News & Press
NATIONAL SAWDUST LOG
May 14, 2019
In Review: ONE Festival
Opera Omaha’s ONE Festival, co-directed by the company’s general director, Roger Weitz, and director James Darrah, is a multidisciplinary two-week series that presents opera, installation, dance, exhibitions, and social gatherings designed to embrace Omaha’s creative community. The multi-venue festival also offers a generously supported platform for the next generation of creators, reflecting the company’s notable commitment to the breadth of operatic representation and audience growth. The festival is impressively international in scope, with creators and performers represented from across the globe, and extraordinarily well resourced.
I CARE IF YOU LISTEN
May 2, 2019
ONE Festival 2019: Opera Omaha in Glass, Gounod, and Reid
Dotting the landscape of what can often seem like a stagnant operatic scene, festivals ensure that fresh air blows in unexpected places. This was true of Opera Omaha’s ONE Festival, which took place March 30–April 14, and which I attended during its final weekend from April 11–14. Under the leadership of Opera Omaha General Director Roger Weitz and Artistic Director James Darrah, the ONE Festival brought together musicians, dancers, filmmakers, and others for a multidisciplinary program in locations throughout the city, often throughout every day. Touring artists through a mix of variously-scaled works both old and new, Opera Omaha’s project to rearrange and (re-)foreground every aspect of theatrical performance made for a lithe, protean operatic approach.
BERKSHIRE FINE ARTS
April 21, 2019
ONE Festival at Opera Omaha: Philip Glass, Ellen Reid and Charles Gounod Featured
The ONE Festival of Opera Omaha celebrated its 2nd anniversary. It has already become a must visit for opera lovers throughout the world. The productions here are first rate. Bringing in James Darrah, who is a director of choice for many of the best young composers, has excited opera fans. This year did not disappoint.
April 13, 2019
Opera Omaha gives restored version of Faust a heavenly debut.
As old as the epic Greek poet Virgil is the observation that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
At the Orpheum Theater on Friday night, Opera Omaha turned this ancient bit of wisdom into an incredible double-entendre. With Steven White conducting the Omaha Symphony, an Opera Omaha production of Charles Gounod’s Faust played with the value of intention from a composer’s point of view, a hero’s point of view, a villain’s point of view and a patron’s point of view in an exhilarating production.
CONCERTONET - Faust
April 12, 2019
Epic Opera in Nebraska
Opera Omaha is committed to making opera relevant to today, even if a work was composed centuries ago. Director Lileana Blain-Cruz chose to make Faust a tech executive, Marguerite a bar maid, and left the devil left as is. That role seems universal and timeless. David Pittsinger took it on with gusto. He has a superb voice, catching every nuance in a phrase, camping it up with a wink, and holding us, as well as Faust, in his thrall throughout.
April 7, 2019
Disturbing & Fascinating: Les Enfants Terribles in Omaha
Opera Omaha’s production of Les enfants terribles is a strange and mesmerizing exploration of dissociation and escapism. There are no certainties - only abstract visuals, raw emotions, and atmospheric music. Philip Glass’ opera, based on the novel by Jean Cocteau, triggers reactions that are powerful but hard to understand. The more I tried to wrap my brain around the piece the more confused I became. The music and the story refuse to be defined. All the audience can do is surrender to the transient emotions without over analyzing - a feat that is easier said than done.
April 6, 2019
Strange plot, great production values make Les Enfants Terribles worthwhile
The music is modern yet melodic, even in its urgency and its occasional dissonance. It’s mostly, but not always, accessible. The story is creepy yet fascinating — about a brother and sister who are way too close, the weird psychological game they play and the carnage it causes for all involved. Despite the fact that it made me work a little to keep track of the plot (did I say it was a little off-putting?) and absorb the unusual genre — a dance opera — I came perilously close to loving “Les Enfants Terribles,” the first production in this year’s Opera Omaha ONE Festival.
April 3, 2019
Les Enfants Terribles Review
On April 3, Opera Omaha offered a stunning evening of music, dance and theater with Philip Glass’s chamber opera Les Enfants Terribles, the first of the company’s two 2019 ONE Festival operas. A large open area of the Mastercraft Building at Millwork Commons, an old mattress factory now repurposed as an office space, was filled with risers for the audience and a large staging area, designed by Yuki Izumihara. The square stage was painted white, and the main playing area was surrounded by a trench filled with white plastic objects. The space was the perfect setting for James Darrah’s powerful, evocative and physically demanding staging.
