Tchaikovsky’s “gem” Iolanta in Dallas
By The Dallas Opera
Photo by The Dallas Opera and Damir Yusupov
The Dallas Opera 2014-2015 “Heights of Passion” Season closes with a charming and poignant — but rarely performed work — by Russia’s greatest composer: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s 1892 “gem,” IOLANTA (Yō-LAWN-tah), a fairy tale romance with deeply serious undertones set in Medieval France.
Opening night will take place on Friday, April 10, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. in the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center. Additional performances are Sunday, April 12 at 2:00 p.m., Wednesday, April 15 at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, April 18 at 7:30 p.m. The Winspear Opera House is located at 2403 Flora Street, Dallas, Texas, 75201.
IOLANTA is a lyric opera in one act, where love and duty, deception and faith collide. Iolanta is a kind-hearted princess — blind since infancy — who has been sheltered from the world and, literally, “kept in the dark” about her condition by her over-protective father. When a young man enters her private garden, a love story begins, new insights and perspectives develop and lives are changed forever.
In an example of impeccable casting, IOLANTA stars Russian soprano Ekaterina Scherbachenko in the title role. Critic Santiago Martin Bermudez of ConcertoNet described her portrayal: “Ekaterina Scherbachenko interprets a princess full of tormented sweetness and delivers intense lyricism thanks to elegant phrasing, natural high notes and remarkable vibrato. All in all, her Iolanta is an absolute success.” Iolanta’s love interest, Count Vaudémont, will be performed by Sergey Skorokhodov, a highly regarded Russian tenor who has toured Europe performing this role in concert with the internationally renowned Anna Netrebko.
Making two American debuts in this production are Ukrainian baritone Andrei Bondarenko as Robert, the Duke of Burgundy, and baritone Vladislav Sulimsky from Belarus who will portray the role of the Moorish physician. This production also marks the returns of bass Mikhail Kolelishvili (Boris Godunov) as Iolanta’s father — King Renè, tenor Andrew Bidlack (Everest, Die tote Stadt and The Lighthouse), and bass Jordan Bisch (Lucia di Lammermoor), a “Maria Callas Award” nominee.
Soprano, Joanna Mongiardo makes her TDO debut as Brigitta; mezzo-soprano, Lauren McNeese as Laura; and mezzo-soprano, Tamara Mumford in another company debut, stars as Marta.
IOLANTA will be staged by German director Christian Räth (Fidelio, Tristan & Isolde) and conducted by Dallas Opera Music Director Emmanuel Villaume (Carmen, The Marriage of Figaro).
“While IOLANTA is rarely performed in the U.S., it has a significant following in Europe and has been a particular favorite of TDO’s Music Director, Emmanuel Villaume, who recently conducted a critically acclaimed recording of the work with Anna Netrebko for Deutsche Grammophon,” explains Dallas Opera General Director and CEO Keith Cerny. “We know that this exquisite opera will delight patrons with the lush music of Tchaikovsky, and the fairy tale love story set in southern France. We are excited to be featuring the magnificent talent of several outstanding performers, including the brilliant Ekaterina Scherbachenko – a Bolshoi Theatre sensation – in the title role, and Sergey Skorokhodov, as her adoring love interest.
“Our superb design team is working to create a new production that will transport opera-goers to a special place and time that will beautifully enhance this enchanting story. This dazzling production is sure to bring our “Heights of Passion” Season to a thrilling close; leaving audiences eagerly anticipating next season!” added Mr. Cerny.
Classical music critic Catherine Womack of D Magazine had this to say about a recent performance conducted by Maestro Villaume. “TDO music director Emmanuel Villaume was spirited and alert, keeping everything and everyone on track with great success. It’s clear that Villaume spent time going beyond the basics of rehearsing entrances with this orchestra and cast; the group as a whole seemed to have a clear understanding of exactly when and where phrases should lift or fall, swell or sigh, push or pull. It was great to hear such musicality from the pit and to hear it so thoughtfully mirrored in singer’s voices.”
IOLANTA is the last opera composed by the revered Russian genius, with a libretto written by his brother, Modest. Based on the Danish play King Renè’s Daughter by Henrik Hertz, the work premiered on December 18, 1892 at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, Russia on a double bill with Tchaikovsky’s new ballet, The Nutcracker. It is a romanticized account of the life of Yolanda de Bar, a fifteenth-century Duchess of Lorraine. The work was performed outside Russia for the first time less than a month later, when conductor Gustav Mahler brought Iolanta to Hamburg. Mahler later conducted the work in Vienna as well. This opera was performed for the very first time at New York’s Metropolitan Opera earlier this season.
“Tchaikovsky’s final opera deserves to be known and performed more widely than it is,” says Dallas Opera Music Director Emmanuel Villaume, “and not merely because it represents his final work in this much-loved art form. In it, the composer reveals the depth and breadth of his musicality as well as his tremendous compassion for the wounded, the broken-hearted, and the lost souls walking among us.
“The most intriguing aspect of IOLANTA is the way in which the music and drama in this opera reveal the complexity of human relationships, the danger of lies, and the enlightening power of love. Like the title character herself,” Maestro Villaume adds, “we find ourselves seeking the light of truth at the heart of this tale.”
A free pre-performance lecture (“The Joy and Ronald Mankoff Pre-Opera Talks”) will be conducted one hour prior to curtain at most performances. The Dallas Opera Guild also hosts “Opera Insights,” a lively panel discussion featuring artists, directors and designers, on the Saturday afternoon prior to opening.
IOLANTA will be performed in the original Russian with English translations (supertitles) projected above the stage.
Tickets start at just $19 and may be purchased conveniently online, 24/7, at www.dallasopera.org or by contacting the friendly professionals in The Dallas Opera Ticket Services Office at (214) 443-1000.