In Quest of Repertory-Expanding Operas – April-December, 2016

Over the next several months, I will reviewing two world premieres and two opera company productions of Broadway smash hits. Each of the four musical works has ties to centers of American cultural creativity – “Broadway” or “Hollywood”. Each of the works has promise to expand and enliven the standard operatic repertory.


Carousel (Rodgers and Hammerstein), Houston Grand Opera, April 22, 24(m), 27, 29, 30 and May 6, 2016 

Tony-winning director/choreographer’ Rob Ashford’s production of Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s “Carousel”, that debuted with great acclaim last winter at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, comes to Houston Grand Opera for six performances.

Australian baritone Duncan Rock will be Billy Bigelow; soprano Andrea Carroll is Julie Jordan.

Stephanie Blythe, fresh from her blockbuster performance as Mrs Lovett in Lee Blakeley’s mounting of “Sweeney Todd” [see Review: Searing Performances by Brian Mulligan and Stephanie Blythe for San Francisco Opera’s First “Sweeney Todd” – September 12, 2015] will play Nettie Fowler, the character who highlights the American standards June is Bustin’ Out All Over and You’ll Never Walk Alone.

[Below: a scene from “Carousel”; edited image, based on a Lynn Lane photograph, courtesy of the Houston Grand Opera.]


Rounding out the cast is Lauren Snouffer (Carrie), Alexander Lewis (Enoch Snow), Ben Edquist (Jigger), Helen Anken (Mrs Mullin), James Belcher (Storekeeper/Mr Seldon), Paul Hope (Mrs Bascombe), Abigail Simon (Louise) and dancer Marty Lawson (Carnival Boy).

The sets are by Italian artist Paolo Ventura. The conductor and chorus master is Richard Bado.

[For my performance review, see: Review: Houston Grand Opera’s Convincing Case for “Carousel” – April 22, 2016.]


Sweeney Todd (Sondheim), Glimmerglass Festival, July 9, 18(m), 22, 30(m), 30(e), August 4, 6(m), 13, 15(m), 21(m), 23(m) and 26, 2016

Super-star director Christopher Alden and Maestro John DeMain team up for a new production of Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd”.

[Below: Sweeney Todd (Greer Grimsley) celebrates the return of his friends – his razors; edited image. based pm a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]


Veteran artists Greer Grimsley (Sweeney Todd), Luretta Bybee (Mrs Lovett), Peter Volpe (Judge Turpin) and Patricia Schuman (the Beggar Woman) are joined by Glimmerglass Young Artists Harry Greenleaf (Anthony Hope), Emily Pogoreic (Johanna), Nicholas Nestorak (Tobias Ragg), Christopher Bozeka (Adolfo Pirelli) and Billie Bruley (Beadle Bamford). The sets are by Andrew Holland.

[For my performance review, see: Review: Greer Grimsley Stars in Christopher Alden’s Staging of “Sweeney Todd” – Glimmerglass Festival, August 4, 2016.]


Dream of the Red Chamber (Sheng), San Francisco Opera, September 10, 13, 18(m), 23, 27 and 29, 2016

San Francisco Opera mounts the world premiere of Bright Sheng’s opera, on whose libretto he collaborated with Broadway dramatist and librettist David Henry Hwang.

[Below: Bao Yu (Yijie Shi, left) expresses his love for Dai Yu (Pureum Jo, right); edited image, based on a Cory Weaver photograph, courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.]


Pureum Jo stars as Dai Yu. Other cast members are Yijie Shi (Bao Yu), Nian Wang (Bao Chai), Quilin Zhang (Granny Jia), Hyona Kim (Lady Wang), Karen Chia-Ling Ho (Princess Jia) and Yanyu Guo (Aunt Xue).

George Manahan conducts. Stan Lai directs. The sets are by Tim Yip, with projections designed by John Wong.

[For my performance review, see: World Premiere Review: “The Dream of the Red Chamber” Transforms into a Fascinating Opera – San Francisco Opera, September 10, 2016.]


It’s a Wonderful Life (Heggie), Houston Grand Opera, December 2, 4(m), 6, 8, 9 and 11, 2016

Jake Heggie, in concert with librettist Gene Scheer, adopts the storyline of one of the great classic “seasonal” motion pictures for his new opera “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  To realize Heggie’s vision, his “Moby Dick” team of director Leonard Foglia, set designer Robert Brill and conductor Patrick Summers is reassembled.

[Below: Composer Jake Heggie; edited image of a publicity photograph from]


William Burden will assume the role of George Bailey. “Moby Dick” veterans Talise Trevigne and Robert Orth are cast as Clara and Henry F. Potter. Other roles are assumed by Andrea Carroll as Mary Hatch Bailey, Joshua Hopkins as Harry Bailey and Anthony Dean Griffey as Uncle Billy.


This list is supplementary to previous lists in this “Quests and Anticipations” series of selected operas being performed from April 2016 through December 2016:

Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” at the San Francisco Opera. [See In Quest of Puccini’s “Tosca” and “Butterfly” in the American Southwest – October 2015 to December 2016.]

Little’s “JFK” at the Fort Worth Opera, Barber’s “Vanessa” at the Santa Fe Opera and Ward’s “The Crucible” at the Glimmerglass Festival. [See In Quest of American Operas – October 2015 through August 2016.]

Wagner’s “Siegfried” at the Houston Grand Opera, Janacek’s “Jenufa” and “The Makropoulos Case” at the San Francisco Opera and Richard Strauss’ “Capriccio” at the Santa Fe Opera. [See In Quest of Operatic Masterpieces from the German and Czech Repertories – April- November, 2016.]