Opera Theater of Pittsburgh announces SummerFest lineup

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Opera Theater of Pittsburgh's SummerFest is so close you can taste it.

Or maybe that's the beer you'll be drinking during of the company's pop-up operas, set to appear randomly in Pittsburgh's bars this summer.

Opera Theater of Pittsburgh's SummerFest schedule
Except for the pop-up operas, the events take place at the Twentieth Century Club, 4201 Bigelow Blvd., Oakland. Single tickets for the three mainstage operas start at $25, with subscriptions available for two or more performances. Tickets and additional information at 412-326-9687 or www.otsummerfest.org.
July 10: An Evening With Marianne Cornetti.
July 15: Master class with Marianne Cornetti.
July 18, 20 and 26: Richard Strauss' "Ariadne on Naxos.".
July 11, 19 and 27: Lehar's "The Merry Widow."
July 12, 13, 17, 25 and 26: Jones and Schmidt's "The Fantasticks" with Attack Theatre.
July 26 and 27: July 26 and 27 (with unannounced bar performances in June and July): Zahab's "Happy Hour!"
July 11, 12, 17, 18, 19 and 25:  Late-night cabaret following mainstage performances.
July 22: Workshop of new eco-opera by composer Gilda Lyons and librettist Tammy Ryan.
July 12, 19 and 26: Foss' "The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County."
July 13, 16, 20, 23 and 24:  Vocal recital series: Andrey Nemzer; young artist program faculty; Europe International Voice Competition winners; Mildred Miller Posvar tribute; Richard Strauss celebration.

In any case, the festival's full plate of operas, recitals and smaller events is sure to satisfy all your operatic cravings.

The season opens with a recital by renowned mezzo-soprano Marianne Cornetti, who has sung at the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala and the Royal Opera Covent Garden. Additional recitals will feature countertenor Andrey Nemzer; the company's young artist program faculty; the five winners of the first SummerFest Europe International Voice Competition, in Belgium; a tribute to Opera Theater founder Mildred Miller Posvar; and works by Richard Strauss.

The three mainstage operas are Richard Strauss' "Ariadne on Naxos," Lehar's "The Merry Widow" and a dance-operatic version of Jones and Schmidt's "The Fantasticks," performed with Attack Theatre.

The selection should appeal to operagoers with a range of backgrounds, said artistic and general director Jonathan Eaton. The rarely performed "Ariadne," featuring Elizabeth Baldwin and Robert Frankenberry, caters to aficionados. "The Merry Widow," starring Anna Singer and Dimitri Lazich, provides light complement, while "The Fantasticks" with Sean Cooper continues the company's crossover tradition.

"We felt that to be a festival, we should stretch our reach and our range more widely than we ever have in the past," Mr. Eaton said.

The company will also present the world premiere of University of Pittsburgh lecturer Roger Zahab's "Happy Hour!" It follows single, hip Pittsburghers as they navigate the online dating world.

That's where those pop-up operas come in. Before the full performances, the company's young artists will stage vignettes from "Happy Hour!" in bars throughout Pittsburgh.

"We'll work it out with the bar so they turn off the TV, and then whatever happens, happens," Mr. Eaton said.

In addition, one children's opera, Lukas Foss' "The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," will appease budding opera fans.

The company is also workshopping a new "eco-opera" by Gilda Lyons and Tammy Ryan about Pittsburgh's favorite environmentalist, Rachel Carson. The commissioned opera will receive three more workshops -- at the Pittsburgh Zoo, Phipps Conservatory and, Mr. Eaton hopes, the Carrie Furnace -- before being produced at the 2015 SummerFest. Mr. Eaton said the company is also planning a new WinterFest, a mini-festival set to launch this winter.

For the second year, SummerFest events will take place at the Twentieth Century Club in Oakland. The formerly nomadic company has found its home in the women's club, and patrons of last year's somewhat sweaty festival will be glad to know that it is upgrading its amenities for the 21st century.

"The club is updating its air conditioning and seating and restroom facilities, and we're so thrilled to be a part of the revitalization of this grand institution and its renovation," Mr. Eaton said.

Elizabeth Bloom: ebloom@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1750. Twitter: @BloomPG.

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