Lyric Opera Baltimore reveals details on casting, conducting for two-production season in Spring 2016.
Lyric Opera Baltimore's most recent production was Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" in November, the only work the company could afford to present last season. For 2015-2016, there will be two stagings, though not until the second half of the season — Rossini's bubbly comedy "The Barber of Seville" in March; Gounod's "Romeo et Juliette," based on the Shakespeare tragedy, in May.
Both productions, featuring young, promising casts, will be presented at the Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric. This will be the company's fifth season.
"We are being very careful with finances," said Lyric Opera Baltimore artistic director James Harp. "We didn't want to proceed until we had the means to do so."
There will be opera in the fall at the Modell-Lyric from another source — a production from Peabody Opera Theater of Kurt Weill's "Street Scene" from 1946, an opera-musical theater hybrid set in a New York tenement. Performances will be Nov. 13 and 15.
Cleaveland Miller, chairman of the Lyric Foundation, said that plans are underway to assure Lyric Opera's future.
"I feel pretty comfortable that we have enough financial commitments now for this year and two years after that," Miller said. "Things are looking pretty good."
The foundation's three-year commitment will make planning much easier, Harp said. The delay in putting together a 2015-2016 season meant that the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra was unavailable to collaborate with the company, as it has been doing since the launch of Lyric Opera in 2011 after the demise of the 58-year-old Baltimore Opera Company in 2009.
Concert Artists of Baltimore will perform for the Rossini and Gounod works next season.
"We are very happy to have Concert Artists," Harp said. "But we are definitely still in conversation with the BSO about future seasons. There are discussions going on about engaging [BSO music director] Marin Alsop as well."
If Alsop does conduct a Lyric Opera production one day, she will not be making history at the Modell-Lyric. The first female to conduct an opera there will be Sara Jobin, scheduled to lead Lyric Opera's "Barber of Seville." (Jobin also broke the glass ceiling at San Francisco Opera in 2004.)
"It's about time we had a female conductor here," Harp said. "It was very important for me to do that."
Heading the "Barber" cast will be Steven LaBrie as Figaro. The up-and-coming baritone has sung with such companies as Dallas Opera, Washington National Opera (a memorable Schaunard in Puccini's "La boheme" last season) and Wolf Trap Opera, among others. He has also been duly noted by the cheeky Web site Barihunks.
Rising tenor Alek Shrader will sing the role of Almaviva, one of the roles he has performed at the Metropolitan Opera since making his heralded debut there in Thomas Ades' "The Tempest" in 2012. Also featured will be mezzo Emily Fons as Rosina; she has been building an impressive resume at significant American companies.
The well-traveled production, which originated at Minnesota Opera in 1990, will be directed by Baltimore native Jeffrey Buchman, an alum of Baltimore School for the Arts and the Peabody Institute.
"The Barber of Seville" will be performed March 11 and 13.
"Romeo et Juliette" will be presented in a new co-production with Opera Carolina, Toledo Opera and Opera Grand Rapids.
Singing the role of Juliette will be soprano Sarah Joy Miller, who made waves in the title role of Mark-Anthony Turnage's "Anna Nicole," about the late celeb Anna Nicole Smith, in 2013 at New York City Opera. Romeo will be sung by tenor Jonathan Boyd; his past Baltimore appearances include an impressive Tamino in the BSO's semi-staging of Mozart's "Magic Flute" in 2011.
The conductor will be Adam Turner, who delivered a terrific account of Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd" for Virginia Opera last fall.
Performances of "Romeo et Juliette" will be May 13 and 15.
Lyric Opera will offer a free season preview concert Oct. 25.