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

Maestro Adam Turner awarded fellowship

Maestro Adam TurnerAdam Turner, our brilliant guest conductor for last season’s Sweeney Todd, has been named the inaugural recipient of the Julius Rudel/Kurt Weill Conducting Fellowship.

Maestro Turner will be the cover conductor for Washington National Opera’s production of Weill’s Lost in the Stars at the Kennedy Center, February 2016. Read all about it.

Seeking Costume Department Staff

JOIN THE EUGENE OPERA PRODUCTION TEAM! With the expansion of our season to four productions, Eugene Opera is seeking additional staff.

New personnel needed in our costuming department are Costume Design Coordinator, Costume Design Assistant and Stitchers. Productions include Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor (December 31 & January 3), Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin (March 11 & 13), and Adamo’s Little Women (May 14 & 15). Personnel need to be available for the production dates above and preceding weeks for production and planning.

Compensation will be fee-based for the Coordinator and hourly for the Assistant and Stitchers based on experience.


Costume Design Coordinator: Supervise the rental costumes from initial fittings to the opening of the opera. Manage the Costume Shop and oversee Costume Design Assistant, stitchers and artists during fittings, alterations, and rehearsals. Oversee load out after production and costume return to rental company.

Costume Design Assistant: Assist the Costume Design Coordinator in fitting and altering costumes for artists. Assist at costume shop and during rehearsals and load out.

Stitchers: Assist Costume Design Coordinator with alterations for costumes.

To be considered for any of the above positions, please send cover letter, resume and references by August 31, 2015 to the Eugene Opera Office. E-mail PDF to or mail to 1590 Willamette Street Eugene, OR 97401.

Traviata Act 2 party 2

Corno di Bassetto is back and Eugene Opera has him!

Legendary proto-bloggist Corno di Bassetto has recently retired to the Eugene area and is going to blog for us! Bassetto, who also published some theatrical works and essays under the pen name “George Bernard Shaw,” has extensive knowledge of music and was known for trenchant expression of his opinions. We look for more of the same from him now and welcome him to the Eugene Opera community!

Tomorrow, March 25, 2014, is Arts Advocacy Day 2014!

Action Alert

Founding Members: 

Association of Performing Arts PresentersDance/USA | League of
American OrchestrasOPERA America | Theatre Communications Group

Associate Members: 

Alternate ROOTS | American Composers ForumChamber Music America |
Chorus AmericaFractured Atlas | National Alliance for Musical
TheatreNational Association of Latino Arts and CultureNational
Performance NetworkNetwork of Ensemble Theaters | New Music USA

Lend Your Voice to Arts Advocacy Day 2014!

Tomorrow, March 25, 2014, is Arts Advocacy Day 2014! Arts advocates from around
the country will visit lawmakers on Capitol Hill to ask Congress to support the
The Performing Arts Alliance is a national co-sponsor of Arts Advocacy Day, and we
will join other arts supporters to carry the message to support the arts to the
offices of their Representatives and their Senators.

( )

But that is not enough - we need your input as well! Every member of Congress, in
every state, needs to hear from the performing arts organizations in their
communities, and that is where you come in.

Even though you are not here in person, you can help make this a national day of
action in support of the arts.Click here to take action and add your voice to the
chorus by contacting your members of Congress on Arts Advocacy Day and urge them
to support the issues you care about!

The Performing Arts Alliance is a national network of more than 33,000
organizational and individual members comprising the professional,
nonprofit performing arts and presenting fields. For more than 30
years, PAA has been the premiere advocate for America's professional
nonprofit arts organizatons, artists, and their publics before the US
Congress and key policy makers. Through legislative and grassroots
action, PAA advocates for national policies that recognize, enhance,
and foster the contributions the performing arts make to America.

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tel 202.207.3850 fax 202.833.1543

The Register-Guard likes “The Girl of the Golden West!”

‘Girl of Golden West’ raises the bar for Eugene Opera

By Marilyn Farwell

For The Register-Guard


When Eugene Opera concentrates its resources and energy, it is capable of creating an exceptional production.

In the last several years, the opera has presented, as its second offering of the season, a lesser-known opera and succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations for a small opera company.

On Friday evening, it unveiled a rarely performed opera by Giacomo Puccini, “The Girl of the Golden West,” and with minimalist sets, a group of fine soloists and some solid stage direction, it produced a hit.

In 1910, Puccini’s opera was billed as an American opera when it premiered at the Metropolitan Opera, but his view of the American West was just as exotic and removed as his view of Japan in “Madama Butterfly.”

