Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - August 26, 2011

Livermore Valley Opera announces its 20th anniversary lineup

Season opens with 'Roméo et Juliette'

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

The Tri-Valley's own regional opera company, the Livermore Valley Opera, is celebrating its 20th anniversary season, beginning with Gounod's "Roméo et Juliette" on Sept. 24. Another of opera's most cherished and poignant works, Puccini's "Tosca," will be onstage in March.

The company will also hold a special anniversary event of a concert and elegant dinner at the Ruby Hill Golf Club in January.

The anniversary season welcomes new leadership with Elizabeth Wells as its new executive director and Alexander Katsman, its long-time music director, as the new artistic director.

"This anniversary is not only a great accomplishment for LVO and all those who have contributed their time and talents to help us get this far, but it is also a celebration of the Tri-Valley's love of opera," said Wells. "We never forget that it is our audience and supporters who have allowed us to bring them great opera for 20 years."

The opera company was started in 1992 by Raquel and Doug Holt, who dreamed of bringing quality opera to the local community, productions were held in the auditorium at Livermore High School.

"Livermore Valley Opera's 20th anniversary is indeed a happy event and momentous," says Raquel Holt.

With the opening of the Bankhead Theater in 2007, it moved to the new state-of-the-art theater, launching the opera to a new level of professionalism.

This new venue, coupled with the high caliber of opera singers, music and stage direction led to Livermore Valley Opera being given Professional Company Member status by OPERA America in March.

"What we've been able to achieve is greatly due to our partners and supporters and we are grateful for the big heart and encouragement of our valley-wide community and its continued support to LVO," Holt added. "Throughout the years, LVO has been guided by its stated mission, that is, to help enrich our community and to foster talented opera singers."

The opera company has helped launch the careers of a number of opera singers over the years. Soprano Nina Yoshida Nelsen performed her first role as Suzuki in Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" with it in 2004, and since then has advanced to larger companies including New York City Opera in 2010, and performed the same role in London at the Royal Albert Hall this year.

Baritone Nicolai Janitzky, who portrayed Silvio in its 2009 production of "I Pagliacci," recently made his debut at San Francisco Opera as Schelkalov in "Boris Godunov."

Other performers include Kaileen Miller, who performed the countess in "The Marriage of Figaro" in 2009, and Melody King who performed her first lead role as Cio-Cio San in March's performance of "Madama Butterfly."

Also this year, Livermore Valley Opera will expand opera experiences to more venues beyond the doors of the Bankhead Theater.

"It is fitting that in our 20th anniversary season LVO is undertaking a record number of outreach programs to libraries, senior centers, clubs, and especially schools," Jim Schmidt, president of LVO's Board of Directors explained. "We want to demonstrate that the power of the musical and theatrical art form of opera is easily accessible here in our own communities."

Livermore Valley Opera upcoming season

'Roméo et Juliette'

* Sept. 24; 8 p.m.

* Sept. 25; 2 p.m.

* Oct. 1; 8 p.m.

* Oct. 2; 2 p.m.

* Opening Night Gala celebration dinner at Uncle Yu's at the Vineyard, 5 p.m.

20th Anniversary Grand Celebration

* Jan. 28; 5 p.m. A spectacular evening of gourmet food, great wines, and grand opera featuring performances by three celebrity divas of opera and dinner at Ruby Hill Golf Club.

'Tosca'

* March 10; 8 p.m.

* March 11; 2 p.m.

* March 17; 8 p.m.

* March 18; 2 p.m.

* Opening Night Gala celebration dinner at Uncle Yu's at the Vineyard, 5 p.m.

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