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June 30, 2009

Baltimore Opera Theatre to debut with 'Barber,' 'Rigoletto' at Hippodrome

Baltimore Opera Theatre, recently formed by seasoned impresarios Giorgio Lalov and his wife, Jenny Kelly, will present its debut season at the Hippodrome -- full staged performances of Rossini's The Barber of Seville (Nov. 22) and Verdi's Rigoletto (March 11). Casting details have not been announced, but there is news about the orchestra and chorus.

From a press release: "It is the goal of Baltimore Opera Theatre to engage only local musicians and chorus. For the first season, however, as the young company is developing a local orchestra and chorus, as well as funding, the company will engage the Sofia Symphony Orchestra and Chorus augmented by local musicians and chorus. Baltimore Opera Theatre also plans to present touring ballet and other major international dance ensembles." (Lalov founded the touring opera company Teatro Lirico d'Europa, which uses predominantly European artists.)

A locally based conductor, J. Ernest Green, will lead the Barber performance; Lalov will be ...

the stage director for that production. Jan Jozef Wnek will conduct Rigoletto.

The Hippodrome's dry acoustics, which Teatro Lirico discovered a few years ago when that company offered a performance of Don Giovanni there, will be handled with modest amplification. "No bodies will have mics," Kelly writes in an email. "No one's voice will be manipulated in any way."  

Tickets for the Opera Theatre of Baltimore presentations will be prived from $25 to $75; they are expected to go on on sale later in July. Also from the press release: "Other performances may be added to the season if additional dates become available at the Hippodrome Theatre. It is the goal of the Baltimore Opera Theatre to grow into a larger season as the company progresses."

Lalov and Kelly have deciced not to offer opera in concert form at the Meyerhoff during the inaugural season of Opera Theatre of Baltimore, as originally contemplated.    


Posted by Tim Smith at 4:34 PM | | Comments (8)


GREAT that Baltimore has people willing to revive opera in baltimore rather than D.C.

This is terrific news. Keep us up to date!

This begs the question - with so many local singers and orchestra members out of work because of the bankruptcy of Baltimore Opera Company, why can't they put together a chorus and orchestra of local performers for these first shows? As it stands in this announcement, this is simply Teatro Lirico under a new name, isn't it?

A reasonable conclusion, I'd say. TIM

Dear Friends,
Baltimore Opera Theatre will NOT be Teatro Lirico D'Europa under a different name. Teatro Lirico does NOT have the BARBER OF SEVILLE on tour this fall. additionally, both productions will be enhanced with new costumes and new set pieces and will be rehearsed in Maryland for a week at which time we will bring together the Sofia Symphony Orchestra and Chorus augmented by local musicians and singers. Maestro Green and Maestro Wneck do not conduct Teatro Lirico performances on Teatro tours, and Teatro has never rehearsed in Maryland.

We want very much to use an ENTIRELY local orchestra and chorus but we do not have the funding to do so yet. What we have promised to deliver is what we know 100% we can do without any cancellation or financial risk. If someone were to come forward with a donation that would cover the cost of the orchestra and chorus rehearsals and payments we would engage ONLY a local orchestra and chorus. It is our SINCERE hope PROMISE to local area musicians and chorus that if we find benefactors and grants this first year, next season we will present operas with ONLY local musicians and chorus. We need people to be supportive of what we are doing so we can accomplish that goal.
We have engaged both AMERICAN and EUROPEAN soloists
for the performances and we are investigating at this time what local singers we might engage as comprimarios. This new company is putting $ into the local economy by renting the Hippodrome Theatre,
paying their technicians and using local marketing and housing resources for the company during the rehearsal period, We are reaching out to the public by engaging local school students IN BOTH OPERAS in a variety of ways as well as the adminstration of our education outreach program (which will be outlined on the new website: www,

In February 2009 when the Lyric Opera House approached us about CO-PRODUCING opera with them this season it was PRECISELY their suggestion that we combine the Teatro Lirico D'Europa AUGMENTED by local musicians and chorus as well as using some of the wonderful items that were in the warehouse of the Baltimore Opera to augment and enhance the Teatro sets.
No one objected to the idea it at that time. We sat down town at a table together with several former Baltimore Opera staff and technicians and discussed this. I have the paper work submitted to me by the Lyric Opera house with regard to this proposal in case ANYONE should say that this is not true. This is not a new idea and it is a good idea under the circumstances of the current economy. I repeat, it is our SINCERE intention to have ONLY a local orchestra and chorus in the future when
there is enough $ to cover that.

As a professional acoustician, I share the concern at the use of amplification for opera. However, the Hippodrome is not outfitted for natural sound projection--during its recent renovation (I did not work on this) it was outfitted and optimized for the amplified sound requirements of touring "Broadway"-style shows. It is an enormous room and is intentionally very "dead" acoustically. Even a Met-caliber singer would have trouble filling the room with sound in any pleasing manner.

The Hippodrome is the wrong room for opera insofar as acoustics are concerned. If opera must be presented there, amplification will be a regrettable necessity.

Dear Greg,
We have already presented an opera at the Hippodrome in winter 2005 - DON GIOVANNI - and we used no amplification. We did not know at that time that there were sound bafflers inside the walls. There were no problems with the orchestra being heard or any of the singers with the exception of one or 2 of the lower voices. The soprano voices cut fine. Tim Smith reviewed the opera and the title of his review was OPERA IS GOOD FIT A HIPPODROME. There will be NO mics on any human beings. The acoustical enhancement will be the same that is used at the New York State Theatre where the NYC Opera performs and the samel as MANY OTHER major American and European theatres.
All of these FACTS will be published on our web site If you have any further questions you can also contact the Hippodrome Theatre technical staff.

Well both Rigoletto and Barbiere are listed on Miss Kelly's own website as part of Teatro Lirico's 2009/2010 season:
"Teatro Lirico D'Europa embarks on its 11th consecutive season of US tours in Fall 2009 - Winter/Spring 2010 with performances of six different full-scale operas: Rossini’s IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA, Mozart’s DON GIOVANNI AND NOZZE DI FIGARO, Verdi’s RIGOLETTO and LA TRAVIATA, Lehar’s DIE FLEDERMAUS [SIC!] and Puccini’s LA BOHEME." There will be many new soloists on the tour as well as many of the soloists that Teatro’s audiences have come to love and look forward to.

[It would be interesting if the company brought Lehar's (hitherto unknown) Fledermaus - it would be a new experience for me, as I only know Strauss' version]

And Mr. Green may not tour with Teatro Lirico but he has toured with their sister company devoted to Mozart performance - the Internet has mentions of him leading performances in Boston, New Hampshire, and Florida - among others.

There is nothing wrong with anyone bringing any production they wish to Baltimore - but productions by a commercial producer should not be passed off as local non-profit endeavors.

For the opera lovers, we at Sotto Sopra Restaurant offer a monthly an Opera Night along with a 6 course Italian Dinner. It might not be a full performance on an opera but your spirit and tummy will be full. If you haven't been, you are cordially invited.

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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