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Director, Erin Neff - "Rossini meets the Marx Brothers"

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Whenever I see a Rossini farce, I wish he were alive today so that I could call him when I am having a bad day and meet him and his librettist for drinks later.

He clearly understood the importance of laughter.  He has a wonderful way of acknowledging the complexity and subtlety of human nature, yet mocking everyone along the way for being human, and never, ever to be taken too seriously.  In the case of Il Signor Bruschino, now written 200 years ago, we see themes of parenthood, love, desire, marriage, and acceptance beautifully presented and consequently ridiculed.

I originally directed this show and co-conceptualized it with Allan Pollack at the Mendocino Music Festival.  In trying to be true to Rossini’s intention of this one act farce it is set in modern day where we combine the humor and physical comedy of the Marx Brothers with the musical genius of Gioachino Rossini

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Kelly Britt as Sophia in Rossini's Il Signor Bruschino

Kelly Britt reprises her role as Sophia in Rossini's comic romp of an opera, Il Signor Bruschino which she first performed at the Mendocino Music Festival.  Sofia and Florville (Darron Flagg) hatch a hare-brained scheme to get Guadenzio's (Kiril Havezov) permission to let them marry by passing off Florville as Bruschino Jr!

Kelly has performed professionally since 2011.  She is equally at home with operatic reportoire (Donna Anna, Micaëla, First Lady) as well as American Musical Theatre (Maria in The Sound of Music, Maria in West Side Story, Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls).

Much more about Kelly's repertoire can be found here.

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Mike Rogers stars as Michele in Puccini's tragedy Il Tabarro

Baritone Michael Rogers has had a 25-year career in the worlds of opera, oratorio and sacred concert music, beginning his career with the San Francisco Opera in 1989. He has performed prominent solo roles in Rigoletto, Carmen, Pagliacci, Tosca, La Forza del Destino, Un Ballo in Maschera, Acis and Galatea, Alcina, Undine, Le Villi and Stiffelio. He is a frequent oratorio soloist and has performed with oratorio and choral societies in the Bay Area and throughout California, incluidng the baritone solos in Orff's Carmina Burana with the San Francisco Choral Society, and Charpentier's Te Deum at the Grand Teton Music Festival in Jackson Hole, WY.

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Bojan Knezevic stars as the eponymous Bruschino Senior in ICO's production of Rossini's Il Signor Bruschino (Or, The Accidental Son)

 
Former Adler Fellow and Merola alumnus Bojan Knezevic made his San Francisco Opera debut as Marquis D’Obigny (La Traviata) in 1995 and has since appeared with the Company in a number of roles, including Harašta (The Cunning Little Vixen), Dulcamara (L’Elisir d’Amore), and most recently as Haly (L’Italiana in Algeri).

Career highlights include Frosch (Die Fledermaus) with Lyric Opera of Chicago; Scarpia (Tosca) with Mississippi Opera; Benoit and Alcindoro (La Bohème) with Vancouver Opera; Enrico Ashton (Lucia di Lammermoor) with Opera Santa Barbara; the Four Villains (Les Contes d’Hoffmann) with Sacramento Opera and Fort Worth Opera; Narumov (The Queen of Spades) with the National Symphony (Washington D.C.); and the title role of Le Nozze di Figaro with the New National Theatre in Tokyo. 
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Eileen Meredith stars as Giorgetta in ICO's production of Puccini's Il Tabarro

Eileen Meredith stars as Giorgetta, the pivotal figure in the fatal love-triangle at the heart of Puccini's Il Tabarro (The Cloak).

Eileen most recently appeared in the eponymous role in ICO's production of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, and is a member of the San Francisco Opera Chorus. 

 

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Ellen St Thomas directs Il Tabarro

Ellen St. Thomas will direct Island City Opera's production of Il Tabarro opening in March 2015 as one half of the double-bill Il Signor Bruschino and Il Tabarro.

