Friday, February 26, 2010

MOT Announces 10-11 Opera Season

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10-11 Season Opens with Revival of The Mikado
Perennial Favorites La Boheme, The Magic Flute, Rigoletto
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DETROIT, Michigan, February 26, 2010...Michigan Opera Theatre announced today the details of its 40th anniversary season, including a revival of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado, which opens the season. Other works to be performed include perennial favorites La Boheme, The Magic Flute, and Rigoletto.

During the 2010-11 season, Michigan Opera Theatre commemorates its 40th anniversary with a season of audience favorites. Over its 40 year history, MOT has become known for presenting opera standards while integrating groundbreaking new works, fulfilling its mission through four decades of operatic excellence and community involvement. The company's bold vision, cast by founder and general director Dr. David DiChiera, led to the opening of the Detroit Opera House, three world premieres including the landmark opera Margaret Garner, Andrea Bocelli's operatic debut in Werther, and the beginnings of many young opera star careers, including Gregg Baker, Marcello Giordani, Leona Mitchell, Maria Ewing, Kathleen Battle, and Leah Partridge.

"I'm immensely proud of what we, as a company and a community, have been able to accomplish in our 40 year history, but there is so much work left for us to do." says Michigan Opera Theatre General Director Dr. David DiChiera. "Main stage works that entertain, inspire, and move us are at the core of what we do as a company. We are excited to present a season of opera favorites, especially Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado, one of our most requested works, which has not been performed by the company since 1991."

Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado Mikado
October 16-24, 2010
Performed in English

One of MOT's most requested productions and Gilbert and Sullivan's most popular works, The Mikado returns to the Michigan Opera Theatre stage October 16-24, 2010 for five performances. The October 2010 performances will commemorate the 125th anniversary of The Mikado. At its premiere in London in 1885 at the Savoy Theatre, it had one of the longest runs of any theater work. Michigan Opera Theatre last performed The Mikado in 1991, making the fall 2010 performances the first time in nearly 20 years that it will appear on the MOT stage.

Set in the fictitious town of Titipu, Japan, The Mikado is a satire of a bureaucratic society gone haywire. The musical score contains some of the best-loved songs of all time, including "Three Little Maids," "The Flowers that Bloom in the Spring" and "I've Got a Little List."

The production will be under the baton of Mark D. Flint, a veteran of numerous MOT productions and a favorite of MOT audiences for orchestrating and conducting the world premiere of David DiChiera's Cyrano in 2007.

La Boheme
Puccini's La Boheme
November 13-21, 2010
Performed in Italian with English supertitles

Puccini's enduring opera La Boheme returns to the Detroit Opera House stage November 13-21, 2010. A bittersweet tragedy of young love, the opera centers around six penniless bohemian friends in snowy Paris surviving on very limited means. Full of idealism, beauty and unbridled love, they
soon encounter the harsh realities of life. Imitations of Puccini's masterpiece are all around us, most notably the Broadway blockbuster musical Rent-but the gorgeous original is incomparable and never fails to pull at your heart strings. Michigan Opera Theatre last produced La Boheme in 2005.

DemuroAlternating in the lead role of Rodolfo is Sardinian (Italian) tenor Francesco Demuro, who will make his MOT debut. Demuro, a highly sought-after young artist, has performed in the most prestigious international houses, including La Scala in Milan, Teatro Regio in Parma, and Covent Garden in England. He is quickly garnering attention throughout the world as a major tenor to watch. He will alternate in the role with American tenor Noah Stewart, who made his MOT debut in the fall 2009 production of Nabucco, and is increasingly developing into one of opera's most sought-after young leading tenors.

Performing the role of Mimi is American soprano Kelly Kaduce, who since her MOT debut as Caroline Gaines in the world premiere of Margaret Garner in 2005 has become a major soprano star. Kaduce will open the Santa Fe Opera summer 2010 season performing the title role in Madame Butterfly. She will alternate with Italian soprano Grazia Doronzio, who will make her MOT debut following her performances as Liu in Turandot at the Met.

Detroit's favorite Romanian baritone Marian Pop, best known for creating the role of Cyrano for the world premiere of David DiChiera's opera in 2007, returns to MOT as Marcello. He will alternate in the role with young up-and-coming Italian baritone Giovanni Guagliardo, who is making his MOT debut.

