Now Playing Onstage in Wichita - Week of 1/13/2013
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Academy Award nominee and Tony Award-winner John Lithgow (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Shrek, 3rd Rock from the Sun) takes the title role in Arthur Wing Pinero's uproarious Victorian farce, directed by Olivier Award-winner Timothy Sheader (Crazy for You and Into the Woods, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, London).
In a similar vein to The National Theatre's smash-hit classic comedies, She Stoops to Conquer and London Assurance, The Magistrate is sure to have audiences doubled up with laughter. When amiable magistrate Posket (John Lithgow) marries Agatha (Olivier Award-winner Nancy Carroll, After the Dance), little does he realise she's dropped five years from her age – and her son's. When her deception looks set to be revealed, it sparks a series of hilarious indignities and outrageous mishaps.
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DONIZETTI'S MARIA STUARDA
Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, has been forced to abdicate her throne and flee her kingdom after the rebellion of her Scottish nobles. A Catholic, crowned at the age of nine months, she was betrothed to the Dauphin of France and raised from childhood at the French court. At 18, she returned to her native land, following the sudden death of her husband Francis II, having reigned as Queen of France for little more than a year. Unable to exert control over her Protestant nobility and beset by insurrections, plots, and murders, she has sought asylum in England from her cousin, Queen Elizabeth. But her presence in Protestant England is untenable to Elizabeth and her advisors. As a descendant of the Tudor line, the English Catholics see Mary as the rightful heir to Henry VIII's crown (Elizabeth having been declared illegitimate following the execution for adultery of her mother, Anne Boleyn). An English inquiry into the scandalous murder of Mary's dissolute second husband, Henry, Lord Darnley, has proved inconclusive as to her complicity in the crime but has served as a pretext to keep the former Queen of Scotland imprisoned for many years.
At the Palace of Whitehall in London, the Court are celebrating. The Duke of Anjou, brother to the King of France, has sought Queen Elizabeth's hand in marriage and the glorious alliance of the two kingdoms is eagerly anticipated. Elizabeth enters, still undecided as to whether she will accept the French proposal. For a long time, her heart has belonged to her favorite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, but recently she has sensed that his love for her is waning. Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury and Mary Stuart's custodian for many years, takes the opportunity to petition the Queen for her cousin's release. Cecil, Elizabeth's Secretary of State, argues that Mary presents a constant threat to the stability of England while she remains alive. Elizabeth refuses to be drawn into the subject of her cousin but privately fears that the Queen of Scots has stolen the love of Leicester from her. In the past, Leicester has been a suitor for Mary's hand and was dazzled by the young Queen's beauty when he first met her, long ago in France. Leicester arrives and Elizabeth gives him a ring to convey to the French Ambassador in equivocal acceptance of Anjou's proposal. His indifferent response fuels her suspicions and she leaves, attended by the Court. Alone with Leicester, Talbot secretly hands him a letter and a miniature sent by Mary. Enmeshed in the plots of the English Catholics against Elizabeth, Mary's life now hangs in the balance. Enraptured by the portrait, Leicester vows to give his aid and support to Talbot's plans for Mary's liberation. As Talbot leaves, Elizabeth returns, alone. Suspicious of Talbot, she demands to see the letter in Leicester's hands. Mary has written to beg Elizabeth for an audience and despite herself, tears spring to Elizabeth's eyes. Seizing his advantage, Leicester presses the Queen to agree to ride out near Mary's prison on a hunt and under this pretext engineer a meeting between the two queens. Although mistrustful, Elizabeth agrees to her favorite's request.
