Critical Praise for María de Buenos Aires


Review: Eugene Opera’s ‘Maria’ a tour de force of musical, artistic and athletic showmanship

By Alison Kaufman For The Register-Guard

Posted May 5, 2018 at 5:13 PM

The sold-out Friday audience was treated to magnificent singing, fantastic tango dancing and charismatic music

Friday evening, Eugene Opera presented Ástor Piazzolla’s “Maria de Buenos Aires” at the Hult Center’s Soreng Theater. This tango operetta is a bold new step for Eugene Opera, and a nice counterpoint to their production of “The Barber of Seville” earlier this season.

“Maria de Buenos Aires” challenges many assumptions of what an opera is supposed to sound like as it features as much spoken delivery as sung, has only two singing roles, features instruments more common to an orquesta típica than an operatic orchestral pit, and has an unclear plot.

This production also included unusual elements, the most noticeable being the amplification of the singers. Normally, this reviewer takes offense at adding microphones to opera singers, but with the challenging acoustics of Soreng Theater as well as the general mix of popular and classical genres inherent within the work, the technological addition worked and was generally appreciated.

The singers themselves were magnificent. Soprano Catalina Cuervo has become the primary interpreter of the title role, and it is no wonder why. Cuervo’s sensual and engaging characterization of the tragic Maria joined with her stunning vocal capacity to sing ranges usually intended for contraltos into one of the most captivating performances that Eugene Opera has ever presented.

Baritone Paul La Rosa’s bodacious voice and commanding personality perfectly complemented the energetic and competitive role of the Payador. It was at times difficult to determine the exact relationship between the Payador and Maria, but the tension was palpable and intriguing.

Actor Milton Loayza portrayed the Duende, a spoken role, with fire and a fantastic flair for the dramatic. His enthusiastically delivered the vivid and mysterious poetry of librettist Horacio Ferrer, at times with large gestures and at others with a contained intensity.

Of equal importance to the three named characters, however, were the fantastic tango dancers. The two lead dancers were Fernanda Ghi and Guillermo Merlo who are world-class tango competitors and choreographers. The dancing for this performance was choreographed by Ghi, and it was inventive and new while still maintaining enough classic tango to fit with the 1960s aesthetic of the opera’s setting.

Ghi and Merlo were joined by local tango and ballet dancers Marisela Rizik, Deanna Murphy, Jim Ballard and Gustavo Ramirez. The ensemble numbers, particularly when interacting with the sung and spoken characters, were masterful in their construction and presentation as they were beautiful, sexy and intriguing while not distracting from the main action.

The orchestra, led by Artistic Director, Conductor and pianist Andrew Bisantz, was as powerful an actor as any who sang, recited or danced. Bandoneón player Ben Thomas was charismatic as he interacted with the performers on stage while realizing the difficult parts written by Piazzolla, one of the great Bandoneón composers. The solos played by guitarist Cameron O’Connor, violinist Matt Fuller, and flautist Jill Pauls also were stunning and emotive.

Overall, the performance was a tour de force of musical, artistic and athletic showmanship and gave the appreciative, sold-out Eugene audience a hearty appetite for Eugene Opera’s 2018-2019 season.

Musicologist and soprano Alison Kaufman reviews classical performances for the Register-Guard.

New Leadership Team

Eugene Opera has adopted a new management model effective with the 2017-18 season. Rather than having a single General Manager, as in the past decade, the company will be co-led by two highly qualified experts: Andrew Bisantz, as Artistic Director and Conductor, and Erica Rauer, as Executive Director.

Maestro Andrew Bisantz is a treasure, as the local opera community knows from his many years as Music Director and Principal Conductor here. In his expanded role, he will have principal responsibility for selecting repertoire, planning seasons, casting productions, and supervising all related artistic activities of Eugene Opera. 

Erika Rauer is a newcomer to Eugene, but not to opera or to management — and a “rare find,” according to a previous colleague. She will be reponsible for all business operations of the company, including development, marketing, and support for productions and educational programs. She recently moved here from North Carolina, and looks forward to providing full-time management for all of our operations. 

In September 2017, Erika was interviewed by Eric Alan on KLCC. Listen to Erika’s inteview on KLCC

This new, stronger leadership team is a key element of Eugene Opera’s turn-around plan to recover from its financial difficulties last season. Things are looking up for opera in Oregon!

