The 2015-16 season culminated in May with the lyrical American masterpiece Little Women, composed by Mark Adamo in 1998. Louisa May Alcott’s beloved story of the lives of the four March sisters — Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy — as they pass from childhood into womanhood is brilliantly brought to the stage through Adamo’s libretto and music.
“Eugene Opera’s Little Women…is an excellent, light, diverting and lushly beautiful rendition of the familiar story into music…. Adamo’s score, performed by a small orchestra conducted by music director Andrew Bisantz, is full and lovely…. From the opening scene, with the four sisters singing the beautiful “Four Little Chests All In A Row,” the music and story move seamlessly together.” Bob Keefer, Eugene Art Talk
Little Women was performed at in the Soreng Theater at the Hult Center on Saturday, May 14, 2016 and Sunday, May 15, 2016.
Click the video for highlights from the dress rehearsal on May 13:
“If you have any interest in new opera, or just want to enjoy yourself, you should make every effort to go.” —John Rockwell, The New York Times
“The ‘Cinderella’ of recent American operas…” —Richard Dyer, The Boston Globe
“Poignant, and masterfully realized: as musically and dramatically exciting as anything in Verdi.” —Mickey Coalwell, Kansas City Star
“…Little Women appeals with soft-spoken conviction to head as well as heart.” —Martin Bernheimer, The Financial Times
“Little Women is magically transporting.” —Graham Strahle, The Australian
“…a bona fide American classic.” —Matthew Gurewitsch, L’Opéra Internationale
The story and the music:
Read more and watch video excerpts:
An American Classic (with video)
The Men of Little Women (with video)
For a fascinating in-depth description of the book, the opera, and the process of creating one based on the other, read composer and librettist Mark Adamo’s own online course on Little Women (part of Opera America’s distance learning program).
Meet the four sisters.
Mezzo-soprano Alishia Garcia will sing Meg, the oldest of the four March sisters. Ms. Garcia is a recent graduate of the University of Oregon, where she received the Bezinover Opera Scholarship and the 2015 Outstanding Undergraduate in Voice Award. She performed leading roles in recent University opera productions including the Cat in Puss in Boots and Hänsel in Hänsel und Gretel, and has also sung with Cascadia Concert Opera. She has performed as a soloist with the University Singers under the direction of Matthew Halls and in two of the Children’s Programs presented by the Eugene Symphony.
Mezzo-soprano Hannah Penn will appear as Jo March, the central character in this opera. Ms. Penn enjoys a diverse career as a performer of opera, oratorio, and recital literature. Frequently praised for her musicality and the timbre of her voice, Ms. Penn has recently been called “…a major talent” and “…an intelligent and wonderfully musical singer” by Portland’s Willamette Week, and was praised for having “…intriguing colors at both ends of her range” by The Oregonian. She has sung more than twenty operatic roles with Glimmerglass Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Portland Opera, Tacoma Opera, and other companies.
Soprano Emily Evelyn Way returns to Eugene Opera as Beth, the third sister. A native of Salem, Ms. Way is quickly gaining recognition as an emerging lyric coloratura soprano. Her convincing performance earlier this season in Eugene Opera’s The Turn of the Screw earned praise from Opera News as “a lovely, lively, girlish Flora of well-focused tone.” Recent credits also include her Canadian debut as Carrie Pipperidge in Carousel with Opera on the Avalon, Madame Herz in Der Schauspieldirektor with Garden State Opera, and Königin der Nacht in Die Zauberflöte with Amore Opera. Other notable roles include Nannetta (Falstaff), Le feu (L’enfant et les sortileges) and Zerlina (Don Giovanni).
Soprano Jocelyn Claire Thomas will sing the role of Amy, the youngest sister. Ms. Thomas is a versatile soprano praised for her haunting sound and musical intelligence — “truly magic in the air” (The Source Weekly). Her roles include Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, Despina in Così fan tutte, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, Marcelline in Fidelio, Morgana in Alcina, Gretel in Hänsel and Gretel, Brigitta in Iolanta, and Adele in Die Fledermaus. Ms. Thomas has appeared with Portland Concert Opera, Brava Opera Theatre, Opera Bend, Bravo Northwest, Cascadia Concert Opera, The Astoria Music Festival, FAVA Salzburg, and Portland Summerfest.
Meet the parents.