The opera is a romantic Western melodrama that modern Americans may find laughable, but if Friday’s audience is any indication we still cheer when the heroine Minnie enters with guns blazing, wins a poker game from the bad guy (baritone), and, at the end, goes into the future — alive — with her reformed bandit boyfriend (tenor).

The opera also contains some of Puccini’s most daring music, influenced by his avant-garde contemporaries, Richard Wagner, Claude Debussy and Richard Strauss.

Because Puccini, like Wagner, concentrated most of this opera’s musical meaning in heavily orchestrated, repeated motifs, the soloists must be able to sing through a powerful orchestra.

As the tavern owner Minnie, soprano Emily Pulley successfully filled the Hult with her ringing voice. Her intense acting became the center of the production and convinced us to believe in this corny story.

As the bandit Ramirez, Raul Melo made a splendid vocal impression. Although his acting is wooden, his sumptuous spinto tenor voice is charismatic.

In his last-act aria, the only clear-cut aria of the opera, Melo sang with conviction even if it was to his own tempo. As “sceriffo” Jack Rance, baritone Aaron St. Clair Nicholson was vocally and dramatically effective, although at times his voice was lost in the orchestral sound.

This opera also requires numerous comprimario roles and an all-male chorus representing the miners. Standouts included local singers Brennen Guillory as the bartender, and, in his first appearance with Eugene Opera, musical comedy regular Bill Hulings as Ashby.

Sandy Naishtat had fun as the card-cheat, Sid, and Harry Baechtel as the camp minstrel sang a lovely ballad.

Jonathan Christopher gave a strong performance as the ever-compassionate Sonora. The male chorus was excellent vocally and dramatically.

Andrew Bisantz conducted with sweeping lyricism and precision, although at times the orchestra overwhelmed the singers.

The sets were attractive minimalist outlines of a tavern, Minnie’s cabin, and, least effective, the last-act hanging scene.

David Lefkowich’s stage direction was crucial because some scenes would be laughable without a deft hand.

The second act in Minnie’s cabin opens with two Native Americans speaking in ways that would be objectionable to our current sensibilities. Both the sanitized supertitles and Lefkowich’s careful direction avoided anything embarrassing.

This production sets a gold standard for Eugene Opera’s future efforts.

Marilyn Farwell, a professor emerita of English at the University of Oregon, reviews vocal and choral music for The Register-Guard.

The look of “The Girl of the Golden West”

All photographs by Eugene Opera’s official photographer, Cliff Coles:

Here’s Minnie’s saloon, “The Polka”


Sheriff Jack Rance (Aaron St. Clair Nicholson) shakes hands with the only Wells Fargo agent in operatic history, Ashby (William Hulings)

This image tells us a lot about Our Girl Minnie (Emily Pulley)

As does this–Minnie and The Miners:

And this:

Ashby and The Miners:

Rance and Nick (Brenden Guillory), the “Polka’s” bartender:

Minnie and Dick Johnson, aka Ramirrez (tenor Raul Melo) in an intimate moment in Act II:

Minnie, taking care of herself later in Act II with a dangerous Rance:

The Native Americans, Wowkle (Lina Delmastro) and Billy Jackrabbit (Joseph Bonnevie)–just two of our many international, national, and local artists who, under the inspired guidance of director David Lefkowich and our Music Director Andrew Bisantz, have made more of these characters than was thought possible:

The bold West sings its way into the heart of Eugene


The bold West sings its way into the heart of Eugene

A tale of the American frontier, translated by Giacomo Puccini

By Randi Bjornstad

The Register-Guard


The wild, wild West comes to the stage this weekend — sure as shootin’ — as Eugene Opera presents “The Girl of the Golden West.”

It’s a classic spaghetti Western love triangle, set in Gold Rush-era California: good woman (rough-and-tough outside, heart of gold within) falls in love with misunderstood bandit, breaking the heart of honorable sheriff who loves her so much that he lets them both get away.

And it’s a spaghetti Western in another way, too, because it was written by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini, one of the biggest names in opera — you can even call it “La Fanciulla del West” if you want — for the New York Metropolitan Opera, which first performed it in 1910.

It was quite an event back then. Enrico Caruso sang the part of bad guy Dick Johnson, aka Ramerrez, to Emmi Destinn’s Minnie. And Arturo Toscanini himself conducted.

Wow again, because the three leads in the show — soprano Emily Pulley as Minnie, tenor Raul Melo as Johnson/­Ramerrez and baritone Aaron St. Clair Nicholson as Sheriff Rance — all are veterans of the Metropolitan Opera stage.

They’ll be joined by Eugene’s own William Hulings as Ashby, the Wells Fargo agent on the trail of the bandit, and Brennen Guillory, a Lutheran pastor from Junction City who plays Nick, the bartender.

