Chautauqua Opera writes letter for the 2015 season

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MEGAN TAN | File Photo
Chautauqua Opera Company General and Artistic Director Jay Lesenger is entering his last season at the company’s helm­ — a season filled with “exciting productions.”

Although General and Artistic Director Jay Lesenger has decided this will be his last season with the Chautauqua Opera Company, he still plans for a summer of exciting productions.

This season’s major productions are Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. Lesenger said in previous years the operas were sometimes part of a larger theme; there may not be an actual theme for this season’s productions, but there is a common link connecting the operas — written letters.

“We used to perform four operas, and with four operas you can develop a theme, but with two operas the theme is a lot shorter,” Lesenger said. “But both operas involve repercussions of letters, and the brochures and posters reflect this.”

In the original Shakespeare play, Lady Macbeth receives a letter revealing the prophecy of Macbeth’s life and how it will change. The letter in Eugene Onegin is written by Tatiana, a Russian country girl, who confesses her love to a man that she barely knows but fell in love with. He rejects her.

Lesenger said his repertory decision was based on the singers, recent productions and what the Chautauqua community will enjoy.

Redoing repertory is acceptable with a 10- to 15-year gap, Lesenger said, and Macbeth was last done in 2002.

Macbeth will be in the Amphitheater, and it is well known as the Shakespeare play,” he said. “We want to fill the Amphitheater.”

In 2010 the opera company began performing only two operas. In an attempt to make the best of the new structure, Lesenger moved each season’s first opera to the Amphitheater for the first time.

”I would get more people in the Amphitheater in one night than I would in Norton Hall for two or three nights,” he said.

Lesenger staged Eugene Onegin about eight years ago in Norway, and was inspired by the beauty of the piece.

“It has not been done here since the 1970s and I believe the audience will love it,” he said.

Among the two main productions this season, there are more opportunities to explore the world of opera at Chautauqua Institution. On Thursdays, the Young Artists Program performs an art song recital in the Hall of Christ. A Family Friendly Opera Revue takes place every Monday in Smith Wilkes Hall, and Musical Theater Revues are on Tuesdays in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall.

“I think opera at Chautauqua is very user-friendly, and it is a great place for young people to first experience opera,” Lesenger said. “We have a terrific staff and group of singers this year. I am very proud of that.”