Reasoning that everyone who likes opera is enthralled by the emotions behind love, passion and death, the directors of the San Diego Opera chose to make the 2010 theme for the 45th International Season, the "Season of Desire."
Desire, indeed, underlies the four operas to be presented this season: "La Bohème," "Nabucco," "Romeo and Juliet" and "La Traviata."
Though the season usually includes five operas, General and Artistic Director Ian Campbell said that like many arts venues, SDO has been hurt by the current economy.
"About 55 percent of our budget is dependent on fundraising," he said. "To be proactive and remain stable and healthy, we cut our season this year to four operas."
A desire for love
"La Bohème" by Puccini opens the season Jan. 30 and also plays on Feb. 2, 5 and 7. Set in 19th century Paris, the tragic tale unites a poet and a seamstress who fall in love but cannot be together.
Polish tenor Piotr Beczala makes his San Diego debut as Rodolfo. Beczala has performed with the Zurich, Covent Garden and Metropolitan Opera houses.
Soprano Ellie Dehn also debuts in San Diego to play Mimì, and in addition to national opera houses has appeared several times at the Metropolitan Opera.
"I'm also excited to welcome back the incandescent Indian-born soprano Priti Gandhi as Musette," Campbell said.
A desire for freedom
Verdi's biblical epic, "Nabucco," plays Feb. 20, 23, 26 and 28. It's based on the story of Nebuchadnezzar invading Babylonia and imprisoning its people.
French soprano Sylvie Valayre portrays Abigaille, the eldest daughter of Nabucco, and Campbell classifies her as "fun," with the ability to go from very demanding and very loud singing to soft and gentle tones in an instant. Debuting with the opera are Yugoslavian baritone Zeljko Lucic as Nabucco and American bass Raymond Aceto as Zaccaria.
"Nabucco" played in San Diego in 1981, but Campbell said an opera once seen will never appear the same again.
"Opera houses create their own version of every opera," he said. "The same show never plays the same in another venue because the moment you change a singer with different voices or a conductor with a different style, everything changes."
A desire for passion
In the tragic "Romeo and Juliet" by Gounod, playing March 13, 16, 19 and 21, the exquisite sets and costumes will amaze, according to Campbell.
American tenor Stephen Costello appears as Romeo, and his real-life wife, Ailyn Perez, as Juliet.
"I didn't know they were engaged when I auditioned Stephen, who is one of the most promising tenors today, or when I cast Ailyn, because in addition to a beautiful voice, she looked like she belonged with him. How ironic," Campbell said.
A desire to live
The San Diego favorite, "La Traviata," by Verdi, plays April 17, 20, 23 and 25. It is based on the life of a 19th century French socialite known for her aristocratic and famous lovers, and who died of tuberculosis at age 23.
American soprano Elizabeth Futral appears as Violetta. Making his debut as Alfredo is Romanian tenor Marius Brenciu.
"I've heard Elizabeth sing several times and find her to be one of the best American singers around," Campbell said.
San Diego Opera 2010 Season
- 'La Bohème': Jan. 30-Feb. 2, 5, 7
- 'Nabucco': Feb. 20, 23, 26, 28
- 'Romeo and Juliet': March 13, 16, 19, 21
- 'La Traviata': April 17, 20, 23, 25
- Civic Theatre: Third and B streets, San Diego
- Tickets: $35-$210
- Contact: (619) 533-7000, www.sdopera.com