Monday, May 13, 2024

Seattle Opera Serves Up 60th Anniversary Gala Concert


Greer Grimsley
Sunny Martini

REVIEW: Seattle Opera

McCaw Hall, Seattle


To commemorate both the finish to a highly successful 2023-24 season and the 60th anniversary of the company’s 1963 founding, Seattle Opera held a gala double celebration on May 11 highlighted by a star-studded ensemble of solo singers, the 52-member Seattle Opera Chorus, and members of the Seattle Symphony. It was an exceptional evening, serving up slice after slice of ganache-filled operatic birthday cake to delight a pumped audience ready for anything.

Kazem Abdullah
Philip Newto
The program, if a bit overlong, accomplished its goal of displaying the performers’ strong suits. Helmed by Conductor Kazem Abdullah (X: the Life and Times of Malcolm X), the cast of celebrities, many of them beloved SO favorites, brought a stellar sheen to the festivities, with a combination of solo arias, small ensembles, full opera scenes and choruses, and orchestral numbers. David Gately’s always entertaining direction for the singers provided plenty of visual interest for the audience.

The most prominent luminary of the evening, Greer Grimsley, demonstrated why he remains a living legend as the head god in Wagner’s Ring. After acquitting himself majestically in Wotan’s “Farewell,” Grimsley joined the ranks of lush-voiced bass-baritones able to cross over to another form of elegance, paying homage to the occasion with his impassioned “Some Enchanted Evening” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific.

Greer Grimsley
Philip Newton

“Ô vin, dissipe la tristesse” from the Ambroise Thomas Hamlet is always a favorite for opera galas to show off a gifted baritone. John Moore, who portrayed the lead in SO’s production of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, gamely took on the difficult task of being first batter up and delivered strongly.
In her partnering with Moore, soprano Sarah Coburn’s vibrant high notes carried beautifully throughout the hall, in the “Pronta io son” duet from Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, and with SO Resident Artist Michael J. Hawk, in the passionate “Nedda! Silvio!” from Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. Performing both of these duets may have caused her to flag later on, however, in “Ardon gl’incensi” from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, a grueling test for both vocal pyrotechnics and stamina.

Fans of Ginger Costa-Jackson had the opportunity to watch her perform multiple times, delivering winning performances vocally, dramatically and comically. Costa-Jackson and bass Adam Lau provided delightful comic antics in “Oh! Che muso” from Rossini’s The Italian Girl in Algiers, and the mezzo was at her sultry best in the Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen.

Ginger Costa-Jackson
Philip Newton
A radiant Mary Elizabeth Williams, who received major recognition for her SO performance of the fiendish role of Isolde in 2022, brought down the house with an inspiring rendition of “My man’s gone now” from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Williams and Costa-Jackson then performed one of opera’s most iconic and difficult soprano and mezzo duets, “Mira, o Norma” from Bellini’s Norma. The pair performed fearlessly, with bold, dramatic flourishes.

Mary Elizabeth Williams
Philip Newton

Duke Kim, the engaging Almaviva in SO’s current production of The Barber of Seville, rendered the poignant “Ah! Lêve-toi, soleil” from Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet with heartfelt passion and powerful top notes. He and Michael J. Hawk gave a dramatically convincing interpretation of the gorgeous tenor and baritone duet, “Au fond du temple saint” from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers.

Any bel canto tenor would give his eye teeth to perform “Una furtiva lagrima” from Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love. Amitai Pati sang sweetly and sincerely, appropriate for the naïve irresistible character the aria portrays, producing beautiful tones throughout. One hopes to hear more from him in the future.

Adam Lau’s performance of “Aprite un po’ quegl’occhi” from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro was vocally strong, and his appealing playfulness brought appreciative guffaws from the audience.

The Seattle Symphony made the most of its virtuosity and lush orchestral sound with an energetic rendering of the Polonaise from Tchaikovsky’s beloved opera, Eugene Onegin.

In a surprise move,  U.S. representative from Washington's 7th congressional district Pramila Jayapal gave a moving address about the astonishing accomplishments of SO General Director Christina Scheppelmann, who took charge of SO in 2019. Jayapal then presented Scheppelmann with a commemorative plaque honoring the general director’s hard work as well as the multifaceted success of her leadership. The audience was delighted to hear that the Seattle City Council had declared May “Opera Month” throughout the city.

Christina Scheppelmann, Pramila Jayapal, Deborah Horne
Philip Newton

Having provided a buoyant opening to the concert with the Entry of the Guests from Wagner’s Tannhäuser, the Seattle Opera Chorus inspired the audience with “Va Pensiero” from Verdi’s Nabucco. Their Pilgrims’ Chorus from Tannhäuser provided a seemly finish to an enchanted evening that will be remembered for many decades as an occasion that was memorable in every way.

To highlight the importance of the event, Seattle’s well-respected FM classical station,, will broadcast a series of recordings (May 10, May 17, May 24 and May 31) drawn from the company’s history. 

Photo credits: Philip Newton, Sunny Martini


Erica can be reached at: [email protected]

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