EUGENE HOLMES (Koanga - Dec. 18, 20) studied at Boston University and performed his first leading part with the Goldovsky Opera Theatre as "John Proctor" in The Crucible. Since then, the young baritone has achieved national prominence both on the operatic and recital stage. As a member of the Metropolitan Opera National Company Mr. Holmes performed as a leading baritone when he sang the role of the Elder "Germont" in La Traviata 40 times and "Schaunard" in La Boheme 38 times. These performances were followed by a highly successful debut with the San Francisco Opera in Schuller's The Visitation, and with the New York City Opera as the Elder "Germont" in La Traviata. This season Mr. Holmes will make his Vienna State Opera debut as "Amonasro" in Aida and as "Tonio" in Pagliacci at the Staatsoper. In March, he will return to the U.S. to sing the leading role in the world premiere of Gian Carlo Menotti's The Most Important Man to be presented by the New York City Opera. His recording, Holmes Sings Spirituals, is available on the AVANT GARDE label.
CLAUDIA LINDSEY (Palmyra) was born in New York City and has made concert tours throughout the United States and Western Canada. Miss Lindsey has performed with the New York City Opera, the Little Orchestra Society, the National Gallery of Art, and several other major opera companies. The young soprano joined the Metropolitan Opera National Company for its 1966-67 season and was heard in the role of "The Countess" in The Marriage of Figaro and the Female Chorus in The Rape of Lucretia. Subsequently, she appeared with Community Concerts as soprano soloist of the New York Lyric Quartet; and performed the role of "Teena" in Schuller's The Visitation in the University of Illinois Centennial production, under the composer's direction. In 1969 she joined the Western Opera Theater (produced by the San Francisco Opera). Her roles there included "Mimi" in La Boheme and "Fiordiligi" in Cosi fan Tutte. In the San Francisco Spring Opera production of Menotti's The Consul, she sang the role of "Anna Gomez", under the composer's direction.
EDWARD PIERSON (Rangwan & Uncle Joe on December 18 and 20; Koanga on December 21) cut his operatic teeth as "Don Carlo" with the Chicago Lyric Opera in 1964. In 1966 Mr. Pierson made his debut at the New York City Opera in Don Rodrigo. Since then, this handsome bass-baritone has been under contract at the Lincoln Center House and has sung such roles as "Creon" in Oedipus Rex, "Bartolo" in The Barber of Seville, "Monterone" in Rigoletto, "Don Julian" in Don Rodrigo and the title role in Prince Igor. Mr. Pierson was also selected for the leading baritone role in the American premiere of Britten's Burning Fiery Furnace. In addition to his activities at the New York City Opera, Mr. Pierson has, during the past seasons, toured with the New York Pro Musica in the plays of Daniel and Herod, and has appeared during the holiday season at the New York City Center production of Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors. He appears on DESTO RECORDS in Carrie Nation, the opera by Douglas Moore.
WILLIAM MCDONALD (Simon Perez) grew up in East Saint Louis, Illinois, and studied at the University of Indiana where he presently teaches voice. Mr. McDonald has sung with opera companies throughout the country, and his repertoire consists of over thirty major roles. Recent performances for the young tenor include "Tom" in The Rake's Progress, "Don Ottavio" in Don Giovanni and "Bacchus" in Ariadne Auf Naxos at the University of Indiana. This past summer Mr. McDonald sang the roles of "Don Ottavio" in Don Giovanni, "Sam" in Floyd's Suzannah and "Pinkerton" in Madama Butterfly at the Brevard Music Center. For the New York City Opera, he performed the role of "Oberon" in Midsummer Night's Dream and recently appeared with the Atlanta Symphony under the baton of Robert Shaw.
WILL ROY (Don Jose Martinez) studied at Curtis Institute and the Manhattan School of Music where he was a protege of the late John Brownlee. Now a leading basso of the New York City Opera, Mr. Roy's assignments consist of leading roles such as "Sarastro" in The Magic Flute, "Osmin" in the Abduction from the Seraglio, "Arkel" in Pelleas and Melisande, "Don Basilio" in The Barber of Seville and many others. Mr. Roy has also appeared with the Chautauqua Opera Company, the Mozart Festival Company, the New Haven Opera Society and many others as well as with many symphony orchestras throughout the United States. Will Roy's feeling for art also expresses itself in other fields as he is an artist in oils, water color and gouache. He has also appeared as lecturer in schools and colleges across the country. Mr. Roy has produced and directed his own radio shows, and has appeared in several television programs.
JOYCE GERBER (Clotilda), who studied music at Temple University and the Juilliard School of Music, is a graduate of the Lake George Opera Festival's apprentice program. With the same company as solo artist, she sang a wide variety of roles including "Zits" in Gianni Schicchi, "Dryad" in Ariadne auf Naxos, "Florence Pike" in Albert Herring, "Berta" in The Barber of Seville, and "Marcellina" in The Marriage of Figaro. On the national scene recently, the young mezzo-soprano has sung leading roles in Mozart's Lucio Silla and Cimarosa's Il Matrimonio Segreto with the Chamber Opera Society of Baltimore; "Minerva" in the Dallas Civic Opera production of Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld; "Berta" in the Goldovsky Opera Theatre's touring production of The Barber of Seville, and "The Secretary" in Menotti's The Consul and "Mistress Page" in The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Bel Air (Maryland) Festival. Under the auspices of the Metropolitan Opera Studio, Miss Gerber won critical and audience acclaim this fall in a program of Beethoven songs at Lincoln Center.
