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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 30, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 18
Seattle Opera's newest commission, Amelia, looks great
Arts & Entertainment
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Seattle Opera's newest commission, Amelia, looks great

by Rod Parke - SGN A&E Writer

Amelia
May 8
McCaw Hall


The following are my notes from the press preview of Amelia, a new opera commissioned by Seattle Opera.

Jonathan Dean, director of public programming and media, began by showing some design drawings, and then introduced tenor Bill Burden and librettist Gardner McFall. Gardner referred to the libretto as, among other things, a living memorial to her dad, who, like Dodge (sung by William Burden), died on a training mission in Vietnam. She mentioned that she saw tears in Burden's eyes in one of the rehearsals.

Having established that I write for SGN, I asked Burden (married with children) if he gets to remove his shirt in this opera, as he did previously in The Pearl Fishers and Iphigenia in Tauris! This got a big laugh from everyone. Burden replied in the negative, but added enthusiastically that he gets to appear in full-dress whites (pilot dress uniform).

This informative dialogue was followed by one between Daron Hagen (composer) and mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey (Amelia). Many of us saw her recently on the Met Live in HD showing of The Tales of Hoffmann in movie theaters. They mentioned that they had to take down a few phrases of her mad scene for the sake of other mezzos who may sing it in subsequent productions. (Kate had no problem with the high notes!)

Noting that composers I like for instrumental works (Tan Dun, John Adams, etc.) write boringly for the voice, I asked Mr. Hagen how he felt about the subject. He said it helps in writing for voice through knowing the physicality of singing. He felt that having studied voice to be a singer helped him a great deal.

Next came a conversation between Stephen Wadsworth and baritone David McFerrin (who alternates with Nathan Gunn) in the major part of Paul. But first, David wowed us with his moving singing of an aria, which is actually a reading of a letter from the deceased Dodge, father of Amelia. Paul finds this letter on the pillow of Amelia, who is in a coma. Any questions about Hagen's ability to write well for the voice were completely dispelled!

As ever, Wadsworth poured forth a flood of articulate information about this opera, the basic story for which he himself composed.

If the emotional content of this press preview was any indication of the opera itself, we are in for a treat when it opens at McCaw Hall on May 8. Tickets can be purchased from Seattle Opera at their website or by calling 206-389-7676.

I urge anyone interested in this opera to go to the website for Seattle Opera, click on the 2009/2010 season, then click on Amelia and finally click on the Amelia video series. You'll find an amazing series of videos about the opera (including some singing!) and the making of Amelia.

Writer Rod Parke can be reached at rmp62@columbia.edu.

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