We are delighted to welcome soprano/mezzo-soprano Emily Pulley back to Eugene in the role of Alma March, the beloved matriarch of the March family. Ms. Pulley, who has frequently appeared with the Metropolitan Opera, last performed in Eugene as Minnie in 2014’s The Girl of the Golden West. “Soprano Emily Pulley filled the Hult with her ringing voice. Her intense acting became the center of the production” (The Register Guard). Ms. Pulley’s radiant voice and electrifying acting have won her both national and international acclaim on the operatic stage, in works ranging from Mozart and Beethoven to Heggie and Adamo. A champion of contemporary repertoire, she created the role of Lysia in the world premiere of Adamo’s opera Lysistrata in her Houston Grand Opera début, which she then reprised for New York City Opera.
The young women’s father, Gideon March, will be sung by Eugene favorite Sandy Naishtat. Mr. Naishtat has performed featured roles with Eugene Opera since 1994, in Eugene Onegin, Sweeney Todd, The Girl of the Golden West, La traviata, Dead Man Walking, Pirates of Penzance, Carmen, La bohème, Orpheus in the Underworld, The Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute, Die Fledermaus, Susannah, Gianni Schicchi, HMS Pinafore, in concert with Christiane Noll, and in Eugene Opera’s Artist Mentor Program. He has also sung diverse roles with Cascadia Concert Opera, the University Opera Ensemble, Oregon Mozart Players, OFAM, the Oregon Bach Festival, Eugene Symphony, Eugene Chamber Singers, and Eugene Vocal Arts Ensemble.
Meet the suitors.
Tenor Brett Sprague sings Laurie, the boy next door who courts two of the March sisters. Mr. Sprague has recently sung in Die Zauberflöte, The Scarlet Letter-Abridged (world premiere), Madama Butterfly, Carmen, and Rigoletto with Opera Colorado; Hänsel and Gretel, Romeo and Juliet, and Barber of Seville in the Opera Colorado touring productions; Susannah and Fiddler on the Roof with Ash Lawn Opera; and Peter Grimes as a Studio Artist with Chautauqua Opera. He received third place honors at the 2015 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Rocky Mountain Regional finals. Mr. Sprague holds degrees in music from Chapman University and Manhattan School of Music.
Baritone Tim McCoy, often welcomed on the Eugene Opera stage, will sing the role of John Brooke, Meg’s suitor. Mr. McCoy is a recent graduate of the University of Oregon. He has appeared in Eugene Opera’s Eugene Onegin, The Elixir of Love, The Girl of the Golden West, La traviata, Dead Man Walking, Pirates of Penzance, and Carmen. Mr. McCoy has also sung with Cascadia Concert Opera, the University of Oregon opera ensemble, and Eugene Opera’s Artist Mentor Program. His awards include the Anne Musgrove opera scholarship (2013) and first place in the National Association of Teachers of Singing Cascade chapter competition (2015).
Baritone Zachary Angus will sing the role of Friedrich Bhaer. Mr. Angus has earned praise for his “strong baritone [which] simply float[s] across the footlights.” Recently, Mr. Angus has performed as a Featured Artist with the Fourth Coast Ensemble and under the baton of Mei-Ann Chen with the Chicago Sinfonietta. He has also appeared in HMS Pinafore with Savoyaires of Evanston, in Candide with Opera Notre Dame, and as a soloist in numerous sacred works at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Evanston. Mr. Angus earned his Masters of Music degree from Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts in 2014, where he performed in ten operatic productions.
Meet the others.
Mezzo-soprano Melina Pyron, a sympathetic Madame Larina in Eugene Opera’s Eugene Onegin, returns as the rich, opinionated aunt Cecilia March. Ms. Pyron enjoys a growing national performance schedule and “could step onto almost any opera stage right now” (Chicago Sun-Times). She has sung in La traviata and The Magic Flute with Lyric Opera of Chicago, in The Magic Flute with Seattle Opera, in The Rape of Lucretia with Central City Opera, in Werther with Vashon Opera, in HMS Pinafore with Tacoma Opera, in Il trittico and Romeo et Juliette with Bozeman Opera, in Rigoletto with Skagit Opera, and in The Ballad of Baby Doe with Amarillo Opera.
Jo’s publisher, Mr. Dashwood, will be sung by popular Eugene tenor Al Villanueva. Mr. Villanueva’s involvement with Eugene Opera dates back to its early days at Sheldon High School. He has also appeared in more recent productions including Pirates of Penzance, The Magic Flute, Sweeney Todd, and this season’s Lucia di Lammermoor and Eugene Onegin. Mr. Villanueva has also appeared as a soloist with the Eugene Symphony, the Oregon Festival of American Music, and with Marin Alsop and the Colorado Symphony in Radio Rhapsody and Leonard Bernstein’s Mass. He recently appeared as Mr. Fezziwig in Oregon Contemporary Theatre’s A Christmas Carol.
Banner image: From “They all drew to the fire,” 1915 illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith for Little Women