PAUL CALLAWAY (Conductor) has been Organist and Choirmaster of the Washington Cathedral since 1939 and was closely associated with the Opera Society during its early years. Dr. Callaway's many accomplishments include: guest conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra; conductor of concerts for the Friends of Music of Dumbarton Oaks; conductor of the world premiere of Gian Carlo Menotti's ballet The Unicorn, the Gorgon and the Manticore at the Coolidge Festival of the Library of Congress in 1957; conductor of the world premiere of Luigi Dallapiccola's Five Songs in 1957 and conductor of the world premiere of Leo Sowerby's The Throne of God at the Washington Cathedral in 1957. Dr. Callaway played the solo part in the world premiere of Barber's Toccata Festiva with the Philadelphia Orchestra and conducted the world premieres of John La Montaine's festival operas, Novellis, Novellis, The Shephardes Playe, Erode the Great and Lee Hoiby's cantata A Hymn of the Nativity. Dr. Callaway has been heard in recital in many cities throughout the country.
FRANK CORSARO (Director) comes to the Opera Society with a wealth of directing experience in opera, television, and legitimate theater. As a principal director with the New York City Opera, Mr. Corsaro has directed over thirteen productions including the American premiere of Prokoffief's Angel of Fire, Katerina Ismailova, and most recently, the multimedia production of Janacek's The Makropoulos Case for which he received national critical acclaim. Mr. Corsaro directed the world premiere of Carlysle Floyd's Of Mice and Men for the Seattle Opera, and has also directed major productions for the Atlanta and Cincinnati opera companies and the Lake George Opera Festival. On and off Broadway Mr. Corsaro has directed many productions including Night of the Iguana, No Exit and The Scarecrow. For television, he directed Borodin's Prince Igor and an hour tape of Madama Butterfly. As an actor, Mr. Corsaro has performed with the Brattle Company at City Center and made his screen debut in 1968 in Rachel, Rachel, a film by Paul Newman, with Joanne Woodward.
RONALD CHASE (Scenery and Film Designer) returns to the Opera Society after receiving national critical acclaim for his set and film design in last season's multi-media production of The Turn of the Screw. His sculpture has been exhibited throughout the United States, Canada and Japan, and he is represented by the Triangle Gallery of San Francisco where he is presently living. Mr. Chase has participated in the improvisational experiments of electronic composer Pauline Oliveros and choreographer Elizabeth Harris. Two years of improvisational workshop for musicians, artists and dancers led to their collaboration on two films: Theatre Piece for the San Francisco Mime Troupe and The Covenant, a film of Miss Harris' work which was later shown at the film festivals of Cracow, Evian, Edinburgh and Venice. In preparation for Koanga, Mr. Chase spent several weeks in the Bayou Country in Louisiana filming plantations, gardens, and heavy swamp areas - the location Delius chose for the setting of this opera.
NANANNE PORCHER (Lighting Designer) has lighted over 100 different opera productions in the past ten years for leading American and European stage directors in Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. Her work with Franco Zeffirelli includes a Traviata for Callas as well as Alcina, Lucia di Lammermoor, Don Giovanni, and the Metropolitan's recent opening opera, Anthony and Cleopatra. Koanga marks Miss Porcher's fifth production with the Opera Society and her second collaboration with Ronald Chase (Scenery and Film Designer) including the Society's production of The Turn of the Screw last season. Her work is found in the permanent repertory of the American Ballet Theater, the New York City Ballet and the Atlanta Ballet. Miss Porcher will act as Lighting Designer for the Broadway musical Ari based on the Uris novel Exodus which opens in New York in January.
JOSEPH BELLA (Costume Designer) taught costume design at Carnegie
Mellon University and is presently on the staff of Hunter College in New
York City. Mr. Bella's designs have enhanced productions for the Great
Lakes Shakespeare Festival, and the National Players. The young designer
acted as Associate Costume Designer for last season's La Boheme and Washington
audiences will also remember Mr. Bella's designs for the Olney Theatre
and the Catholic University Theatre. In the opera field, Mr. Bella has
been associated with the Santa Fe Opera assisting on the American premiere
of Penderecki's The Devils of Loudon. He has also served as costume coordinator
with the Baltimore Civic Opera for the past two seasons. Mr. Bella has
assisted on such Broadway productions as Mame and Promises, Promises and
received critical acclaim for his costume designs for the New York production
of Philosophy in the Boudoir.
Simon Perez, the tyrannical slave overseer on the plantation of Don
Jose Martinez, constantly taunts and drives the slaves under his care.
He has also been forcing his attentions upon Palmyra, the mulatto slave-girl
who serves Clotilda, mistress of the plantation and wife of Don Jose. Don
Jose announces that he has purchased a new slave, Koanga, who is an African
prince and Voodoo priest. Koanga at first refuses to be brought into submission;
however, he is captivated by the charms and beauty of Palmyra. Palmyra
realizes an intense and unexplained attraction to Koanga, not only because
of his personal magnetism, but also he has stirred within her a strange
longing and long-buried pride in her native race. Don Jose offers Palmyra
as Koanga's bride if he will submit to slavery. Koanga at first refuses,
but after a touching plea from Palmyra, he agrees and renounces his Voodoo
oath never to be slave to those who bought him. Clotilda announces to Perez
that the marriage must not take place because Palmyra is in fact the illegitimate
daughter of Clotilda's own father and a negro slave. Because of her birthright,
she must not be permitted to marry the slave Koanga. Perez agrees to plot
Palmyra's abduction and prevent the marriage, thereby saving Palmyra for
himself. Perez abducts Palmyra during the wedding celebration and Koanga,
half-crazed by the deceit, calls upon his Voodoo Gods to forgive him and
bring a curse upon the plantation. He flees to the hills with a trusted
band of fellow-slaves. He encounters Perez in a bitter duel, and Perez
is slain. Perez' followers in turn slay Koanga. In desperation, Palmyra
mourns her lost lover and stabs herself. The entire story is told as a
flash-back by a conjureman.