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How Austin Opera got its groove back

Michael Barnes
mbarnes@statesman.com

Earlier this evening at the Long Center, Austin Opera unveiled its most inspired and innovative season in a long, long time.

Start with the  Opera ATX project, which reaches out to new audiences with fresh material in unexpected venues. The first effort will be “Soldier Songs” by  David T. Little. This multi-media experience mixes video, rock, opera and theater to tell the stories of veterans of five wars. It is produced by  Beth Morrison Projects, a leader in contemporary opera.

Not content with this edgy endeavor, General Manager and CEO  Annie Burridge also announced that the Austin company would produce the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Silent Night,” based on the 2005 film “Joyeux Noël,” which reimagines the famous Christmas Eve truce during World War I. Hometown hero  Kevin Puts wrote the music;  Mark Campbell the libretto; the same team that created “The Manchurian Candidate,” which won multiple prizes from the  Austin Critics Table last season.

In addition to these two new pieces, Austin Opera has committed ever more resources to the more traditional repertoire. First up is  Giuseppe Verdi‘s tumultuous Shakespearean tragedy, “Otello,” which hasn’t been seen in Austin in decades. The sets come from Cincinnati Opera and the costumes from Portland Opera, while the lead roles will be taken by  Issachah Savage, Marina Costa-Jackson and  Michael Chliodi.

Late in the season, we’ll be treated to  Giacomo Puccini‘s “La Boheme” in a lavish production from San Francisco Opera by way of Michigan Opera Theatre, starring  Kang WangElizabeth CaballeroNoel Bouley and  Susannah Biller.

This is how Austin opera got its groove back.