MOT’s 2019-2020 season features ‘Sweeney Todd,’ ‘Champion’ and two classics, plus top-notch dance
DETROIT, Mich.– Michigan Opera Theatre (MOT) announced today details of its 2019-20 season. The opera series features beloved classics “Don Giovanni” and “Pagliacci;” works long-absent from the MOT repertoire, “Sweeney Todd” and “Gianni Schicchi,” and the highly-anticipated company premiere of “Champion,” a contemporary American opera.
The dance series features the return of American Ballet Theatre, Joffrey Ballet and Dance Theatre of Harlem, as well as the Detroit Opera House premiere of French contemporary ballet company Malandain Ballet Biarritz. An Oct. 12 gala concert, featuring acclaimed American Tenor Michael Fabiano and principal dancers from American Ballet Theatre, will serve to launch the season.
“We are excited to present a season of opera favorites and to share works with our patrons that have not been performed in decades,” said Wayne S. Brown, MOT President and CEO. “We are also delighted to welcome back our long-term dance partners, American Ballet Theatre, Joffrey Ballet and Dance Theatre of Harlem, and to debut renowned French dance company Malandain Ballet Biarritz.” MOT Principal Conductor Stephen Lord said the season will keep audiences on the edge of their seats.
“With dark comedies like ‘Don Giovanni’ and ‘Sweeney Todd’ and heart-wrenching stories like ‘Pagliacci,’ ‘Champion’ and ‘Swan Lake,’ our audiences are in for some thrills this year,” he said. “These works, joined by the debuts of Michael Fabiano and Malandain Ballet Biarritz, as well as the return of some of our favorite dance companies, make for an irresistible powerhouse season.”
Mozart’s masterwork “Don Giovanni” serves as the opening production, Oct. 19-27. Based on the legendary character Don Juan, the opera tells the story of the ill-fated philanderer who faces the consequences of hurting the wrong people. The opera stars bass-baritone Dan Okulitch in the title role, as well as sopranos Ellie Dehn as Donna Anna and Nicole Cabell as Donna Elvira. Christopher Allen conducts.
It has been 35 years since MOT last presented Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd,” which closes the company’s 2019 fall season, Nov. 14-24. A satirical musical thriller about the deranged titular barber who descends into madness while seeking vengeance for his wife, “Sweeney Todd” features some of Sondheim’s greatest music including “Johanna,” “Not While I’m Around” and “The Worst Pies in London.” The cast features Michigan native and Tony Award-winner Karen Ziemba as Mrs. Lovett and baritone Stephen Powell as Sweeney Todd. MOT Principal Conductor Stephen Lord conducts and Ron Daniel directs.
Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi,” the composer’s only comedic opera, returns to the Detroit Opera House in its first presentation since MOT’s 1985 season. The production features the young artists of the MOT Studio resident artist program and will be presented at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts Feb. 28-29. The farcical opera, widely considered one of the most humorous works in the opera canon, follows one family’s attempt to gain access to their late relative’s will with the help of the mischievous but double-crossing Gianni Schicchi. It also features the famous aria “O mio babbino caro.”
Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci” closes the season May 9-17 with the tragic tale of the tears of a clown. The audience favorite tells of a clown who becomes embroiled in a fatal love triangle. The first opera ever to be recorded in its entirety, “Pagliacci,” with its famous “Vesti la giubba” aria, was the first opera to sell a million copies. The opera stars tenor Diego Torre as Canio, bass-baritone Mark Delavan as Tonio and soprano Marina Costa-Jackson as Nedda. It will be conducted by Lord and directed by Elaine Tyler-Hall.
“Champion” rounds out the opera series with a story about boxer Emile Griffith’s struggle with regret, prejudice and the fluidity of sexual and societal morality. The “opera in jazz” is composed by jazz musician Terence Blanchard and features opera star and MOT favorite, mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves as Emelda Griffith and bass Arthur Woodley as Emile Griffith. Kazem Abdullah will be on the podium with stage direction by James Robinson.
