Tomer Zvulun: The Atlanta Opera's intriguing 2017/18Interview
The Atlanta Opera has announced an exciting season for 2017⁄18, with great picks for opera fans of all sorts. Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman kicks off the mainstage season in November 2017, along with favourites like Carmen, La fille du régiment, and even Sweeney Todd. TAO’s expanded Discoveries Series features Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins, and the first fully-staged production of Jake Heggie’s Out of Darkness.
Tomer Zvulun, Artistic Director of The Atlanta Opera and director of The Flying Dutchman, talks about discovering Wagner, and what he’s most excited about in 2017⁄18.
What are some highlights of 2017⁄18 that you personally look forward to most?
It’s a hard choice – we have so many highlights! We’re starting the season with a new production of Wagner’s masterpiece, The Flying Dutchman. This was the first opera I ever directed with The Atlanta Opera, almost 10 years ago, and it was this work that made me realize what a great connection I have with this audience. They really responded to the ghostly aspect of the story, and now we’re going to do it in a new way that shows how the company has grown. In the new production, we will show how TAO is stepping up the theatrical and visual aspects of our production while featuring incredible singers. The production will be set in the 20th century and reframe the story around our celebrity culture.
This season we also have a very dramatic and moving new piece by Jake Heggie, Out of Darkness, which is based on the true stories of men and women who were held in Nazi captivity because of their religion and sexual orientation.
Finally, we’ll be doing a cabaret evening of Brecht-Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins at Paris on Ponce on the Atlanta BeltLine, and, for the first time, the company will be tackling Sweeney Todd.
How have you chosen the programming for your Discoveries Series?
All of our 2017-18 season deals with the theme of “the other” or “the outsider.” Out of Darkness tells the stories of gay and Jewish characters during the Holocaust, and The Seven Deadly Sins follows a kind of immigrant journey.
Also, these pieces are new to our audiences. This will be the first time Out of Darkness is performed in a fully-staged production, and The Seven Deadly Sins is rarely done. Finally, they fit perfectly to the locations: the intimate Theatrical Outfit (Out of Darkness) and the seedy cabaret world (The Seven Deadly Sins).
Where does one begin when it comes to directing Wagner?
I am a Wagner fanatic and was lucky enough to spend a large part of my life as a Wagner scholar: studying the Ring for years as I was preparing for my duties as the associate director for the acclaimed Seattle Opera Ring in 2009. In that same year I also directed The Flying Dutchman for the first time in Atlanta. There are countless books about Wagner, his work, philosophy and creative process. It is an incredibly rich and profound world and one can be immersed in it for a lifetime and still be a newbie. It is especially meaningful to me as an Israeli who did not have access to his music as there have been a ban on his music in Israel for decades. Perhaps that element of the forbidden made his music even more attractive to me.
What sort of response do Atlanta audiences give for new opera, versus more traditional picks?
Atlanta audiences are very supportive and open-minded. They are excited about new works and want to see them programmed. At the same time, they are particular about what they like and what they don’t like. Some modern works have been much more successful here than others. We have programmed a new piece every year since my arrival and plan on continuing this tradition. We want to be sure the audience stays engaged, so we choose the repertoire very carefully.
Next season will be only the second year of the TAO Studio program for young artists. What kind of opportunities are the TAO Studio Artists getting next season?
Our studio artists will be involved in almost every mainstage production, as well as in our studio tour of The Magic Flute.
On the mainstage, our studio artist director Brenna Corner is making her debut with Carmen and Santiago Ballerini is starring in La fille du régiment. We believe our young artists are on the brink of major careers, and we provide an incredible wealth of opportunities for them – and for our audiences to be the first to discover them.
For full details on The Atlanta Opera’s 2017⁄18 season, and to purchase tickets, click right here.