Unexpectedly allowed by Talbot to walk freely in the park outside her prison of Fotheringhay Castle, Mary rejoices, running far ahead of her lady-in-waiting, Hannah Kennedy. Her thoughts turn to times of happiness and liberty in France. The horns of the royal hunt are suddenly heard in the distance. The approaching huntsmen cry out Elizabeth's name and Mary is struck with fear at the prospect of finally setting eyes on her cousin. Leicester has ridden ahead of the hunt to prepare Mary for the meeting. He urges her to humble herself before Elizabeth and move the Queen to pity. Pledging his love and loyalty, he promises Mary that she may yet be free. He hastens to greet Elizabeth as she arrives with the hunting party. She is agitated and suspicious and Leicester's solicitude for Mary's cause rouses her jealousy. Talbot leads Mary forward and the two queens stare into each other's eyes for the first time. Mary masters her pride and shows deference before Elizabeth but her cousin remains aloof and insulting. She accuses Mary of licentiousness, murder, and treason. The tender words with which Leicester tries to calm Mary serve only to increase Elizabeth's anger. Insulted beyond endurance, Mary turns on Elizabeth. She denounces her as the illegitimate offspring of a whore, one who's foot sullies and dishonors the throne of England. Elizabeth orders the guards to seize Mary and drag her back to her prison.
Time has passed and Mary has remained incarcerated at Fotheringhay, under ever harsher conditions. The marriage to Anjou is now a faded dream for Elizabeth. Cecil has procured evidence that implicates Mary in a Catholic plot to assassinate Elizabeth, and a warrant for her death lies on the Queen's desk at the Palace of Whitehall. But Elizabeth is racked with anxiety and fear. If she signs it, she sends an anointed monarch to the scaffold and makes an enemy of all Catholic Europe. Cecil urges her to be strong: her own life could be at stake and all England will applaud her and defend her, if need be. Elizabeth's indecision ends when Leicester enters the chamber. Quickly and indifferently she signs the warrant and hands it to Cecil. Appalled, Leicester pleads with her to rescind the order and show mercy. Elizabeth commands him to be present as witness to the execution. Leicester tells her that she has sent a sister to her death and leaves.
In her room at Fotheringhay, Mary rails bitterly against her fortune. Suddenly, Cecil and Talbot enter to tell her that she must die in the morning. Cecil offers her the services of a Protestant minister in her final hours. Angrily, she refuses and commands him to leave but asks Talbot to stay. He tells her that Leicester will be present when she dies and tries to comfort her. But Mary is tormented by the ghosts of her past and longs to make the confession to God that Cecil has denied her by refusing the ministrations of a Catholic priest. Her heart is heavy with the bloody memories of her short reign in Scotland, and the deaths of her beloved favorite, David Rizzio, and her husband, Darnley. Gently, Talbot urges her to confess to him. She agrees and begins to unburden her conscience. Finally, she confesses her unwitting acquiescence in the fatal plot of the English Catholic, Sir Anthony Babington, to assassinate Elizabeth. She and Talbot pray together for God's absolution and Mary calmly prepares for death.
Early next morning, Mary's faithful servants gather, weeping outside the great hall of Fotheringhay, where Mary will be beheaded. The Queen enters. She asks them not to shed tears, as death comes to liberate her. She gives Hannah a silken handkerchief to bind her eyes when the moment comes and leads the household in a fervent prayer. The shot of a cannon on the ramparts above signals that the time of execution is near and Cecil arrives with guards to conduct Mary into the hall. Elizabeth has sent word that all requests should be granted her in her final moments and Mary asks that Hannah may accompany her to the scaffold. She tells Cecil that she forgives her cousin and prays that her blood will wash away all memory of hatred between them. Leicester suddenly appears, distraught, as more shots of the cannon indicate the time has come. Mary calms him. She is content that she will die with him close at hand. She prays that England may be spared the vengeful wrath of God. Dressed in red, the color of Catholic martyrdom, she ascends the scaffold.
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Wichita Grand Opera
ACT I. On a stormy night, the people of Cyprus anxiously await the arrival of the new Governor, Otello, from the battle with the Turks. Otello arrives safely and announces that the Turkish fleet has been destroyed, and the Cypriots cheer. As the crowd celebrates, Otello's ensign, Iago, offers to help Roderigo, a young Venetian gentleman, seduce Otello's wife Desdemona. Iago wants revenge against the Moor because Otello has appointed Cassio to be the captain of the navy, a position that Iago hoped to have.