Ellen also directed Virago Theatre's production of Il Trovatore in January 2014.  Her contribution to that production was a critical part of the success of opera at Virago and the decision to spin off opera production to its own company.  

Ellen is engaged in nearly every aspect of music and performance.  As an expressive lyric soprano, she has performed in concerts and shows across the Bay Area.  She has also lent her voice to cartoon characters for episodes of Madeline and Inspector Gadget for Dic Entertainment.  In addition to Il Trovatore for Virago Theatre, opera directing credits include La Boheme and Rachmoninoff’s Aleko for the Russian Center.  She is also a versatile producer with credits in TV/film and live performances.  Finally, she is a voice teacher at the Alameda School of Music, and has lead youth choruses in the Mountain View School District.  

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Kiril Havezov pulls double duty in Rossini's Mr. Bruschino (The Accidental Son) and Puccini's Il Tabarro (The Cloak)

Kiril Havezov makes his Island City Opera debut as Gaudenzio, in Il Signor Bruschino and Talpa in Il Tabarro.

A native of Sofia, Bulgaria Kiril recently made his U.S. debut singing the roles of Monterone (Rigoletto) and Haly (l'Italiana in Algeri) with Opera San Jose..

Since 2007, Mr. Havezov has performed regularly with the Sofia National Opera, the Bulgarian National Music Theatre, as well as some of the largest opera theatres in Bulgaria. Roles performed recently include the Count (The Marriage of Figaro) with  Opera Art Lirica (touring in China), Zupan  (The Gypsy Baron), and Cascada inThe Merry Widow.  

He appeared as Gasparo in Rita with National Music Theater and performed the roles of Hermann in Les Contes d’Hoffmann and Sonora in La Fanciulla del West  with the National Opera and Ballet –both in Sofia, Bulgaria. For the State Opera of  Stara Zagora, he appeared as Sharpless (Madama Butterfly), and performed the roles of Belcore  (L’elisir d’Amore) and Selim Pasha (Die Entführung aus dem Serail) with State Opera of Ruse.

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Darron Flagg as Florville in Rossini's Il Signor Bruschino

Darron Flagg makes his Island City Opera debut as Florville in ICO's production of Rossini's comic romp of an opera, Il Signor Bruschino.  Sofia and Florville hatch a hare-brained scheme to get Guadenzio's (Kiril Havezov) permission to let them marry by passing off Florville as Bruschino Jr!

Darron’s celebrated performances of the treacherously difficult title role in Rossini’s comedic masterpiece Le Conte D’Ory as well as his portrayal of the Honorable Elijah Mohammed in a 2006 production of Anthony Davis’ “Life and Times of Malcolm X” have cemented his reputation in contemporary and bel canto roles.

Much more about Darron's work can be found here.
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Michael Belle stars as Luigi in Puccini's Il Tabarro (The Cloak)

Michael Belle made his Island City Opera debut earlier this season in the role of Normanno, in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor.

Michael Belle is a tenured member of the San Francisco Opera chorus.  His recent credits include lead roles in Il barbiere di SivigliaLe nozze di FigaroDie Fledermaus,Die ZauberflöteRagtimeYeomen of the GuardH.M.S. PinaforeThe Grand DukeTreemonishaLa Cenerentola,FalstaffThe Merry Widow, and The Threepenny Opera, and in 2008 he debuted as a soloist in Porgy and Bess at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Michael currently teaches in San Francisco Opera Guild’s Opera à la Carte program.

 


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Michael Shahani conducts Tabarro/Bruschino

This is MICHAEL SHAHANI’s first production with Island City Opera.  He has conducted more than 350 performances of more than 70 different operas and musicals, as well as several orchestras and choirs in dozens of concerts.  He has conducted most of the City Summer Opera and City College of San Francisco’s productions since 1989 including Kurt Weill's The Silverlake (U.S. premier), The Threepenny Opera (original version San Francisco premier), and Happy End (San Francisco premier), Ernst Bacon's A Tree on the Plains (world premier), Britten’s Paul Bunyan (San Francisco premier), Sondheim’s Assassins (San Francisco premier), Robert X. Rodriguez’s Frida (West Coast premier), K. A. Hartmann’s Simplicius! (U.S. premier), and Gordon Getty’s Plump Jack (world premier complete staged version). 

