A recipe for delight, or disaster?
Turns lemons into limoncello in just 2 acts!
In Ariadne auf Naxos, Richard Strauss tosses the warring parties of high concept and lowbrow comedy into the same blender, with results that are both hilarious and touching. In this lively opera-within-an-opera, we witness a clash of bristling egos, egregious demands upon sensitive artistic temperaments, outrageous flirtations, callow compromises to commerce, trampled expectations, tragic heartbreak, emotional awakenings, and spiritual rebirth. (And that’s just the first act!)
Opera fans know Naxos as a title that’s famously challenging for the leads. The signature arias of Zerbinetta’s Großmächtige Prinzessin (High and mighty princess), Ariadne’s Es gibt ein Reich (There is a kingdom) and Harlequin’s Lieben, Hassen, Hoffen, Zagen (Love, hate, hope, fear) are sure to inspire great performances from our guest artists and delight the audience with a dizzying spectrum of emotions.
Don’t be another tragic Ariadne! It might be a long time before an opportunity this good comes to your island again!
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Meet the artists
2 hours, 35 minutes (including one 25-minute intermission)
Act I, The Prologue
What an invitation! A fancy dinner at the home of the richest man in Vienna. Then entertainment — a new opera, Ariadne auf Naxos, composed for the occasion by the hottest young composer, followed by some laughs from an Italian comic troupe. And fireworks to wind up the evening.
Fast forward to the actual event. “Change of plans,” says the Major-domo, who’s in charge of the evening. “We don’t have enough time to do the opera and then the comedy. Rather than cut one, my boss says do both shows at the same time! ”
The Composer is horrified. His opera is being disrespected. Totally unreasonable, the Prima Donna complains. “Hey, you’re professionals,” replies the Major-domo. “Make it work.” Tempers flair. It’s a mishmash. The Composer scrambles to shorten the score. He explains the cuts to the star singers, who are mutually jealous. Relax, the soprano’s losing her arias, he tells the tenor. Don’t worry, it’s the tenor’s part that’s being chopped, he tells the soprano.
Enter flirtatious Zerbinetta from the comedy act. The Composer explains the opera’s classic story: Ariadne confuses her true love, Theseus, for Death, then yields to the god Bacchus. Zerbinetta translates this to Harlekin and the three other clowns in the troupe. This story sounds pretty dull, she says. The audience will be bored to tears.
Despite the critique, the Composer is momentarily charmed with the vivacious Zerbinetta and she with him. She blows him a kiss. He responds with an ecstatic aria, praising music as the greatest art. Then, seeing the Comedians, he realizes they’ve sabotaged his sacred work but there’s nothing he can do because time’s up and the opera must begin.
Act II, The Opera
(In the Greek myth, Prince Theseus of Athens finds his way into the Labyrinth, where he kills the Minotaur, a fearsome, flesh-eating monster. He escapes from the complex maze because he’s tethered to a thread supplied by Ariadne, the daughter of the king of Crete. In love with Theseus, she sails with him for Athens but he abandons her on the island of Naxos. The Opera picks up the story with Ariadne on the remote island. The Comedians improvise as the serious performance proceeds.)
The Nymphs, Echo, Naiad and Dryad, watch over the woebegone Ariadne. With Theseus gone, she feels she has nothing to live for. She can only despair. She’s overwhelmed with sorrow, “weeping in her sleep,” the Nymphs say.
Zerbinetta and Harlekin, watching from the sidelines, think Ariadne’s seriously depressed and should lighten up. The Comedians offer some cheer and Zerbinetta, in a tour de force aria, gives Ariadne practical advice.“You think you’re the only woman who’s been dumped? You could find another man but believe me, men are the pits. That’s why I’ve deceived every man in my life.”
Ahoy! It’s Bacchus, son of Zeus, arriving on a ship after escaping from the witch, Circe, on another island. Obsessed with the idea of dying, Ariadne falls for Bacchus, thinking he’s Hermes, the messenger of Death who will take her to the Underworld. She then briefly mistakes him for Theseus. The confusion deepens as Bacchus takes Ariadne for someone as evil as Circe.
Gradually, their real personalities emerge. Bacchus introduces himself as a god and declares his love, saying he would rather the stars disappear than lose her. Ariadne’s pain is replaced with joy, and the two, in a lovely duet, pledge eternal love. Wouldn’t you know it, Zerbinetta observes. A handsome god shows up and women swoon. It never ends.
- Performance notes by Eugene Carlson
About the composer
Richard Strauss was the last of the great German romantic composers. The heir to Richard Wagner, his work varied from nostalgic to wildly rhapsodic compositions that opened the door to modern music of the 20th century.
