Music by Giuseppe Verdi
Date: Friday, June 14 – 7:30 PM | Saturday, June 15 – 7:30 PM
Location: Presented at St. Cecilia Music Center
Verdi’s classic based on Dumas’ The Lady with the Camellias.
The heartbreaking true story of Parisian courtesan Marie Duplessis became the classic novella that inspired the films Camille, Pretty Woman and Moulin Rouge. The great Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi retells her story in one of the greatest operas of all time. Opera Grand Rapids’ production in the elegant setting of St. Cecilia Music Center stars Metropolitan Opera star soprano Elizabeth Caballero. Joining Elizabeth is our Duke of Mantua from last season’s acclaimed Rigoletto, Raffaele Abete and OGR’s favorite leading baritone, Metropolitan Opera star Mark Rucker.
Conductor – Maestro James Meena
Director – John Hoomes
Elizabeth Caballero – Violetta Valery
Raffaele Abete – Alfredo Germont
Mark Rucker – Giorgio Germont
Meet the Production and Cast
Conductor | Maestro James Meena
James Meena consistently earns critical acclaim for his artistic vision and dynamic presence on the podium. The breadth of his repertoire is represented by the works of Mozart, Beethoven, Puccini, Berlioz and Verdi, the world première of Victor Davies’ Transit of Venus, to full ballet productions and symphony concerts. Mo. Meena serves as Principal Conductor of Opera Carolina (Charlotte) Artistic Director for Opera Grand Rapids, as well as Toledo Opera’s Principal Artistic Advisor.
This season, Mo. Meena conducts a double-bill of Rachmaninoff’s Aleko paired with Pagliacci, and La fanciulla del West with the restored New York City Opera; La Fanciulla del West for five prestigious Italian theaters: Teatro delGiglio, Lucca Italy, Teatro Verdi in Pisa, Teatro Alighieri di Ravenna, Teatro Pavarotti di Modenaand Teatro Goldoni di Livorno, plus Rigoletto with Opera Carolina, Toledo Opera, and OperaGrand Rapids, where he also conducts Le nozze di Figaro; a Gala concert with Renee Fleming and the Toledo Symphony Orchestra; Porgy & Bess with Margaret Island Open-Air Theatre in Budapest for their Summer Festival; Turandot with Tulsa Opera; and La bohème with the prestigious Puccini Festival in Torre del Lago. Last season, he conducted La bohème with Opéra de Montréal, Le nozze di Figaro with Toledo Opera, Masterworks Concerts with Memphis Symphony Orchestra, and Il barbiere di Siviglia, La fanciulla del West, and La traviata with Opera Carolina.
A guest conductor, Maestro Meena has lead performances in opera houses throughout North America, including Opéra de Montréal for Madama Butterfly, Pagliacci/Gianni Schicchi, Le nozze di Figaro, and La traviata; Michigan Opera Theatre for Die Zauberflöte; EdmontonOpera for Falstaff, Otello, Macbeth and Eugene Onegin; an exciting new co-production of Roméo et Juliette with Virginia Opera and Toledo Opera; and Manitoba Opera, where he conducted thepremière of Transit of Venus by the Canadian team of composer Victor Davies and librettistMaureen Hunter, recorded for national broadcast on the CBC. His Opera Carolina performances of Faust, Eugene Onegin, and Il trovatore are captured on recording for NPR World of Opera.
With extensive experience in opera, ballet, and symphonic music, Maestro Meena held principal and resident conducting posts with the Cleveland Ballet, Toledo Symphony, and Toledo Opera, in addition to guest conducting appearances that include a nationally televised Thanksgiving concert for the Korean Broadcasting System Symphony; performances of Stravinsky’s tour de force La Sacre du printemps with the National Symphony Orchestra, Taiwan; concerts with the Cairo Symphony Orchestra in the new Cairo Opera House; and symphony concerts with the orchestra of the Teatro Massimo Bellini in Catania, the Orchestra della Toscana in Italy.
Mo. Meena was engaged as guest conductor with orchestras and opera companies in the United States, Italy, Taipei, Korea, Canada and Mexico including the Mexico City Philharmonic, the Washington Opera, Opera Pacific, Portland Opera and the Utah Opera. On opera stages, he has conducted legendary singers including Renée Fleming, Denyce Graves, James McCracken, Mignon Dunn, Marilyn Horne, Jerome Hines, Diana Soviero, Jerry Hadley, Mark Delavan and Marcello Giordani.