More about Andrew and Erika…

Bisantz.A.Headshot.w200Maestro Bisantz is building an impressive roster of credits at leading national orchestras and opera companies throughout the country. As the Music Director and Principal Conductor at Eugene Opera, he has played a major role in the emergence of the company as one of the most noted performing arts organizations in the Pacific Northwest. His new position incorporates his previous duties, so Eugene Opera audiences will continue to enjoy his work in the orchestra pit, as they have for the past nine seasons. He has conducted Eugene Opera’s productions of Orpheus in the UnderworldDon Giovanni, The Marriage of FigaroFaustLa bohèmeThe MikadoCarmenNixon in ChinaPirates of Penzance, Dead Man Walking, The Girl of the Golden WestLa traviataThe Elixir of LoveLucia di Lammermoor, Eugene OneginLittle Women, and the gala Opera Trio (Aida Act 1, Dialogues of the Carmelites Act 3, Die Fledermaus Act 2).

Erika RauerErika Rauer’s administrative experience includes the positions of Director of Education (New York City Opera), Manager of Elementary School Programs (Carnegie Hall), and Founding Director of the Community Arts Collaborative (University of North Carolina – Greensboro). She has produced concert events, with responsibility for both technical and artistic operations. She has written successful grant proposals, worked with donors, and created new income-generating programs. She has managed million-dollar budgets. However, her experience is not limited to the “back office.” As an accomplished soprano, with professional appearances at Oper Bremen, Opera Boston, Tanglewood, and other venues, she also knows the “front end” of the opera business. Welcome to Eugene, Erika!


Opera Camp for Teens in August 2017

Eugene Opera held its first summer Opera Camp for Teens on August 22-24, 2017. It was a big success! In just 3 days, the participants put together a complete performance of a highly condensed version of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance. Click below to see excerpts from the performance on August 24 at the Applegate Regional Theatre in Veneta.

Eugene Opera is grateful to the Applegate Regional Theatre for donating its space for the Camp.

OPERA America Comes to Eugene

Marc Scorca
Marc A. Scorca

Eugene Opera recently welcomed Marc A. Scorca, president and CEO of OPERA America, for a two-day visit.

Scorca addressed an enthusiastic group of Eugene Opera supporters on the evening of July 26. The following morning, he provided  a training session for our Board of Directors, which has been working non-stop for months to restore the company to financial health and strengthen the  management team.

Scorca then traveled to Portland to meet with Pacific Northwest opera company leaders.

Scorca Congratulates, Coaches EO in Board Training Session

On July 27, the Eugene Opera board of directors was privileged to receive a half-day training session from Marc A. Scorca, president and CEO of OPERA America.

Scorca’s time and expenses were donated by OPERA America, and the session took place in a donated space, with donated refreshments. Eugene Opera is profoundly grateful for the generosity of all involved.

The fact that OPERA America was eager to provide free training shows the importance that Eugene Opera has in the eyes of the professional opera community. Our company is known nationally for innovative programming and artistic excellence, and our recent struggle to solve our financial problems has drawn sympathetic attention from colleagues around the US and Canada.

Scorca praised Eugene Opera and its many supporters for emerging from the past season debt-free, while noting that the upcoming season will pose new challenges. He encouraged the board to seek new members and new sources of revenue, and he offered many useful ideas for moving forward.

EO Officials Attend OPERA America Regional Meeting in Portland

From left: Andrew Bisantz, Barbara Wheatley, Anthony  Meyer, Marc A. Scorca
From left: Andrew Bisantz, Barbara Wheatley, Anthony Meyer, Marc A. Scorca
On July 28, Eugene Opera’s music director Andrew Bisantz, board president Barbara Wheatley, and board member Anthony Meyer attended an all-day meeting in Portland of OPERA America member companies located in the Pacific Northwest.

Opera companies from Victoria (BC); Seattle, Tacoma, and Bellevue (WA); Portland, Eugene, Bend, and Medford (OR); Boise (ID); and Bozeman (MT) were represented. The meeting was chaired by Marc A. Scorca, president and CEO of OPERA America.

In the opening session, the Eugene delegation was asked to discuss the company’s recent successful campaign to pay off its debts. Colleagues from other regional companies welcomed the news of our survival and shared a number of helpful suggestions based on their own experiences.

Eugene Opera Academy: Review of 2016-17 Season


This year’s Academy started off with a bang.  We first met with students on September 29, 2016, to get oriented, register, and prepare for upcoming events surrounding the Eugene Opera’s first production, Berlioz’ Much Ado About Nothing.

conference room

After that meeting, students had the opportunity to attend two related public events: a film presentation of Kenneth Branagh’s version of the Shakespeare play at the Eugene Public Library, and then a lecture-demo by Sparky Roberts and her Fools Haven Company.

