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An Unnerving Tale of Obsession, Lust and Revenge, as Dayton Opera Closes Its Vistas Season with Richard Strauss’ Salome

DAYTON, OH (April 26, 2019) – On Friday, May 17, 2019 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 19, 2019 at 3 p.m. in the Mead Theatre of the Schuster Center, Dayton Opera, under the leadership of Artistic Director Thomas Bankston, will present Richard Strauss’ Salome, the fourth and final presentation of the 2018–2019 Vistas Season. This opera will be sung in German with English surtitles.

Principal Sponsors for this production are the Jesse and Caryl Philips Foundation and the Harry A. Toulmin, Jr. and Virginia B. Toulmin Fund of The Dayton Foundation. Leadership Sponsors are Emerson Climate Technologies and the Bill and Jackie Lockwood Family Foundation. Associate Sponsor, in support of the appearance of Catherine Martin and Norman Garrett, is Donald Hoffman. DPAA’s Innovation Partner for the 2018–2019 Vistas Season is DP&L Foundation—Powering Innovation in the Performing Arts.

Adapted from a play by Oscar Wilde, Salome retells the biblical account of the beheading of Jochanaan, a prophet (John the Baptist), all because of the lust of a king, a salacious dance, and a promise to fulfill. Wilde’s play immediately captivated Richard Strauss and he was determined to set it to music, even though the plot shocked audiences and performers of the day. The first Salome, Marie Wittich, refused to perform her “Dance of the Seven Veils” at the 1905 debut and insisted on a dancer substitute.

Musicians were enthusiastic about Strauss’ powerful music, lush sound, and superb orchestration. Censors, however, did their best to keep Salome from the public in England and the U.S., where the Metropolitan Opera withdrew the work after just one performance in 1907. Since then, Salome has been widely hailed as a masterpiece whose controversy has only increased its fame.

Dayton Opera will present a dramatic semistaged production of Salome. Although based on a Biblical story, it is also a psychological thriller and timeless tale of obsession, lust, and revenge that lends itself naturally to a semistaged format. The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of its Artistic Director and Conductor Neal Gittleman (conducting his16th Dayton Opera production), will combine with the vocalists whom Dayton Opera Artistic Director Thomas Bankston has handpicked to convey this bold musical composition. With minimal sets, projected imagery and costume pieces, this production will provide for a daring interpretation of the characters and the emotions of this unsettling story. In addition, the famed “Dance of the Seven Veils” will be performed as a unique dance in shadow in keeping with the psychological approach of the production.

Having just directed Dayton Opera’s Rigoletto this past November, Kathleen Clawson returns to her “home away from home” to direct this unique production of Salome. This will be Kathleen’s fourteenth engagement with Dayton Opera, and she has also appeared three times as a guest soloist with Dayton Philharmonic. She has been directing operas with Dayton Opera since 2009, including last season’s hilarious presentation of The Barber of Seville. When not in Dayton or visiting other opera companies across the country, Kathleen devotes all of her time in her actual home of New Mexico as professor at the University of New Mexico, where she heads the degree program in Musical Theatre, and as Assistant Director of the Apprentice Program for Singers at Santa Fe Opera.

Dayton Opera is thrilled to welcome back soprano Kara Shay Thomson in her first performances of the demanding title role of Salome. Thomson, a resident of nearby Loveland, Ohio, commanded the title role in last year’s finale production of Turandot. The New York Times praises her presence and vocal prowess with the following recent review: “From the first phrases sung by Kara Shay Thomson, a compelling American soprano with a plush, vibrant, powerful voice, you do not know whether to pity or fear her.”

Making his Dayton Opera debut in the role of Jochanaan, a prophet, is rising opera star bass-baritone Norman Garrett. He is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Texas Tech University and the Academy of Vocal Arts. Mr. Garrett is a former winner of the George London Foundation Competition, and he has received top prizes in more than a dozen international vocal competitions. Charles T. Downey of Ionarts has described Garrett as “towering in presence and both powerful and refined in sound.”

Tenor John Easterlin has rapidly established himself as one of international opera’s most exciting performers. Mr. Easterlin came to the opera industry from a theatrical career. His opera career has included roles on the stages of some of the greatest opera houses across the world, including the Metropolitan Opera. He performed the role of Alfred in Dayton Opera’s 2006 production of Die Fledermaus. He returns to Dayton Opera to perform the role of Herod, Tetrarch of Judea, and stepfather of Salome.

Mezzo-soprano Catherine Martin returns to Dayton Opera, having last performed on the Schuster Center stage in the riveting role of Sister Helen Prejean in the controversial opera Dead Man Walking in 2015. Opera News says of this powerful artist, “Catherine Martin’s mezzo has warmth and shimmer, as well as a degree of cut that lends distinction to her interpretation of classic lyric roles.” Ms. Martin will perform the role of Herodias, wife of Herod, mother of Salome, and co-conspirator of Jochanaan’s demise.

Also making his Dayton Opera debut in the role of Salome’s admirer Narraboth is tenor Benjamin Werley. He has recently performed this role with Florida Grand Opera and was praised by Opera News as having a “gleaming, flexible tenor.”

In this production of Salome, Dayton Ballet’s Nathaly Prieto dances and choreographs the famous “Dance of the Seven Veils”, the alluring dance of Salome for her stepfather Herod, who, upon seeing her dance, grants her any wish she desires. Her desire, of course, is the beheading of Jochanaan, the prophet.

Members of the supporting cast of Salome include: A Page and A Slave, mezzo-soprano Michelle La Jeunesse; Two Soldiers, basses John Murton and Michael Hyatt; A Cappadocian, baritone Alexander Harper; Five Jews, tenors Jacob Ryan Wright, Benjamin Werley, Carlos Cardenas, Daniel Stein, and bass Michael Colman; and Two Nazarenes, baritones Alexander Harper and Bradley Mattingly.

Resident lighting designer John Rensel will light and provide imagery for this production, Cassandra Brake is wig and makeup designer, and costume curators are Kathleen Clawson and Andrea Fellows Walters.

Want to learn even more about Salome? Come one hour prior to both performances to hear pre-performance talks presented by UD Music Professor Dr. Sam Dorf inside the Mead Theatre.

Tickets for Salome range from $28 to $94 and are available at www.daytonperformingarts.org or by calling Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630. Senior, student, and military discounts are available. For more information on tickets, or how to subscribe to the 2017-2018 The Great Ones Season, visit www.daytonperformingarts.org.


About the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance
The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance was formed in July 2012 as the result of a groundbreaking and innovative merger between the Dayton Ballet, the Dayton Opera, and the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. Together, they are the largest performing arts organization in the community, offering a tremendous variety of performance and education programs and setting a new standard for artistic excellence.  Dayton Performing Arts Alliance performances are made possible in part by Montgomery County and Culture Works, the single largest source of community funds for the arts and culture in the Miami Valley. The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance also receives partial funding from the Ohio Arts Council, a state agency created to foster and encourage the development of the arts and to preserve Ohio’s cultural heritage. Funding from the Ohio Arts Council is an investment of state tax dollars that promotes economic growth, educational excellence, and cultural enrichment for all Ohio residents. In 2013, The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance was thrilled to be one of five performing arts organizations in the country selected to receive a three-year “Music Alive” grant from New Music USA and the League of American Orchestras. The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance is the proud recipient of a 2017-2018 Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.