He was born in 1864 into a musical family in Munich. His father was the principal horn player in the Munich Court Orchestra. A musical prodigy, young Richard studied piano and violin from early childhood, wrote his first compositions at age six, and was launched on a meteoric seven-decade composing and conducting career that made him an enduring giant of German classical music.
Strauss’ composing output was prodigious and demonstrably creative. He drew on literary sources — Cervantes, Shakespeare and Nietzsche — translating their ideas into symphonic poems. Also sprach Zarathustra achieved a life of its own as the theme music from the Stanley Kubrick movie “2001”. Til Eulenspiegel, Ein Heldenleben and Don Juan remain staples of the orchestral repertoire.
He wrote hundreds of art songs. He loved the human voice and singers, especially sopranos, adored him in return. Fifteen operas were the happy result. Four of the most notable — Elektra, Der Rosenkavalier, Ariadne auf Naxos and Die Frau ohne Schatten — produced in a genius partnership with the librettist Hugo von Hofmannstahl.
As conductor, he led Germany’s two great opera companies, in Munich and Berlin. In Austria, he was principal conductor of the Vienna State Opera and co-founded the annual summer Salzburg Festival. To cap it off, in 1933 he was named principal conductor of the Bayreuth Festival, the Holy Mother Church for all things Wagner. It was a problematic post since he succeeded Arturo Toscanini, who resigned in protest to the ominous rise of the Nazi party. Strauss’ accommodation to life under the Nazis remains a cloud over his otherwise stellar career.
Strauss’ father was a domineering and abrasive personality, conservative in all things. He inflicted on his son his love of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven and his loathing of Wagner. It didn’t take. Richard fell hard for Wagner’s music at an early age. He saw Lohengrin and Tannhäuser at age 10 and at 15, heard the complete Ring cycle.
At age 21, Strauss acquired a Wagner mentor, a violinist named Alexander Ritter, who was married to Wagner’s niece. Ritter introduced Strauss to the writings of Schopenhauer, the foundation of Wagner’s world view. “His influence on me was in the nature of the storm wind,” Strauss wrote. “New ideas must search for new forms…(this) became henceforward the guiding principle for my own symphonic work.”
He directed and composed and his fame grew. At age 39, he conducted a Strauss Festival in London and received an honorary doctorate from Heidelberg University. Two years later, his third opera, Salome, debuted in Dresden. Inspired by an Oscar Wilde play, it retold in one act the biblical story of Salome who demanded from King Herod the head of John the Baptist. In the opera, the head is handed to Salome on a serving platter and in a shocking moment of bloody verismo, she gives it a passionate kiss. All to a starkly modern orchestral score of exotic percussion and eerie strings.
German audiences went wild for this powerful new work and it played throughout the country. Not so in New York where the Metropolitan Opera cancelled the Salome run after one performance. The influential daughter of financial titan J. Pierpont Morgan called it “loathsome.” It was banned outright in Vienna, notwithstanding the praise of Gustav Mahler. “A work of genius…one of the greatest masterpieces of our time,” Mahler wrote.
The brouhaha only elevated Strauss’ international celebrity status and the money rolled in. The German Kaiser commented that he liked Strauss personally “but Salome will do him a lot of damage.” Strauss dryly replied years later in his memoirs that “the damage enabled me to build the villa in Garmisch.”
Strauss was on a roll. In 1909 came the equally raw Elektra, a one-act Greek tragedy of family revenge with an axe murder at the finale. It remains one of the most demanding soprano roles in opera. Bernard Shaw said the work “makes us rejoice in its horror,” but another prominent British critic said “much of the music is as abominably ugly as it is noisy.” Even Ernestine Schumann-Heink, the opera’s first Clytemnestra, said the music “was a horrible din.” Strauss got the message. “Next time I’ll write a Mozart opera,” he said.
And he did. Der Rosenkavalier, which followed Elektra by two years, is the high water mark of romantic opera. It is quiet by comparison with its predecessors, with laughs, waltzes, and three stunning soprano roles in Octavian, Sophie and the Marschallin. Their closing Trio is Strauss at his very best.
No summary of Strauss’ life can ignore his uncomfortably sympathetic relationship with the Nazis. He was president of the Reichsmusikkamer, the state music bureau established by Joseph Goebbels, as Hitler’s National Socialists rose to power. He composed the hymn to open the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin that Hitler used as a propaganda event. When Strauss’ opera Die schweigsame Frau (The Silent Woman) debuted in 1935, Hitler sent him an autographed photo: “To the great composer Richard Strauss with deepest veneration.”
Strauss claimed to be apolitical. “He kept his nose in the score and ignored the raised voices in the next room,” says his biographer, Michael Kennedy, in partial defense. The conductor Otto Klemperer acidly noted that when it came to politics, Strauss thought first of his pocketbook since there were 56 royalty-producing opera houses in Germany and only a handful in the United States. Exile wasn’t an option.
