PORTLAND, ME – PORTopera’s 16th season of summer opera features a Brothers Grimm fairytale come to life with the company’s presentation of the classic opera Hansel and Gretel on July 29 and 31. This production, sung in English, will concentrate on what Artistic Director Dona D. Vaughn calls the real themes of the opera, “hunger and abandonment” while retaining “all of the magic for which the opera is famous,” making it a wonderful experience for adults and children.
Israel Gursky returns to Maine for his second time with PORTopera as conductor. As a rising young conductor he was praised by the Washington Post for his "superb debut" with the Washington National Opera in 2007. This past summer, Maestro Gursky led a concert with Placido Domingo and Virginia Tola in Quebec. Maestro Gursky has been an assistant conductor with the Washington National Opera since 2001.
Artistic Director Dona D. Vaughn will stage direct. She is Artistic Director of Opera Programs at Manhattan School of Music, and from 1998 – 2008 she was Stage Director/Acting Coach for The Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program.
PORTopera’s 2010 mainstage production reintroduces Maine to mezzo-soprano Heather Johnson, who was one of PORTopera’s Young Artists in 2001 and has since performed with the New York City Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis and elsewhere. She will sing the role of Hansel.
Gretel will be sung by soprano Angela Mortellaro. Johnson and Mortellaro recently performed these roles together at Sarasota Opera.
Tenor Robert Brubaker, who long-time PORTopera patrons will remember as Lt. Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly and Cavaradossi in Tosca, will sing the role of the Witch. Brubaker was a huge hit at the Metropolitan Opera last year singing the role of Mime, the evil dwarf in Wagner's Siegfried, and he is scheduled to sing Chairman Mao in John Adams's Nixon in China next year at the Met. As a male witch, he follows in the footsteps of the late Philip Landridge who sang the role in the most recent Met production.
The opera's cast includes baritone Weston Hurt in the role of Peter, the Father. Hurt has appeared at New York City Opera, Seattle Opera and Dallas Opera.
Mezzo-soprano Maria Zifchak will sing Gertrude, the Mother. Zifchak sings regularly at the Metropolitan Opera, Dallas Opera and Cincinatti Opera.
The cast is completed with mezzo-soprano Rachel Hauge as The Sandman and Emily Murdock as The Dew Fairy. Both Hauge and Murdock are also performing in PORTopera’s Young Artist Program this summer.
The production will include a multinational children’s chorus drawn from Portland’s immigrant community who will rehearse and perform with the professional singers and orchestra.
Hansel and Gretel is supported in part by a grant from National Endowment for the Arts and sponsor Cloutier Direct, Inc. The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram is the media sponsor.
Performance dates are Thursday July 29 at 7:30 P.M. and Saturday, July 31 at 2:00 P.M. (matinee). A limited number of seats will be offered to young people 12 and under at 25% off regular prices. Tickets are available at the PortTix box office Monday – Saturday noon – 6 p.m. (20 Myrtle St., Portland, by calling 207-842-0800 or going online, www.porttix.com.