Wednesday, May 27, 2020


John Moore, SO Chorus
(Phillip Newton)

PREVIEW: Seattle Opera


Amid stay-home order, two companies team up to keep opera vibrant in the Pacific Northwest 

Self-sheltering? Missing opera? No problem. Seattle Opera has paired with local classical radio station KING FM 98.1 to bring listeners their Saturday morning opera fix with their Seattle Opera Mornings feature on KING FM

Since Saturday, April 25, opera aficionados have been treating themselves to the finest that the art form has to offer, as SO and KING have brought broadcast recordings of previous Seattle Opera performances to radio and online audiences. These exciting broadcasts will continue to be available on the radio and at https:/// every Saturday morning at 10 a.m. Pacific Time through July 25.

According to General Director Christina Scheppelmann, a special agreement with the singers’ and musicians’ unions—the American Guild of Musical Artists and the Seattle Symphony and Opera Players’ Organization—are making these presentations possible. “Seattle Opera and KING FM are thrilled to be able to bring beautiful music and storytelling to our audiences’ ears,” says Scheppelmann. “Many thanks go to all the artists who make Seattle Opera what it is.”

On Saturday, June 13, the series will feature The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, which had its hugely successful west coast premiere during Seattle Opera’s 2018-2019 season. This phenomenal work, created by composer Mason Bates and librettist Mark Campbell, scrutinizes the life of the iconic tech giant, portraying key episodes in his extraordinarily complex journey. The work combines melodic and traditional music with elements of electronic music and a libretto which, according to the librettist, “places Jobs' life under a microscope without sacrificing the tech giant's deep humanity.” 

John Moore, SO Chorus
(Phillip Newton)
Campbell weighed in on the role of a librettist in the 21st century in a February, 2019, interview.

“The story comes first. Everything really starts with the librettist. We come up with the story, establish the structure.” Campbell arrived at the concept of disrupting the usual narrative creating “more of a circular story, based on the memory of this man rather than strict chronological.”

The librettist did not find the writing itself difficult as compared to portraying a man who was, and still is, iconic: in the limelight and a known quantity by practically everyone. Pushing the envelope of “the Steve Jobs we think we know,” Campbell went about pinpointing the formative events of Jobs’s life and career.

“I had to imagine it almost as fiction,” Campbell says, “To try to shake off everyone else's perceptions and create a sympathetic portrayal.”

John Moore, Emily Fons
(Jacob Lucas)

Mark Campbell
(courtesy of artist)
An integral part of Campbell’s concept consisted in starting his story with Jobs as a young child. “When you have a kid, your job is to identify what is beautiful and possibly brilliant in them, whatever they seem to like, and encourage it as much as possible,” he says. “Who knows if there's another Steve Jobs out there who will change our lives?”

Campbell’s job was, “Not to create the most comprehensive portrait…(but) one that delivers an emotional punch, and also is a damn good entertainment.” The audience will come to know the version of Jobs that he and Bates engendered. “One thing that never grows old is that opera uses a beautiful abstract form to get to the heart of a character and, through that, of the audience. That's something I never want to lose.”

Campbell definitely succeeded. Reactions were overwhelmingly positive, as reviewers and audience alike were impressed with the striking set designs and lighting, innovative music and consistently solid vocal performances, not to mention an overall subject matter and character portrayal that almost anyone over the age of two can relate to. As Bates has said, “Everybody is carrying a little bit of Steve Jobs in their pocket…(but) the real pivot in the piece is toward the human story.”

Garrett Sorenson, John Moore
(Phillip Newton)
Listeners are sure to find all of the above elements and more when they tune in to this groundbreaking performance on June 13.

Remaining performances in the series are as follows, listed with their starring performers:

June 20: Don Giovanni (2014) Lawrence Brownlee
June 27: La traviata (2017) Corinne Winters
July 11: Madama Butterfly (2017) Yasko Sato
July 18: Così fan tutte (2018) Marjukka Tepponen
July 25: Rigoletto (2019) Soraya Mafi

The financial support of listeners helps support Seattle Opera’s “At Home” series as well as sustain the company until enjoy opera as a community will be possible once again. Listeners can support Opera at Home via

“We’ve been thrilled with the listener response to Seattle Opera Mornings on KING FM,” says Scheppelmann. “These broadcasts offer a way for people to relive their favorite performances, or for any music lover to experience a great opera performance. I’m proud to say that we have future collaborations planned with KING FM, as well.”

Further information on Opera Mornings can be found on Seattle Opera’s blog.

Seattle Opera Presents
The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs
(Jacob Lucas)

Photo credits:Phillip Newton, Jacob Lucas
Erica can be reached at: [email protected]

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