Performing the role of Schaunard is baritone Lee Gregory, making his MOT debut. Returning to perform the role of Benoit and Alcindoro is bass-baritone Jason Budd, who last performed with MOT during the world premiere of Cyrano in 2007.

Conducting the Puccini classic will be Italian maestro Giuliano Carella, who will also be on the podium for the company's upcoming production of Tosca in the spring 2010 season. La Boheme will be staged by Italian director Mario Corradi, marking his twentieth production with the company. Sets and costumes were originally created for Montreal Opera with sets designed by Claude Girard and costumes designed by Claude Girard and Andre Prévost.

Magic Flute
Mozart's The Magic Flute April 9-17, 2011
Performed in English with English supertitles

Mozart's beloved final opera, The Magic Flute, has captivated audiences since its premiere in 1791. In the opera, Prince Tamino and bird-catcher Papageno go on a humorous musical journey, armed with a set of silver bells and a golden flute, as they travel through Egypt on a quest for the beautiful Pamina. Brilliant music and a fantastical setting make The Magic Flute a treasured fairytale opera for all ages. The opera includes one of the most recognizable and demanding arias in all of opera, "The vengeance of Hell boils in my heart," sung by the Queen of the Night. Michigan Opera Theatre last performed the opera in 2004.

Alternating in the lead role of Tamino is Texas-native Chad Shelton, who will make his MOT debut in the role. He has garnered acclaim on national and international stages for his characterizations of leading roles, including Tamino. Shelton will alternate with American tenor Norman Shankle, who will also be making his MOT debut. Shankle is known for his portrayals of Mozart roles.

Canadian soprano Katherine Whyte makes her MOT debut as Pamina, following her recent debuts with English National Opera, Atlanta Opera, and l'Opéra National de Bordeaux. Performing the role of the Queen of the Night is Canadian coloratura soprano Aline Kutan, returning to MOT following her performances in the 2002 production of Lakmé where she stunned audiences by performing all five performances with spectacular ease and technical agility.

Maestro Stephen Lord returns to MOT to lead the production, after his most recent Michigan Opera Theatre appearance conducting The Elixir of Love during the spring 2009 season.

Verdi's Rigoletto
May 14-22, 2011
Performed in Italian with English supertitles

Verdi's dramatic tragedy Rigoletto closes the 2010-2011 season, May 14-22, 2011, telling the woeful tale of Rigoletto, the razor-tongued court jester. A paternal curse renders him powerless against his enemies. Fooled into assisting in the abduction of his own daughter, Rigoletto's heart is pushed to the limit as he is forced to watch her suffer at the hands of his licentious master, the Duke of Mantua. Enraged, he plans the perfect revenge - death for the Duke and retribution for his daughter. As the plot twists, the power of the curse is realized and Rigoletto is left holding the shards of his broken life.

Widely regarded as one of Verdi's most glorious and moving scores, Rigoletto, along with Il Trovatore and La Traviata, firmly cemented Verdi's position as the preeminent Italian composer of his day. Verdi's composition explores the vast range of human emotion, providing a unique depth to the characters. From the beloved "La donna e mobile," one of opera's most famous arias, to the exquisite "Caro nome," the immortal melodies of Verdi's first great masterpiece continue to move audiences worldwide.

Internationally renowned maestro Steven Mercurio, a Detroit favorite, will return to lead the Michigan Opera Theatre Orchestra alongside French stage director Bernard Uzan, who last directed the world premiere proValentiduction of Cyrano at MOT in 2007.

The role of the Duke of Mantua will be performed by James Valenti, who recently made his MOT debut in the fall 2008 season as Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly. He has since performed all over the world, including debuts at the Met and Covent Garden. Further casting will be announced at a later date.


Subscription prices range from $58-$484. Like last year, Michigan Opera Theatre is offering a payment plan for subscriptions. If a patron subscribes by March 30, 2010, the subscription cost will be split into four equal payments due at the end of each month with the final payment due on June 30, 2010.

As always, subscriptions are offered first to renewing subscribers. Renewal packets will be mailed February 2010. Subscribers may renew subscriptions online at Subscribers enjoy the benefits of priority seating, limited free ticket exchanges and advanced purchase opportunities for some non-subscription events. New 2010-11 subscriptions will be available through Michigan Opera Theatre online at, as well as through the ticket office. Michigan Opera Theatre will again offer special package discounts for "first-timers," as well a distance discount for new subscribers traveling more than 80 miles to attend performances. The popular "family series" discount will also continue through the 2010-11 season. All subscription information may be obtained by calling the Michigan Opera Theatre ticket office at (313) 237-SING (7464).

