St. Louis (April 24, 2017) – Legendary American soprano Patricia Racette will expand her celebrated operatic career by making her debut as a stage director in May 2018 at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Ms. Racette will direct an all-new production of Verdi’s La traviata, featuring sets by Laura Jellinek, costumes by Kaye Voyce, and lighting by Christopher Ackerlind.
Ms. Racette, a consummate artist who has performed leading roles at major opera houses around the world, most notably as a favorite of the Metropolitan Opera and the San Francisco Opera, is best known as one of today’s most renowned singing actresses. Her captivating portrayals of heroines from the height of Italian opera and her fearless performances in major new American operas have won worldwide acclaim. As The Huffington Post has noted, “In this moment, Patricia Racette commands the stage with an authority that is reminiscent of Tebaldi and Callas… Racette suspends time and transports the witness to rare heights of lyrical enchantment.”
Ms. Racette’s recent performances include the title role in Salome at the Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles Opera, and Pittsburgh Opera, as well as her role debut in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk with the English National Opera, and celebrated performances as Giorgetta in Il tabarro with Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and Minnie in La fanciulla del West at The Santa Fe Opera.
Her new production of La traviata will open at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis on May 19, 2018 and will receive eight performances through June 23, 2018. The production will feature soprano Sydney Mancasola and tenor Geoffrey Agpalo, two former OTSL Gerdine Young Artists, as Violetta and Alfredo, with Joo Wan Kang making his OTSL debut as Germont. Christopher Allen will conduct. La traviata marks Ms. Racette’s return to OTSL, where she appeared early in her career as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni in 1993 and in the title role in 1994’s Iphigenia in Tauris. Both were important opportunities for Ms. Racette, who would then make her Metropolitan Opera debut in La bohème in 1995.
In addition to her continuing her own performance engagements, her debut as a stage director follows a gradual expansion of her career, including her increasing role as a much-sought after master class artist. Most recently, she piloted an intensive seminar with the San Francisco Conservatory called “Integrative Artistry” in January 2017. Thanks to this highly successful pilot, there are now plans for the program to be presented in a number of cities across the United States in the year to come. The seminar’s mission is to help artists better draw upon their uniquely personal interpretive thumbprint as they bring to life the story of each character they portray. It is this same philosophy that Ms. Racette plans to incorporate into her directorial vision for La traviata.
“For me, La traviata in its purest form is a story encompassing the tumults of love marked by beauty, passion, and sacrifice alongside the ever-present struggle to maintain honor and true nobility of character. I so look forward to collaborating and discovering what each one of these talented young singers has to say as they reveal their unique imprints on this indelible and timeless story,” Ms. Racette commented on the upcoming production.
Opera Theatre has a well-known track record of introducing audiences to extraordinary singers with major performance debuts. By engaging Ms. Racette for her directorial debut, the company continues its long history of also launching other artists into new creative roles in opera. OTSL provided American debuts for stage directors Jonathan Miller and Graham Vick, for example, and provided early opportunities for such stage directors as Robert Carsen, Mark Lamos, Nic Muni, Stephen Wadsworth, and Francesca Zambello. More recently, the company has offered the acclaimed directorial debut of designer Isaac Mizrahi (A Little Night Music, 2010), the first opera from Grammy Award-winning composer Terence Blanchard and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Michael Cristofer (Champion, 2013), and the first opera libretto by Pulitzer finalist Rajiv Joseph (Shalimar the Clown, 2016).
“We are thrilled that Patricia Racette is returning to Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, and we are simply honored to be presenting her debut as a stage director,” said Timothy O’Leary, OTSL’s General Director. “I have been deeply moved by her performances onstage over the years, and it is now a special privilege to be collaborating in this new way.”
Opera Theatre’s Artistic Director James Robinson commented, “I have had the enormous pleasure of directing Patricia over the years, and the one thing that always struck me was just how completely aware she is of all the inner workings of staging an opera, from scenery to lights to costumes to how a scene is constructed and executed. I have also seen Patricia working with young singers in masterclass settings where her ability to communicate and inspire is nothing short of – well – ‘directorial.’ So it was perfectly natural that I asked if she might want to expand the great work she is already doing as a singer and take on her first directing assignment. She confided that this is something she had been thinking about for a while and enthusiastically said yes.”
Ms. Racette added, “My collaborations with James Robinson over the years have confirmed that he not only has the eye of a director but the heart and mind of a true musician. His style of collaborative inclusion has been – and continues to be – the cornerstone of my respect and enthusiasm for his work. I will always happily be on my 'usual side' of the stage with him in the director's chair, and I am thrilled that he had the idea to welcome me into the realm of a director!”
