Opera with The Cleveland Orchestra

From its inception, Severance was envisioned as both a concert hall and opera house. Learn about this early history and our more recent offerings of innovative staged operas.

Tristan und Isolde (1933/1933) by Geoffrey LandesmanThe Cleveland Orchestra

Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. Staged in 1933

This Wagner opera, the first fully staged opera at Severance, captured audiences with it's dramatic staging and superb singing. It began a cycle of staged opera in Cleveland that lasted for five seasons. 

Die Walkure (1934/1934) by Geoffrey LandesmanThe Cleveland Orchestra

Wagner's Die Walküre. Staged in 1934

This production of Die Walküre was the first Cleveland Orchestra opera with Wilhelm von Wymetal as stage director. Known for his theater stagings, he later worked in Hollywood.

Cast of Die Walkure (1934/1934) by Geoffrey LandesmanThe Cleveland Orchestra

Die Walküre Cast (1934)

Artur Rodzinski (seated left), music director of The Cleveland Orchestra, with Chase Baromeo (Hunding), Paul Althouse (Sigmund), and Ossip Gabrilowitsch in the Green Room at Severance.

Libretto for Lady Macbeth (1935/1935) by Cleveland Orchestra ArchivesThe Cleveland Orchestra

Lady Macbeth Libretto (1935)

The Cleveland Orchestra gave the US premiere of Shostakovich's opera Lady Macbeth in 1935. Artur Rodzinski went to great lengths to bring the manuscript with him to Cleveland after seeing the premiere in Russia. 

Lady Macbeth barrel scene (1935/1935) by Geoffrey LandesmanThe Cleveland Orchestra

Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth. Staged in 1935

Barrel scene in the wine cellar. 

Piano vocal score (1935/1935) by Cleveland Orchestra ArchivesThe Cleveland Orchestra

Lady Macbeth Piano Vocal Score

This score, brought from Russia by Artur Rodzinski, is one of only three known to exist. This version contains hand-drawn stage directions in addition to the music. 

Stage drawings (1935/1935) by Cleveland Orchestra ArchivesThe Cleveland Orchestra

Lady Macbeth Barrel Scene

Artur Rodzinski secured the premiere, but the materials were confiscated upon leaving Russia when a border patrol agent confused its stage sketches for battle plans. Thankfully, he negotiated his way out of the situation, and the premiere was set. 

Lady Macbeth final scene (1935/1935) by Geoffrey LandesmanThe Cleveland Orchestra

Lady Macbeth Final Scene

In the final scene of the opera, the main characters are swept away in an icy river. The opera was swiftly criticized in the Soviet Union and was famously banned for almost thirty years, until 1961. 

Cast of Lady Macbeth (1935/1935) by Geoffrey LandesmanThe Cleveland Orchestra

Lady Macbeth Cast

Some of the cast with Music Director Artur Rodzinski in the Green Room at Severance. From left to right: Elena Shevedova (Sonetka), Ivan Ivantzoff (Sergei), Artur Rodzinski, Unknown, Anna Leskaya (Katerina)

Carmen (1935/1935) by Geoffrey LandesmanThe Cleveland Orchestra

Bizet's Carmen. Staged in 1935

In another brilliant stage setting by Richard Rychtarik, the Severance stage was transformed into Seville, Spain for this lively but tragic opera. Rychtarik designed sets for the Orchestra until he left for New York and its opera companies. 

Cosi fan tutte (1968/1968) by Specialists Photographic ServicesThe Cleveland Orchestra

Smetana's The Bartered Bride. Staged in 1968

Following a 26-year absence, opera returned to Severance in 1964 thanks to the Lake Erie Opera Theatre, a joint venture with 12 other arts organizations, which presented opera outside of the regular subscription season.  

Magic Flute (1985/1985) by Peter HastingsThe Cleveland Orchestra

Mozart's The Magic Flute. Staged at Blossom in 1985

Christoph von Dohnányi resurrected staged opera with two performances at Blossom Music Center in 1985 and 1986. 

Magic Flute (1985/1985) by UnknownThe Cleveland Orchestra

The Magic Flute at Blossom in 1985

Opera at Blossom proved to be an expensive undertaking and was discontinued after only two productions. 

Die Walkure (1992/1992) by Roger MastrioanniThe Cleveland Orchestra

Wagner's Die Walküre. Opera in concert (1992)

The opera in concert format with semi-staging became the norm in the 1990s and early 2000s. Wagner's Die Walküre is seen here with the singers positioned in costume above the musicians on the  Severance stage. 

Elektra (2004/2004) by Roger MastrioanniThe Cleveland Orchestra

Strauss's Elektra. Opera in Concert (2004)

Opera in concert continued with Franz Welser-Möst, pictured here conducting Strauss's Elektra. 

Marriage of Figaro (2009/2009) by Roger MastrioanniThe Cleveland Orchestra

Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. Staged in 2009

A new era of fully staged opera returned under music director Franz Welser-Möst's leadership in 2009. What began as a three-year cycle of the Mozart operas based on the libretti of Lorenzo Da Ponte, turned into highly anticipated innovative productions over the next decade.  

Cosi fan tutte (2010/2010) by Roger MastrioanniThe Cleveland Orchestra

Mozart's Così fan tutte. Staged in 2010

Così fan tutte, the second of the staged Mozart operas, employed a large set that encompassed the entire stage with the Orchestra performing in the pit. Although the stage no longer allows for fly sets, set designers and opera directors have used the space in a myriad of ways. 

Janáček's The Cunning Little Vixen. Staged in 2014

Taking opera in new directions, this made for Cleveland production of Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen was an integration of cartoon projections and singers interacting with each other and the animated characters.  

Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande. Staged in 2017

For this opera, a glass box was constructed on the Severance stage. Throughout the production, projections, scenery, and silhouetted actors in and around the box conveyed the dreamlike universe where the story takes place. 

Ariadne (2019/2019) by Roger MastrioanniThe Cleveland Orchestra

Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos. Staged in 2019

Continuing with staged opera, the Orchestra presented Strauss's Ariadne aux Naxos in 2019. The projections for this staged opera included visual references to the design elements of Severance throughout. 

Cunning Little Vixen (2014/2014) by Roger MastrioanniThe Cleveland Orchestra

Continuing The Cleveland Orchestra’s tradition for ambitious festival programming and innovative opera presentations, the coming seasons will present opera in the context of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Opera & Humanities Festival.

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