Single Tickets:
Single ticket prices will remain unchanged from last season, ranging from $25 - $117 for all opera productions. Single tickets for Michigan Opera Theatre's 2010-11 opera season will become available in August 2010. Single tickets will be available in person at the Detroit Opera House ticket office (1526 Broadway, Detroit, MI 48226), by phone at (313) 237-SING (7464) and through Michigan Opera Theatre's online ticketing at Single tickets will also be available through all Ticketmaster outlets, by phone at 1-800-745-3000 or online at For group sales rates, please contact the Michigan Opera Theatre box office.

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2010-11 Michigan Opera Theatre Productions

Gilbert & Sullivan's
The Mikado
October 16-24, 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010 7:30 p.m.
Friday, October 22, 2010 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, October 23, 2010 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, October 24, 2010 3:00 p.m.

La Bohème
November 13-21, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010 7:30 p.m.
Friday, November 19, 2010 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, November 20, 2010 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, November 21, 2010 3:00 p.m.

The Magic Flute
April 9-17, 2011

Saturday, April 9, 2011 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 7:30 p.m.
Friday, April 15, 2011 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, April, 16, 2011 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 17, 2011 3:00 p.m.

May 14-22, 2011

Saturday, May 14, 2011 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011 7:30 p.m.
Friday, May 20, 2011 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 21, 2011 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, May 22, 2011 3:00 p.m.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ballet in the Winter Olympics?

With the Winter Olympics behind us and Tchaikovsky Ballet's production of Sleeping Beauty coming up I thought it would be interesting to blog about the relationship between ballet and figure skating. The topic came to me after watching the mens figure skating competition during the Olympics and turning to a friend to ask him if he thought figure skaters needed training in dance. When thinking about, it seems obvious that figure skaters would need some sort of dance background in order to use choreography successfully in their routines. It seems even more obvious that it would be ballet.

It turns out that figure skating wasn't always the graceful sport we see today , in fact it started out as the strict practice of carving out specific figures onto the ice. That all changed in 1836 when American Ballet Dancer and Championship Ice Skater Jackson Haines set his skating to music and incorporated dance into his routine. The style which is now known as free skating was actually looked down upon in the United States before becoming popular. It became better received after he took his idea overseas to Vienna, Austria, where a more theatrical approach to ice skating, which allowed for dance, was being introduced. It was actually the Russians who became the first to successfully integrate ballet techniques into ice skating in 1964. Some believe that the influence of this style dated back to the 1890s when Russian aristocrats held lavish ice festivals where skaters were choreographed by masters of the Kirov and Bolshoi schools. Several ballet positions can be seen in the choreography of figure skaters. Beginning figure skaters are even encouraged to make ballet a part of their training programs as it is believed that ballet helps the skater with the appropriate posture and helps them become more aware of their bodies. Ballet is also assists skaters with their speed, coordination, balance, flexibility and artistry.

Boucard, Marine, Pistsos, Swallow. Connecting Steps: The Figure Skating/Ballet Relationship.

Skate Canada. Eastern Ontario. History of Skating: History of Figure Skating.

Randall, Jon. And it's not Just Because of Tonya Hardins "Little Irish Love Pat".

Absolute Astronomy. Jackson Haines.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Getting schooled in Kirov and Bolshoi ballet.

As the performance date for The Tchaikovsky Ballet's production of Sleeping Beauty draws near everyone in the communications department is hard at work designing and implementing creative and attractive promotions to encourage audiences of all ages to come out and see the show.

After being asked to write the press release for the upcoming performance I decided to do some research. What struck me about The Tchaikovsky Ballet or more formally, The Perm Tchaikovsky Opera and Ballet Theatre, during my search was their association with the Mariinsky theatre and the Kirov school.

This was interesting to me because I hadn't understood the impact or the significance of the Kirov school on Russian ballet. What also caught my attention was the mention of another school, the Bolshoi, which appeared every now-and-then, opposite the Kirov, in several articles I read. At this point I understood that Kirov and Bolshoi were terms used to describe two distinct companies, dance styles, and schools but what I hadn't understood was the difference between them and their significance to Russian Ballet so I decided to dig deeper and this is what I found....