From Voix des Arts of Mo. Meena’s most recent performances of Turandot: “Under the baton of James Meena the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra delivered an awe-inspiring performance of the score. Maestro Meena’s conducting was notable for the manner in which, like the great past interpreters of the operas of Richard Strauss, he coaxed sounds from the orchestra that compellingly fulfilled the lush late-Romantic promise of the melodic lines while also always sounding like an opera composed in 1924. The influence of Debussy has almost never been more discernible than in Maestro Meena’s handling of the score. His work in Charlotte has been consistently perceptive, but he found in Turandot—a score by which many conductors have been defeated—an ideal outlet for the controlled ecstasy of which he is a master.”
Since 2001, Mo. Meena has presented six regional premières in Charlotte, including Cold Sassy Tree and Susannah by Carlisle Floyd, the company’s first productions of Der Rosenkavalier, Nabucco, Macbeth, and Les pêcheurs des perles, and the regional premiere of Richard Danielpour’s new American opera, Margaret Garner, starring Denyce Graves in April 2006. He is also featured on Opera Carolina’s webseries A Look Behind the Curtain, which can be seen here.Mo. Meena is the lead producer for Douglas Tappin’s new Rhythm & Blues opera I Dream, a new work created for the 50th commemoration of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
James Meena is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and Baldwin Wallace College Conservatory of Music. His principal conducting teachers include Thomas Mihalak (New Jersey Symphony), Robert Page (Cleveland Orchestra), Rudolph Fellner (Pittsburgh Opera), and Boris Halip (Bolshoi Ballet), with whom he also studied violin.
Mr. Meena has served as Assistant Conductor to Andre Previn, Gunther Schuller, Michael Tilson
Thomas, Anton Guad agno, and Anton Coppola. For several seasons, he was Associate Conductor of the Pittsburgh Opera, where he made his operatic début conducting Die Zauberflöte. He made his professional début with the Pittsburgh Symphony conducting Haydn’s monumental oratorio The Creation. Mo. Meena was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award by his undergraduate alma mater in 1997 for his commitment to visionary excellence and growth of cultural institutions.
Director | John Hoomes
Mr. Hoomes has been the artistic director of Nashville Opera since 1995. Also a freelance stage director, he has directed over 150 productions of opera and music theatre in the US, South America, and Canada. The New York Times declared his Nashville Opera world premiere of Elmer Gantry “An Operatic Miracle…in Nashville.” A June 2010 Opera News feature article acknowledged, “Hoomes has proved himself one of the most interesting stage directors in the regional market today with a seemingly limitless knowledge of repertoire.”
Since receiving his masters degree at Indiana University, Mr. Hoomes has worked for many professional opera companies including Opera Lyra Ottawa, Teatro Colón, Cincinnati Opera, The Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Opera Philadelphia, Opera, Indianapolis Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, and Opera Columbus.
Mr. Hoomes has directed, among numerous other productions, Salome, Rigoletto, Tosca, The Pearl Fishers, La Bohème, Carmen, and Der Rosenkavalier for Nashville Opera; Madama Butterfly and Carmen for Kentucky Opera; Die Fledermaus and Susannah for Indianapolis Opera; The Marriage of Figaro, Rigoletto, and La Bohème for Opera Carolina; Don Giovanni, Elmer Gantry, and Salome for Florentine Opera; Don Giovanni for Opera Cleveland; Ernani and Jenufa for Sarasota Opera; and Turandot for The Opera Festival of New Jersey, Nashville Opera, Opera Columbus, Opera Memphis, and Opera Carolina.
Recently Mr. Hoomes staged the world premieres of Robert Aldridge’s Elmer Gantry, which was recorded on Naxos Records, and songwriter Marcus Hummon’s chamber opera Surrender Road at Martha Rivers Ingram Hall in Nashville. He also directed the Southeastern professional premiere of two contemporary pieces, Poulenc’s La Voix Humaine and Peter Maxwell Davies’ The Lighthouse. In fall 2009 Mr. Hoomes directed the Tennessee premiere of The Fall of the House of Usher by composer Philip Glass, a groundbreaking multi-media production, critically acclaimed both by the Wall Street Journal and Opera News.
