Thursday, February 26, 2015

'Susannah' Conductor Encourages Support of 'Brave, Exciting' Toledo Opera

Bob Mirakian (center) conducts the Toledo Symphony Orchestra on stage
as character Olin Blitch preaches to the congregation in Toledo Opera's
February 2015 production of 'Susannah.' (Photo courtesy of Toledo Opera)

Bob Mirakian, following his exquisite direction of Toledo Opera's lauded production of "Susannah," recently issued the following missive to opera supporters in northwest Ohio.

Mirakian expresses pride in the people on stage and behind the curtain, remarks on this moment in his career, and encourages us to support that which has garnered such praise and offers back to the community in such amazing ways.

Sent Feb. 17, 2015:

[Mirakian includes an excerpt from The Blade's review, which you can read online here:]

"Performed before a full and supportive house in the Valentine Theatre, [Susannah] exemplified the best this company can deliver. ... [It] served as proof positive that the opera's strategic planning, artistic development, and pursuit of ever higher standards is really paying off."

Dear Friend of the Opera,

It was my honor to conduct Toledo Opera's production of Carlisle Floyd's Susannah this past weekend. Our production team, the Toledo Opera Chorus, the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, and our cast came together to create a compelling, innovative, and polished production that we were all personally proud of and thrilled to see so well received by audiences.

I have worked as a professional orchestra and opera conductor for more than a decade but this production was my first time working with the full resources of a professional opera company, representing a major milestone in my career and development. It was also an important production for our brilliant stage director Sean Cooper and our wonderful Susannah, Jennifer Goode Cooper, both artists of significant experience and ability who were given a new opportunity to share their talents.

If opera is to thrive, a commitment on the part of companies to identify and foster emerging talent, as Toledo Opera did with Susannah, is absolutely vital. It will not only ensure that the next generation of opera artists has a place to learn its craft and test its abilities but also that fresh ideas and perspectives will continue to invigorate opera as an art form.

Toledo Opera has made itself an important part of opera's future by continually seeking out the best ways of servings its community in the most financially responsible manner possible: dramatically improving its finances, developing excellent educational programs that serve more that 20,000 students each year, and expanding its season to three beautifully produced operas. It is currently one of the best regional companies in the country, and a cultural institution that Toledo rightly takes increasing pride in.

Opera, like all significant human endeavors, requires the support of a community that recognizes its value and nurtures its existence. Thank you for being a vital part of Toledo Opera's current and future success as part of that community. I hope you will continue your involvement through a gift of support for the brave, exciting, and successful company.

Robert E. Mirakian
Conductor, Susannah

To make a donation to Toledo Opera online, visit its online form here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

'Susannah' Offered as Fully Staged Concert Opera

Suzanne Rorick, center, executive director of the Toledo Opera, tells the
Toledo Opera Guild that a survey will be conducted with 'Susannah.'

One of the factors that is enabling the Toledo Opera to present three full operas this season is that "Susannah" is being done in a concert fashion with digitally projected scenery.

Conductor Bob Mirakian promises it will be an amazing experience, in part because of the intimacy of the staging.

"Everything is happening within 15 feet of the audience," he said at a recent Toledo Opera Guild luncheon.

Mirakian will be on stage as well, in front of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra and behind the actors. Toledo Opera executive director Suzanne Rorick said that to be able to conduct both the musicians and the singers this way, he knows the score so well that it is in his very being.

"It's not a small thing," she said.

The conductor shared the credit with stage director Sean Cooper for pulling real emotions out of the actors.

"We have a wonderful cast," Mirakian said, noting that Cooper and his wife, Jennifer Goode Cooper who plays Susannah, are local stars and opera scholars.

Carlisle Floyd's "Susannah," often referenced as the best American opera yet, will be presented in full length with all of the scenes acted out, and the pacing will be "very tight dramatically" because there are no large set changes, Mirakian said. The running time is about 110 minutes.

Rorick said this type of "fully staged concert opera" is not only an enjoyable experience but an economical one as well. She said it is still twice as expensive to produce as a gala performance might be but that it is only a third of the cost of a traditionally fully staged opera.

The Toledo Opera will be conducting a survey after "Susannah" to gain feedback on the concert staging and other efforts by the organization.

"We want to know what the audience thinks," Rorick said.

Tickets are going fast for "Susannah," which will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 13 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 15. Purchase tickets online or call the Toledo Opera box office at 419-255-7464.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Delavan to Replace Ramey in 'Susannah'

Toledo Opera-goers will be disappointed to miss Samuel Ramey, the bass-baritone who essentially made the role of Olin Blitch but had to pull out of next week's local production of Carlisle Floyd's "Susannah."

But the audience will be excited as well, since baritone Mark Delavan has been secured as a replacement. Delavan is squeezing in the preacher role before performing as Scarpia in the Lyric Opera of Chicago's upcoming production of "Tosca."

There was a momentary panic over losing Ramey, Toledo Opera executive director Suzanne Rorick admitted at an opera guild luncheon Wednesday, but this was not an unfamiliar scenario.

"It happens all the time," Rorick said, noting that about a third of productions encounter the need to replace singers in lead roles.

"Susannah," an American opera set in mid-20th-century rural Tennessee, will be offered at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 13 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 15 at the Valentine Theatre in downtown Toledo. Visit the Toledo Opera website at to learn more about the production and to purchase tickets.

A free public lecture, part of the Opera Extras series, is slated for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 10 at Registry Bistro, 114 N. Superior St., in the Secor Building in downtown Toledo. Kevin Bylsma will share his perspective on coaching performers for "Susannah."