He founded the Moraga Chamber and Hesperian Ensemble orchestras.  He has conducted for Lyric Theatre of San Jose, Contra Costa Musical Theater for which he won a Shellie Award for Outstanding Musical Director, and has been a regular conductor for Verismo Opera, conducting fully staged productions of Rigoletto, Carmen, Madama Butterfly, Das Rheingold, Un Ballo in Maschera, La Boheme, and most notably, Die Walküre.  He conducts the City College of San Francisco Masterworks Chorale and the Cinnabar Singers in Petaluma.  He has been a guest conductor with the Varna Philharmonic, Pleven Philharmonic, and Rousse Philharmonic orchestras in Bulgaria, the China Film Philharmonic in Beijing, the Orquestra Sinfonica de Londrina in Brazil, and the San Francisco Concerto Orchestra.  

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Alexander Boyer as Edgardo Ravenswood in Lucia di Lammermooor

Alexander Boyer performed the role of the heroic Manrico in last year's production of Il Trovatore.  This January, Alex brings his powerful, soaring tenor voice to the role of Edgardo Ravenswood in Lucia di Lammermoor.

During his residency at Opera San José, Alexander Boyer performed the roles of Nadir (The Pearl Fishers), Eisenstein (Die Fledermaus), Manrico (Il trovatore), Rinuccio (Gianni Schicchi),the title role in the company premiere of Mozart’s Idomeneo,Canio (Pagliacci), Alfredo (La traviata) and the title role in Faust. Other roles performed for the company included Konstantin Levin (Anna Karenina), Mario Cavaradossi (Tosca) and Rodolfo(La bohème.) Previous seasons have featured Mr. Boyer as Des Grieux (Manon), Ruggero (La rondine), Nemorino (The Elixir of Love), Ferrando (Così fan tutte), and Don José (Carmen).  

A New York native, Mr. Boyer holds degrees from Boston University and Manhattan School of Music. He has sung the roles Arkady in Lee Hoiby’s A Month in the Country, the Chevalier de la Force (Dialogues des Carmelites), Alfredo (La traviata), and Luigi (Il tabarro). He has participated in the Merola and Santa Fe Opera programs, and is a winner of the Mario Lanza scholarship award.

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Olivia Stapp directs Lucia di Lammermooor

Internationally acclaimed soprano and director Olivia Stapp will direct Island City Opera’s production of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor.  Ms. Stapp has directed a broad range of productions for leading Bay Area opera companies including Festival Opera, Opera San Jose and Camera de Opera of Berkeley..

Ms. Stapp’s contributions to Virago Theatre’s productions of Don Giovanni and Il Trovatore were critical to their success and the subsequent launch of Island City Opera.

Prior to becoming a director, Ms. Stapp received the Fulbright Scholarship for vocal and theatre study.  After winning the La Scala Competition for Young Singers, she took on a position as a permanent artist at the Berlin Deutsche Opera, performing leading roles in such operas as Orpheo, Der Rosenkavalier, Carmen, and Don Carlo.  After taking time off to raise her son, Ms. Stapp returned to the stage as a dramatic soprano, performing leading roles in Tosca, Elektra, Lady Macbeth, Turandot, Nabucco, Salome, Anna Bolena and Norma in major theatres throughout Europe and the United States.,

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Robert Ashens conducts Lucia di Lammermooor

San Francisco-based musician, Robert Ashens, is Music Director and Conductor of Island City Opera’s production of Lucia di Lammermoor. Robert's distinguished career as pianist and conductor has brought him to many world capitols. He is Artistic Director / co-founder of West Coast Opera (Opera Oregon). He recently debuted with Berkeley, Anchorage and Golden Gate Opera companies and he co-founded the Johann Strauss Society of America..