Later, outside the tavern, Iago offers Cassio wine, and toasts Otello and Desdemona. Montano, the former Governor of Cyprus, enters and calls for Cassio to begin his watch, but he is surprised to find Cassio drunk and barely able to stand upright. To Montano's surprise, Iago explains that this is how Cassio spends every evening. Roderigo laughs at Cassio's drunkenness and Cassio attacks him. Montano tries to break up the fight, but Cassio draws his sword. Cassio and Montano begin to duel, and Iago sends Roderigo to call the alarm. Cassio wounds Montano as Otello enters.
Otello stops the fight and asks "honest Iago" to explain how the duel began, but Iago says he doesn't know. When Otello discovers that Montano is wounded, he becomes enraged and strips Cassio of his rank.
ACT II. In a chamber of the castle, Iago encourages Cassio to ask Desdemona to convince Otello to reinstate him. Iago watches as Cassio leaves to speak with Desdemona. Otello enters the room; Iago, pretending not to notice him, says that he is deeply troubled. Otello asks Iago what's wrong, and Iago finally hints that Cassio and Desdemona may be having an affair. Otello refuses to believe such an accusation without proof of Desdemona's betrayal.
Desdemona arrives to plead Cassio's case to Otello. Otello sourly tells her to ask him another time, and says he has a headache. Desdemona wraps his head in a handkerchief Otello once gave her, linen embroidered with strawberries. Otello throws it to the ground and says he doesn't need it. Emilia picks up the handkerchief. Aside, Iago demands that Emilia give him the handkerchief. When she refuses, Iago forcibly takes it from her.
Otello dismisses the others, now suspicious that Desdemona may be deceiving him. Iago returns, and the jealous Otello demands proof of Desdemona's infidelity. Iago says that once, when he and Cassio were sleeping in the same room, he heard Cassio talking to Desdemona in a dream. In the dream, says Iago, Cassio told Desdemona that they must be careful to conceal their love. Iago says that dreams don't prove anything, but remarks that he saw Cassio carrying Desdemona's strawberry-embroidered handkerchief just the day before. Together, Otello and Iago swear vengeance on Desdemona and Cassio.
ACT III. Iago tells Otello to hide in the great hall of the castle while he lures Cassio there for a chat. When Cassio enters, he tells Iago he had hoped to see Desdemona to ask her how her talk with Otello had gone, but Iago asks him about his adventures with his lover. As Cassio laughs about his romantic adventures, Otello, from his hiding place, assumes Cassio is speaking of Desdemona. Cassio also tells Iago that a secret admirer left him a handkerchief as a token. At Iago's urging, Cassio produces it, whereupon Iago seizes it—for it is Desdemona's—and holds it out where Otello can see it. He then returns it to Cassio and teases him, while Otello fumes.
Bugles sound, and Iago warns Cassio that he should leave unless he wants to see Otello. Cassio exits, and Otello resolves to kill his wife by suffocating her in her bed, while Iago will eliminate Cassio. Dignitaries from Venice arrive, and the Ambassador, Lodovico, notes Cassio's absence. Iago explains that Cassio is out of favor, but Desdemona interjects that she hopes he will soon be restored, for she is very fond of him. Otello calls her a demon and almost strikes her, but is held back by Lodovico.
Cassio enters as Otello reads a letter from the Doge, announcing that he (Otello) has been called back to Venice and Cassio is to succeed him as governor of Cyprus. Enraged, Otello throws Desdemona to the ground. In the following confusion, Iago quietly tells Otello that tonight is the night to take revenge. He then advises Roderigo that if he kills Cassio, there will be no reason for Desdemona to leave Cyprus.
ACT IV. Desdemona is preparing for bed in her chamber. She asks Emilia to lay out the bridal gown she wore on her wedding day, and says that if she dies, she wants to be buried in it. Emilia tells her not to talk about such things. After Emilia leaves, Desdemona prays and then falls asleep.
Silently, Otello enters. He kisses his wife to awaken her, and asks if she has prayed tonight. Otello accuses her of sin, and laments that he must kill her for her love of Cassio. Desdemona denies it and asks that he summon Cassio on her behalf. Otello says that Cassio is already dead. Desdemona pleads for mercy, but Otello tells her it's too late for that and strangles her.
Emilia bursts in with news that Cassio has killed Roderigo. Horrified to discover Desdemona dead, Emilia calls Otello a murderer; he retorts that Iago gave him proof of Desdemona's infidelity. Disbelieving, Emilia cries for help and Iago, Cassio, and Lodovico rush in. Otello says that the handkerchief Desdemona gave to Cassio is proof enough. Horrified, Emilia explains that Iago had stolen the handkerchief from her. Montano enters and says that Roderigo, with his dying breath, has revealed Iago's plan. Iago, brandishing his sword, runs away. After he realizes what has happened, Otello grieves over Desdemona's death. He then draws a dagger from his robe and stabs himself. As he dies, he drags himself next to his wife and kisses her one final time.
To read more about the story and history of Otello, click here.
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Martin Iliev Martin Iliev
Martin Iliev made his U.S. debut as Cavaradossi in Wichita Grand Opera's unforgettable production of Tosca starring Samuel Ramey. Since that time he has become one of the premiere tenors in the spinto repertoire across Europe. As a star of Opera Verdi he has performed all over the United States in roles such as Radames in Aida, Des Grieux in Manon Lescaut, Cavaradossi in Tosca, Calaf in Turandot, Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana, and Don Jose in Carmen. Mr. Iliev is engaged via a special contract as a principal soloist at the Sofia (Bulgaria) National Opera and Ballet, one of the oldest and most prestigious opera houses in Europe. He will be the featured soloist of the Sofia National Opera's upcoming tour of Japan including performances at the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, Japan's premiere opera house. In Europe he is known across Italy and Germany for the title roles of Don Carlo, Otello, and Siegfried, Manrico in Il Trovatore, and Siegmund in Die Walkure. In his return to Wichita Grand Opera, he makes his U.S. debut as Otello.
Zvetelina Vassileva Zvetelina Vassileva
Metropolitan Opera soprano Zvetelina Vassileva returns to Wichita Grand Opera following her outstanding performance as Leonora in last season's Il Trovatore. One of the world's top Verdi specialists, called "musically perfect" by critics, Ms. Vassileva's performances in recent seasons have included Desdemona in Otello at San Francisco Opera with Maestro Nicola Luisotti, and at the Royal Opera Covent Garden, as well as Violetta in La Traviata and Leonora at the Metropolitan Opera, and Elisabetta Don Carlo at the National Opera Sofia (Bulgaria). Her other European engagements have included Marenka in The Bartered Bride at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and Mimi in La Boheme with the Berlin Staatsoper. Ms. Vassileva also starred as Amelia in WGO's 2007 Un Ballo in Maschera.
Michael Nansel Michael Nansel
Wichita Grand Opera's 2012 Singer of the Year, Michael Nansel, returns to Wichita following outstanding performances last season as the Count Di Luna in Il Trovatore, Malatesta in Don Pasquale, and Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus. Mr. Nansel recently made his debut in the title role of Don Giovanni, and since 2004 he has performed with Washington National Opera in Andrea Chenier, the North American premiere of Sophie's Choice, and La Boheme, among others. He established himself as a principal soloist with the WGO following his critically acclaimed performances as Sharpless in Madama Butterfly with Yunah Lee and Alexey Sayapin, Count Danilo in The Merry Widow under the direction of noted director / choreographer Jayme McDaniel, Sergeant Sulpice in Daughter of the Regiment, Zuniga in Carmen with renowned director James Marvel, and Belcore in The Elixir of Love.
Dustin Peterson Dustin Peterson
Dustin Peterson recently completed his first season with Opera Colorado where he performed the roles of Basilio in Le Nozze di Figaro and Ruiz in Il Trovatore. Dustin previously appeared with the Wichita Grand Opera as Camille de Rosillon in The Merry Widow and El Remendado in Carmen. Dustin has also been seen with the Eutiner Festspiele in Germany and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City. His roles include Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus, Hal Carter in Picnic, Duke of Dunstable in Patience, Nanki-Poo in The Mikado, and Joe Cable in South Pacific.
Sarah Kraus Sarah Kraus
In 2012, mezzo-soprano Sarah Kraus debuted with Opera Lancaster as Suzuki in Madama Butterfly, and with Ash Lawn Opera as Zweite Dame in Die Zauberflote and Mrs. Paroo in The Music Man. Sarah has performed with the Center for Contemporary Opera, creating Lisa in The Tin Angel, Des Moines Metro Opera as Maddalena in Rigoletto, Green Mountain Opera Festival as Flora in La Traviata, Tulsa Opera in the title role of Luisa Fernanda, and toured with Connecticut Opera as Dinah in Trouble in Tahiti and Opera Iowa as Dorabella in Cosi fan tutte. Ms. Kraus also sang for the Great American Voices Military Base Tour presented by the National Endowment for the Arts. Her other roles include Rosina from IL Barbiere di Siviglia, Lola in Cavalleria Rusticana, and the title role of Carmen. Sarah has won multiple awards in international competition, including prizes from the Metropolitan Opera National Council, Armel Opera Competition, Concorso Cappuccilli Patane Respighi, Gerda Lissner Foundation, Giulio Gari Foundation, and Maryland Opera Society.
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Margaret Pent Margaret Ann Pent
Production Concept & Design
The Founder and Artistic Director of Wichita Grand Opera, Ms. Pent is a soprano, stage director, and designer. As the first American to win Vienna's prestigious Mozart Opera Competition, she made her debut in Vienna as Zerbinetta in Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos at the Schonbrunn Palace Theater, followed by performances as Gilda in Rigoletto, Rosina in The Barber of Seville, and the title role in The Beautiful Galatea. Her American debut came as Matilda in Frank Corsaro's highly-acclaimed production of Rossini's William Tell at the San Antonio Festival. She designed and/or directed many of WGO's most notable productions, including WGO's landmark Carmen on the Lake (2003), Pagliacci (2006), Tosca (2007) and Faust (2008), both starring Samuel Ramey, Elixir of Love (2010), and The Merry Widow (2011). Last season she oversaw the production concept and design of Verdi's Il Trovatore. This season she creates the concept and design for Otello and The Marriage of Figaro.
Martin Mazik Martin Mazik
Martin Mazik is the principal conductor of the Slovakian National Opera in Bratislava. One of the busiest conductors in Europe, he is a regular guest conductor in opera houses throughout Germany, Austria, Spain, and Italy, plus several acclaimed guest appearances with the Tokyo Symphony. His repertoire spans over 45 operas and ballets, from well-known pieces such as La Boheme and Carmen to difficult works such as Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle and contemporary operas. In addition to his regular conducting duties, since January 2011 he has conducted four separate tours of Europe totaling over 130 performances. He made his U.S. debut with Wichita Grand Opera conducting Don Giovanni (2004), and since then he is the WGO's most frequent guest conductor, leading performances of Die Fledermaus (2005), Romeo and Juliet (2007), A Masked Ball (2007), La Boheme (2008), Faust (2008), The Barber of Seville (2009), The Elixir of Love (2010), and The Merry Widow (2011).
Shayna Leahy Shayna Leahy
Shayna Leahy returns to the WGO after directing last season's production of Il Trovatore. She has previously directed WGO's productions of Madama Butterfly (2010) and Aida (2009), and has worked both onstage and behind the scenes at the WGO since 2003. Ms. Leahy is an assistant director for Martina Arroyo's Prelude to Performance program in New York, and leads an innovative opera education initiative in collaboration with the WGO. Beginning in 2005, each year groups of university students intern in production departments and perform with the WGO, earning college credit for their experience. This unique program has garnered national attention, including being featured in the Summer 2008 issue of Opera America.
