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April 20, 2012

Lyric Opera Baltimore cuts back for second season

Lyric Opera Baltimore, which wraps up its inaugural season this weekend, has announced a scaling back for 2012-2013.

Instead of three fully staged productions at the Modell Performing Arts Center, there will be two, plus a concert with duo-piano accompaniment. As was the case this season, the lineup will be augmented by a student production from the Peabody Opera Theatre.

The decision to cut back next season resulted from “a combination of financing and timing,” said Modell Center president and executive director Sandy Richmond of the shorter season. “But we’re excited to bring two grand opera productions and continue our very important collaboration with Peabody.”

Italian opera will be the focus next season.

Lyric Opera Baltimore starts things off Nov. 2 and 4 with ...

Puccini’s “La Boheme,” one of the most popular works in the repertoire. It was last staged at the Lyric in 2006 by the former Baltimore Opera Company.

The cast includes Anna Samuil as Mimi. The Russian soprano’s credits include the La Scala, the Glyndebourne Festival and, singing the role of Musetta in “La Boheme,” the Metropolitan Opera.

For the Baltimore “Boheme,” Musetta will be sung by Colleen Daly. The role of Marcello will be performed by Timothy Mix. A tenor for the role of Rodolfo has not been announced.

The staging will be directed by Bernard Uzan, who directed Lyric Opera’s “The Marriage of Figaro” and “Faust” this season. Steven White, who conducted “La Traviata” to open the company’s inaugural season last fall, will be back in the pit for “Boheme.”

The second production will be Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” May 17 and 19, 2013, a nod to the composer’s bicentennial next year. It was last staged at the Lyric in 2002 by Baltimore Opera.

Stephen Powell, a baritone who has been featured prominently in productions by New York City Opera, will sing the title role. Norah Amsellem, who has sung the role of Gilda in “Rigoletto” at the Met and elsewhere, will be featured in that part for Lyric Opera. Bryan Hymel, who finishes up the title role in the company’s “Faust” this weekend, returns next season to sing the Duke.

“Rigoletto” will be conducted by Richard Buckley. The stage director is John Hoomes, general and artistic director Nashville Opera.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, which performed two of Lyric Opera’s three productions this season, will be back for 2012-13.

“To have the BSO in the pit for both productions is just fantastic,” Richmond said.

On April 13, 2013, the company will present a concert of music from the bel canto period of Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini, featuring two young artists who have been making a name in this repertoire: mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack and her husband, tenor Alek Shrader.

They will be accompanied by duo-pianists James Harp (Lyric Opera’s artistic director) and Edward Polochick (artistic director of the Concert Artists of Baltimore).

“We want to continue to present the highest quality of events we can manage,” Harp said, “what we felt we could do and still be financially responsible.”

Each staged production costs about $500,000, Richmond said. Decisions on what sets and costumes will be used for “Boheme” and “Rigoletto” have not yet been finalized.

“Both productions will be traditional,” Harps said. “We want to have a level of opulence, but take budget concerns into account as well. These won’t be econo-sets, I’ll tell you that.”

The Peabody production next season will also come from the Italian repertoire, Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” performed Nov. 16 and 18.

As for Lyric Opera Baltimore, its trimmed second season should not be viewed as a set-back, Harp said.

“When you look at what is going on elsewhere — San Antonio Opera just went under — the principal thing to remember is that we have been able to have a season of grand opera at the Lyric again,” he said. “The fact that we could return grand opera to a great city is miraculous. I hope people will be willing to re-invent with us. It’s an incremental process.”
Posted by Tim Smith at 4:16 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Clef Notes


I wish that LOB heeds your recent suggestion to stage Kevin Puts' "Silent Night". If local opera seasons continue to be more of "same old, same old" (and same old includes updated or concept productions), I'll have to stay home and explore more adventurous repertoire by CD. Some other companies are managing to combine core and unfamiliar repertoire in their seasons -- Opera Colorado doing something by Verdi and something by Catan this month, for example. We are getting a chance to hear something different thanks to Peabody Conservatory's opera, but I'd like to see a larger professional company stage some of this repertoire, too.

Ditto! I'm with Clayton on this one. Well said!

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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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