The Kirov school was actually Russia's first school for ballet and was founded in 1738, in St. Petersburg. The school was founded with the intent of becoming the first in the nation to teach ballet in a country whose dance was already rich in folk traditions. In the first year the school had 24 students, 12 boys and 12 girls. The students were the children of palace servants whose talent for dance was said to be above that of the professional dancers in the Czars court.

Students of the Kirov school were trained in French and Italian styles as they were instructed by choreographers from across Europe. The Mariinsky Ballet/Kirov Ballet later grew out of the school and was founded in 1740, making it the second oldest ballet company in the world behind Paris Opera. During the Russian Revolution both the school and the company closed as they were seen as signs of Russian imperialism. The company and school later reopened under different names and were renamed again in 1934 after Bolshevik revolutionary Sergey Kirov was assassinated.

The Bolshoi Ballet, in contrast, was founded in 1776 and grew out of a dancing school, held in the Moscow Orphanage. The school was actually founded in 1773. The company however did not begin to attract the attention of the ballet world, to the extent that it holds today, until 1918, when Moscow became the capital of Russia. It's cultural prestige and the money it earned is also said to have helped it become well known in the West. The word “Bolshoi” is actually Russian for “grand” or “large” and is also an underlying characteristic of the company’s dance style, which said to be grand or triumphant.

The style is also said to be dramatic or theatrical as the Bolshoi often incorporate dramatic movements into their dancing. Feeling that the acting and staging of the ballet were just as important as the dancing the Bolshoi became known for their innovative stage designs and music as well as they're evolving approach to the choreography and the presentation of dance.

On the other hand the style associated with the Kirov school was described as refined and controlled. The dancers were known for their precision and unwavering dedication to preservation of the classical ballet style. While there’s a theatrical element to the ballet it’s not carried out in a way similar to that of the Bolshoi. Instead the Kirov work under the Stanislavski method of acting bringing their emotions into their dance. Their style is also said to be more restrained and conservative than that of the Bolshoi.

Although historically there has been a recognizable difference in styles between the schools those differences are less evident today as the Kirov has become more dynamic. Now that I have uncovered and shared my understandings of the significance and differences between the Kirov and Bolshoi ballets with you. It is my hope that audiences will have a better understanding of the prestige tied to The Tchaikovsky Ballet. It is also my hope that audiences will be able to appreciate and identify some of the schools and styles that ultimately made Russian Ballet.

The Tchaikovsky Ballet, is one of Russia's most distinguished artistic companies. The Ballet theatre which was founded in 1920 presented its first season in 1926. The company has maintained strong ties and has been greatly influenced by the Mariinsky/Kirov Opera and Ballet borrowing from its standards and traditions. The company is different in that it draws all its dancers from its school, The Perm State Ballet, one of the most prestigious training institutions for ballet in Russia as well as the third largest classical company in the country. The Tchaikovsky Ballet will present it's critically acclaimed production of Sleeping Beauty at the Detroit Opera House, March 26-28. The company will be performing to Tchaikovsky's whimsical score and Marius Petipa's original choreography.

  • Orange Coast Magazine. "Spotlight:Ballet". Aug 1989. pg 48. Allard, Maurice; Thomas, Diane. Google Books.
  • Dance Magazine. "What's the Difference between Russian and American Dancers". Perron, Wendy. July 6th, 2009.
  • LA Times. "The Russians Are Back, The Russians Are Back". Segal, Lewis. July 30th, 2000
  • Wikipedia. Kirov Ballet. 2/17/10
  • Wikipedia. Bolshoi Ballet. 2/17/10
  • Bolshoi Ballet. 6th Edition. 2008.
  • Bravo: The official Magazine of the Detroit Opera House. "History of Tchaikovsky Ballet Theatre". Spring 2010. pg 14.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

An Interview with Ballet Hispanico Dancer Nicholas Villeneuve

Yesterday afternoon, I had the pleasure of interviewing veteran Ballet Hispanico Dancer Nicholas Villeneuve.

Mr. Villeneuve was born in Montreal and raised in Jamaica. He has studied at the Alvin Ailey school and Juillard. He has worked with master choreographers such as Agnes de Mille and has performed with celebrities like Patti Labelle. Mr. Villeneuve has made several appearances on Broadway, including Toronto's production of The Lion King. Currently in his fifth season with Ballet Hispanico not only is Mr. Villeneuve an established dancer he's also a choreographer and teacher.

