Boston Lyric Opera

Announces 2015-2016 Season

By: - Mar 13, 2015

With a distinct French flavor, spiced by influences from New Wave films to student revolutionaries, Boston Lyric Opera (BLO) announces its productions for the 2015/2016 Season, the company’s 39th. The four operas – Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème, Philip Glass’ In the Penal Colony, Jules Massenet’s Werther and Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow – comprise all-new BLO productions of both popular classics and works not seen often in Boston.

“More than most other cities and countries in the world, Paris and France inspire intense passion for their beauty, romance, opulence, and history,” says BLO General and Artistic Director Esther Nelson. “Who wouldn’t want to be swept away there with ravishing music and passionate stories? The 2015/2016 Season is one of our strongest in years … with stories that are resonant about real people dealing with war, crisis, love realized and love unrequited. These grand new productions rethink the stories we know and love, putting them into new places and reinterpreting them in exciting new ways.”

The season opens October 2-11 with La Bohème, at the Citi Performing Arts CenterSM Shubert Theatre, conducted by BLO’s Music Director David Angus and set amidst the 1968 Paris student revolts that reflected generational unrest and supported strikes that brought the city to its knees. The production’s influences include French New Wave films (particularly Jean-Luc Godard’s “Masculin Féminin”) and place Puccini’s familiar story of ragtag artists and tragic illness in a graffiti-laden student flat, in the revolutionaries’ gathering place Café Momus, and alongside a barricade erected during the conflict. La Bohème is directed by Rosetta Cucchi with set design by BLO Artistic Advisor John Conklin, costume design by Nancy Leary and lighting by DM Wood.

The cast is led by BLO audience favorite Kelly Kaduce, a Boston University graduate making her long-awaited Boston return as the doomed Mimi. Kaduce is receiving strong notices for her work in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s premiere production of Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s The Passenger. Jesus Garcia, makes his BLO debut as Rodolfo, a role he played in Baz Luhrmann’s acclaimed 2002 Broadway production. Other notable cast members include Jonathan Beyer as Marcello, Emily Birsan making her company debut as Musetta, and James Maddalena as Benoit/Alcindoro. Maddalena originated the title role in Metropolitan Opera’s 1987 premiere of Nixon in China.

“This new production is not the traditional, sentimentalized Bohème,” says Nelson, “but it remains one of the world’s greatest love stories, with a fresh new perspective in a mythological Paris, full of both idealism and stark reality.”

As is the company’s tradition, Opening Night of La Bohème includes the annual season gala and a post-performance reception.

Glass’ In the Penal Colony is BLO’s brand-new Opera Annex production, running November 11-15 at a location to be announced soon. Emmanuel Music Artistic Director Ryan Turner conducts for this contemporary two-character opera that premiered in 2000. Dark, funny and disturbing, In the Penal Colony is adapted from the 1914 Franz Kafka dystopian short story in which two males face torture for their crimes while staring down an ominous machine. The work features Glass’ signature driving music, this time composed for string quintet. BLO’s John Conklin worked alongside Glass and director JoAnne Akalaitis as set designer for the opera’s 2000 world premiere at Seattle’s ACT Theatre.

BLO Emerging Artist alumni Neal Ferreira as Visitor, and David McFerrin as Officer star in the production, which is directed by 2014/15 Emerging Artist R.B. Schlather with set design by Julia Noulin-Mérat, costumes by Terese Wadden and lighting by JAX Messenger.

“Nowhere else but in this Opera Annex production can audiences explore the breakdown of civil society in 90 minutes, set to the dark and driving music that Philip Glass is famous for,” says Nelson.

Opera Annex programs, a successful addition to BLO programming for the past five seasons, reflect the Company’s mission to build awareness and support for opera through compelling, fully-staged chamber operas with wide audience appeal in accessible settings.

In spring 2016, BLO returns to the Shubert Theatre March 11-20 with a new production of Jules Massenet’s Werther. Based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s loosely autobiographical novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther and typically set in Germany, this premiere production gets a transfer to an arrondissement outside Paris, honoring the French roots of composer Massenet’s and librettists Édouard Blau, Paul Milliet and Georges Hartmann.