On October 15, the students attended the first rehearsal of Berlioz’ opera, when Mark Beudert introduced the chorus and principals to each other and started staging.


The students were visibly shocked at the strength of these 3 leads’ voices!!

The following week, Mark presented a public lecture about the opera, to which students were invited.

Then, on October 26, the students attended the dress rehearsal in the Soreng Theatre.   First, they visited the backstage area of the Hult Center with Academy Chair & chorister, Barbara Myrick.

Then, they talked with Amy Adams, Director of Education and Community Engagement, before the dress rehearsal about what they were going to see…

…after which they watched the dress rehearsal. A few days later, all this preparation culminated in the Academy attending the light-hearted performance of Berlioz’ Much Ado about Nothing (Béatrice et Bénédict).

On November 15, the Academy met to prepare for the next production called “Opera Trio, which was an evening of single acts from Aïda by Giuseppe Verdi, Dialogues of the Carmelites by Francis Poulenc, and Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss.

After a couple of public events preparing them for “Opera Trio,” they attended several staging rehearsals to see how the show was put together and to have roundtable sessions with the artists, who shared their stories of how they got into opera as a career.

Students also saw the orchestra rehearsal and talked with Music Director Andrew Bisantz.

One student, Ananda Burke, had a surprise when the entire opera chorus and cast sang “Happy Birthday” to her in multiple-part harmony!

Finally, dress rehearsal was preceded by a backstage tour of the Silva stage, given by Amy Adams.

At a de-brief session after attending the “Trio” performance, students were disappointed to learn that the opera was suspending the rest of the season! They were especially looking forward to West Side Story. They had many ideas to help the opera and didn’t want to quit, so the Education Committee arranged for two more opera events to attend: UO Opera Ensemble’s production of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, and the Metropolitan Opera live-in HD streaming of Verdi’s La Traviata at Cinemark.

Finally, the year was capped off with four students presenting projects and awarding of their certificates. For the first time, this was a public event. Ananda Burke, Aharon Melloul and Owen McCoy all performed solos related to opera, and Isabel Renich presented a staged version of a Trio from an opera she is writing, involving other Academy students and Annie Huie as director.

All projects were well-prepared and it was exciting to see the culmination of this unusual year!

Eugene Opera Academy: Review of 2015-16 Season

The Eugene Opera Academy (EOA) had a great and busy season in 2015-16, with events preceding each of the four productions.

October 19, 2015: We started with a meeting to learn how the Academy works and to get registered.

Barb Myrick with the Academy

We were happily surprised when Mark Beudert came in with cast member Laura Wayte, who shared some insights into her upcoming role as the Governess in Turn of the Screw.

Mark Beudert with the Academy

This was followed by the first of the Ambassadors’ Listen Now! lectures, on Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, given by Dr. Vincent Centeno.

With this introduction, the Academy of 10 students attended the matinee performance on November 1 of Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw.

December 3: The Academy re-convened to prepare for the production of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor with a lecture given by Bereniece Jones-Centeno.

December 5: Students had a view of the chorus preparation as they met in a roundtable with Chorus Master Greg Sojka, Chorus Manager Colleen Gaskill, Rehearsal Pianist Sandy Holder, and Chorus Representative to the Board, Chris Lamb.

Chorus roundtable

We learned a lot about how much the rehearsal pianist has to anticipate the conductors to keep the rehearsals going!

December 14: Ananda Burke had a one-on-one with Lucia lead soprano, Leah Partridge.

Soprano Leah Partridge with Academy student

December 20: Students had a roundtable discussion with Stage Director David Lefkowich and Music Director Andrew Bisantz at the final floor run before moving into the Hult Center.

Andrew Bisantz and David Lefkowich

December 27: Students watched and listened to the orchestra rehearse with Andrew.

Tympani player at rehearsal

December 29: Final dress rehearsal night started with Bereniece Jones-Centeno and Mark Beudert giving a tour of the backstage…

Backstage tour with Mark Beudert


Props backstage

stage left ropes…

Backstage ropes

the pit…

Academy students visit the pit

and, among other things, Lucia’s wedding dress!

Wedding dress of Lucia di Lammermoor

January 3, 2016: the Matinee performance of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor!

January 10: The Academy got together for a much-needed debrief and pizza party. At this time, we also looked ahead.

Academy pizza party

February 13, 2016: The first session in preparation for Eugene Onegin. How does the chorus prepare for a Russian opera? EOA students came to an intense rehearsal working on the Russian language with Olga Aynvarg, our Russian langue specialist, and Associate Chorus Master Gustavo Castro.