Strauss had personal Jewish relationships — his daughter-in-law, his partner Hofmannsthal, his publisher, his librettist Stefan Zweig — and he maneuvered to get them favored treatment. In 1935, Strauss wrote Hitler: “My whole life belongs to German music and to a tireless effort to elevate German culture….I beg you, my Fuhrer, most humbly to receive me for a personal discussion.” Hitler didn’t reply and Strauss received an official questionnaire asking for proof that he was Aryan plus the names of two people who could vouch for his professional credibility. “Mozart and Wagner,” Strauss replied.
His final years produced some solace. In 1948, he was cleared of complicity in the Third Reich by the De-Nazification Board. That year, he composed his last work, the hauntingly beautiful 4 letze Lieder (Four Last Songs). He died Sept 8, 1949, age 85, in the Bavarian town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. At his cremation in Munich, three singers he had conducted in performance sang the Trio from Der Rosenkavalier.
- Performance notes by Eugene Carlson
About the opera
It seemed like a good idea. Why not link a play and an opera in a single production. Richard Strauss’ collaborator, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, had the thought after a night in Paris watching a 17th-century Molière comedy, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme.
Der Rosenkavalier had been a huge hit for the partners and their next large-scale opera on the drawing board, Die Frau ohne Schatten, was going to take serious time and work. There was opportunity now for a “serious trifle,” Strauss said. A 30-minute comic opera based on a classic Greek myth with a small chamber orchestra and a mix of characters — stuffy 18-century European nobility and a five-member troupe of comedians in the spirit of Italian comeddia dell’arte. Strauss called the mini-opera Ariadne auf Naxos. It would be the second act and follow a version of the Molière play that Hofmannsthal would write.
The production was booked with fanfare into a new theater in Stuttgart. Maria Jeritza, a noted Czech soprano, was booked to sing the title role. The innovative Austrian theatrical producer Max Reinhardt signed on to direct.
The production debuted in October 1912 and it flopped, big time. Audiences hated the drama-opera hybrid mix and critics were savage. World War One began and the production was shelved. Eventually, Hofmannsthal suggested scrapping the Molière play and turning the first half of the show into a wicked satirical prologue poking fun at the preparation of the opera itself. To be followed by the previously composed opera. A two-act scramble of opera buffa and opera seria. Two operas in one. Reluctant at first, Strauss agreed.
This Version Two opened on October 4, 1916 in Vienna, four years after the original. Maria Jeritza returned as Ariadne and the famed Lotte Lehmann sang the Composer role. The critical reaction this time was tepid but the work hung on and has won a place in the repertoire.
And for good reason. There’s much to savor in this small masterpiece. The clever plot device of an opera about opera with its comic putdown of the often self-absorbed characters who inhabit the opera world. The bold idea to juice up the tragic Greek myth of Ariadne, the Labyrinth and the Minotaur with the comedy of the saucy Zerbinetta and her band of merry pranksters. And note the Nymphs and the Comedians, who function as an alternate pair of Greek choruses.
The unorthodox format of leading roles features three prominent females: A soprano who doubles as the Prima Donna in Act I and Ariadne in Act II; a coloratura as Zerbinetta with a stratospheric aria in the Opera section; and the Composer, a mezzo singing one of opera’s most famous “trouser” roles, where a woman plays the part of a male character. The actual male lead, Bacchus, a tenor, doesn’t arrive until the end of Act II where he sings a demanding 15-minute duet with Ariadne.
While the Prologue is a clever story, the Act II Opera is a fairy tale — a young woman abandoned by her lover who longs for death but is rescued by a god and restored to life. Soprano Christine Goerke, who sang the Prima Donna/Ariadne role at Houston Grand Opera in 2011, says her character “has to transform into this amazingly regal and tragic figure who has been dumped on an island by her would-be husband and the pain that comes with this. But in the end she realizes that it’s not death she’s longing for, it’s a new start, a new beginning.”
It’s the lighthearted intrusions of the comedians that save this story from the banal and turn the drama into a performance that’s alternately humorous and touching.
If the Opera libretto is borderline simplistic, the music of Ariadne auf Naxos is anything but. It is passionate, complex, as good in moments as anything Strauss composed. Reigning divas have been attracted to the three soprano roles since the show’s debut. “Strauss loved to write for the soprano voice,” says Renée Fleming. “He wrote the most beautiful, the most arching linear music.”
In addition to Jeritza and Lehmann, earlier Ariadne auf Naxos productions starred Agnes Baltsa, Crista Ludwig, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Leonie Rysanek, Evelyn Lear, Gwyneth Jones and Tatiana Troyanos. A very partial list of recent productions includes Jessye Norman, Kathleen Battle, Deborah Voigt, Joyce DiDonato, Natalie Dessay and Lise Davidsen.