Elizabeth Caballero | Violetta Valery
Soprano Elizabeth Caballero’s performance in her signature role, Violetta in La traviata, is touted as “animated, communicative and believable, singing with a big, facile, focused sound while making the vocal demands of the role seem easy and natural.” Her dramatically compelling interpretation of Violetta led to recent engagements to perform the role for houses across the country, such as Florentine Opera, Madison Opera, Pacific Symphony, and the Orlando Philharmonic.
Last season, Ms. Caballero returned to The Metropolitan Opera to sing Mimi in their production of La bohème, reprised her Violetta in La traviata with la Compañía Lírica Nacional in Costa Rica; sang the soprano solo in Carmina Burana with Asheville Symphony and National Chorale; performed the role of Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly with Pensacola Opera; and reprised the title role ofDaniel Catán’s Spanish opera Florencia en el Amazonas with Madison Opera. This season she will sing the role of the Governess in Turn of the Screw with Seattle Opera, reprise her performance as the title role in Florencia en el Amazonas with Pensacola Opera, sing Mimi in La Boheme with Austin Opera, sing Violetta in La Traviata with Opera Grand Rapids, and make a return to The Metropolitan Opera for their production of La Boheme.
She was engaged to perform the role of Musetta in Puccini’s La bohème for the Metropolitan Opera after grabbing the audience’s attention in the role at New York City Opera where The New York Times hailed Ms. Caballero as “the evening’s most show-stopping performance offering a thrilling balance of pearly tone, exacting technique and brazen physicality.” She subsequently returned to The Met in their new production of Carmenas part of The Metropolitan Opera: Live in HD series.
In past seasons, Ms. Caballero commanded the New York City Opera stage as the title role of Florencia en el Amazonas, performed the role of Mimì in La bohème with Opera de Costa Rica and Hawaii Opera Theatre, her signature role of Violetta in La traviata with Opera Carolina, Nedda in I Pagliacci with Arizona Musicfest, and played the role of Mother / The Moon in Before Night Falls, based on the memoir of Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas, with Florida Grand Opera. Additionally, in concert, she performed at Austin Opera’s Chairman’s Forum Gala; sang a solo recital with St. Hugh-Steinway Concert Series in Florida; and performed the soprano solo of Verdi’s Requiem with Spokane Symphony, the soprano solo in Atonementwith Orchestra Miami as a part of their “Discover Miami Through Music” series, and the soprano solo in Rachmaninoff’s The Bells and Poulenc’s Gloriawith Crane Chorus and Symphony Orchestra at The Crane School of Music.
Prior engagements include an exciting return to Seattle Opera to sing Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, which she also performed with Lyric Opera Kansas City; a performance of Carmina Buranawith Florida Orchestra; the title role in Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonaswith Nashville Opera; John Rutter’s Requiemat Carnegie Hall; and Liù in Turandot, a concert appearance as Micaëla in Carmen, and Previn’s Honey and Ruein returns to the Pacific Symphony. She also performed Violetta in La traviata at Opera Naples, Zemfira/Nedda in Aleko/Pagliacci at Opera Carolina, and as the soprano soloist in Verdi’s Requiem in Opera Grand Rapids.
A house favorite at Florida Grand Opera, she dazzled audiences as Contessa Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, Liù in Turandot, Mimì in La bohème, Micaëla in Carmen, and Magda in La rondine. Other favorite engagements include a return to New York City Opera in Pagliacci and La bohème; Adina in L’elisir d’amore at San Antonio Opera; Micaëla in Carmen and Mimì in La bohème at Central City Opera, a return engagement as Liù in Turandot for Lyric Opera Kansas City, and a reprisal of the role at Austin Lyric Opera.
Since her European début as Magda in Puccini’s operetta La rondine at Teatro Giuseppe Verdi in Trieste, Italy, Caballero has fostered strong relationships with companies around the globe. This led her to portray some of operas greatest roles on international stages throughout the world including Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly at the Staatsoper Berlin, Anne Trulove in The Rake’s Progress with the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra, and the title role in The Merry Widow at Teatro Nacional Santo Domingo.
Ms. Caballero built a reputation as “an intelligently responsive actress” (Opera News) after a string of role débuts throughout the United States: Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni at New York City Opera, Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly at Lyric Opera Kansas City, Alice Ford in Falstaff with Virginia Opera, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni at Madison Opera, and a turn as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro in her company début at Seattle Opera, followed by a triumphant performance as Mimì in La bohème. Her company début at Hawaii Opera Theatre was in a double bill of another signature role, Nedda in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci and as soprano soloist in the scenic cantata, Carmina Burana by Carl Orff.
