Widely known Omaha artist Jun Kaneko is designing a production of Mozart's "The Magic Flute" to anchor Opera Omaha's 55th season.
This is Kaneko's second design for the company. The first, 2006's "Madama Butterfly," appeared coast to coast to strong reviews and had an Opera Omaha encore a year ago.
The production, co-sponsored with four American opera companies, will open in June at the San Francisco Opera, one of the nation's premier opera companies. It arrives in Omaha on Feb. 22 and 24.
"It's important for Omaha that we have producers of art, that we are creating something, not just bringing it in," said Opera Omaha general director Roger Weitz. "That's something we can be really proud of."
The 2012-13 season will open Oct. 5 and 7 with Verdi's "La Traviata," which Weitz called one of the most popular operas of all time. He said the show would appeal to a broad base of opera fans with its familiar music and classic tale told in a smart, traditional way.
"Bluebeard's Castle," by 20th-century composer Bela Bartok, rounds out the year April 19 and 21, 2013. Former Opera Omaha artistic director Hal France will conduct what Weitz called a "really lush, big score," and world-class bass-baritone Samuel Ramey will sing the title role.
Weitz took Opera Omaha's helm last fall after a decade at Chicago Opera Theatre. He said this season has been about expanding the audience, trying new venues and works, and growing a family program, which he intends to continue.
"The only thing missing this year was something big, of a size and scope that calls attention to itself and to opera," he said. "The Magic Flute," the most-presented opera around the world right now, fills that role next season, he said.
Partnering with other opera companies and pooling costs means "The Magic Flute" will have eye-opening production values beyond what Omaha audiences are used to seeing, he said.
In choosing the season, he sought to balance grand opera with what he called opera's bookends, works created before Mozart's era and newer works. He said Opera Omaha will seek to alternate bookends each season, starting with Bartok next year and turning to earlier works the year after.
Another goal: forging partnerships with other Omaha arts organizations such as the Bemis Underground, Ballet Nebraska, Kaneko, Omaha Performing Arts, the Joslyn Art Museum, Film Streams, the Omaha Symphony, the Omaha Community Playhouse and others to coordinate and collaborate on their offerings.
"One thing that's great about Omaha is that everyone in the arts here is really open-minded about working together, in a way I didn't know in Chicago," he said.
"Bluebeard's Castle," in which secrets lie behind seven mysterious doors, offers opportunities for such partnerships, he said.
"If we can collaborate with all these arts groups, we're going to open opera's doors to this new wave of energy that's sweeping through Omaha," Weitz said. "That's the future."
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