A superior all-star soprano lineup would be hard to find.
- Performance notes by Eugene Carlson
Alexandar R Adams
Alexander R Adams, bass-baritone, is excited to make his professional opera debut with Vashon Opera as Truffaldino in Ariadne auf Naxos. He currently studies with Dr. Anton Belov. Alexander received his Master of Music in Vocal Arts from the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music where he studied with baritone Rod Gilfry. Prior to this he received his Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington where he studied with Dr. Dawn Padula. This summer, Alexander sang the role of the Churchman in the pre-premiere of a new opera, Ourland by director/librettist Daniel Helfgot and composer Paul Davies, at the Aquilon Music Festival in McMinnville, Oregon. Alexander's other opera performances include the role of Publio in Mozart's La clemenza di Tito, the Minister in Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride, and Mr. Plunkett/Judge in Henze's The English Cat, all while studying at USC; Sprecher/Armored Man in Die Zauberflöte at the Astoria, Oregon music festival; as well as the Sergeant of the Police in Pirates of Penzance with the UPS opera program.
Benaiah Axlund is a young bass who enjoys sharing his love of Opera and song. He graduated from Pacific Lutheran University in 2021, with a Bachelor of Music degree in vocal performance. While at Pacific Lutheran University, Benaiah had roles in many shows, including The Parson in Leoš Janáček's The Cunning Little Vixen, Bartolo in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, and a Witch in Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. He has enjoyed taking part in the Summer Opera program at PLU, as well, singing Sarastro in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, the Police Chief in Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance, and Mr. Olson in Kurt Weill's Street Scene. Benaiah is excited to return to Vashon Opera, where he has taken part in several previous performances—most recently as Bogdanovitch in Franz Lehár's The Merry Widow. In the future, Benaiah plans to attend school for his Master of Music degree.
Errin Duane Brooks
The Tenor / Bacchus
Errin Duane Brooks is quickly gaining momentum as a tenor from Detroit, Michigan. Recently, Mr. Brooks made his company and role debut with Lakes Area Music Festival as Bacchus in Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos and with Des Moines Metro Opera as Robbins in George and Ira Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. Errin Duane also covered Normanno in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor with The Metropolitan Opera after making his off-Broadway debut, performing the role of Mr. Charles/ensemble in Ricky Ian Gordon/Lynn Nottage's Intimate Apparel at Lincoln Center Theater. Also, Errin was previously seen at The Metropolitan Opera, reprising his role as Mingo in Porgy and Bess, and as Nathan in Terrence Blanchard's Fire Shut Up In My Bones, which was the first opera by a black composer to perform at The Met. At The Phoenicia Festival of the Voice, Mr. Brooks made his company debut performing the role of Canio in Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci. Recent competition winnings include The Sullivan Foundation Awards, The Wagner Society of New York, the Giulio Gari Foundation International Voice Competition and most notably, earning the George London-Kirsten Flagstad Grand Prize Award for promising Wagnerian Singer in the 2017 George London Foundation Competition. Upcoming performances for Mr. Brooks include returns to both the Metropolitan Opera covering the High Priest in Mozart's Idomeneo and to Connecticut Lyric Opera in his role debut as Don Ottavio in Mozart's Don Giovanni. Graduating with honors, Errin Duane received his Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance with a minor in Business from Madonna University, his Master of Music in Vocal Performance at Bowling Green State University and an Artist Diploma in Opera from Roosevelt University. Mr. Brooks is currently represented by Peter Randsman, President and Founder of Randsman Artists Management.
