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Opera Saratoga Announces 2020 Summer Festival Programming

June 19, 2020 @ 8:00 AM - July 5, 2020 @ 5:00 PM



Directed by Izumi Ashizawa; Conducted by Dean Williamson

Directed and Choreographed by Eve Summer;
Conducted by Brian DeMaris

SKY ON SWINGS (New York Premiere)
Directed by Lawrence Edelson; Conducted by Emily Senturia

Principal Guest Artists include the company debuts of
Soprano Kelebogile Besong; Mezzo Soprano Susanne Mentzer;
and Mezzo Soprano Marietta Simpson

Opera Saratoga announced today the three operas that will be featured at the center of the company’s 2020 Summer Festival, to be presented at The Spa Little Theatre in Spa State Park, from June 19th through July 5th, 2020.

The 2020 Summer Festival will feature new productions of two audience favorites, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, and Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, alongside the New York premiere of a riveting new opera by Lembit Beecher and Hannah Moscovitch, Sky on Swings, which received its critically acclaimed world premiere in 2018.

The Festival will also feature multiple concerts and public master classes highlighting the exceptional members of Opera Saratoga’s Young Artist Program, under the direction of Laurie Rogers, who celebrates her tenth anniversary as the program’s director in 2020. These additional events will culminate in a complete performance of Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, conducted by Maestra Rogers, on the final day of the Festival, July 5, 2020.

“The 2020 Summer Festival continues Opera Saratoga’s commitment to present masterworks from the operatic canon, works that introduce family audiences to the excitement of lyric theater, and important contemporary works,” said Artistic and General Director Lawrence Edelson. “We also remain committed to showcasing leading international artists alongside the next generation of gifted emerging artists. At Opera Saratoga, audiences have the opportunity to hear truly exceptional singing and theatrically compelling productions in an intimate space that creates a truly visceral experience. There are few theaters in the world where you enjoy this caliber of performance as up-close-and-personal as you can at Opera Saratoga.”

Gilbert and Sullivan’s beloved operetta, The Pirates of Penzance, returns to Opera Saratoga in a new, action-packed, dance-filled production for the entire family. Young pirate-in-training Frederic can’t wait for his 21st birthday, the day his erroneous pirate apprenticeship ends….or does it? Born in a Leap Year, Frederic discovers he must remain with the raucous band and delay a future with the lovely Mabel who promises to wait for him, much to the chagrin of her father, the Major General. Bound by his own sense of duty and loyalty to the Pirate King, will Frederic be forced to sail away into the sunset alone or fly high on the seas of love? The most famous patter song in all of opera, “I am the very model of a modern Major General…” is but one of the memorable melodies in this tuneful, swashbuckling farce. Directed and choreographed by Eve Summer, a distinguished alumna of Opera Saratoga’s Directing Fellowship Program, this new production will showcase members of Opera Saratoga’s Young Artist Program. The production will be conducted by Brian DeMaris in his company debut. Previously director of opera and musical theatre at Ithaca College and Music Director of Mill City Summer Opera, Maestro DeMaris currently serves as Artistic Director of Music Theatre and Opera at Arizona State University and Principal Conductor of the Anchorage Opera in Alaska.

“Long before the satirical comedy of late night television, Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas were the hottest send-ups of current events and political obsessions,” said Edelson. “While The Pirates of Penzance is absurd, hilarious, and entertaining for audiences of all ages, it is also brilliant parody – proving that the lines between opera and popular culture are not necessarily that far apart. Over the years, The Pirates of Penzance has been featured in a Tony Award winning production on Broadway, in film, and on the opera house stage. With incredibly witty lyrics, not so scary pirates, a damsel who refuses to be in distress, and a score that parodies composers from Verdi to Mozart to Gounod, it truly has something to offer every member of the audience.”

Composer Lembit Beecher and Librettist Hannah Moscovitch’s Sky on Swings, which received its critically acclaimed premiere at Opera Philadelphia in 2018, is a riveting musical and theatrical exploration of what it feels like to live with Alzheimer’s Disease, as seen through the eyes of two women at different stages in the progression of dementia: Martha, who is far gone in the disease; and Danny, who knows what is happening to her and is in frantic denial.

Composer Lembit Beecher explains that “there are many stories to tell about Alzheimer’s: family members, caretakers, researchers, and doctors all have unique perspectives. But from an early stage of working on this piece, I knew I wanted the focus to be on the experience of the disease: to try, as much as possible, to view the world through the eyes of two individuals with Alzheimer’s and to give voice to those characters… One of the unexpected joys of writing Sky on Swings was the realization that I had the opportunity to write music that could not be sung by younger singers.” Two of the country’s most distinguished, internationally acclaimed artists, mezzo sopranos Susanne Mentzer and Marietta Simpson, make their Opera Saratoga debuts in the roles of Danny and Martha in this new production, directed by Lawrence Edelson, and conducted by rising star Emily Senturia, who has recently led productions at Houston Grand Opera and Washington National Opera, also making her company debut.

Edelson described his reaction to first seeing Sky on Swings, and why he felt compelled to create a new production for Opera Saratoga: “In 2018, I had the privilege to attend the world premiere of Sky on Swings. Many members of my family have been impacted by Alzheimer’s, and I admit to attending the production with some reluctance – in part because I knew it would likely be an emotional experience for me, but also because I wasn’t sure how the journey of someone with Alzheimer’s could be portrayed in opera without making it feel artificial or sensationalized. Seeing this opera was one of the most remarkable experiences I have ever had in the theater. The way that Lembit and Hannah evoke not only the experience of two women living with Alzheimer’s, but also the experience of their children as they help to comfort and support their parents, is extraordinary. Knowing how important second productions are for new operas in order for them to begin entering the repertoire, I set my sights on developing a production of Sky on Swings for our theater, and am thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase Susanne Mentzer and Marietta Simpson – two truly extraordinary artists who have sung on the great stages of the world from The Metropolitan Opera to La Scala in Milan – in this powerful and deeply moving work.”