The 2019-20 dance series at the Detroit Opera House features the return of several highly-celebrated companies in the dance world. Following nearly full-capacity performances of 2018’s “Romeo and Juliet” and 2016’s “The Sleeping Beauty,” American Ballet Theatre will return to the Detroit Opera House stage with four performances of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake,” in partnership with University Musical Society. The ballet follows the tragic love story of Prince Siegfried and Princess Odette and their attempt to break the spell that turns her into a swan each morning.
The Joffrey Ballet will present three Detroit premieres featuring dynamic young choreographers from Europe, including Liam Scarlet and Alexander Ekman. Malandain, in a sensual program in time for Valentine’s Weekend, will present emotive works from classic composers including Vivaldi, Chopin and Ravel. The Dance Theatre of Harlem, celebrating its 50th anniversary, completes the MOT dance series with an inspiring ballet repertory program that celebrates African-American culture and their late founder, Arthur Mitchell.
The opera season will be complemented by special events including BalletMet’s “The Nutcracker,” “Too Hot to Handel,” the jazz gospel version of Handel’s “Messiah,” and the Michigan Opera Theatre Children’s Chorus production of Cary John Franklin’s “The Very Last Green Thing.”
Subscriptions may be purchased at up to 30 percent off single ticket prices. Subscription benefits also include free exchanges and exclusive access to pre-paid parking in the Opera House Parking Center. To purchase, call (313) 237-7464 or come in person to the Detroit Opera House (1526 Broadway, Detroit).
Don Giovanni (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)
Oct. 19-27, 2019
Performed in Italian with English supertitles
Mozart’s classic dark comedy follows the notorious philanderer as he faces the consequences of messing with the wrong people. The bad guy meets his due in this satisfying tale of revenge.
* Cast: Dan Okulitch (Don Giovanni), Ellie Dehn (Donna Anna), Nicole Cabell (Donna Elvira)
* Conductor: Christopher Allen
Sweeney Todd (Stephen Sondheim)
Nov. 14-24, 2019
Performed in English
Everyone’s favorite diabolical barber comes to the Detroit Opera House, serving up Mrs. Lovett’s questionable pies and a large helping of satire. Sweeney Todd follows the title character’s thrilling journey into insanity in the name of vengeance, challenging audiences not to cringe. Featuring “Johanna,” “Not While I’m Around” and “The Worst Pies in London,” Sweeney Todd is Steven Sondheim at his best.
* Cast: Featuring Michigan native and Tony Award-winner Karen Ziemba as Mrs. Lovett and Stephen Powell as Sweeney Todd
* Conductor: Stephen Lord, MOT Principal Conductor
* Director: Ron Daniels
* Includes Sondheim hits “Johanna,” “Not While I’m Around” and “The Worst Pies in London”
Gianni Schicchi (Giacomo Puccini)
Feb. 28-29, 2020
Performed in Italian with English supertitles
Wealthy Florentine Buoso Donati has just died but all his greedy relatives can think about is their neglect in his will. The tables turn with the help of the mischievous Gianni Schicchi but not in the way that they expect. Considered one of the funniest operas of all time, Gianni Schicchi is a dark farce based on a real story included in Dante’s Inferno. The opera includes some of Puccini’s best music, including the famous aria “O mio babbino caro.”
* Performed by Michigan Opera Theatre Studio Artists
* Presented at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts
* Features “O mio babbino caro” aria
Champion (Terence Blanchard)
March 26-April 5, 2020
Performed in English
Terence Blanchard’s “opera in jazz” makes its Detroit Opera House debut March 26. Based on the real story of prized fighter Emile Griffith, Champion is a reflection on the boxer’s life as he struggles with regret, prejudice and the fluidity of sexual and societal morality. Featuring opera star Denyce Graves, Champion is a self-reflective work not to be missed.
* Featuring Denyce Graves as Emelda Griffith and Arthur Woodley Emile Griffith
* “Opera in jazz” composed by jazz musician Terence Blanchard
* Conductor: Kazem Abdullah
* Director: James Robinson
“Pagliacci” (Ruggero Leoncavallo)
May 7-17, 2020
Performed in Italian with English supertitles
Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci” closes the season with the tragic tale of the tears of a clown. The audience favorite tells of a clown who becomes embroiled in a fatal love triangle. The first opera ever to be recorded in its entirety, “Pagliacci,” with its famous “Vesti la giubba” aria, was the first opera to sell a million copies.
