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'Bastianello' and 'Lucrezia' Launch Opera Season

“The Grapes of Wrath” and “The Coronation of Poppea” also on schedule

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The Midwest premiere of “Bastianello” and “Lucrezia” -- two amusing one-act works -- in November; the Chicago premiere of “The Grapes of Wrath,” starring guest baritone Robert Orth, in February; and Monteverdi’s “L’incoronazione di Poppea” (“The Coronation of Poppea”) next May, will bring humor, drama and ancient Roman history to the stage during Northwestern University’s 2012-13 opera season.

Presented by the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music, all three productions will be directed by Michael M. Ehrman, artist-in-residence and director of opera at the Bienen School.

Northwestern Opera Theater’s fall, winter and spring performances will take place in Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson St., on Northwestern’s Evanston Campus.

• Fall 2012 Opera

Northwestern’s Midwest premiere and first fully-staged production of “Bastianello” and “Lucrezia” -- two English-language chamber operas -- will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11. Both productions take a lighthearted look at love and marriage and feature librettos by Mark Campbell, one of opera’s most sought-after librettists. Both productions on this new double bill were commissioned by the New York Festival of Song at Carnegie Hall and written for a five-member cast with twin-piano accompaniment. A “Meet-the-Composers Q&A” session will follow the November performances.

“Bastianello,” featuring music by American composer and pianist John Musto, is based on an 18th-century Italian folk tale. Set in rural Italy, “Bastianello” is the story of a bridegroom who, infuriated by his new wife’s carelessness at letting the wine run out during their wedding celebration, sets off in search of six people more foolish than his bride.

“Lucrezia,” with music by Pulitzer Prize- and multi-Grammy Award-winning composer William Bolcom, is set in Argentina and based on Machiavelli’s “La Mandragola.” It tells the tale of a man who plots to woo a beautiful married woman through a series of disguises and a magic potion.

Tickets are $8 for the general public and $5 for students and are available for purchase.

• Winter 2012 Opera

Performances of Northwestern Opera Theater’s Chicago-area premiere of “The Grapes of Wrath,” an opera based on John Steinbeck’s 1939 novel, take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22; 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28; and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 2.

“The Grapes of Wrath” follows members of the Joad family as they travel from Dust Bowl-ravaged Oklahoma to California in search of a better life. Ricky Ian Gordon’s score, heavily influenced by American popular music of the 1920s and 1930s, is paired with a libretto from Tony Award-nominated lyricist and librettist Michael Korie. Commissioned in 2007 by the Minnesota Opera, the work made its concert premiere in New York at Carnegie Hall in 2010, performed by The Collegiate Chorale with narration by actress Jane Fonda.

Northwestern’s Winter 2013 production will feature a cast of approximately 60 students and include guest baritone Robert Orth, who will reprise the role of Uncle John he sang in the opera’s 2007 premiere. Orth is a leading vocalist with major opera companies in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra director Hal France, a specialist in contemporary American repertoire and a Northwestern University alumnus, is the music director. Set designer Collette Pollard, whose many credits include sets for Writers’ Theatre, Drury Lane Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre and the Goodman Theatre, is a Northwestern alumna.

Tickets, which will go on sale in mid-November, are $18 for the general public and $8 for students.

• Spring 2013 Opera

Claudio Monteverdi’s Baroque opera “L’incoronazione di Poppea” (“The Coronation of Poppea”), with libretto by Giovanni Francesco Busenello, will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 24 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 25. It will be sung in Italian with English supertitles. Northwestern senior lecturer Stephen Alltop will serve as music director.

“L’incoronazione di Poppea” is one of the first operas to portray historical events and actual people rather than classical mythology. It redefined the boundaries of theatrical productions and established Monteverdi as a prominent musical dramatist of the 17th century. In “L’incoronazione di Poppea,” Poppea, the mistress of Emperor Nerone, is determined to ascend the throne -- whatever the costs. This story of love, deception, murder and betrayal is as relevant today as in Monteverdi’s time. Tickets are $15 for the general public and $6 for students and will go on sale in mid-February. 

• Michael M. Ehrman

Bienen School opera director Michael M. Ehrman has directed productions at the Houston Grand Opera, Greater Miami Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Minnesota Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Colorado’s Central City Opera and Chicago Opera Theater, as well as an acclaimed concert performance of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” at Ravinia this past August.

For more information, call the Pick-Staiger Concert Office at (847) 491-5441 or visit To order tickets call the Pick-Staiger Ticket Office at (847) 467-4000 or visit For information regarding construction, visit