Andrew Bisantz — now in his fourth season as Eugene Opera’s music director, besides working with orchestras all over the country and the world — will conduct.

Pulley has sung the role of Minnie for years, and it has personal as well as professional meaning for her.

“I remember the first time I saw the show, I fell in love with the character,” she said. “That time period is part of the myth of the American West, and if I’d lived in that time, Minnie is the character I would hope to have been.”

Then Pulley pulls out her cellphone and scrolls through photos until she comes to one of her great-great grandfather, John Frederich Grau.

“He called himself J. Fred, and he was a sheriff in the Oklahoma Territory at about the same time this opera is set, so I think of him,” she said.

“I love this show because Minnie — she’s one of only two women among the main characters — is sister, mother, friend and teacher to all of the miners. She even teaches them about the Bible.

“This is basically a story of redemption in the Old West. These are all such human, human characters.”

For Melo, singing the Johnson/Ramerrez role is a first.

“I’m really excited to be doing it; I get to be a cowboy,” Melo said. “This opera is the trope for practically every movie Western, with the good woman who sees the good in a man and saves him from the wrong path.

“Even the music from this opera has been stolen for all kinds of other movies, including the big love tune in ‘Phantom of the Opera.’ Same key and everything.”

Melo has plumbed the depths of his role, a combination of the bandit Ramerrez and the pretender cowboy, Johnson.

“What I’m trying to do is not to act like I’m not a bandit, just not to say it,” he said. “So the question is, ‘Why is this character a bandit?’

“And the answer is, because this is all part of history. It’s a very complex backstory.”

A history lesson

The opera takes place circa 1900, about the time the U.S. government declared the end of the Western frontier, Melo said.

“Before that, parts of the West had been under Spanish control for centuries, then Mexican, and then American,” he said.

As time passed and governance changed, “Land was taken away from many of the big landholders — some of them were even killed — their cattle were stolen and their way of live destroyed. There was nothing left for their sons but to become bandits, and of course there was also some taking of revenge.”

But in the opera, Melo gets “only 12 measures” to convey this complicated history.

“I have this crazy, very difficult thing to sing: Yes, I’m a bandit; no, I didn’t rob you; yes, I’m ashamed; that’s the way life is — and then I have this high note that lasts for six measures.”

It’s not so much the difficulty of holding the note that concerns him, but “the dread of what color I turn,” Melo quipped. “No amount of makeup will cover that purple.”

When it comes to being on the losing end in the pursuit of Minnie, St. Clair Nicholson said, the sheriff may be the antagonist, “but he’s not evil.”

“He feels his own kind of love, but he’s a man of honor,” he said. “His honor and his obsession battle within him, but he keeps his word.”

It may all be a bit melodramatic, but that’s the way of both spaghetti Western movies and operas, “and I think this one is a masterpiece that really appeals to people,” St. Clair Nicholson said.

A genuine horse opera

As for Hulings, “The Girl of the Golden West” is his debut performance with Eugene Opera, “and I’m excited to be in the same room with these folks,” he said.

“I’m continually watching what they do, and they’ve been tremendously welcoming, and I’m also trying to bring my theater experience along.”

This production is a premiere for Eugene Opera, and general director Mark Beudert sees it as a real crowd-pleaser.

Even for people who don’t know much about opera or think they don’t like it, “This won’t be boring,” Beudert said, because of the spirited acting this group of opera singers is known for, the nontraditional cowboy costuming, the American West plot line and the participation of local people who make up the supporting cast.

At the same time, he said, coming to it with an appreciation of history that recognizes the contributions — and confrontations — among people of all cultures who settled the West also is important.

“This opera is not like fast food. You have to chew it, but it’s tasty, and it’s good,” Beudert said. “And it’s being performed by people who want to share the meal with everyone.”

Follow Randi on Twitter @BjornstadRandi. Email


The Girl of the Golden West

When: 7:30 p.m. March 14 and 2:30 p.m. March 16

Where: Silva Concert Hall, Hult Center, Seventh Avenue and Willamette Street

Tickets and information: $20 to $69 (541-682-5000, , )

ACTION ALERT: Protect Giving Day, 20 November 2013

from the Performing Arts Alliance:
 Action Alert

Lend your voice to Protect Giving Day 2013!



