Opera’s 68th season combines International power with beloved classics

“Life set to music” is the theme for the sixth consecutive season sponsored by Wells Fargo Private Bank

Charlotte, N.C., (April 20, 2016) – Maestro James Meena has an invitation for anyone who assumes opera is one over-the-top death after another.

“While it’s true that no other art form stages a death scene quite as thrillingly as opera, there’s much more to the genre than the on-stage dagger to the chest, swallowing of poison or jump off a cliff,” said Meena, Opera Carolina’s general director and principal conductor. “Opera’s stories are rooted in real life. Some are even based on real people. They just happen to be accompanied by a magnificent soundtrack.”

Opera Carolina’s 2016/17 season demonstrates opera’s realness. “If you’ve ever enjoyed slapstick, a timeless love story or a spaghetti Western, you’ll find that opera is timeless.” said Meena.

For the sixth consecutive year, Wells Fargo Private Bank returns as Opera Carolina’s season sponsor. “We are humbled by Wells Fargo’s continuing generosity,” said Meena. “Wells Fargo understands that the performing arts are vital to a strong community. Because of their support, we can bring some of the world’s finest artists to our stage.”

“Wells Fargo takes pride in supporting Charlotte’s diverse cultural community,” said Madelyn Caple, regional managing director for Wells Fargo Private Bank in the greater Charlotte area. “Our support for Opera Carolina reflects Wells Fargo’s commitment to making sure that compelling arts programming and experiences are available to our clients and community.”

The main stage season opens in October with Rossini’s madcap The Barber of Seville, a work so ingrained in popular culture that its theme and songs have been sampled by Looney Tunes. (“You may think you haven’t heard music from The Barber of Seville, Meena says. “But I can nearly guarantee you have.”) A busybody barber plays matchmaker for a wealthy customer trying to land the woman of his dreams. But he has competition from the girl’s old guardian, which leads to comic complications. Kathryn Lewek, acclaimed Metropolitan Opera soprano who charmed audiences last season in Lucia di Lammermoor, returns to play the role of Rosina. She is joined by two other Opera Carolina favorites: Tenor Victor Ryan Robertson in his signature role of Count Almaviva and Hyung Yun, Metropolitan Opera baritone and native of Seoul, South Korea, as Figaro. The fun happens Oct. 22, 27 and 30.

Next up on Jan. 22, 26 and 28 is La Traviata, Verdi’s timeless story of a love that’s forbidden because of class differences. It’s the precursor to Greta Garbo’s classic movie Camille, Richard Gere’s modern-day white knight rescuing Julia Roberts’ Vivian in Pretty Woman and was told again – to a pop soundtrack – in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! And it’s a not-so-rare example of an opera based on a true story. The 19th century Parisian courtesan Marie Duplessis was the real-life tragic love interest that inspired Alexander Dumas’ The Lady of the Camelias. The cast is led by the star of Opera Carolina’s 2016 production of Pagliacci, Metropolitan Opera soprano Elizabeth Caballero as Violetta, with Metropolitan Opera tenor Sean Panikker as her lover Alfredo, and Houston Grand Opera baritone Reginald Smith, Jr. as her unrelenting father, Germont.

The season ends with an operatic take on the Wild West in partnership with the Puccini Festival in Lucca Italy and the New York City Opera. With La fanciulla del West (The Girl of the West), Puccini, the beloved composer of La boheme and Madama Butterfly, takes us to the California Gold Rush for a story of love and jealousy along with six-shooters and bandits. The ambitious poker playing Sheriff Jack Rance falls for the tough, saloon-owner Minnie, who loves the bandit Dick Johnson. “Imagine High Noon or Gunsmoke set to a Puccini operatic soundscape,” Meena says. The Metropolitan Opera’s leading tenor Marcello Giordani makes his Opera Carolina debut as the outlaw Dick Johnson, with NYCity Opera leading soprano Kristin Sampson as the gun-slinging Minnie and Washington Opera baritone Aleksy Bogdanov as the sheriff Jack Rance. The gun-slinging posse rides into town April 23, 27 and 29.

Opera Carolina’s 68th season is also made possible by production presenting sponsors Bank of America, the Levine Cancer Institute, Hearst Corporation, and the Maurer Family Foundation.

All mainstage performances are at the Belk Theater, North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. Season subscriptions are available now by calling Opera Carolina at 704.332.7177 (ext. 202), visiting or by calling the Performing Arts Center Box Office at 704.372.1000.

Season tickets, starting as low as $90, offer up to a 25 percent savings over single tickets. Two-opera subscriptions are also available, starting at $68.Youth (those under age 18) get a 50 percent discount. Student Rush tickets are $10, and various group discounts are also available through the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center Box office or by calling the Opera Carolina subscription center at 704.332.7177 (ext. 202). For best seat availability and lowest subscription prices, the public is encouraged to subscribe by June 3, 2016.

Single tickets, beginning at $21, are available starting August 1st at

About the Operas

Note to editors: For photography and complete cast biographies, please visit:

Rossini’s The Barber of Seville (Il barbiere di Siviglia) October 22, 27, 30

For centuries, hair salons have been filled with gossip and secrets. Rossini set The Barber of Seville inside one for maximum comic impact. This madcap romance involves the element of disguise.

Cast and Artistic Team

Rosina Kathryn Lewek (top credit, Metropolitan Opera)

Count Almaviva Victor Ryan Robertson (top credit, Deutsche Oper Berlin)

Figaro Hyung Yun (top credit, Metropolitan Opera)

Conductor: James Meena

Director: Bernard Uzan

Verdi’s La Traviata January 22, 26 and 28, 2017

A wealthy businessman falls for a “working girl” with a big heart and offers her a better life. But class differences may keep them apart. That’s the plot of Pretty Woman. But long before, it was the plot of Verdi’s La Traviata.

Cast and Artistic Team

Violetta Elizabeth Caballero (top credit, Metropolitan Opera)

Alfredo Sean Panikker (top credit, Metropolitan Opera)

Germont Reginald Smith, Jr. (top credit, Houston Grand Opera)

Conductor: James Meena

Director: James Marvel

Puccini’s The Girl of the West (La fanciulla del West) April 23, 27 and 29, 2017

Gold diggers and gunslingers aren’t typical characters in an opera. But Puccini knew they’d make for high drama. In the vein of High Noon comes Girl of the West, an authentic Western set in a tumbleweed town during the Gold Rush.

Cast and Artistic Team

Minnie Kristin Sampson (top credit, New York City Opera)

Dick Johnson Marcello Giordani (top credit, Metropolitan Opera)

Jack Rance Aleksy Bogdanov (top credit, Washington National Opera)

Conductor: James Meena

Director & Designer: Ivan Stefanutti

About Opera Carolina

Founded in 1948 by the Charlotte Music Club as a small group of volunteers, today Opera Carolina is the largest professional opera company in the Carolinas with an operating budget of more than $2.9 million for the fiscal year 2015.

The mission of Opera Carolina is to inspire the region’s diverse community through the presentation of Opera and Education programs that elevate the quality of life in the Carolinas


Contact: Kathy Rowan


James Meena

704.332.7177, ext. 201