by Giuseppe Verdi
Friday, June 14, 2019 – 7:30 PM | Saturday, June 15, 2019 – 7:30 PM
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 Sarah Joy Miller. Sarah Joy is joined by one of the most exciting new vocal talents to emerge on the international stage, Tenor Zach Borichevsky as Alfredo, and Opera Grand Rapids favorite Mark Rucker as his father, 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.
Sarah Joy Miller | Violetta Valery
Sarah Joy Miller, praised by The New York Times as “vivacious and fearless” is widely acknowledged as one of the industry’s foremost emerging talents. Ms. Miller first began turning heads at her New York City Opera and BAM débuts to great critical acclaim singing the title role of Anna Nicole Smith in the Royal Opera House commissioned opera Anna Nicole by Mark-Anthony Turnage. This season, Ms. Miller returns to The Metropolitan Opera for productions of Gianni Schicchi, Adriana Lecouvreur in which she will be performing Mlle. Jouvenot, and Rigoletto.
Most recently, Ms. Miller joined the esteemed roster of The Metropolitan Opera for their productions of Thaïs and L’elisir d’amore. Additionally, she performed Juliette in Roméo et Juliette at Opera Tampa, Roxanne in David DiChiera and Bernard Uzan’s Cyrano with Michigan Opera Theatre, and Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance with Palm Beach Opera, for which critics hailed “Sarah Joy Miller is quite fetching as the love interest, Mabel, her substantial soprano riding with ease in Sullivan’s high-flung coloratura passages of ‘Poor wandering one’”
Highlights of previous seasons include: her début at Michigan Opera Theater singing Gilda in Rigoletto, with subsequent returns as Leïla Les pêcheurs de perles and a role début as Marguerite in Faust; Musetta in La bohème at New York’s Symphony Space; Micaëla in Carmen with New York Lyric Opera; performances of Carmina Burana with Dallas Symphony Orchestra; Violetta in La traviata with Palm Beach Opera; a “Puccini to Pop” concert with Tulsa Opera; Eternal Light: A Requiem with Distinguished Concerts International New York; selections from Faust at St. Bart’s Music Festival; and Juliette in Roméo et Juliette at Opera Grand Rapids, Opera Carolina, and Lyric Opera Baltimore.
Ms. Miller is frequently a guest artist on domestic and international concert stages including the Bolshoi Theater; Slovak Sinfonietta; the Chicagoland Pops Orchestra; the New York Choral Society; the Marcello Giordani Foundation; the Sergio Franchi Music Foundation; in Verona, Italy in collaboration with the Veronalirica Associazione; and is a frequent soloist with the St. Bart’s Music Festival. An advocate of bridging the gap between opera and musical theatre, Ms. Miller made her professional operatic début singing Mimì in Baz Luhrmann’s acclaimed Broadway production of Puccini’s La bohème and went on to reprise the role at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles.
Ms. Miller’s musical collaborations and accomplishments reach well beyond the traditional scope of opera. Signed to Decca Records as part of the trio Three Graces, Ms. Miller recorded an album featuring contributions by the finest producers and songwriters in the pop music industry including Walter Afanasieff (Mariah Carey, Celine Dion), Desmond Child (Bon Jovi, Ricky Martin) and Guy Roche (Christina Aguilera, Michael Bolton). She co-wrote two of the album’s original tracks – “I Wish” and “Don’t Let Me Forget” and recorded a Music video of “Requiem” for Panasonic. Three Graces performs throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico, and enjoyed an invitation to perform at a Youth Rally honoring Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to New York, among numerous televised appearances.
In 2013, she celebrated the release of her début classical album, A Glorious Dream, recorded with the Pannon Philharmonic conducted by Maestro Steven Mercurio in Pécs, Hungary, with a concert of arias and duets with orchestra at NYC’s famed performance space, (Le) Poisson Rouge.
A regional finalist in The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Ms. Miller earned and was honored with an array of awards and scholarships including: the Palm Springs Opera Guild, Elizabeth Parham Vocal Scholarship, the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, the Gerda Lissner Foundation, the New York Lyric Opera Competition, and the Jensen Foundation.
Zach Borichevsky | Alfredo Germont
Tenor Zach Borichevsky is known for his “beautiful timbre” and his creation of “intimate moments of beauty.” A series of significant débuts have established Mr. Borichevsky as one of the most exciting new vocal talents to emerge on the international stage, with celebrated performances such as Rodolfo in La bohème with Finnish National Opera, Romeo in Roméo et Juliette for Teatro Municipal de Santiago in Chile, and Alfredo in La traviata for the Glyndebourne Festival. He has graced opera stages across the globe with recent performances as Edmondo in Manon Lescaut in his Metropolitan Opera début, Anatol in Vanessa for the Santa Fe Opera, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly for Teatro Municipal de Santiago in Chile, Rodolfo in La bohème with English National Opera, and Alfredo in La traviata with the Seattle Opera, to name a few.
This season, Borichevsky performs as Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus with Palm Beach Opera and as a soloist in Verdi’s Requiemwith National Philharmonic. Future seasons will see Borichevsky performing in house débutswith Washington National Opera, Gran Teatro del Liceu in Barcelona, and with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Additional performances include Lensky in Eugene Onegin, Rodolfo in La bohème, and Romeo in Roméo et Juliette all with Arizona Opera, Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor with Opera Carolina, Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus for Cincinnati Opera, Tamino in The Magic Flute with Boston Lyric Opera and Jonathan Dale in the East Coast premiere of Kevin Puts’ Silent Night for Opera Philadelphia. He also recently joined the roster of the Lyric Opera of Chicago for their production of Faust and reprised the tenor soloists in two works, John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary for the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center and Rachmaninov’s The Bells with the St. Louis Symphony.
In concert, Mr. Borichevsky recently joined the Minnesota Orchestra for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 under Osmo Vänskä, the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra to reprise the role of Lazarus in John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary under Markus Stenz, and gave his first performances of The Dream of Gerontius with the Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias under Rossen Milanov. Further highlights have included appearances at the Aspen Music Festival for Britten’s Nocturne and Janáček’s Diary of One Who Disappeared, Festival de Radio France et Montpellier with Rachmaninov’s The Bells under Santtu-Matias Rouvali, Britten’s War Requiem with the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra under Lan Shui, and the Chicago Philharmonic for Verdi’s Messa da Requiem under Murry Sidlin.
Mr. Borichevsky has been honored with a number of awards from organizations including the George London Foundation, The Metropolitan Opera National Council, Gerda Lissner Foundation, Opera Index, Mario Lanza Foundation, Shreveport Opera and Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation. Mr. Borichevsky won second prize at the Loren L. Zachary National Vocal Competition for Young Opera Singers and third prize at Plácido Domingo’s Operalia Competition.
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.