Valerie Hamlin, PR/Communications Director
303-292-6500, ext. 108
September 07, 2007





THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA by Benjamin Britten

WEST SIDE STORY by Leonard Bernstein

SUSANNAH by Carlisle Floyd

Denver, Co. - General/Artistic Director Pelham G. Pearce announces Central City Opera's 2008 Festival, with three productions of 20th century works in English, celebrating and coinciding with the National Performing Arts Convention (NPAC) in Denver in 2008. The 2008 Festival opens earlier than usual, in honor of the Convention, running June 6 to Aug. 10. It features a new production of Benjamin Britten's The Rape of Lucretia, the rarely performed chamber opera about a faithful woman scorned amongst political rebellion in ancient Rome; a new production of Leonard Bernstein's popular West Side Story, the modern twist on Shakespeare's classic Romeo and Juliet tale of two lovers divided; and American composer Carlisle Floyd's Susannah, the story of an innocent heroine accused of immorality and shunned in the eyes of her rural Tennessee community.

"As we look to the future of the art form, with the upcoming National Performing Arts Convention in Denver, we celebrate by presenting the works of three great contemporary composers," comments General/Artistic Director Pelham (Pat) G. Pearce. "I feel our small house is the perfect venue for Benjamin Britten's dramatic The Rape of Lucretia, with its small cast and orchestra, and I have wanted to present it for some time. Continuing our commitment to American composers, I chose a new production of Leonard Bernstein's timeless piece of musical theater, West Side Story for our second offering; and a revival of our popular 1997 production of Carlisle Floyd's powerful Susannah."

The 2008 Festival opens June 6 with Benjamin Britten's first chamber opera, The Rape of Lucretia, running outside of the regular festival season with just six performances through June 22. This new production is Central City Opera's offering as one of the hosts of the National Performing Arts Convention in Denver, running June 11 to June 14, with a special performance for convention attendees on Friday, June 12. The story, with libretto by Ronald Duncan after the play by André Obey, follows Lucretia, married to a Roman general, who has been faithful to her husband while wives of other soldiers have been caught in betrayal. The King's son is provoked in to testing Lucretia's chastity and is successful in dishonoring her. A scorned Lucretia begs her husband to avenge her honor as she commits suicide. The Rape of Lucretia will be performed in English with English supertitles. Central City Opera's past repertoire of Benjamin Britten operas includes Glorian (2001 first American production); A Midsummer Night's Dream (1974, 1977, 2002); and Paul Bunyan (2005).

Central City Opera Artistic Consultant Paul Curran, recently appointed artistic director of the Norwegian National Opera, directs this production after his most recent success directing the company's Les Contes d'Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann) (2004) and Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream (2002). British conductor Damian Iorio makes his United States debut with this production. Now based in Italy, Maestro Iorio has extensive experience conducting Britten's operas with opera companies there including successful new productions of Britten's Albert Herring with the Accademia della Scala, Milan, and Maggio Musicale, Florence; and Britten's Curlew River at the opera houses of Trento and Pisa. Damian Iorio has spent the last two summers conducting at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera in the United Kingdom.

The second offering of 2008 is a new production of Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story, opening June 28 and running through Aug. 9. Set in Manhattan's Upper West Side, this story is loosely based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. It follows star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria, who try to make their romance work despite their ties to rival teenage gangs, the American "Jets" and the Puerto Rican "Sharks." Considered one of the most popular musical dramas of our time, the piece written by Arthur Laurents (book) and Stephen Sondheim (lyrics) premiered in 1957, marking Stephen Sondheim's Broadway debut. Bernstein's sophisticated music for West Side Story has led to its production by opera companies, as well as an "operatic" recording of the piece conducted by Bernstein himself in 1984, featuring Kiri Te Kanawa as Maria and Jose Carreras as Tony. Central City Opera previously presented Bernstein's Candide in both 1980 and 2000.

A regular guest of Central City Opera, Ken Cazan returns to direct West Side Story after his most recent appearances with the company directing critically-acclaimed productions of Le Jongleur de Notre Dame (2004) and Paul Bunyan (2005). Central City Opera's Music Director, John Baril, conducts this production after leading performances of Cendrillon last summer. Having started his work with the company in 1992, Mr. Baril has conducted over 100 performances during his tenure.

The 2008 Festival concludes with American composer and librettist Carlisle Floyd's Susannah, opening July 5 and running through Aug. 10. A glimpse in to small town America, this retelling of the Apocryphal biblical tale of Susannah and the Elders takes place in rural Tennessee. The story concerns a heroine falsely accused of immoral behavior when seen bathing in a creek by the church elders. Shunned by the community, Susannah seeks solace from the town's itinerant preacher who seduces the young girl in her weakened state. Susannah's brother, Sam seeks revenge and with hardened heart, she is left to drive away the townspeople alone. One of the few American operas to have secured a place in the current repertoire of both American and international companies, Susannah was living composer Carlisle Floyd's first full-length opera. Having grown up in the Southern Bible Belt of America as the son of a Methodist minister, Floyd was quite familiar with the subject matter for Susannah. In his uniquely American style, the composer wrote richly lyrical music inspired by folk styles and rhythms. In addition to the 1997 production of Susannah, Central City Opera has also presented Carlisle Floyd's Of Mice and Men (1970).

Hal France returns to lead the Central City Opera (CCO) Orchestra after his lauded performances of Menotti's The Saint of Bleecker Street last summer. Having enjoyed a longstanding relationship with CCO, additional previous productions include L'Italiana in Algeri (2003); A Midsummer's Night's Dream (2002) and Gloriana (2001). Maestro France is a veteran of Carlisle Floyd's operas, having conducted all of them except Susannah, making this his debut of the piece.

Subscriptions for the 2008 Festival go on sale Oct. 1. Two opera subscription packages include tickets to West Side Story and Susannah, with 20% discount pricing for one of the six performances of The Rape of Lucretia. Subscriptions range from $77 to $153 with subscriber-only ticket prices for The Rape of Lucretia ranging from $36 to $74 (including 20% discount). Single tickets go on sale January, 2008. To purchase tickets or for more information, call (303) 292-6700 or visit www.centralcityopera.org.

Currently in its 75th year, the Central City Opera House Association is the nation's fifth-oldest opera company, located just 35 miles west of Denver in one of Colorado's official National Landmark Historic Districts. The company continues to pursue its four-part mission to present artistically excellent professional opera in an annual summer festival; to offer career-entry training to young singers; to produce education and community service programs; and to preserve and maintain the Opera House and 30 other Victorian-era properties. For more information or to purchase tickets to the Central City Opera, visit www.centralcityopera.org or call (303) 292-6700.