Vashon Opera will mark another milestone as it launches its 11th season next weekend with “La Traviata” — its premiere production of a work by Giuseppe Verdi.
The company, formed in 2009, is beloved on the island and beyond for its ecumenical pairing of national and regional opera luminaries, in principal roles, with a chorus made up of local singers.
And now, after a rich history of presenting 21 full-scale opera productions and other events, it’s finally time for Vashon Opera to tackle Verdi.
“Verdi wrote grand operas with large, great chorus numbers accompanied by a full orchestra,” said Jennifer Krikawa, the opera’s founder and artistic director. “With room in the pit in the VCA for a 25-member orchestra and the development over the years of our wonderful chorus, we feel ready and excited to present such grand opera.”
Verdi’s 26 operas, written over 54 years in the 19th century, marked a departure from the frothy opera plots of the 18th century, and “La Traviata” is no exception. With a title that translates roughly into “The Fallen Woman,” the opera tells the story of an enchanting but doomed courtesan, Violetta Valéry, who insists on living and loving outside the bounds of conventional society. Violetta’s aria, “Sempre libere…” a passionate paean to free love, was sung by Maria Callas, who embodied the role in more than 60 productions.
On Vashon, the role will be sung by Megan Renae Park, a lyric coloratura soprano who is a crossover artist equally at home on prestigious operatic, music theater and concert stages. A two-time NW Regional Metropolitan Opera National Council finalist, she has also appeared in Vashon Opera’s “Don Giovanni” in 2014.
Tenor John Marzano, in the role of Violetta’s love interest Alfredo Germont, has also graced the stages of many highly regarded venues. A highlight from his 2018/2019 season included a performance of Handel’s Messiah as the tenor soloist with Symphony Tacoma, a performance that garnered high praise in the Tacoma Weekly.
Anton Belov will sing the role of Giorgio Germont, Alfredo’s disapproving father. Belov’s voice has garnered accolades from critics in The New York Times and The Philadelphia Enquirer. He too is returning to Vashon Opera after singing the title role in the opera’s production of “Don Giovanni.”
The distinguished cast also includes Soon Cho, Shelly Traverse, Andrew Etherington, Barry Johnson, Charles Robert Austin, Joshua Carlisle, Rick Turner and Brandon Hell.
Another principal singer of special note is baritone Hugh Davis, who will sing the role of the Marchese d’Obigny. Davis graduated from Vashon High School, where he was active in musical theater, in 2017. That same year, he placed second nationally in the National Association of Teachers of Singing Competition and also won second prize in the Schmidt Competition at the University of Washington. In 2019, he won the Young Artist Award at the Orange County Lyric Opera High Note Competition and was a semi-finalist in the James Toland Vocal Arts Competition. He is currently studying at Pacific Lutheran University under the tutelage of islander Holly Boaz.
James Brown, who has long served as Vashon Opera’s conductor, stage director, musical director and orchestra arranger, will once again wield the baton. Brown, over the years, has been responsible for recruiting nationally known musicians to play for Vashon Opera, alongside local heroes, including accomplished cellist Douglas Davis and violinist Karin Choo.