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Departing director will leave stamp on Opera Saratoga

Departing director will leave stamp on Opera Saratoga

Opera Saratoga has gone through several transitions over its more than five decades. This season is
Departing director will leave stamp on Opera Saratoga
Opera Saratoga artistic and general director Curt Tucker (Gary Gold photo)

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Opera Saratoga has gone through several transitions over its more than five decades. This season is no different. Among the changes are a new logo and tag line and a season that will be held entirely in June. There is also a workshop of a new opera by Skidmore College’s own Evan Mack, which runs on Sunday.

Most of all, however, is that the company’s artistic and general director, Curt Tucker, is leaving and Lawrence Edelson, who directed last year’s Gilbert & Sullivan hit “H.M.S.Pinafore,” assumes those positions on July 1.

“I feel great about what I’ve done,” said Tucker, who will also conduct this summer’s production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”

“It’s been a great run.”

Tucker’s nine years of accomplishments include the rebranding of the company from the Lake George Opera to more reflect its home in Saratoga Springs; producing 23 new shows, which included the premiere of Ned Rorem’s “Our Town,” two New York premieres, and two new opera workshops; expanding the Opera to Go program to reach almost 250,000 children; and producing and often conducting numerous opera classics.

Opera Saratoga

-- Evan Mack “Roscoe”: 2 p.m., Sunday Filene Recital Hall, Skidmore College, $25

-- Opera Gala: 6:30 p.m. Friday, June 13, Canfield Casino, $150-$250

-- Mozart “The Magic Flute”: June 14, 26, 28 at 7:30 p.m. June 17, 22 at 2 p.m., Spa Little Theatre

-- Donizetti “The Elixir of Love”: June 21, 27 at 7:30 p.m.; June 24, 29 at 2 p.m., Spa Little Theatre. $85-$50; discounts for seniors, students and children

-- MORE INFO: 584-6018, 584-9330, www.spac.org

Because this is Tucker’s final season, he decided he wanted it to reflect much of what the company has done during his tenure.

“I chose standard repertoire for our core audiences that we hadn’t done in a while, especially those never done in Saratoga Springs,” he said.

“Since we’ve had success with bel canto, I chose Donizetti’s ‘The Elixir of Love.’ And we have done little Mozart. We’d done ‘Flute’ in 1975 and also in 1991 but that was as a concert version. This will be fully staged.”

Tucker also chose to surround himself with many familiar faces that will include many singers who were former Young Artists or principals, designers, tech staff and directors.

As always, the operas will have their own style. While “Flute” will have a traditional approach, director Nelson Sheeley is giving its fantasy a visually Arabian flavor. The opera opens June 14 with shows on June 17, 22, 26, and 28.

Helena Binder goes her own way with “Elixir.”

“She likes to think outside the box to tell the story,” Tucker said.

Instead of occurring in the 1800s, the opera will be set as a Hollywood western.

“She had done the opera before at Wolf Trap as a western. It will really be great doing,” Tucker said.

The opera will open June 21 with performances on June 24, 27 and 29. Douglas Kinney Frost of Syracuse Opera will conduct.

American opera has always been an important part of the company’s mission. Audiences can’t get anything newer than Mack’s “Roscoe,” which is based on William Kennedy’s eponymous book. The 80-minute workshop consists only of the opera’s first act and will be performed by many of the company’s 13 Young Artists with Sara Chiesa at the piano. Tucker chose to feature Mack’s work because of its local connections, which are 1940s Albany.

Mack, who followed the flow and time periods of Kennedy’s book, said there will be everything from cockfights, romance, suicide and jazz to Gilbert & Sullivan-type patter songs in his score. Joshua McGuire, an old college friend, wrote the libretto.

“It isn’t through composed. It will have lots of arias, hummable tunes,” he said.

This is Mack’s third opera in nine years and he said he hopes it has the same success as his other two. His first opera, “Angel of the Amazon,” made it to off-Broadway along with an original cast recording. His second, “The Secret of Luca,” was produced in April at Fresno State University.

“I’m a pianist by trade but I’m attracted to opera,” he said. “My first opera was a labor of love. The second was easier to get off the grid. With this opera, I’ve met with William Kennedy every few weeks. He’ll be at the workshop. He’s very excited. It’s the first time an opera has been made from one of his books.”

To make sure he has the time to finish the opera, Mack said he and McGuire will be at Yaddo, the local artist retreat, in August to map out the second act.

All this is happy news for Edelson, who said he fell in love with the company and the city when he came last year to direct “Pinafore.” It was his first visit to the area.

“When I heard that the board was conducting a search for new leadership, I was certainly intrigued by the possibilities,” he said in an email. “When I was offered the position, I was thrilled and honored.”

For years, Edelson has been involved in theater and opera, having founded American Lyric Theater and Pro Musica Tours — both in New York City. He will continue to serve as ALT’s artistic director and expects his duties with OS to easily dovetail.

Although this season reflects Tucker’s choices, Edelson said he’s already building new partnerships with other regional organizations to develop strong community relationships.

“I’m exploring how OS can become an even stronger asset in Saratoga Springs and the Capital Region throughout the year . . . so that we can offer exciting opera programming outside the walls of our home theater,” he said.

“I am very passionate about diversifying audiences for opera . . . and am particularly interested in taking advantage of the natural and cultural riches we have.”

Edelson also expects to continue to present core works from the repertoire; reaffirm the company’s commitment to present American work, and produce operas that have never been produced by the company before.

The Opera Gala will feature entertainers Bobby Dick and Susie Q.

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