Opera Unbound

Arizona Opera Charts a New Course Without Glynn Ross.

By Margaret Regan

MICHAEL CAVANAGH SAYS he knows that "all eyes are already on me." That's because Cavanagh is directing the first Arizona Opera production mounted since the departure of the company's longtime artistic director, Glynn Ross.

Ross' season stands as planned--the opening opera, Lucia di Lammermoor, the 1835 blood-soaked Donizetti tragedy based on a Scottish gothic novel by Sir Walter Scott, was Ross' choice--but new general director David Speers re-auditioned singers for every part in each of this season's productions. According to an Arizona Opera spokeswoman, Speers canceled 80 percent of the contracts Ross had signed with singers and directors.

Review Cavanagh, a Canadian who has worked with fellow Canadian Speers in Calgary, was one of the replacements. The new artistic director of the Edmonton Opera, Cavanagh directed La Cenerentola and The Barber of Seville for Speers, and "had big successes with those shows." At 37, Cavanagh is a new-generation director who favors naturalistic acting. He can't stand the older opera style, which has choruses marching mechanically on and off the stage, or two lovers singing stiffly of their passions while never getting around to looking each other in the face.

"My philosophy is that there are no small characters," Cavanagh said last week during a rehearsal break. "...Even those who are not on the stage for very long. The piece has to be real, to come alive, to make a connection to a modern audience. It's theatre, nothing more, nothing less...I don't want Lucia to be a 16th-century woman: I want the singer to be herself in those circumstances, to act as though her lover is leaving her."

Cavanagh has three weeks to work with the performers, rather than the two allotted under Ross. Jane Giering-DeHaan, veteran of Houston, Seattle and Florence opera productions, alternates Lucia's soprano part with Constance Haumann, who's sung in Santa Fe, New York City Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago. The tenor role of Lucia's hapless lover Edgardo is sung by Brian Nedvin, another Edmonton veteran who's also worked the Chicago, Washington and Virginia operas; and Michael Rees Davis, who's sung with the Metropolitan, Florida, Dallas and Bonn operas, among others.

Cavanagh praised the singers, noting that opera is "sung theatre. But they've got to be singer-actors, hyphenated. We've got a conductor here (Cal Stewart Kellogg) who is terrific about drawing the drama out of the music...There's a lot to the story. It's not just about great tunes, great singing. Opera means 'the works,' and that's what we're giving."

Arizona Opera presents Lucia de Lammermoor at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, October 9 and 10, and 2 p.m. Sunday, October 11, at the TCC Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave. Tickets are $15, $30, $46 and $61 for the Friday evening and Sunday matinee performances; and $17, $32, $48 and $65 for Saturday. Tickets are available at the Dillard's at TCC box offices, or through the opera company at 293-4336. TW

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