CONCERTONET - Les Enfants Terribles
April 3, 2019
Les Enfants Terribles showcases Glass
ONE Festival artistic director, James Darrah, directed Philp Glass’s Les Enfants Terribles (1996), moving out from the propulsive music in a rush. Glass’s gorgeous score is performed on three pianos, which sit in front of the stage. The stage is a slightly raised platform in a ‘found’ space in Omaha, Nebraska, the site of Omaha Opera’s annual festival. We know Omaha as a hotbed of business invention. Warren Buffett makes his home there. Omaha Steaks is among the opera’s long-term supporters. It turns out Omaha residents have an appetite for the new in art. The Glass opera was packed at every performance. This mysterious and disturbing psychodrama based on a Jean Cocteau novel, unfolds on stage in song, dance and spoken word.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
May 14, 2018
A New ‘Horror Opera’ Opens Miller Theater’s Next Season
With her dark, disturbing “Breaking the Waves,” Missy Mazzoli established herself as an opera composer to watch. Now New Yorkers will get a chance to hear her latest work, “Proving Up,” which will open the 30th-anniversary season of the Miller Theater at Columbia University.
“Proving Up” is, like “Breaking the Waves,” based on a nightmarish tale, this one a short story by Karen Russell about homesteaders in Nebraska after the Civil War struggling with the American dream. Another collaboration with the librettist Royce Vavrek, the new work was described as ushering in a new genre of “horror opera” by The Washington Post.
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
April 16, 2018
An Opera Festival's Local Focus
Opera Omaha’s inaugural ONE Festival, running through April 22, embraces opera’s roots with its tentpole production, Cherubini’s Medea, which plays next weekend in the Orpheum Theater. But more importantly, the festival expands the boundaries of the form with artist-led events ( James Darrah is its overall artistic director) and relates it explicitly to this Midwestern city. Proving Up, a harrowing 75-minute new opera by Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek, performed at Kaneko, an arts center in a converted warehouse, is a dark meditation on the region’s past.
THE TORONTO STAR
May 26, 2018
Opera Omaha is making a name for itself with festivals, productions
Granted, Omaha may be home to Warren Buffett, but home to a noteworthy opera company, an enterprise that recently mounted a festival capped by a significant world premiere? The days when musical headlines had to be made in New York and a few other culture capitals have obviously gone now, thanks to a continent-wide flourishing of the arts on both sides of the 49th parallel. Opera Omaha is a relatively small company, the only one in the state of Nebraska, its budget a fraction of the size of the Canadian Opera Company’s. And yet, my April visit was the third — over a considerable number of years — to attend a world premiere.
April 27, 2018
Medea and Contemporary Ideas Combine for Intriguing Overall Concept
Opera Omaha was handed a dilemma in its inaugural ONE Festival when it was forced to replace the title role in Fiona Shaw’s version of “Medea,” a co-production with the Wexford Festival Opera, due to illness less than three weeks before the show.
MUSICAL AMERICA WORLDWIDE
April 27, 2018
Omaha's ONE Festival, Part II
Proving Up, by composer-librettist-director team Missy Mazzoli, Royce Vavrek, and James Darrah, was staged at the ONE Festival in the unconventional KANEKO space. The second opera was presented in the elegant Orpheum Theater dating from 1927, where the main stage season takes place. But even that, like the Mazzoli piece, was not standard rep: Cherubini's Medea (in the Italian version), known by many opera lovers solely from Maria Callas's famous recording under Bernstein.
I CARE IF YOU LISTEN
April 26, 2018
Mazzoli and Vavrek's Proving Up at Opera Omaha ONE Festival
"A makeshift sawhorse, an oval stock tank, miniature flowers, and a collection of liquor bottles dotted the long thrust stage filled with dirt in The KANEKO in Omaha, Nebraska as the lights came up for the opening scene of Missy Mazzoli’s Proving Up as part of Opera Omaha’s April 2018 ONE Festival. The audience sitting in a hodgepodge collection of kitchen chairs on both sides of the narrow stage slowly noticed the miniature flowers sat atop two small graves in the dirt as John Moore‘s baritone voice resonated from offstage singing the prologue – an arrangement by Mazzoli of “Uncle Sam’s Farm (1862)”
MUSICAL AMERICA WORLDWIDE
April 26, 2018
Opera Omaha's Inaugural ONE Festival Proves Up to Its Ambitions
The only professional opera company in Nebraska, Opera Omaha crowned its 60th-anniversary season by launching a brand-new, genuinely insight-provoking festival this month. ONE Festival, which takes its name from the abbreviated city and state, culminated over the weekend (April 20-22) in back-to-back presentations that made it possible to take in all of the main offerings.