Japanese Director Izumi Ashizawa, whose work explores global diplomacy through physical story-telling, unconventional puppetry and object animation, will make her debut with Opera Saratoga next summer, creating a new production of Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Ashizawa brings her unique approach to theater, based on Japanese physical performance techniques, to the heartbreaking story of hope, devotion, and betrayal amidst the cherry blossoms of Nagasaki.Cio-Cio-San, a young wife and mother, waits for the return of her beloved B.F. Pinkerton, a lieutenant in the United States Navy. When his ship comes in, her dreams for the future meet his – with tragic results. South African soprano Kelebogile Besong, who has recently enthralled audiences at Festival d’Aix en Provence, Teatro Regio di Torino, The Edinburgh International Festival and Bayerische Staatsoper, will make her company and role debut as Cio-Cio-San. Conductor Dean Williamson, Music Director for Nashville Opera who has led productions for Seattle Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, and Minnesota Opera, will also make his company debut leading the production.

“Madama Butterfly is one of the most beloved of Puccini’s operas, but is also a work that presents challenges for contemporary audiences,” Edelson explained. “As a historically white and European art form, opera has a history of using cultural appropriation to tell stories. There is no questioning the glory of the score, but Madama Butterfly’s popularity has perpetuated and reinforced many stereotypes of Japan, and Asian women in particular. In considering how we might produce Madama Butterfly today, three things were very important to me. First, we eliminate all hints of yellowface – the offensive and outdated tradition of making non-Asian singers look Asian through makeup – in the production. Second, that we have a diverse cast who can honor the vocal demands of the opera, and ensure we are focused on creating characters, not caricatures. And third, that we have a director who can create a production that will allow us to look at the story through a different lens than we have in the past. I am thrilled that the brilliant Japanese director Izumi Ashizawa will create a production for us that will allow us to enjoy this exquisite score and story with new perspective.”


Complete casting, additional concerts, symposia and public master classes for the 2020 Summer Festival will be announced in the coming months.

Subscriptions will go on sale October 1, 2019. Along with Choose Your Own Subscription Packages, two Getaway Weekends in late June and early July – during which it will be possible to see all three Festival productions – will be available as subscriptions with discounted accommodations available for out of town visitors.

Single Tickets will go on sale February 15, 2020.

For more information, please visit www.operasaratoga.org

Opera Tickets: $125 / $100 / $75 / $50
Subscriptions: Discount Packages Available

Music by Sir Arthur Sullivan; Libretto by Sir W.S. Gilbert
Performance Dates:
Friday, June 19, 2020 @ 7:30pm
Saturday, June 21, 2020 @ 2pm
Monday, June 29, 2020 @ 2pm
Saturday, July 4, 2020 @ 2pm
Conductor: Brian DeMaris (debut)
Director and Choreographer: Eve Summer
Featuring: Opera Saratoga Festival Artists

SKY ON SWINGS (2018) – New York Premiere
Music by Lembit Beecher; Libretto by Hannah Moscovitch

Performance Dates:
Saturday, June 20, 2020 @ 7:30pm
Saturday, June 27, 2020 @ 2pm
Thursday, July 2, 2020 @ 7:30pm

Conductor: Emily Senturia (debut)
Director: Lawrence Edelson
Featuring: Susanne Mentzer (debut) and Marietta Simpson (debut)

Music by Giacomo Puccini; Libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa
Performance Dates:
Friday, June 26, 2020 @ 7:30pm
Sunday, June 28, 2020 @ 2pm
Wednesday, July 1, 2020 @ 7:30pm
Friday, July 3, 2020 @ 2pm

Conductor: Dean Williamson (debut)
Director: Izumi Ashizawa (debut)
Featuring: Kelebogile Besong (debut)

Opera Saratoga, formerly known as Lake George Opera, began with a production of Die Fledermaus at the Diamond Point Theatre on July 5, 1962, playing to an audience of 230. The Company now calls Saratoga Springs home and performs for more than 25,000 people annually. Opera Saratoga serves the communities of Saratoga Springs, the Lower Adirondack and New York State Capital areas by providing access to world-class opera through the production of an annual Summer Festival, as well as year-round activities including extensive educational programs, mentorship of emerging operatic artists, and unique opportunities for the public to experience opera in both our home theater and non-traditional venues that leverage and embrace the unique cultural, historic, and natural resources of the area. To date, the company has performed 104 different fully staged works by 65 different composers, including 42 works by American composers and 14 premiere productions. In 2014, the Board of Directors appointed Lawrence Edelson Opera Saratoga’s Artistic and General Director. Edelson’s leadership has marked a new chapter in the company’s history, with increased emphasis on community partnerships throughout the year, diversification of the company’s repertoire, and a reaffirmed commitment to both the presentation of American opera and the mentorship of emerging artists as core activities in the company’s programs each season. The 2020 Summer Festival marks the sixth season under his leadership. For more information, visit www.operasaratoga.org.


June 19, 2020 @ 8:00 AM
July 5, 2020 @ 5:00 PM


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