Conductor, Stage Director, Musical Director
James Brown enjoys an eclectic career of conducting, concertizing as a singer, stage directing, and voice teaching. He is the Chair of Vocal Studies at Pacific Lutheran University where he directs the opera and oversees a large voice program. As a tenor, James sang in many professional opera productions under the batons of such conductors as James Conlon, John DeMain, Richard Hickox, Julius Rudel, and Robert Spano. As the regular conductor and stage director for Vashon Opera, James has led productions of Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Carmen, Cosi fan tutte, Les Dialogues des Carmélites, Die Fledermaus, Don Giovanni, Eugene Onegin (conductor), Madama Butterfly (stage director), I Pagliacci, Tosca, and Werther. Other notable productions as stage director include Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Kurt Weill’s Street Scene, Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, Handel’s Semele, La Boheme and a critically acclaimed production of Sweeney Todd (Lakewood Playhouse). Recent productions for James include conducting Giulio Cesare in Egitto and Trial by Jury for PLU Opera, Cavalleria Rusticana and The Merry Widow for Vashon Opera, and directing Trouble in Tahiti for the Reno Chamber Orchestra. Upcoming productions include conducting L'elisir d'Amore for PLU Opera, The Tacoma Method (Youtz premiere) for Tacoma Opera, and Rigoletto for Vashon Opera. James was a Resident Artist at The Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia and holds degrees in voice from Loyola University/New Orleans, The Juilliard School and the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
The Major Domo
Bass-baritone Michael Delos has won critical acclaim for his performances in a diverse repertoire of over three dozen operatic roles, including Mephistopheles in Faust, both the Don and Leporello in Don Giovanni, Basilio in The Barber of Seville, Olin Blitch in Carlyle Floyd's Susannah and Nick Shadow in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress - the role of his European debut with L'Opera de Monte Carlo, Monaco. He joined the roster of the New York City Opera in 1987 and has also performed extensively with Vancouver (BC) Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Seattle Opera, Opera Utah, Las Vegas Opera, Portland Opera and Hawaii Opera Theater. A highly respected concert artist, Michael Delos has appeared with many major symphony orchestras throughout North America and Japan, including those of Detroit, Tokyo, Osaka, Seattle, Calgary, Edmonton, Oregon, Sacramento and Spokane. Delos can also be heard on many video game soundtracks, such as the Halo series, World of Warcraft, Ages of Empires and The Elder Scrolls. His film soundtracks include Novocaine with Denzel Washington, Ghostrider with Nicholas Cage and Mirror, Mirror with Julia Roberts and Nathan Lane, with music by Alan Menken.
Gary returns for his sixteenth Vashon Opera production. He has been a frequent soloist with the Vashon Island Chorale and in local recitals and benefits. He performed the Beethoven song cycle An die ferne Geliebte with Roweena Hammill as part of the 2017 Beethoven Marathon. In March 2018 he sang Erlkönig and other Schubert lieder as part of Michael Tracy’s lecture series at Vashon Center for the Arts. In addition to singing in the opera chorus, Vashon Opera roles include Parpignol in La bohème, Mr. Splinters in The Tender Land, the Captain in The Barber of Seville, Imperial Commissioner in Madama Butterfly, Captain Petrovich in Eugene Onegin, Dottore Spinelloccio, in Gianni Schicchi, Brühlmann in Werther, and a Doctor in A Streetcar Named Desire. He has also previously sung the roles of Tamino in The Magic Flute, Bob in The Old Maid and the Thief, Ben in The Telephone and Aeneas in Dido and Aeneas. Prior musical theater roles include Tommy in Brigadoon, Strephon in Iolanthe, Freddy in My Fair Lady, Koko in The Mikado, Ralph in H.M.S. Pinafore, and Tito in Lend Me a Tenor. Gary studied with the late William Eddy.
Originally from Walla Walla, WA, Trevor is entering his final year at Pacific Lutheran University studying a Bachelor in Music Education with a focus on secondary choral music. As a student of Dr. James Brown, Trevor has performed with PLU Opera in roles such as Gabriel von Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus, Schoolmaster/Mosquito in The Cunning Little Vixen, and Don Curzio/Chorus in Le Nozze di Figaro. He has also performed with PLU Theatre and Dance as Jamie in The Last Five Years, Ensemble in Sweeney Todd, and multiple roles in the musical cabaret, Broadway Today! Trevor also performs with The Choir of the West and will soon be a member of Choral Union while student-conducting the Knights Chorus and music directing the Night of Musical Theatre, all at PLU. He is honored to have been the recipient of the James D. Holloway Music Scholarship and is grateful for all of the opportunities afforded to him by this and other music scholarships, such as performing in a masterclass with Limmie Pulliam, becoming a semi-finalist in the NATS competition, and connecting with mentors who have invited him to perform with Vashon Opera for the first time. Trevor is currently applying to graduate schools in hopes of pursuing a career in Choral Conducting.
Aria Manning is a lyric coloratura soprano from Redmond, Washington. She is a recent graduate from Pacific Lutheran University in May 2021 with a B.S. in chemistry with an emphasis in biochemistry. She received the School of Arts and Communication Dean’s award for excellence as one of two non-majors to ever receive the award. While at PLU, she participated in Choir of the West, Chorale, a small student-led chamber choir Consonare Amici, as well as private voice lessons with Janeanne Houston. She participated in PLU opera productions of Dido and Aeneas as Belinda, The Cunning Little Vixen as the Fox, and Die Fledermaus as Rosalinda. She also performed in master classes for Audrey Luna and Lisette Oropesa. Since graduating she has sung for the Seattle Opera Singers Development Grant auditions where she placed second, has continued to sing in PLU’s community choir Choral Union, and prepared and performed a post-graduation recital showcasing several of her favorite arias and art songs she worked on while attending PLU. Aria is excited to perform in Ariadne auf Naxos as it is her first time performing outside of a PLU opera professionally.
Hailed by the New York Times for his “robust voice, agility and confidence,” Robert McPherson made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Basilio in Le Nozze di Figaro and stepped in as Idreno for their production of Semiramide. Additionally, McPherson’s performance as Andres in Houston Symphony’s live recording of Alan Berg’s Wozzeck, culminated with a 2018 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording in the Classical category. Most recently Mr. McPherson made his Off-Broadway debut in the premiere of Trump L’oeil at Florence Gould Hall, where he was nominated for Best Solo Performance by Broadway World, sang Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia for Opera on the James, and created an exclusive performance of Gabriel Kahane’s Craigslistlieder for Tacoma Opera. McPherson’s discography includes work in Andrew T. Miller’s The Birth of Christ recorded on Sony BMG Masterworks, also shown on Public Broadcasting Service and reprised in Rome at the Vatican’s invitation; On Hampton Roads Music, McPherson sang the tenor solo in Berlioz’s Requiem with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, which Gramophone said, “[he] sings the challenging tenor lines… with tender urgency.” His Rossini recordings and videos include Idreno in Semiramide, Iago in Otello, Gernando/Ubaldo in Armida on Dynamic, and Arbace in Ciro in Babilonia on Opus Arte. McPherson has performed his self-written comic show, The Drunken Tenor, throughout the Pacific Northwest, and created custom digital content under the same moniker. In 2021, he debuted A Very Drunken Christmas Carol, his adaptation of the Dickens classic, in partnership with Seattle Opera, and this fall he will present The Drunken Tenor’s Operapalooza Spectacular Shindig for Tacoma Opera. A Seattle native and baseball fan, he regularly sings the national anthem at Seattle Mariners games.
Dawn Padula, mezzo-soprano, is a versatile performer of opera, oratorio, musical theatre, jazz, and classical concert repertoire. Opera roles include Carmen in Carmen, Azucena in Il Trovatore, Lady Jane in Patience (2018 Gregory Awards People’s Choice Nominee), Lady Blanche in Princess Ida, Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro, The Third Lady in Die Zauberflöte, the Witch in Hansel and Gretel, Isabella in L’Italiana in Algeri, Erika in Vanessa, and the Sorceress in Dido and Aeneas. In summer 2020, she recorded the roles of Zita in Gianni Schicchi and Olga Olsen in Street Scene with the Social Distance Opera. Other summer 2022 engagements include the role of Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance with the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society, and Dame Quickly in Falstaff with the Puget Sound Concert Opera. She is thrilled to be making her Vashon Opera debut as Dryad in Ariadne auf Naxos, and she will join the company portraying Maddalena in Rigoletto (May 2023). She has also performed principal roles with Tacoma Opera, Concert Opera of Seattle, Opera in the Heights (Houston, TX), Amarillo Opera, and Opera Pacifica. Dawn is the Professor of Voice and Director of Vocal Studies at the University of Puget Sound School of Music. She holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Houston Moores School of Music, and a Masters of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music in New York City.
The Music Master
Native Bostonian Andy Papas has been applauded by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel for being “delightfully ridiculous”, and by the Albany Times-Union for his “irresistible hijinks”. He last appeared with Vashon Opera in 2018 as Benoit & Alcin-doro in La Bohème. A frequent performer in the Evergreen State, Andy has sung Magnifico (La Cenerentola), Alberich (Der Ring an einem Abend), Spalanzani / Crespel (Les Contes D’Hoffmann), and Don Pasquale for Pacific Northwest Opera, and was Baritone soloist in Beethoven No. 9 for The Mid-Columbia Symphony. He played Dr. Bartolo in The Barber of Seville last season for PNO, and made his Alaska debut as Bartolo for Anchorage Opera in 2019. Andy returns to the land of the midnight sun this fall as The Major General in The Pirates of Penzance. In his hometown, he has appeared as Mr. Bumble (Oliver) with The New Rep, in My Fair Lady with The Lyric Stage Co. of Boston, and in The Threepenny Opera with Boston Lyric Opera. Andy had the great honor of performing for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at The 2nd Circuit Judicial Conference in 2018, where she remarked “Your Major-General was terrific.” He teaches students around the globe in opera appreciation courses such as And The Tony Award Goes to… and The British Operas are Coming, and recently welcomed operatic greats Christine Brewer, Susanne Mentzer, and Anthony Dean Griffey as special guests to class. Andy has sung leading and featured roles for Opera Saratoga, The Opera Company of Mid-dlebury, Opera Naples, Fargo-Moorhead Opera, and Pacific Opera Project among others. andypapas.com