April 24, 2018
Proving Up : Mazzoli and Vavrek Masterfully Explore Migration Hardship in the Heartland
Is there a better way to spend an opera festival in Nebraska than to see an opera set in Nebraska? My weekend at the inaugural ONE Festival presented by Opera Omaha was highlighted by seeing the brand-new “Proving Up” by the dynamic duo of Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek on two occasions.
April 23, 2018
Review: Opera Omaha's 'Medea' is a hauntingly beautiful production
“If walls could talk...” or so the saying goes, and they most often don’t, but sometimes they sing. At the Orpheum Theater on Friday night, Opera Omaha presented Luigi Cherubini’s “Medea.” Shadows sang and voices danced as the adaptation of a 2,400-year-old myth came to life chillingly on the set and its towering walls.
April 19, 2018
Opera Omaha Presents “Medea”
Baritone Weston Hurt has played many of the principal roles in popular operas by Verdi, Puccini, and Donizetti, and now he’s taking on Creonte in Cherubini’s Medea, Opera Omaha’s next performance as part of the ONE Festival.
April 17, 2018
Confusing & Creepy: Proving Up
The ambiguity of the ending is true to the horror movie sensibilities. I was confused and creeped out, and I loved every minute of it.
April 11, 2018
Opera "Proving Up" tells Nebraska Story
For staffers and supporters of Opera Omaha, this year’s inaugural ONE Festival is the culmination of a dream. The centerpiece of the event, a new opera called Proving Up, itself centers on a dream, though it’s a dream that for many is far less attainable than was the festival. "Proving Up is about the harsh realities of the American Dream, about the role of fate in our destinies and also about people who are erased from history,” the opera’s composer, Missy Mazzoli, said in program notes.
April 9, 2018
Opera Omaha Introduces ONE Festival
Opera Omaha introduces the ONE festival this month, a series of performances that experiments with the production, aesthetic, and the setting of opera. Expect some classics, like Cherubini’s Medea and Handel’s Ariodante but also new works and premiers performed in some nontraditional venues.
I CARE IF YOU LISTEN
March 29, 2018
5 Questions to James Darrah (Artistic Director, ONE Festival)
When it comes to the words “trailblazing” and “influential” in terms of directing new opera, James Darrah‘s name is never far. Darrah is spree-like directing the new theatre and opera world’s most talked about productions. From Missy Mazzoli’s operatic adaptation of Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves for Opera Philadelphia and the Prototype Festival in New York to the direction and design for a music video for mezzo soprano Joyce DiDonato on her new album In War and Peace on Warner Classics/ Erato, Darrah is creating the look and feel of new opera for a generation of opera-goers.
December 20, 2017
Opera Omaha Launches Inaugural ONE Festival
Opera Omaha, Nebraska's sole opera company, celebrates its 60th anniversary season with the launch of ONE Festival (derived from Omaha, NE), running April 6-22, 2018. Expanding Opera Omaha's commitment to innovative work, the inaugural ONE Festival, led by Festival Artistic Director James Darrah, includes over fifty multi-disciplinary performances, installations, conversations and explorations of the operatic form.
OMAHA WORLD HERALD
April 20, 2017
After debut at Omaha festival, opera set in Nebraska will play in NYC
A work commissioned for Opera Omaha’s new ONE Festival is destined for New York City. Proving Up, about a family’s loss and isolation in rural Nebraska after the Civil War, will be presented by the Miller Theatre at Columbia University after its run in Omaha next year.
OMAHA WORLD HERALD
February 10, 2017
Opera Omaha's 2017-18 season features world premiere set in early Nebraska
A world-premiere opera set in post-Civil War Nebraska is the centerpiece of the 2017-18 season for Opera Omaha. Proving Up, with music by Missy Mazzoli and libretto by Royce Vavrek, is one of two pieces that will launch the opera company’s new spring festival in 2018.
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
April 22, 2016
An Opera Company Matures in the Midwest
Opera Omaha is a small company with big ambitions. It is embracing the latest trends in American opera - community engagement, alternative venues, contemporary operas and other kinds of forward-thinking artistic programming - along with standard repertory. Last week, the company announced a new spring festival as part of its 60th anniversary season in 2017-18...
April 11, 2016
To mark 60th birthday, Opera Omaha will launch spring festival in 2018
For its 60th birthday, Opera Omaha is giving local music fans a big present. The company will launch an annual spring festival in 2018 — its diamond anniversary year — and add a fourth opera to its season each year during the month-long event. In addition, the first festival will feature a world-premiere opera set in 1877 on the Nebraska prairie by the up-and-coming writing team of Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek.