tour, he directed Anna Deavere Smith's “Let Me Down Easy” (which was filmed for PBS Great Performances); “One Touch Of Venus,” for City Center's Encores! He is the co-author, with David Richards of five books: “1 Ragged Ridge Road;” “Face Down In The Park;” “The Sudarium Trilogy;” “The Surrogate” and “The Son and The Savior.”
About Horton Foote: Playwright
For more than seventy years, beginning in 1939, when he penned his first play, “Wharton Dance,” Horton Foote was regarded as one of America's most revered dramatists. With his probing and perceptive dramas, he succeeded in charting the landscape of small-town America while creating classics of modern theatre and film that have found devoted audiences around the world. Foote wrote more than a hundred plays and screenplays for cinema, theater and television, and was equally successful in all three mediums-a record of variety and productivity unmatched by any other writer.
Inspired by his hometown of Wharton, Texas, Foote’s work is rooted in the tales, the troubles, the heartbreak and the hopes of all he heard and saw there. As a young man, he left Wharton to become an actor and soon discovered the easiest way to get good roles was to write the plays himself. Among other things, he did a magnificent job of adapting Harper Lee's classic “To Kill a Mockingbird” for the silver screen, and writing his wonderful “The Trip To Bountiful” and so many other tales of family, community and the triumph of the human spirit.
“A Coffin in Egypt” Cast:
Frederica von Stade: Myrtle Bledsoe
Recognized as one of the most beloved musical figures of our time, Frederica von Stade has enriched the world of classical music for three decades with her appearances in opera, concert and recital. The mezzo-soprano is well known to audiences around the world through her numerous featured appearances on television including several PBS specials and "Live from Lincoln Center" telecasts. She has made more than 60 recordings with every major label, including complete operas, aria albums, symphonic works, solo recital programs and popular crossover albums. Her recordings have garnered six Grammy nominations, two Grand Prix du Disc awards, the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis, Italy's Premio della Critica Discografica and "Best of the Year" citations by Stereo Review and Opera News. Von Stade was awarded France's highest honor in the arts when she was appointed as an officer of L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and in 1983 she was honored with an award given at The White House by President Reagan in recognition of her significant contribution to the arts.
David Matranga: Hunter
David Matranga is thrilled to return to the role of Hunter in “A Coffin in Egypt.” Matranga previously played the role of Hunter in the workshop and world premiere production at Houston Grand Opera, before traveling to Los Angeles and Philadelphia with the show. He has also performed in productions at Stages Repertory Theatre, The Alley Theatre and The Actors Theatre of Louisville.
Carolyn Johnson: Elsie/Clerk
Carolyn Johnson is an actress and singer currently residing in Houston, Texas. She has performed at Stages Repertory Theatre, Theatre Under The Stars, Houston Shakespeare Festival and was a company member of Noble Fool Theatre.
“A Coffin in Egypt” Gospel Quartet:
Leah Dexter (Mezzo-Soprano)
Leah Dexter is making her debut with Chicago Opera Theater. Dexter has performed leading and supporting roles with companies including Michigan Opera Theatre, Sarasota Opera, Arbor Opera Theater, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, New York Harlem Theater, Motor City Lyric Opera and Opera Festival of Rome, among many others.
Bernard Holcomb (Tenor)
Bernard Holcomb is an alum of the Ryan Opera Center and has performed with Renée Fleming and Patrick Stewart in “Second City’s Guide to the Opera,” “Il Duca in Rigoletto” (Opera in the Heights) Alfredo in “La Traviata” (Pine Mountain Festival), Nathanaël in “Les Contes d’Hoffmann” (Lyric Opera of Chicago), Rodolfo in “La Bohéme” (Civic Orchestra of Chicago), and Gastone in “La Traviata” (Michigan Opera).
Kimberly E. Jones (Quartet Soprano)
Kimberly Eileen Jones is an alum of the Ryan Opera Center. Her performances at the Lyric Opera of Chicago include “Margru,” in the world premiere of Anthony Davis' “Amistad,” Olga in “Fedora,” Princess Xenia in “Boris Godunov” and Despina in “Cosi Fan Tutte.” With the Ryan Opera Center, she portrayed Laetitia in “Old Maid and the Thief.” Additionally, she made her Grant Park debut as Zerlina “Don Giovanni” and Adele “Die Fledermaus” the following season.
Nicholas Davis (Baritone)
Nicholas Davis is a recent alum of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, & Dance. He has performed a variety of roles including: Don Basilio in “Il Barbiere di Siviglia,” Colline in “La Boheme,” Abimelech in “Samson et Dalila,” Papageno in “The Magic Flute,” the Pirate King in “The Pirates of Penzance.” Davis is currently a young artist at Chicago Opera Theatre.
Upcoming Chicago Opera Theater Productions
Composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto by Giovanni de Gamerra
Sung in Italian with English Supertitles
September 26 and 30 and October 2 and 4
Composed by the 16 year old Mozart, this tale of a tyrannical dictator was one of the young prodigy’s earliest successes. When Silla is denied the heart of the woman he desires, he commits his considerable power and influence to force matters in his favor. He soon discovers that his are not the only plots and conspiracies hidden in the streets of Rome. This saga of deceit, love and intrigue is punctuated by awe-inspiring arias and ravishing melodies.
Harris Theater for Music and Dance
205 E. Randolph Street
About Chicago Opera Theater
Chicago Opera Theater is an innovative, nationally recognized opera company that inspires a diverse community through immersive and thought-provoking opera experiences. COT, established in 1974 by Alan Stone, is a founding resident company of the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park. General Director Andreas Mitisek is known for his adventurous repertory, visionary leadership, fundraising skills and innovative audience-building initiatives.
Chicago Opera Theater has carved a significant place for itself in the operatic life of Chicago and has reached an audience of hundreds of thousands through its main stage performances, community engagement, education programs in Chicago Public Schools, as well as its renowned Young Artist Program.
Experience MORE OF THE DIFFERENT with Chicago Opera Theater!
For more information on the Chicago Opera Theater and its programs please visit www.chicagooperatheater.org.