November 9, 2020
Tulsa Opera’s ‘Baseball RIGOLETTO’—Filmed Before a Live Audience at ONEOK Field Baseball Stadium—To Be Available for Streaming on Demand Starting Thursday, November 12 at 6:00pm CT

Tulsa native James Robinson, in his Tulsa Opera debut, directed this new production, which draws upon the historical connection between baseball and opera in America

Film trailer for Tulsa Opera's 'baseball Rigoletto'; Pictured (clockwise from top left): Morris Robinson as Sparafucile, Todd Thomas as Rigoletto, Joshua Wheeker as the Duke of Mantua, and Sarah Coburn as Gilda

TULSA, OKLAHOMA (November 9, 2020) — Tulsa Opera’s ‘baseball Rigoletto,’ filmed before a live, in-person audience at local baseball stadium ONEOK Field, will premiere as a free, on-demand streaming experience for viewers around the world starting Thursday, November 12 at 6:00 p.m. CT. This performance, which originally took place on Friday, October 9, was the first staged grand opera production in the United States since the coronavirus outbreak. The film will be available on YouTube and at TulsaOpera.com.

For this season-opening performance, Tulsa Opera Artistic Director Tobias Picker—acclaimed composer of works for the Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and San Francisco Opera, among many other leading companies and ensembles—re-envisioned Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto to run 85–90 minutes without intermission. He invited Tulsa native James Robinson to direct the production in his company debut—taking the baseball diamond as his stage, with the court jester Rigoletto cast as a lowly team mascot, the Duke of Mantua depicted as a cocky star pitcher, and the hired killer, Sparafucile, as the umpire. For the live show, this ballpark setting allowed Tulsa Opera to accommodate a larger audience than the opera house and in safer, open-air conditions with rigorous health protocols in place (click here for details about the safety guidelines). The film is directed by Emmy-winning director / producer Frank Zamacona, whose credits include more than 250 specials and series distributed by PBS, ABC, The Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and more.

In advance of the film’s premiere, on Tuesday, November 10 at 7:30 p.m. CT, Tulsa Opera Artistic Director Tobias Picker welcomes stage director James Robinson as a guest on the company’s virtual conversation series Tulsa Opera LIVE. Together, they offer behind-the-scenes background on their 10 years as collaborators and a sneak peek at the upcoming film. To join the conversation via Zoom, register at TulsaOpera.com/Live.

Mr. Picker said:

“Our ‘baseball’ Rigoletto makes history as the first Rigoletto set in baseball AND on a baseball field, and it made history as the first grand opera to be performed live before a live audience by an American opera company since COVID-19 shut down the performing arts last spring. It also taps into the fascinating, but little-known history of the cultural intersection between baseball and opera in the USA going back to the MET’s epic performances throughout the country's baseball stadiums in the early 20th century. It was extremely gratifying to see an audience of 1,800—far in excess of our usual numbers, and half of those seeing an opera for the first time! I myself was as excited by watching this production from the dugout as I was sitting in my box at the MET for the premiere of my opera there in 2005. This beautiful film directed by Frank Zamacona documents an achievement the Tulsa Opera can be proud of for all time.”

Ahead of the performance last month, Tulsa Opera General Director & CEO Ken McConnell said:

“Challenging times call for creative solutions. As difficult as it’s proving for orchestras to return to the concert hall, those of us in the opera world must contend with the fact that the core of our art form—singing—has become one of the most complex activities to undertake safely as our society tries to contain COVID-19. We have nevertheless found a way to open the season safely and on schedule, while also offering an utterly unique operatic experience, and we are delighted to be partnering with ONEOK Field and the Tulsa Drillers Management as we present this first opera of our 2020–21 season.”

This production was the first since the coronavirus outbreak to be directed by James Robinson, one of America's most inventive and sought-after stage directors. Mr. Robinson has previously directed productions at companies including the Dallas, Houston Grand, Metropolitan, and San Francisco Operas. Among his recent highlights is a widely acclaimed production of Porgy and Bess created for the Metropolitan Opera; Dutch National Opera, Amsterdam; and English National Opera. 