La traviata is part of Opera Theatre’s 2018 Festival Season. OTSL has previously announced one other title in the upcoming season, Huang Ruo and David Henry Hwang’s An American Soldier, which will have its world premiere as a full-length two-act opera after being initially presented as a one-hour chamber opera as part of Washington National Opera’s American Opera Initiative. The other operas in the season will be announced in May 2017 when tickets for the new season go on sale.
Opera Theatre’s 2017 Festival Season runs from May 20 – June 25, 2017, and features Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, a new performing version of Ricky Ian Gordon and Michael Korie’s The Grapes of Wrath, the American premiere of Philip Glass and Christopher Hampton’s The Trial, Mozart’s Titus (La clemenza di Tito), and the young artist concert Center Stage, which this year will honor the legacy of Music Director Stephen Lord as he prepares to become Music Director Emeritus. Tickets and information are available online at ExperienceOpera.org or by phone at (314) 961-0644.
About Patricia Racette
Soprano Patricia Racette has appeared in the most acclaimed opera houses of the world including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Canadian Opera Company, Royal Opera House, La Scala, Paris Opera, Theater an der Wien, Teatro Liceu, and the Bayerische Staatsoper. Established as a great interpreter of Janáček and Puccini, she has gained particular acclaim for her portrayals of the title roles of Madama Butterfly, Tosca, Jenufa, Kátya Kabanová, and all three lead soprano roles in Il Trittico. Her repertory now expands to include triumphant portrayals of Strauss’s Salome, Minnie in La Fancuilla del West, Katerina in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, and Elle in La voix humaine. She has been a favorite on The Met: Live in HD series as both leading lady in Madama Butterfly, Tosca, and Peter Grimes as well as the celebrated host for multiple other productions.
A champion of new works, Ms. Racette has created roles in a number of world premieres, including Leslie Crosbie in Paul Moravec’s The Letter at The Santa Fe Opera, Roberta Alden in Tobias Picker’s An American Tragedy at the Metropolitan Opera, the title role in Tobias Picker’s Emmeline at the Santa Fe Opera (broadcast on PBS/Albany Records audio), Love Simpson in Carlisle Floyd’s Cold Sassy Tree at the Houston Grand Opera, and most recently, the title role in Tobias Picker's Dolores Claiborne at the San Francisco Opera.
Upcoming projects include concert appearances as Salome with the Minnesota Orchestra, command performances of her cabaret album Diva on Detour in Vail, her role debut as Magda in Menotti’s The Consul, a role and house debut in Weill’s Street Scene for Madrid’s Teatro Real, and a return to Barcelona’s Teatro Liceu for Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.
Born and raised in New Hampshire, Ms. Racette studied jazz and music education at North Texas State University. Among her recognitions are an Opera News Award, the prestigious Richard Tucker Award, and the Marian Anderson Award.
About Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is one of the leading American opera companies, known for a spring festival of inventive new productions, sung in English, featuring the finest American singers and accompanied by members of the St. Louis Symphony. As of its 2016 Festival Season, Opera Theatre has presented 25 world premieres and 26 American premieres — which may be the highest percentage of new work in the repertory of any U.S. company. Described by the Sunday Times of London as “one of the few American companies worth the transatlantic fare,” Opera Theatre of Saint Louis annually welcomes visitors from nearly every state and close to a dozen foreign countries. Although the size of the theater typically limits box office income to less than a quarter of the budget, the company has consistently produced work of the highest quality while never accumulating a deficit.
Opera Theatre also has a long tradition of discovering and promoting the careers of the finest operatic artists of the current generation. Among the artists who had important early opportunities at Opera Theatre are Christine Brewer, Susan Graham, Nathan Gunn, Patricia Racette, Thomas Hampson, Jerry Hadley, Dawn Upshaw, Matthew Polenzani, Sylvia McNair, Erie Mills, Dwayne Croft, Kelly Kaduce, and Lawrence Brownlee. Opera Theatre has always been known for distinguished leadership: founding general director Richard Gaddes was succeeded in 1985 by general director Charles MacKay, with famed British stage director Colin Graham as artistic director and Stephen Lord (1992 – present) as music director. Timothy O’Leary was named general director in October 2008 with acclaimed stage director James Robinson succeeding the late Colin Graham.
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is funded in part by the Regional Arts Commission, Arts and Education Council, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Missouri Arts Council, with audience building programs supported by The Wallace Foundation.
Generous leadership support for the services of the St. Louis Symphony is provided by Jack C. Taylor and the Taylor family.