Soprano Allison Pohl's vivacious stage presence and spirited singing have inspired enthusiastic responses across three continents. Her work has received positive reviews for her “sparkling voice” (outerstage.com) and “exuberant” performances (Opera News). Of her performance in L'elisir d'amore at Virginia Opera, The Washington Post wrote: “Allison Pohl stood out with a ripe, flavorful soprano and ample character.” Allison has appeared with opera companies and orchestras throughout the United States, including Boston Lyric Opera, New York City Opera, Seattle Opera, Virginia Opera, Opera Saratoga, Tacoma Opera, Vashon Opera, Opera in the Heights, Opera Providence, Opera on the James, Seattle Symphony, Canton Symphony, Symphony Tacoma, Bremerton Symphony, Seattle Philharmonic, and Garden State Philharmonic, and has been a featured soloist for orchestral tours in both Italy and China. Upcoming performances include appearances with Harmonia Seattle and Bremerton Symphony. Favorite operatic roles recently performed include both Countess and Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, Tatyana in Eugene Onegin, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, Adina in L’elisir d’amore, Blanche de la Force in Dialogues des Carmélites, Nannetta in Falstaff, Norina in Don Pasquale, Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Gretel in Hänsel und Gretel, Frasquita in Carmen, and Yum-Yum in The Mikado. As a member of Soprello, Allison has also performed chamber music and new compositions across North America with her husband, cellist Alistair MacRae. She is a Seattle Opera Career Grant recipient, winner of the Seattle Philharmonic Concerto Competition, and holds degrees from SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music and Boston University.
Rehearsal and Performance Pianist
Shelby Rhoades is currently active as a coach, consultant, and music director in the greater Seattle-Tacoma area. She regularly works as a private coach with international singers engaged at the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Washington National Opera, Seattle Opera, Vienna Staatsoper, Oper Frankfurt, English National Opera, Gran Teatre, Barcelona, and Tokyo Opera. Shelby maintained the position of Principal Coach and Director of Emerging Artists Program at Virginia Opera, from 2013-2020, and Charlottesville Opera, 2009-2019. She has also been a member of the Vocal Arts Faculty at the Juilliard School, from 2008-2013. Other previous engagements include The Duffy Institute (Virginia Arts Festival), Yale University, Aspen Opera Theater, Seattle Opera, University of Washington, and Pacific Lutheran University, as well as various festivals throughout the Pacific Northwest and Commonwealth of Virginia. Among her various activities as an opera coach, Shelby specializes in New Music. She has prepared premieres by composers such as Corigliano, Henze, Muhly and Saariaho. Other highlights include preparing counter tenor Anthony Roth Costanzo for his album “ARC”, which was nominated for a Grammy in 2019 for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album, and the premiere of “Kept”, a chamber opera for the Virginia Arts Festival, with tenor Bill Burden. Shelby has worked with conductors Gary Thor Wedow, Ari Pelto, John DeMain, Andrew Bisantz, Ann Manson, Julius Rudel, George Manahan, and Adam Turner. She holds degrees in Chamber Accompanying and Vocal Performance from Ball State University, (Muncie, IN), and Piano Performance, (Anderson, IN).
Baritone José Rubio’s recent engagements have included debuts at the Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Berlin Staatsoper, the Elbphilharmonie concert hall in Hamburg, and in Vienna at the Ronacher Theater. His operatic credits include the title roles in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Don Giovanni, Le Nozze di Figaro, and Gianni Schicchi. Other credits include Escamillo in Carmen, Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor, Marcello and Schaunard in La Bohème, Guglielmo in Così fan Tutte, Tarquinius in The Rape of Lucretia, Tonio in I Pagliacci, Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana, Dr. Malatesta in Don Pasquale, Hannah Before in As One, El Payador in Maria de Buenos Aires, Le Mari in Les Mamelles de Tiresias, Dr. Rappaccini in La hija de Rappaccini and Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus. His leading credits include principal roles for Cincinnati Opera, Seattle Opera, Portland Opera, Nashville Opera, Alamo City Opera, Asheville Lyric Opera, Tacoma Opera, Vashon Opera, Inland Northwest Opera, and Juneau Lyric Opera. He is among the first westerners to sing leading roles in China in contemporary mandarin language operas, which have led to his debuts at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing, the Shanghai Grand Theater, and the Jiangsu Grand Theater in Nanjing. He has been a guest soloist with the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra, the Suzhou Symphony Orchestra, Albany Symphony, Boise Philharmonic, Evansville Philharmonic, the Bellingham Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Northwest, and the Rogue Valley Symphony. In recital he has appeared at Carnegie Hall and the Tianjin Julliard School.