* Featuring Diego Torre as Canio, Mark Delavan as Tonio and Marina Costa-Jackson as Nedda
* Conductor: MOT Principal Conductor Stephen Lord
* Director: Elaine Tyler-Hall
* Features “Vesti la giubba” aria
The Joffrey Ballet’s “Beyond the Shore”
Nov. 2-3, 2019
Chicago’s renowned Joffrey Ballet company performs an exciting program featuring dynamic young choreographers from Europe. Works include Liam Scarlett’s sensual “Vespertine,” Alexander Ekman’s uplifting “Joy” and Nicolas Blanc’s “Beyond the Shore,” which will take audiences through five mesmerizing worlds set to an orchestral and electronic soundscape by Mason Bates.
BalletMet’s “The Nutcracker”
Nov. 30 – Dec. 1, 2019
BalletMet returns for its eighth visit to the Detroit Opera House with its beloved traditional production of The Nutcracker. The ballet follows young Clara and her Nutcracker Prince through a magical journey in the Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy. The event features live accompaniment from the Michigan Opera Theatre Orchestra as well as complimentary children’s activities before the performance at during intermission.
Malandain Ballet Biarritz
Feb. 15, 2020
French contemporary dance company Malandain Ballet Biarritz makes its Detroit Opera House debut February 15. Known for their celebration of sensuality and humanity, the repertory program is a perfect date for Valentine’s weekend, performing emotive works from classic composers including Vivaldi, Chopin and Ravel.
Dance Theatre of Harlem
March 14-15, 2020
Celebrating its golden anniversary, Dance Theatre of Harlem returns to the Detroit Opera House with a program showcasing 50 years of their commitment to access, opportunity and excellence. Using the language of ballet they celebrate African-American culture and bring new life to the art form. Audiences have come to love their thrilling performances that empower and inspire.
American Ballet Theatre’s “Swan Lake”
April 16-19, 2020
A co-presentation with University Musical Society
American Ballet Theatre returns with the ultimate storybook ballet, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. The ballet features America’s biggest ballet stars portraying the tragic love story of Prince Siegfried and Princess Odette and their attempt to break the spell that turns her into a swan each morning. With its iconic “Dance of the Little Swans” and its famous 32 fouetté turns, Swan Lake is a must-see ballet experience.
Season Opening Gala with Michael Fabiano
Oct. 12, 2019
Michigan Opera Theatre opens its 2019-20 season with opera’s hottest young tenor, Michael Fabiano. Called “one of the most exciting, sought-after singers in the world” by the New York Times, Fabiano has graced the stages of the world’s leading operas houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, the Royal Opera and La Scala. Accompanied by the MOT Orchestra and led by MOT Principal Conductor Stephen Lord, he is joined by renowned soprano Leah Crocetto for an evening of opera and musical theater’s greatest works. The evening will also include a special ballet section featuring principal dancers from American Ballet Theatre.
Too Hot To Handel
Dec. 14, 2019
Featuring renowned soloists Roderick Dixon, Alfreda Burke and Karen Marie Richardson and an all-star ensemble of Detroit jazz legends Marion Hayden, Alvin Waddles, and Dave Taylor.
An annual Detroit holiday tradition! This soul stirring, toe-tapping rendition of Handel’s Messiah never fails to bring audiences to their feet. It’s an exhilarating fusion of gospel, jazz and classical music performed by the Rackham Symphony Choir, the Too Hot Orchestra and an all-star cast of soloists. This is a celebration unlike any other.
“The Very Last Green Thing”(Cary John Franklin)
April 24-25, 2020
The Michigan Opera Theatre Children’s Chorus presents the futuristic story of Cary John Franklin’s “The Very Last Green Thing.” The year is 2413 where students are taught and raised by an android with rare opportunities to go “outside.” After encountering a time capsule from the early 21st century, the children find a withered plant and the secrets unlocked from the planet’s past.
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