Ms. Caballero has impressed in the competition circuit, as well. She was a National Grand Finalist in The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, a Gerda Lissner Foundation Award Winner, winner of the New York City Opera Diva Award, finalist in the Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation, and one of Miami’s Most Influential People by the Miami New Times. Additionally, in 2013, she was the recipient of the 2013 Frost School of Music Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Miami.
Raffaele Abete | Alfredo Germont
Critically acclaimed for his vocal qualities “His vocal performance was agile, robust, mellifluous, heroic, tender, and musically sensitive — in short, he alone is reason enough to attend this production.” Raffaele Abete’s engagements in the 2018-19 season will include Duca di Mantova in Verdi’s Rigoletto in Toledo Opera and Opera Carolina and his house debut at Teatro Regio di Parma as Alfredo in Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata.
As the winner of the competition “Una voce per l’Arena,” tenor Raffaele Abete made his debut at the Arena di Verona as Ismaele in Nabucco in the summer of 2015. His other recent engagements include Romeo in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette on opening night of Arena di Verona’s 93rd Lyric season, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni and Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor at Teatro Gaetano Donizetti in Bergamo, and Rodolfo in La Bohèmeat Teatro Filarmonico di Verona.
In 2016 he made his American debut at the New York City Opera as Cavaradossi with colleague Latonia Moore in the celebratory production that re-opened the company.
Mr. Abete’s past season 2017 includes Rigoletto at Teatro Filarmonico di Verona, at Teatro Comunale di Bologna and at Festival Verdi in Busseto.
The 2017-18 season included also Rodolfo in La Bohème at the Festival Puccini in Torre del Lago, Italy alternating with the colleague Piotr Beczala and his return to United States with the role of Il Duca di Mantova in the production of Rigoletto at Opera Grand Rapids (September, October 2017).
Born in Naples, Mr. Abete studied at the Conservatorio di Musica Domenico Cimarosa in Avellino under the guidance of Maestro Pasquale Tizzani. He currently resides in Milan and studies with Maestro Federico Longhi.
Mark Rucker | Giorgio Germont
Mark Rucker, from the time of his debut as Renato in Un Ballo in Maschera with Luciano Pavarotti for the Opera Company of Philadelphia, the American baritone has been in demand in opera houses and on concert stages throughout the world.
Rucker made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Amonasro in Aida and has since been heard at the Met as Don Carlo in La Forza def Destino, Tonio in Pagliacci, and as Rigoletto for the Met in the Parks and continues to be part of the Met roster. He sang the major baritone roles in Rigoletto, Macbeth, Nabucco, Un Ballo in Maschera, La Traviata, Stiffellio, II Trovatore, Cava/leria Rusticana/1 Pagliacci, Samson et Dalila and Die Fliegende Hollander for companies such as: Arena di Verona, Wiener Staatsoper, Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Teatro Comunale, Bologna, Netherlands Opera, Greek National Opera, Opera de Wallonie, Bregenz, Savonlinna, Santander, Michigan Opera Theater, Florida Grand, L’Opera Montreal and numerous other companies. He has worked with celebrated maestri, including, Richard Bonynge, Riccardo Chailly, Fabio Luisi, Daniele Gatti, Carlo Rizzi, Gianandrea Noseda, Bruno Campanella and Paolo Arrivabeni.
Rucker made his Carnegie Hall debut to great acclaim as Don Carlo in La Forza def Destino. His other concert credits include Linda di Chamounix and Jerusalem with the Concertgebouw, Rigoletto with the Israel and Rotterdam Philharmonics. Last season he sang Jack Rance in La Fanciulla del West for Opera Colorado. In 2018 Rucker sings the title role of Macbeth for Tampa Opera, Balshazzar’s Feast for the Flint Symphony, Elijah for MSU, Amonasro in Aida for Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires and Paolo in Simon Boccanegra for Royal Opera House Covent Garden. Recordings include Mark Rucker Sings Lena Mclin’s Songs for Voice and Piano; Amonasro in Aida for Naxos and Cambro in Opera Ebony’s recording of Fosca by A. Carlos Gomes.
In addition to his performing career, Mark is the Administrative and Artistic and Administrative Director for the Martina Arroyo Foundation’s celebrated Young Artist Program, Prelude to Performance since 2005 and Artistic Director since 2015.
Mark is Professor of Voice at Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI.
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