SALT LAKE CITY — Just over a week ago, Utah Opera finished telling the story of Capt. Ahab and his vengeance-ridden voyage to track down the white whale Moby-Dick. The company’s staging of the modern opera indicates that in its 40th season, Utah Opera is beginning to embrace a new wave of opera while still honoring more traditional productions, such as Giacomo Puccini’s “La Boheme.”
Today, Utah Opera’s announcement of its 2018-19 season suggests that the company plans to keep moving forward on this path, as one of its four productions will be the Utah premiere of the 2003 opera “The Little Prince” — an adaptation of the 1943 children’s book by French author Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
“A great opera season features the cherished and familiar mixed with the opportunity for discovery, and Utah Opera’s 2018-19 season meets these marks,” said Christopher McBeth, Utah Opera’s artistic director, in a news release. “The presentation I am particularly excited to share with our audiences is the operatic setting of the beloved children’s novel, ‘The Little Prince,’ composed by famed film score composer Rachel Portman. It is going to be a special season indeed!”
But before diving into the story of an out-of-this-world young prince and a stranded pilot, Utah Opera will open its 41st season Oct. 13, 2018, with Charles Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliet,” a 19th-century adaptation of the William Shakespeare classic. The company last performed “Romeo and Juliet” in 2005, and faithful Utah Opera attendees will recognize next season’s Romeo, portrayed by tenor Joshua Dennis, who made his Utah Opera debut last month as Greenhorn (Ishmael) in “Moby-Dick.”
Following “Romeo and Juliet,” Utah Opera will shift closer to the present day in January 2019 with its staging of “The Little Prince” — featuring a new production built by Utah Opera Production Studios, according to the release. Playwright Nicholas Wright wrote the English libretto with music from Academy Award-winning film composer Rachel Portman (“Emma,” “Chocolat”). A chorister from The Madeleine Choir School will play the part of the Little Prince, with choristers from the school forming the opera’s chorus.
In March 2019, Utah Opera will bring to life Mozart’s iconic “The Magic Flute,” to be conducted by Utah Symphony music director Thierry Fischer. The company performed the opera six years earlier, and playing the role of the Queen of the Night this time around is Utah native Celena Shafer, whose dynamic personality and strong soprano voice won audiences over earlier in 2017's “La Boheme.”
Utah Opera’s 2018-19 season will conclude with a two-night performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s opera “Norma,” to be semi-staged at Abravanel Hall in May 2019 as Capitol Theatre undergoes renovations. The company will build a new production in-house, featuring costumes designed by season 12 “Project Runway” finalist Bradon McDonald.Comment on this story
“Building on the homegrown success of ‘Moby-Dick,’ I am very happy that we are drawing again on the skilled resources of the Utah Opera Production Studios to create two new productions in the 2018-19 season,” Utah Symphony and Utah Opera CEO Paul Meecham stated in the release. “Further, we are increasing our focus on opera as a family night out, with two operas (‘The Magic Flute’ and ‘The Little Prince’) that will have special appeal to families, and midweek evening performances now starting at 7 p.m.”
This emphasis on family is part of Utah Opera and Utah Symphony’s recent initiative to expand audiences by encouraging families to attend performances together. In Winter 2017, the organization established the Family Pass, allowing for a family of four to attend select performances for $30. Additionally, a Kids Club will launch in spring 2018, according to the release, giving children opportunities to further engage in Utah’s performing arts scene.