Hallie is thrilled to return to her native Washington for Ariadne auf Naxos. Originally from Olympia, Hallie spent most of her life as a competitive Irish dancer with the Comerford School of Irish Dance. Receiving degrees from Oklahoma City University (Bachelors ’20) and William Jewell College (Artist Diploma ’22), Hallie has performed with Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Landlocked Opera, Painted Sky Opera, Heartland Opera Theatre, Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, and was a member of the Teen Opera Studio at Seattle Opera while in high school. Recently, Hallie had a successful summer with Opera Theatre of St. Louis as a Gerdine Young Artist under the direction of soprano Patricia Racette. There she sang First Spirit and covered the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute. Other past roles include La voix humaine (Elle), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Tytania), Die Zauberflöte (Die Königen der Nacht), Cosí fan tutte (Despina), Le nozze di Figaro (Susanna), Elizabeth Cree (Aveline Mortimer), and A Little Night Music (Anne Egerman). Hallie was a district winner at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 2022, and received an Encouragement award in 2021. She was also the winner of the 2020 Hawaii Performing Arts Festival Classical Vocal Competition. Hallie is a student of Cyndia Sieden.
Mezzo-soprano Grace Skinner is the recent recipient of 1st place prize in the Seattle Opera Guild Singers’ Development Competition (2021) as well as 1st place in the Indianapolis Musicale Matinee Competition (2020), and 2nd place in the National Society of Arts and Letters Vocal Competition (2020). She joined The Atlanta Opera kicking off their 2021 season, covering the role of Giulio Cesare. In 2022, Ms. Skinner joined Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theater performing in the ensembles of The Magic Flute, The Tender Land, and Carmen in addition to covering the title role of Carmen. Ms. Skinner has been a vocal fellow at prestigious young artist programs Music Academy of the West (2021, 2020), and Aspen Music Festival (2019). She earned her MM from the Jacobs School of Music at IU where she was also an Associate Instructor of Voice (2020). During her time there she performed the roles of Jo in Little Women (2020), Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro (2019), and the title role in Giulio Cesare (2019). She currently studies with soprano Jane Dutton. She received her BM in voice at Portland State University, where she performed the roles of Florence Pike in Albert Herring, La Principessa in Suor Angelica, and Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus. She also premiered the role of Samantha in Mark Lanz Weiser’s opera The Place Where You Started, which was also taken on tour to China in 2016. In addition to her career as a performer, Skinner teaches voice out of her studio in Vancouver, WA.
Brighella / The Dancing Master
Praised by Opera News for his “fine comic flair and well-schooled voice,” tenor Anthony Webb is in demand throughout the United States for both opera and concert. Recent highlights include his Carnegie Hall debut as Jack Prence (Merry Mount), Goro (Madama Butterfly) with Opera Colorado, Opera Idaho and The Princeton Festival, Harold “Mitch” Mitchell (A Streetcar Named Desire), Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni), 4 Servants & Spalanzani (Les contes d’Hoffmann) and Enoch Snow (Carousel) with Union Avenue Opera, Pirelli (Sweeney Todd) with New Orleans Opera, tenor soloist in Orff’s (Carmina Burana) with the Omaha Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, San Antonio Symphony and the Pacific Northwest Ballet, and appearances with Israeli Opera Tel Aviv-Yaffo as Third Jew (Salome), Howard Boucher (Dead Man Walking), Monostatos (Die Zauberflöte), and upcoming performances in Tel Aviv as Goro (Madama Butterfly), Gastone (La Traviata) and as the 4 Servants & Spalanzani (Les contes d’Hoffmann).
Marie Masters Webb
The Prima Donna / Ariadne
Hailed by The New York Times as “immensely likable” with a “warm, fresh soprano,” Marie Masters Webb continues to be recognized for her command of both standard and under-performed works, along with her dynamic acting abilities. Marie was Santuzza in Barn Opera’s critically acclaimed 2022 film of Cavalleria Rusticana, and a soloist with the 2022 company of Summer Opera Tel Aviv, performing opera scenes and concerts throughout Tel Aviv, Israel. In 2021, Marie appeared with Vashon Opera as Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana after singing Lady Billows in Albert Herring with the company. Marie sang Lady Billows in Albert Herring with Utopia Opera in 2019, she was a 2019 Lorin Maazel Castleton Institute Artist, and she covered the role of Lady Macbeth in Macbeth as a 2019 Resident Artist at Opera North. Marie was a finalist in the 2021 Century Opera Competition and in the 2021 and 2020 Premiere Opera International Vocal Competition. Additional career highlights include the lead role of Stephana in Giordano’s Siberia with Teatro Grattacielo and the title role in the New York premiere of Hiram Titus’s Rosina with dell’Arte Opera Ensemble. Marie created the role of Jeanette in the newly-discovered classical opera L’Amant Anonyme with Little Opera Theatre of New York, and returned to LOTNY as Tess in Carlisle Floyd’s Markheim.