 

CAST
Production features five principal role debuts (*)

Among the cast is soprano and Oklahoma native Sarah Coburn, who returned to Tulsa Opera to star as Gilda. Ms. Coburn has sung at leading opera houses around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera and Wiener Staatsoper. The role of the Duke is sung by tenor Joshua Wheeker,* a graduate of the Young Artist program at LA Opera, where he has sung in numerous productions. Mr. Wheeker made his role debut as the Duke last summer at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. The role of Sparafucile is sung by bass Morris Robinson.* A regular on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera, Mr. Robinson is a graduate of the Met’s prestigious Lindemann Young Artist Program and has appeared in principal roles at LA Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, and Teatro alla Scala, among many other companies and opera houses around the world.

Mezzo-soprano Allegra De Vita* is cast as Maddalena, following performances in recent years at the Washington National Opera, as well as at the Glimmerglass and Spoleto Festivals. Baritone Todd Thomas,* whose Verdi has been heard at Lyric Opera of Chicago and Florida Grand Opera, among other companies, appears as the opera’s title character, while the role of Monterone is sung by bass Kevin Thompson.* Mr. Thompson has appeared on the stages of the New York City Opera and Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi, among others, as well as in concert at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and The Kennedy Center.

Conductor Steven White, who recently made his San Diego Opera debut in Rigoletto and has also conducted Verdi in productions at the Metropolitan Opera, leads from the pit in his Tulsa Opera debut.

From Tulsa Opera’s Filstrup Resident Artist Program, tenor Chris Mosz appears in his company mainstage debut as Matteo Borsa, while Filstrup Resident Artists baritone Andrew René and bass-baritone Elliott Wulff sing in their Tulsa Opera debuts as Marullo and Count Ceprano, respectively.

 

ABOUT

Formed in 1947, Tulsa Opera is the first performing arts organization established in Oklahoma and the tenth-oldest opera company in North America. Composer Tobias Picker was appointed its Artistic Director in 2016, and Ken McConnell has been the company’s General Director & CEO since 2018. The company excels at producing bold, brave, and fresh productions of opera classics, and accomplishes this by identifying excellent young singers, then pairing them with conductors and stage directors who can improve their artistic talents. In 2019, Tulsa Opera made history in presenting the first Trans woman in a principal role on the operatic stage in the United States. In addition to presenting a main stage season, the company fosters young talent through its Tulsa Youth Opera and Resident Artist programs and promotes music education through outstanding initiatives such as Raise Your Voice!, a partnership with Tulsa Public Schools that brings music back into classrooms where music programs have been discontinued. Tulsa Opera, throughout its history, has articulated the desire of local leaders to create and maintain a world-class city. Opera is in Tulsa’s DNA, and communication with opera patrons confirms that the Tulsa community has a robust—and now reinvigorated—commitment to the company’s success.

Having opened its 2020–21 season at ONEOK Field, Tulsa Opera currently plans to return to the Tulsa Performing Arts Center for the remainder of the season (click here for the original season announcement). Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice is scheduled for February 6, 2021, and Tobias Picker’s Emmeline is planned for April 30 and May 2, 2021, replacing the previously announced production of the composer’s new opera Awakenings, which will be presented in a future season. Emmeline, originally scheduled for May 2020 but cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, had been previously re-scheduled for the 2021–22 season.

For more information, visit TulsaOpera.com.

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Tulsa Opera Presents Verdi’s Rigoletto

Available for streaming on demand starting Thursday, November 12 at 6:00 p.m. CT

Filmed at ONEOK Field (Tulsa, OK) on Friday, October 9 at 7:30 p.m. CT

Composed by Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave
Sung in Italian with English supertitles

CAST
Gilda
: Sarah Coburn
Duke of Mantua: Joshua Wheeker*
Sparafucile: Morris Robinson*
Maddalena: Allegra De Vita*
Rigoletto: Todd Thomas*
Monterone: Kevin Thompson*

Matteo Borsa: Chris Mosz**
Marullo: Andrew René*
Count Ceprano: Elliott Wulff*

ARTISTIC STAFF
Stage Director
: James Robinson*
Film Director: Frank Zamacona
Conductor: Steven White*
Chorus Master and Company Pianist: Lyndon Meyer 

*Tulsa Opera debut **Tulsa Opera mainstage debut

Streaming access is free to viewers around the world on YouTube and at TulsaOpera.com.

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Press contact: Shuman Associates | shumanpr@shumanassociates.net | (212) 315-1300

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