On Wednesday, November 20th, members of the Performing Arts Alliance (PAA) will join over 200 nonprofit leaders representing the arts and human services organizations on Capitol Hill to petition their representatives to preserve the charitable deduction.
The charitable deduction encourages giving to the nonprofit performing arts. On average, 40% of the annual revenue to the nonprofit performing arts field comes from private contributions. These funds support a number of activities such as the creation and presentation of works of art. They also support programs in which arts and human services organizations partner together to address critical community issues such as education, health, poverty, and accessibility to the arts. As comprehensive tax reform remains on the horizon, lawmakers continue to consider various options that would reduce the tax incentive for charitable giving, which could result in fewer contributions to nonprofits.
PAA is working in coalition with other nonprofits urging Congress to:

  • Preserve incentives for charitable giving by protecting the charitable tax deduction from rate caps or other new limitations.
  • Reject any attempts to divide the charitable sector which would create a hierarchy of tax deductibility favoring certain types of charities over others.

Add your voice to Protect Giving Day on November 20! Contact Congress and tell them how your organization’s work in your community is supported by the charitable deduction, and how it would be affected by a decrease in contributions.

Click here to send a customizable letter to your representative.
To learn more about charitable giving policies, visit the PAA Issue Center.

Eugene Opera’s Il Trovatore (7 February 2009)

Here’s an archived review, from the Register Guard in February 2009–the first time Verdi’s Il trovatore had been presented in Eugene:


The intrepid Eugene Opera dared to go where most opera companies, except the largest, fear to tread. On Saturday evening, the Eugene company featured Giuseppe Verdi’s sprawling 1853 epic “Il Trovatore,” an opera with a clumsy plot and yet some of Verdi’s grandest music. Although Eugene Opera gave only a “semi-staged” production, this opera still demands four outstanding singers with big, dramatic voices capable of creamy lyricism as well as flexible coloratura. Much to the credit of Eugene Opera’s General Director, Mark Beudert, the company met most of the opera’s challenges, and although not without some hitches in the beginning, the production displayed verve, dramatic excitement, and in many cases, vocal beauty.

Concert versions of operas usually present singers in tuxes and gowns standing in front of an orchestra while singing their operatic roles with little drama and no scenery. The audience usually hears some glorious music, and the presenting company avoids the costs of costumes, sets, and directors. Eugene Opera, however, set its sights higher. As usual, the singers wore formal concert attire, but the emotional tone of many scenes was set with expressive lighting by Michael Peterson, and the singers interacted with each other in ways that resembled a full operatic production. The intertwined stories of the gypsy Azucena’s lust for revenge and of the love triangle of Count di Luna, Manrico, and the aristocratic Leonora became, especially by the second portion of the evening, a forceful drama with lustrous singing and convincing acting.

Verdi originally intended Azucena to be the center of this opera, and, as if on cue, the most notable presence of the evening was the mezzo soprano, Jeniece Goldbourne, in this daunting role. Her plum-rich mezzo voice and her acting skills made her a riveting presence each time she appeared on stage. Despite a voice full of heavy vibrato and large register breaks, she sang with dramatic force and, at times, exquisite beauty.

As the opera developed in Verdi’s hands, the role of Leonora became larger than first intended until it evolved into the opera’s most substantial vocal role. Blessed with a large, warm soprano, Kelly Cae Hogan encompassed the varied moods of Lenora with finely tuned emotional shadings and pianissimos. The highlight of the evening was Leonora’s grand scena, “D’amor sull’ali rosee,” a lengthy scene which demands lyrical singing and vocal agility, both of which Hogan accomplished beautifully.

The baritone Michael Mayes as the villainous Count di Luna began the evening with spotty pitch and a thin tone, but gradually built to a warmer sound and, at times, luscious pianissimos. In his one romantic aria, “Il balen” which demands long, legato lines, Mayes succeeded only in part, but by the second act his vocal work was both warm and appropriately menacing.

The tenor, Eduardo Villa, suffered under unique circumstances. Mark Beudert was scheduled to take the role of Manrico, but fell ill, and Villa was flown in to substitute. A veteran performer of this role, Villa was next in line to be stricken by a bug, and although he bravely soldiered on, his foray as Manrico was a difficult one. He still had some lovely moments, especially in the cavatina, “Ah, si ben mio.”

Kenneth Kellog’s resonant but light bass voice added color to Ferrando’s role, and the comprimario roles taken by Marieke Schuurs, Reggie Tonry, and Nicholas Larson were in capable hands.

It is good to see that the chorus has grown to a respectable size and that it is led by a chorus master, John Jantzi. The women’s chorus’s delicate singing in the convent scene was lovely, and the male chorus, despite some pitch problems, sang with hefty conviction.

The Eugene Opera was lucky to have Willie Anthony Waters as its conductor for this difficult opera. The orchestra played extremely well under him, and although coordination with the singers was sketchy in the first part of the opera, Waters maintained tight control of the production in the second portion of the evening.

If its two productions of this year indicate the quality we can expect from Eugene Opera, the last opera of the season, “Don Giovanni,” should be worth waiting for.