Arizona Opera Presents “Arizona Lady” and “Brundibar”


It’s no secret that when a recession hits, the arts get hit first and recover last. Some Arizona companies simply could not weather the downturn. But through careful strategic planning and significant fundraising, the Arizona Opera is alive and well and developing creative programming to increase its base for the future.

Arizona Opera recently announced the public phase of Arizona Bold, a new artistic initiative to build a stronger statewide community by presenting works that focus on

Arizona’s history and wealth of natural, cultural and economic diversity.

In September 2014, Arizona Opera announced the initiative, along with a corresponding four-year capital campaign to raise $5 million, specifically designated for community-based works. Well over $3 million has been raised already, and the company hopes to raise the remaining dollars over the next three seasons.

Arizona Opera’s 2015-16 season will open with an Arizona Bold presentation, “Arizona Lady,” the U.S. opera company premiere of Emmerich Kálmán’s comic operetta set on an Arizona cattle ranch. Jewish-Hungarian composer Kalman fled Europe to escape Nazi persecution and ended up in California and Arizona. He particularly loved the Tucson area and wrote this piece in 1953 in homage to the Southwest. The story revolves around leading lady Lona Farrell, whose hopes and dreams ride on the back of a horse named Arizona Lady winning the Kentucky Derby. Set on a historic ranch in Tucson and reminiscent of the greatest Golden-Age Hollywood musical comedies, “Arizona Lady” is full of lively, upbeat music, cheerful, soaring arias and a wacky libretto that is “sure to make you smile as bright as the Arizona sun,” says Board of Directors Chair Robert Tancer.

Arizona Opera will be the first major U.S. opera house to perform “Arizona Lady.” The piece recently received international attention after the Komische Oper Berlin presented a new production in December 2014.

In Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona Opera will host free Community Festivals in advance of the opera, with public lectures, films, events and performances designed to explore the themes of this important work.

“The fabric of Arizona is so rich, comprised of many different cultures and backgrounds,” says Arizona Opera General Director Ryan Taylor. “Arizona Bold seeks to expand the perception of our art form by presenting stories worth singing that are of particular interest to our diverse communities. Though we are all individuals with our own histories, we are unified as we sit in that darkened theater, sharing the same human experience.”

“Arizona Lady’s” cast is led by Angela Fout (Lona Farrell), whose “soaring spinto voice takes a high C easily, trills beautifully and handles coloratura like a dream” (Post and Courier). Robert Orth, featured in 2013’s “H.M.S. Pinafore,” returns as Sheriff Harry Sullivan. Octavio Moreno, who starred in last season’s smash mariachi opera, “Cruzar la Cara de la Luna,” takes the role of rancher Lopez Ibañez.

This opera is performed in German, English and Spanish with English supertitles (at the top of the stage). The original libretto was by Alfred Grunwald and Gustave Beer; the new English/Spanish translation is by Kathleen Kelly and Alberto “Tito” Rios, Arizona’s poet laureate.

REDISCOVERED VOICES – “BRUNDIBAR”

In a concerted effort to reach out to more individuals, Arizona Opera is providing a wide variety of programming under the umbrella title of Rediscovered Voices Festival. Many of these offerings highlight music from the 1920s and ’30s that had been suppressed for political reasons in Europe.

Though all of the offerings are intriguing and attractive to music lovers, of particular interest to the greater Jewish community will be the presentation of the opera “Brundibar” on Sept. 20 at the Tucson JCC and on Sept. 27 at the Valley of the Sun JCC. “Brundibar” is a one-act children’s opera that premiered in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. The Arizona Opera production of the piece will be sung in conjunction with members of the world-renowned Phoenix Boys Choir.

With support from the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix, all listed festival events are free to the public.

A listing of all of the free festival events follows:

PHOENIX EVENTS

Brown Bag Lunch Recital
Sept. 17, 12:15-12:45 pm
Bring a bagged lunch and listen to opera highlights.
Arizona Opera Center • 1636 N Central Ave., Phoenix

The Music & Stories of the West
Sept. 24, 11 am
Free concert and lecture with composer Craig Bohmler
Scottsdale Museum of the West • 3830 N Marshall Way, Scottsdale

“Brundibár” by Hans Krása
Sept. 27, 1 pm
One-act children’s opera that premiered in the Theresienstadt concentration camp
Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center • 12701 N Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale

Coffee @ Kerr
Sept. 30, 10:30 am
Free lecture discussion open to the community
Kerr Cultural Center • 6110 N Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale

The Music & Stories of Jewish Composers
Oct. 7, 7 pm
Free concert and lecture about Jewish refugee composers
Congregation Beth Israel •10406 N 56th St., Scottsdale

Arizona Opera Book Club Meeting
Oct. 12, 7 pm
Discussion of Sandra Day O’Conner’s Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the Southwest
Changing Hands Bookstore • 300 W Camelback Road, Phoenix

Film Festival: “Calamity Jane”
Oct. 13, 7 pm
Film about the life of Calamity Jane in the American West
Arizona Opera Center
1636 N Central Ave., Phoenix

Film Festival: Cowgirls: Portrait of American Ranch Women
Oct. 15, 7 pm
Film celebrating women who pioneered the Western frontier
Arizona Opera Center
1636 N Central Ave., Phoenix

TUCSON EVENTS

“Brundibár” by Hans Krása
Sept. 20, 3 pm
One-act children’s opera that premiered in the Thresiendstadt concentration camp
Tucson Jewish Community Center • 3800 E River Road, Tucson

The Music & Stories of Jewish Composers
Sept. 26, 2 pm
Free concert and lecture about Jewish refugee composers
Tucson Museum of Art • 140 N Main Ave., Tucson

Say Hello to Opera
Sept. 30, 3 pm
University of Arizona vocal arts students sing arias from “Arizona Lady”
Oro Valley Library • 1305 W Naranja Dr., Oro Valley

Film Festival: “The Brothers Warner”
Sept. 30, 7 pm
Film about filmmakers Harry, Albert, Sam and Jack Warner
Tucson Jewish Community Center • 3800 E River Road, Tucson

Brown Bag Lunch Recital
Oct. 2, noon
Bring a bagged lunch and listen to arias from “Arizona Lady”
Grace St. Paul Episcopal Church • 2331 E Adams St, Tucson

Arizona Opera Book Club Meeting
Oct. 5, 7 pm
Discussion of Sandra Day O’Conner’s Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the Southwest
Antigone Books • 411 N 4th Ave., Tucson

Translation with Alberto “Tito” Rios
Oct. 6, 7 pm
Arizona poet laureate Albert “Tito” Rios discusses the art of translation
The University of Arizona Poetry Center • 1508 E Helen St., Tucson

Student Night at the Opera
Oct. 8
Lecture begins at 6 pm
Performance begins at 7 pm
Tucson Music Hall • 260 S Church Ave., Tucson
Registration is required for Student Night performances. Visit azopera.org to register.

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