Saturday, December 9, 2023

And Finally, Heartbreak… Toledo Opera performs Vanessa

This season’s romantic trilogy with American composers at The Toledo Opera has drawn to a close. Audiences laughed heartily and wept with joy during performances of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, but all good things must come to an end.

Vanessa, the tragic opera composed by Samuel Barber, marks the final piece in the Toledo Opera’s ongoing celebration of works by American composers. Based on a libretto authored by Barber’s dear friend, Gian-Carlo Menotti. Evocative of the atmosphere in novelist Isak Dinesen’s works, specifically Seven Gothic Tales, Vanessa won the Pulitzer Prize for Composition in 1958.

Long ago love Lost

The story follows a woman, Vanessa,  awaiting the arrival of a long ago love, Anatol, whom she has not seen for twenty years. Anatol arrives, but he is not the man she knew previously. In fact, he is the son of her former lover, who has died. Heartbroken, Vanessa leaves, and her niece, Erika, is seduced by the impostor. He proposes to her, but she rejects him. Vanessa, in a warped state of mind, remains fixated on the young man— who believes Erika does not love him. They become engaged, despite the fact that Erika is pregnant, and many wonder who will ultimately win the heart of Anatol.

A Unique Performance

Unlike previous shows,  the orchestra will share the stage with the vocalists. The Toledo Opera previously staged Floyd’s Susannah in this manner.

“We can fit more players on stage so the sound will be much more lush,” explained James Norman, Toledo Opera’s Director of Operations and Production.

Projections, designed by Michael Baumgarten of Opera Carolina, will layer the stage with still and moving images projected behind the orchestra to provide a sense of scenery.

Three Metropolitan Opera stars will perform in Vanessa. Ohio native and star soprano Jennifer Rowley (Vanessa), Tenor Sean Panikkar (Anatol), and mezzo soprano Irina Mishura (The Baroness) will grace the stage. Vanessa is conducted by Sara Jobin and directed by Kristine McIntyre.

The semi-staged production will be conducted by Sara Jobin and directed by Kristine McIntyre.

Prior the performance, the Toledo Opera will host a free talk, Samuel Barber: From Adagio to Vanessa, where conductor Sara Jobin and director Kristine McIntyre will preview the performance. A wine reception to follow ($10). 5:30pm. Tuesday, March 28. Secor Gallery at Registry Bistro, 144 N. Superior St., 419-255-7565.

Vanessa will be performed twice.
7:30pm on Friday, March 31 & 2pm on Sunday, April 2.
Student Night at the Opera Performance at
7pm on 
Wednesday, March 29.
The Valentine Theater
410 Adams St.,

UPDATE: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Sean Panikkar's name.

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