Pensacola Opera is returning to the historic Saenger Theatre for its 41st season mainstage productions with a packed schedule of crowd-favorite performances and community events.
Chandra McKern, general director for Pensacola Opera, and Corey McKern, artistic director for Pensacola Opera, are professionally trained opera singers who have performed at the famous Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
“Our 41st Anniversary season promises to delight our current attendees and welcome new audiences with two classic opera productions, innovative special events, and some of the most exciting voices working in opera today,” Chandra said.
“We are bringing in two world class directors this year who have a combined 80 years plus in the opera business,” Corey said. “Both Lucia di Lammermoor) and Die Fledermaus are full of excellent, challenging music and have great stories. With these directors and our excellent casts, I have no doubt our audience can expect world class operas in our lovely small town.”
Pensacola Opera will open their 41st season with Gaetano Donizetti’s Italian bel canto opera Lucia. With performances on January 26 and 28, this dramatic powerhouse makes its return to the Saenger stage.
Lucia follows Lucia Ashton, who is madly in love with Edgardo, leader of the Ravenswoods, her family’s fiercest political enemies. However, to save their family from poverty, her brother Enrico has already arranged her marriage to Lord Arturo Bucklaw. Caught in the middle of the two rival families, Lucia loses her strength and descends into madness, leading to the opera’s tragic conclusion. Donizetti’s beautifully tumultuous score is highlighted by the iconic “Mad Scene,” an extended, virtuosic showpiece made famous by sopranos such as Joan Sutherland, Maria Callas and Beverly Sills.
Lucia features an exciting all-debut cast of professional artists, including singers from Pensacola Opera’s own Jan Miller Studio Artist program. Starring as Lucia is soprano Abigail Rethwisch, playing opposite Andrew Morstein as Lucia’s true love, Edgardo. Bass-baritone Richard Ollarsaba plays Lucia’s brother Enrico who arranges her marriage with Lord Arturo Bucklaw, played by renowned tenor and teacher Jason Ferrante. The cast is rounded out by mezzo-soprano Alexandra Sanchez as Alisa, tenor Zachary Taylor as Normanno and bass Anthony Reed as Raimondo.
The Pensacola Symphony Orchestra will be conducted by Cody Martin, with director Dona D. Vaughn making her mainstage directorial debut with Pensacola Opera.
Pensacola Opera’s 41st season will close with Johann Strauss II’s effervescent and always entertaining German operetta, Die Fledermaus. Gabriel von Eisenstein finds himself at Prince Orlofsky’s elaborate masquerade ball, along with his wife Rosalinde, their maid Adele and his friend, Dr. Falke. The catch? They’re all concealing their identities as part of an elaborate prank of light-hearted revenge. Just as things begin to unravel, all is revealed and the characters accept their bamboozlement, raising a toast to champagne’s delicious pleasures. With nonstop laughs from start to finish, Die Fledermaus has become one of the most wellknown and beloved German operettas of all time.
Returning soprano Kara Shay Thomson stars as Rosalinde with baritone Daniel Belcher making his Pensacola Opera debut as Gabriel von Eisenstein. Also making their debuts are Christian Sanders as Alfred, studio artist soprano Nicole Heinen as Adele and studio artist Bernardo Medeiros as Frank. Returning to the Saenger stage are studio artist alumnus baritone Scott Lee as Dr. Falke and mezzo-soprano Kayla Nanto as Prince Orlofsky. The show also features studio artists, tenor Zachary Taylor as Dr. Blind, mezzo-soprano Alexandra Sanchez as Sally and Joe Tomko as Frosch.
Leading the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra is Principal Guest Conductor, Jerome Shannon, with stage direction by John Hoomes of Nashville Opera.
Pensacola Opera offers a variety of other ways to enhance the opera experience through numerous outreach events, annual fundraisers and other social events held throughout the year.
Immediately following opening night performances, Pensacola Opera hosts a Meet the Artist Reception at the Saenger Theatre in the upstairs event room. This reception includes a catered meal, drinks and cocktails, desserts and also provides an opportunity to mix and mingle with the stars of the show.
Prior to the Sunday matinee performances, opera patrons are invited to Jackson’s Steakhouse for a special Director’s Champagne Brunch. This specially crafted meal includes a gourmet menu by the chef of Jackson’s, bottomless mimosas and a lively introduction to the show by a member of the Pensacola Opera artistic staff. Tickets to these events are $50 each.
While grand opera performances happen on the Saenger stage every season, a big part of Pensacola Opera’s mission is to bring opera outside the walls of the theater and into the community. Brown Bag Opera and Opera Al Fresco are two of these programs that offer opportunities to experience opera in a familiar, digestible setting at no cost.
Brown Bag Opera is a monthly recital series where the community is invited to spend their lunch hour with Pensacola Opera. Each month from September to March, the Jan Miller Studio Artists provide a free, 45-minute recital of favorite arias and musical theater pieces while you enjoy your lunch. Brown Bag Opera recitals will be held January 30, and February 20 at noon at the Pensacola Opera Center in downtown Pensacola.
Opera Al Fresco is a special pop-up concert series that brings live music to parks and green spaces throughout the city using the Opera’s StageMobile, which was secured through an IMPACT100 grant. This mobile stage can bring an elevated performance space to almost anywhere. The next Opera Al Fresco is February 10 at the Rev. H.K. Matthews Park in Pensacola. Visit pensacolaopera.com for more information on upcoming outreach events.
Tickets to Pensacola Opera’s 41st mainstage productions start at $25 and can be purchased online at ticketmaster.com, by calling (850) 433-6737 or in-person at the Opera located at 75. S. Tarragona St. in downtown Pensacola. Pensacola Opera is open Monday through Friday, from 9 am to 5 pm. For more information on upcoming opera events and productions, visit pensacolaopera.com.