With a stylized set inspired by French cinema, specifically the films of director Jean Renoir, Werther tells the story of a young poet tortured by unrequited love. Director Crystal Manich and set designer John Conklin turn the tables on the story’s narrative, placing the action as a dying memory after the titular character shoots himself. In a seemingly blown-apart room, featuring projections that evoke both narrative locations and the epistolary nature of the novel, Werther has costumes by Deborah Newhall, lighting design by Paul Hackenmeuller and video design by Greg Emetaz. David Angus conducts.

Tenor Joseph Kaiser makes his BLO debut as Werther. Kaiser completes his run this week as the male lead Michel in Opernhaus Zurich’s production of Bohuslav Martinu’s Juliette. He also starred in Kenneth Branagh’s 2006 film version of “The Magic Flute.” Sandra Piques Eddy returns to BLO as Charlotte. Rachele Gilmore, last seen here in BLO’s Ariadne auf Naxos and who stepped into the role of Olympia to great acclaim in Metropolitan Opera’s 2010 production of The Tales of Hoffman, sings the role of Sophie. The Werther cast also includes tenor Jon Jurgens, who sang Tristan in BLO’s highly praised 2014 Opera Annex production, The Love Potion.

“Werther is another extraordinary love story,” says Nelson. “And what I love about this production is its subjective, almost surreal take on how the story unfolds. The production design is cinematic, with great movement; it creates a fitting space for the artists and the story.”

Closing BLO’s season April 29-May 8 is a spectacular new production of composer Franz Lehár’s classic operetta The Merry Widow, set in Paris and other locations. Conducted by Alexander Joel in his company debut, with an updated book by director Lillian Groag based on the original libretto by Viktor Léon and Leo Stein, this nostalgic Merry Widow recalls Europe at the start of the 20th Century – perhaps the last time the continent could be a place for trivial frivolity, with disregard for the political and social problems bubbling under the sheen of the times.

Serious yet full of exuberance, this production retains the traditional narrative tale of rich widow Hannah Glawari and her countrymen’s attempts to find her a suitable husband so that she (and her money) remain in Pontevedro. BLO’s production boasts magnificent, colorful sets of the Pontevedrian Embassy’s Grand Hall and garden, as well as a stunning recreation of Paris’ opulent Art Nouveau restaurant and nightclub, Maxim’s. Acclaimed Boston costume designer Gail Astrid Buckley takes on her first full BLO production with The Merry Widow. The production’s set design is by John Conklin, lighting design is by Robert Wierzel, and choreographer Kyle Lang makes his company debut.

Soprano Susannah Phillips returns to BLO as Hannah Glawari, after starring in the company’s 2011 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and its 2009 Don Giovanni. Baritone Roger Honeywell makes his company debut as Count Danillo. Opera Annex alumnus Andrew Wilkowske (2011’s The Emperor of Atlantis) appears as Baron Zeta. BLO 2014/15 Emerging Artists – soprano Chelsea Basler as Valencienne, and tenor John Tessier as Camille de Rosillon – also star.

“We are thrilled to bring The Merry Widow to BLO audiences for the first time,” says Nelson. “While the look and sound of this production is typically rich and eye-popping, the underlying threat of a soon-to-change world gives it a grounding that allows us to look afresh at a seemingly lighthearted story.”

“Although our three main stage operas originally were written no more than 20 years apart, they couldn’t be more different,” says BLO Music Director David Angus. “From the gorgeous and familiar strains of Puccini’s passionate tragedy, to the ravishing romance of Massenet and the brilliance of Lehár’s operetta, juxtaposed with the brilliant Phillip Glass’ contemporary take on classical form, I know our patrons will be in opera heaven next season.”

All 2015/2016 operas except for In the Penal Colony will be presented at the Citi Performing Arts CenterSM Shubert Theatre, 265 Tremont Street, Boston, with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 3:00 p.m. The Opera Annex production of In the Penal Colony will be mounted at a location to be announced.

New season subscriptions will be available in May through, or by contacting BLO’s Audience Services at 617.542.6772 or