New Opera Company in Seattle: Pacific Operaworks

New Chamber Opera Company Opens with The Return of Ulysses and good reviews

Pacific Operaworks is a new chamber opera company based in Seattle which debuted its first performance, Monteverdi's The Return of Ulysses, on Wednesday. The nature of this production sets the tone for the company: innovative interpretations of operas from the baroque to the modern, involving major figures from the worlds of visual art, dance, drama and music.

In the first few seasons Pacific Operaworks will be bringing artists such as Mark Morris, Heiner Goebbels, and Stephen Wadsworth to Seattle, as well as the initial residency of William Kentridge and the Handspring Puppet Company of South Africa. With a wide range of partnerships in the Seattle Arts Community (from Seattle Baroque Orchestra, Seattle Opera, Seattle Chamber Players and Pacific Northwest Ballet to such institutions as St. James Cathedral, the Henry Art Gallery and the University of Washington) Pacific Operaworks will feature the very best resident artists working together with truly important artists from all over the world.

The Artistic Director Steven Stubbs brought South African artist William Kentridge and his unique idea of setting the production with drawings, films, animated images and life sized puppets to overcome some of the more difficult staging aspects of the opera "The Return of Ulysses." This production was made possible in part because of a collaboration with San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. While the US premiere is being held in Seattle at The Moore Theatre, it will eventually move down to San Francisco and the Artaud Theatre for the last week of March.

This opening production of Pacific Operaworks received good reviews and sets the tone for more wonderful things to come. R.M. Campbell of thought the concept use of puppetry was innovative. "The production is not any ordinary affair but a compelling and provocative reading of one of the earliest operas in the repertory...Conceived about a decade ago by brilliant South African artist William Kentridge, along with the Handspring Puppet Company, also of South Africa." Later Campbell describes the production:

"This "Ulysses" is filled with compromises, but instead of depreciating the whole it is enhanced. Because the large puppets -- a vivid and theatrical element of the production -- are heavy, they cannot be held for any length of time. Thus, the opera was reduced from a lengthy enterprise to a taut and dense 90 minutes without an intermission. Stubbs took what already had been done in reducing the score and reworked it to make it more coherent and effective, making something already spellbinding even more so."

John Sutherland of the Seattle Times was just as glowing about the staging and the vocal work:

"The mix of arts is extraordinary. Every character has three bodies: the intricately carved wooden puppet, the puppeteer, and the singer. The instrumentalists perform on stage, blending with a beautiful wooden gallery, and behind the whole thing is a movie screen on which Kentridge provides a constant flow of images.

"The voices are all exquisite. Ross Hauck, who played Nero in "Poppea" two years ago, is pure and true in his singing of Ulysses. Penelope, the faithful wife who is not without her wiles, is sung with power and wit by Laura Pudwell. The suitors provide both great comedy and harmony, especially in their attempts to string the bow of Ulysses."

If this production is any hint at to what's to come, Seattle should be very excited about the future.



The Moore Theatre
1932 Second Avenue
Seattle WA 98107

March 13, 14, 20, 21, 2009
All performances at 7:30 pm

San Francisco

The Artaud Theatre
450 Florida Street
San Francisco CA 94110

March 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 2009
All performances at 8:00 pm


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