Gustavo Castro and Olga Aynvarg

February 22: Listen Now! lecture was given by Ann Schafer, who explored the musical themes of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, with the fabulous help of David Gustafson, tenor, and Sandy Holder, piano.

David Gustafson at a Listen Now! event

February 25: Roundtable with the production team. Molly Clevidence, Stage Manager, shared her job while on her dinner break…

Stage Manager Molly Clevidence

Caitlyn Tendick takes care of Hair and Makeup…

Caitlyn Tendick talking with Academy students

and Scott King is the Production Manager…

Production Manager Scott King with Academy students

Then, the students stayed for a staging rehearsal.

Chorus rehearsal

March 3: roundtable with the artists and a staging rehearsal. Here, Jake Gardner (Prince Gremin) and Christopher Cano (Chorus master and rehearsal accompanist) talked with the Academy students.

Pianist Chris Cano and Baritone Jake Gardner with the Academy

Stage Director David Lefkowich works here with Jill Gardner (Tatiana).

Director David Lefkowich and soprano Jill Gardner

Students were enchanted with David’s dog, Max:

David Lefkowich with his dog Max

March 5: Just two days later, we had a fabulous roundtable with Choreographer Antonio Anacan…

Choreographer Antonio Anacan

who worked with David on integrating the dancers into the production.

Dancers at rehearsal

March 9: On backstage tour we saw props with Sarah Beudert and Molly Clevidence preparing the show…

Backstage with the props

and then took a photo with the chorus!

Chorus and Academy

April 28: In preparation for the final production of Mark Adamo’s Little Women, Dr. Terry McQuilkin gave a lecture on the music, and Brooke Cagno sang an aria from the show.

May 1: Was a big day. Three Academy students gave fabulous presentations:

Isabel Renich continued the opera plot she presented last year by singing a duet she composed, with her mother accompanying and singing the tenor part. Isabel was awarded the Gaskill Family Scholarship of $500 towards her college education.

Isabel Renich sings

Wesley Coleman is also working on an opera and presented his opening aria complete with orchestral accompaniment, via computer technology. He was awarded $150 towards composition lessons with a local composer.

Wesley Coleman presented an aria he composed

Ananda Burke did her presentation on how a certain method of acting can be used in opera staging, and then sang in the master class led by Mark Beudert. She was awarded coaching lessons with Mark Beudert and Andrew Bisantz.

Ananda Burke sings

Each participant also received a Certificate of Participation from Eugene Opera and got to meet the cast for Little Women.

May 13: students were led in a backstage tour of the Soreng Theater by Mark Beudert and Amy Adams and attended the final dress rehearsal of Little Women.

May 15: The Matinee performance of Little Women was the final event of the season, at which the student awards were announced.

This year’s Academy was small but powerful. Those who attended were very excited with all they learned about the amazingly complex task of putting together an opera production. In a debrief, they were asked if it was too much to attend events for all four operas, and they were unanimous in saying that it was a great experience and that they wanted to do all four productions next year!

Our thanks to the Education Committee (Joyce Leader, Richard Long, Al Villanueva, and Phyllis Villec), Scott King, Mark Beudert, Bereniece Jones-Centano, Amy Adams, and all who helped this experience to happen for Academy students!

Special thanks to Richard Long for the photos!

New CD features Maestro Andrew Bisantz

Eugene Opera Music Director Andrew Bisantz is featured on a new recording of the music of composer Fredrick Kaufman. This past April, Maestro Bisantz conducted singers from Florida Grand Opera’s acclaimed Young Artist Studio in Kaufman’s 1985 work for unaccompanied voices Stars and Distances, and then in June traveled with the composer to Prague to record his brand-new work The Seven Sisters with members of the Czech Philharmonic.

Stars and Distances will have a life beyond the recording – it will become the soundtrack for the planetarium in Miami’s new Frost Science Museum. It is the first time in South Florida that two important institutions, one in the arts and one in science, will collaborate in such a prominent and lasting fashion.

Read more about this CD

Tenor George Shirley Awarded National Medal of Arts

Tenor George Shirley, a renowned opera singer and educator with Eugene connections, received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama in a White House ceremony on September 10, 2015.

A distinguished professor of vocal arts, Shirley directed the doctoral studies of Mark Beudert, Eugene Opera’s General Director, at the University of Michigan.

Shirley, 81, has won many professional honors over a long career. He was the first African-American tenor to appear in a leading role at the Metropolitan Opera. Eugene opera fans remember him as Father Grenville in our March 2013 production of Jake Heggie’s opera Dead Man Walking.

At the White House award ceremony, Shirley shared the platform with several other prominent honorees, including author Stephen King and actor Sally Field.