Arts & Events

See Opera Live in Berkeley This Sunday Afternoon and the Following Saturday Night

Thursday November 09, 2017 - 03:39:00 PM
Rodolpho (Salvatore Atti) meets Luisa Miller (Eliza O'Malley)
Ellen St. Thomas
Rodolpho (Salvatore Atti) meets Luisa Miller (Eliza O'Malley)

There’s probably no place in the United States except New York City that offers more live opera performances of all kinds than the Bay Area. The commendable broadcast presentations of the Metropolitan Opera in movie theaters have increased public awareness of opera, and now fans who are ready for the next step in the opera experience have ample opportunity to see this art form up close and personal, in small houses for reasonable prices.

The list of local companies is long and getting longer: Island City, West Bay, Verismo, West Edge and Bay Shore Lyric are just a few.

Now Berkeley Chamber Opera, a relative newcomer (third season) on the scene, is gearing up for its second production this year, following its very successful production of Menotti’s The Consul in August.

Verdi’s Luisa Miller will be performed in Berkeley’s intimate Hillside Club on Sunday afternoon, November 12, and Saturday night, November 18.

The title role will be sung by Eliza O’Malley, a company founder who is a veteran of many Bay Area productions and a fervent advocate of what she calls “locally sourced opera”.

Locally-sourced food has been all the rage for a while now, but locally-sourced opera?

Berkeley Chamber Opera hopes to provide just that—productions which showcase the work of the Bay Area’s wealth of resident professional talent in accessible settings, at a price which is affordable for a wide range of opera fans. 

Many who have been introduced to opera through the popular Metropolitan Opera films haven’t yet experienced the unique excitement of live performance. 

Berkeley Chamber Opera intends to change that. 

BCO is dedicated to presenting local professional opera singers in staged productions with a chamber orchestra in intimate venues in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Eliza O’Malley, who grew up in Berkeley, created BCO as an outgrowth of her work singing leading roles with such local opera companies as Verismo Opera, Handel Opera Project and Goat Hall Productions and producing concerts with the Dazzling Divas

The conductor will be a distinguished pioneer of the Bay Area opera scene, Jonathan Khuner, a longtime Berkeley resident who is now Music Director for West Edge Opera, the company which morphed from the original Berkeley Opera, which performed for years under his baton in Berkeley’s Julia Morgan Theater. He appears frequently with many Bay Area companies—he conducted Berkeley Chamber Opera’s Capuleti e Montecchi last season. This past summer at West Edge he led Thomas’ Hamlet and Frankenstein by Libby Larsen; next summer he will conduct their production of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande. This coming March he will lead Island City Opera in La Sonnambula.  

In addition to his participation in local opera, for decades Khuner has served as assistant conductor for San Francisco Opera, NY Metropolitan Opera, and Chicago Lyric Opera. Occasionally he works abroad, most recently conducting Arjuna’s Dilemma in Kathmandu (2016). 

Director Ellen St. Thomas has performed in concerts and shows across the Bay Area as a lyric soprano. She also cofounded two opera companies: Open Opera, dedicated to free operas in Bay Area parks, and Island City Opera in Alameda. 

Two of the male leads are recent transplants from the East Coast. Salvatore Atti, tenor, came to northern California from Boston, where the Boston Globe wrote that; “As Faust, Salvatore Atti was radiant in his cavatina “Salut! Demeure chaste et pure”. He performed the role of Alfredo in La Traviata in Busseto Italy (Verdi’s hometown) during Verdi’s bicentennial celebration. 

Baritone Geoffrey Di Giorgio most recently lived near Philadelphia, but this past summer he moved west to participate in the Dolora Zajick Institute. He has performed in many cities in the United States and Europe, and won numerous contests including the Metropolitan Opera Auditions. 

Maestro Khuner says this about the upcoming BCO show: 

Luisa Miller is a fairly early opera of Verdi (1849), but, like his next major work, Rigoletto, is already masterful, and even more impassioned. Based on a fiery early 19th century play by Friedrich Schiller, the opera's scenario highlights a tender love affair trying to bloom amid vicious class hatred and unbridgeable generation gaps. The explosive dialectics of the German author have been remolded into a rich vehicle for warm Italian operatic romanticism, with high-tension arias and ensembles, climaxing in a powerfully tragic conclusion.” 


Luisa Miller, by Giuseppe Verdi  

Opera in Italian with English supertitles, with chamber orchestra 

Sunday Nov 12th, 2pm, Saturday November 18th, 7pm 

Berkeley Hillside Club
2286 Cedar St. (at Arch), Berkeley

Tickets: $35 general, $20 Students/Seniors, Children under 12 free 

Buy online from Brown Paper Tickets, by phone, 1-800-838-3006.