I was fortunate enough to get a-last-minute telephone interview with the dancer from his hotel. Here are some are the responses I received...

  • How did you become involved in dance?
    • I was born in Montreal and raised in Jamaica. I was apprenticing with a local dance company in Jamaica and I went on a trip to New York, with the company, and got lost trying to find the train and found the Juilliard School. I filled out an application and eventually auditioned and got in on a scholarship.
  • Where you dancing before then?
    • No, I was a musical theatre major. I was asked to join the company because they recognized my potential as a dancer. They were more of a folkloric dance company.
  • What do you most enjoy about dance?
    • Across-the-board, what I like about dance is the fact that it’s not like a regular job. It allows me to be creative and expressive, allows me to share my talent to the rest of the world. It allows me to travel and learn about new cultures.
  • What styles/genres of dance are you trained in?
    • Ballet, Modern and Jazz
  • What’s your favorite style and why?
    • Modern because it draws in all the elements of ballet and jazz, its more expressive and allows you to have more of an abstract expression.
  • Can you describe what it was like attending the Alvin Ailey School & Julliard?
    • I was very intimidated because it was one of the very first dance schools I attended. I knew at the time I was lacking in technique but the Ailey school prepared me for Juilliard and when I arrived to Juilliard I was still intimidated but was a better dancer.
  • You were dance captain/swing for Toronto’s production of the Lion King, What did that involve? How did you get that position?
    • I was required to teach all the male parts on the show, I worked as a stand in when someone was sick, injured or went on vacation. I was also required to send weekly reports to Disney telling them how the show was going. I also ran rehearsals. I auditioned for the position.
  • How long have you been teaching dance?
    • I started teaching dance once I left college, I’ve been teaching since 2001.
  • How long have you been choreographing dances? How many works would you say you’ve produced? Could you please describe the process involved in choreographing? What types of things inspire you?
    • I started choreographing in 2000; I’ve been doing it for about 10 years. I’ve produced 12 ballets. The process varies... it depends ... sometimes I’ll go into the studio and make a movement phrase then the rest of the work will come, or I’ll be inspired by a song and try to come up with several movements, or it could be story driven where I’m inspired by a common story and I’ll want to tell that story through movement, then I put the phrases together in the studio with dancers. It takes about 2-3 weeks to come up with a 20-25 minute performance
  • How did you get started with Ballet Hispanico?
    • After I finished up with Lion King the former Artistic Director, Tina Ramirez, invited me to join in 2005
  • Could you please describe a typical day working with Ballet Hispanico?
    • We start the day off at 10am we hold ballet technique class until 11:15, we have a break, and then at 11:30 we hold rehearsal until 6 with 5 min breaks after every hour. We rehearse all repertory that’s going to be on the tour or that we’re going to be doing in the fall.
  • What advice do you have for aspiring dancers?
    • Take class everyday, work hard, never give up, it’s about perseverance and dedication.
  • If you were not a dancer, choreographer and teacher what other profession would you like to try? Why?
    • I would want to be a pilot, I’m interested in aviation I think its quite amazing. I would like to add that I’m working on getting my private pilots license.
  • If you could address Detroit audiences what would you say?
    • I would like to say that our Artistic Director, Eduardo Vilaro, has put together an eclectic group of dancers and that they should come out and see us and be inspired.
You can learn more about Nicholas Villeneuve and the other dancers of Ballet Hispanico by following this link Dancers' Biographies.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Cupcake Station & DOH Challenge Audiences to Channel their Inner Pastry Chef or... dare I say... Mad Scientist in this "sweet" contest

In line with the new Mel Brooks musical, Young Frankenstein, showing here at the Detroit Opera House, February 23rd to March 14th, Cupcake station has invited audiences to participate in their latest cupcake creation.

Calling it "a Monster Cupcake", audiences are encouraged to go online and list off what characteristics they believe should go into making the new cupcake on behalf of the musical. One winner will have their cupcake creation "come alive" and receive four tickets to the show. He/she will also get a chance to meet with the cast of Young Frankenstein. But that's not all! four runners up will be selected who will also receive four tickets EACH to the show.

The deadline for the competition is Wednesday, February 10th so don't miss out on your Chance to momentarily live your dream as a Pastry Chef or... you know...a Mad Scientist!

For more information click on the link below.