Robert also conducted Il Trovatore for Virago Theatre. The success of that production prompted the launch of Island City Opera.

The Maestro also conducts ballet and symphonic works with companies internationally. This summer he returns to Eugene for Sound of Music (Shedd Institute’s OFAM), Anchorage (with Eugene Ballet’s Nutcracker) and Anchorage Opera’s Macbeth and Sound of Music.

Maestro Ashens has toured nationally as conductor with the Broadway companies of A Chorus Line and Jesus Christ Superstar, premiered many new works of both Broadway and Opera and maintains a monthly program, "West Coast Opera Presents Opera Night at Servino’s" in Tiburon.

With a repertoire of over one hundred operas, he has conducted to great acclaim for regional opera companies throughout the United States and in many major cities of Europe especially in Italy. He has also accompanied many opera luminaries in concert. Ashens is in constant demand as a lecturer, accompanist and program director for concerts and recitals nationwide.

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Blacksmith Cellars featured wine for Opening Night 'Promotore' table seating  

Island City Opera is delighted to feature Blacksmith Cellars wines at each Friday evening performance, including Opening Night of Lucia di Lammermoor on Friday, January 16th at 7:30pm.  Every Friday evening performance features 'Promotore' Table seating with food and drinks including Blacksmith Cellars wine.  Blacksmith Cellars has generously donated two bottles for each table.

"We are grateful to Matt Smith and Blacksmith Cellars for their support of Island City Opera", said Robert Boyd, a member of ICO's Board of Directors.  "We'll match Matt's great artistry and craftsmanship in wine with great artistry and craftsmanship in our music.  It will be a perfect complement to a great evening of entertainment."   

Promotore table seating is limited to 5 tables for each performance.  General admission seating is available for all performances.

 


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Packed to the rafters at Island City Opera House Party

Island City Opera supporters packed Nancy Gordon's lovely Victorian home and gardens in Alameda on September 13th, to hear great music provided by Island City Opera and partake of great food provided by Asena Restaurant.

Eileen Meredith serenaded the last days of summer with Gershwin's "Summertime" and brought tears with "Un bel di" from Madama Butterfly.  Ray Chavez performed "No puede ser" as well as selections from West Side Story.  Shawnette Sulker was the queen of the afternoon with the Queen of the Night aria ("Der Holle Rache") from Mozart's Magic Flute.  Ellen St. Thomas performed the always popular "O, mio babino caro" from Gianni Schicchi.  Robert Ashens entertained everyone with flawless accompaniment and funny stories too.

A wonderful show of support for great opera in Alameda.  Click here for more pictures.  Video coming soon.

 


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Island City Opera's July House Party

Here's a peek into Island City Opera's House Party in July, at the home of Susan and Jeff Dunn.  ICO performers and supporters gathered for an intimate concert of requested favorites.

Eileen Meredith graces us with 'Chi il bel sogno' from La Rondine by G. Puccini.

Buffy Baggott plays Rosina from 'Il barbieri di Siviglia' by G. Rossini as she sings 'Una voce poco fa'.

Alex Boyer breaks hearts with Frederico's lament, "E la solita storia del pastore" from the opera L'arlesiana by Francesco Cilea.

Maestro Robert Ashens accompanies on the piano and adds his own beautiful rendition of 'Piano Fantasy on Nessun Dorma'.

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ICO's first annual Opera in the Park

400 Alamedans enjoyed Opera al Fresco in Alameda's Franklin Park, Saturday, August 2, 2014.

Buffy Baggott sang 'Habanera' from Carmen.  Ray Chavez wowed the audience with 'Granada' and 'E Lucevan Le Stelle'.  And, Paul Cheak performed 'Warm as the Autumn Light' from the Ballad of Baby Doe by Douglas Moore.

For great pictures see the Mercury News.

And, for English translations of Saturday's selections, see our Opera-in-the-Park page.



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