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It is said that Verdi was enraptured by the sound of the church organ, and to encourage his interest, his father bought him a beat-up old spinnet when the young maestro was seven years old. He enrolled in a music school in nearby Busetto in 1823, and in 1825, at only twelve years old, he was made assistant conductor of the Busetto orchestra. He left the school at the age of twenty, but by then was two years over the age limit to enter the Conservatory in Milan. It was in Milan that Verdi discovered opera, and he eagerly absorbed as many performances as he could attend, thus laying the groundwork for a future in theater music.
The newly enlightened Verdi returned to Busetto where he took up the post of town music master and began giving music lessons to Margherita Barezzi. Of course, Verdi and his protege fell deeply in love, and in May of 1836, they were married. It was in this initial period of wedded bliss, at the tender age of twenty three, that Verdi began to compose his first opera. It is rumored that the work was initially entitled Rochester and that the title was later changed to Oberto. Tragedy struck just as Verdi, encouraged by the relative success of Oberto, began work on his second opera, Un Giorno de Regno (A One-Day Reign). His infant son died suddenly of an unexplained illness followed shortly by his infant daughter. Months later, Margherita was struck with encephalitis and passed away shortly afterwards.
Un Giorno, which was – ironically – a comic opera, was a complete flop. With his entire family taken from him within a few short months and a failed opera hanging over his head, Verdi vowed to end his career before it had even begun. He was convinced by the impresario at La Scala to give it one more try with Nabucco, a libretto entailing the story of the Israelite plight at the hands of the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. The opening night of Nabucco was nothing short of a triumph. The Italians, who were living under Austrian rule, found a new hope in their native son, and Nabucco marked the beginning of Verdi's eternal fame.
Following Nabucco's wild success, Verdi spent the next decade writing prolifically and battling the artistic censorship of the Austrian rule. The fight against censorship was not the only rebellion Verdi became known for during this period. Around 1851, when he was 38, Verdi became romantically involved with Giuseppina Strepponi, a soprano who had been the jewel of many of his operas from Nabucco onward. He and Giuseppina lived together (a highly scandalous practice in the eyes of many) for nearly nine years before finally marrying in 1857.
It was around the time of his blossoming romance with Giuseppina that Verdi wrote and premiered Rigoletto—one of his greatest masterpieces. Rigoletto ushered in a new era for Verdi's music as he created one masterwork after another: Il Trovatore, La Traviata, and La forza del destino, to name a few. By this time, Verdi had become so famous, it was said that a letter addressed simply to "G. Verdi, Italy" would make it into the composer's mailbox.
Verdi's glorious music alone would have been enough to turn him into a veritable rock star of the era, but it was his unyielding nationalistic pride that made him a true icon to the Italian people, not only musically, but politically. At the close of each performance of a Verdi opera, the house shook with shouts of "Viva Verdi!" The shouting would continue until the crowd was forced from the building at which point, they would take to the streets, still shouting again and again into the night "Viva Verdi!" They weren't merely wishing long life on their national hero. "Viva Verdi" had become a secret code for the anti-Austrian current that was surging through the Italian people. What they were actually shouting was "Viva V.E.R.D.I.", or "Long live Vittorio Emanuele, Re di Italia (King of Italy)."
The death of another Italian operatic giant, Rossini, brought about a brief departure from opera for Verdi as he worked to compose a portion of a requiem to honor Rossini's memory. This eventually led to the completion of an entire Requiem which premiered in May, 1874. Before the Requiem, however, Verdi worked on and premiered Aida, a huge tour de force that proved, not surprisingly, to be an instant success. A lengthy period of semi-retirement was followed by his first new opera in nearly 16 years, Otello, and his final opera, Falstaff, which premiered in 1893. After Falstaff had run its course, Verdi escaped to a home in the country with his beloved Giuseppina where they dwelt in happy retirement until Giuseppina's death four years later. Grief-stricken, Verdi died four years later from a massive stroke, but not before he'd taken the time to construct a retirement home for aging musicians—an accomplishment he hailed as his "most beautiful work."
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