Hudson, NY —Hudson Hall at the historic Hudson Opera House announces RODELINDA as the first in an ambitious multi-year series of operas by G.F. Handel with the daring, internationally acclaimed director (and Hudson resident) R.B. Schlather. Six performances take place October 20, 24, 26, 28 at 7pm and October 22 and 29 at 3pm. Tickets start at $25 and go on sale July 1, 2023.
The production features a stellar cast and a re-orchestration performed by early music band Ruckus. Envisioned as an ongoing collaboration to create opera for a new generation, this inaugural production builds on the extraordinary success of Schlather’s sold-out run of Virgil Thompson and Gertrude Stein’s The Mother of Us All at Hudson Hall in 2017, named one of the Best Musical Performances of the Year by The New York Times.
“Handel is a perfect fit for Hudson Hall’s historic 1855 theater. He’s an opera composer whose works become more potent and more thrilling on an intimate scale where the focus becomes the talent and virtuosity of the individual musicians,” says R.B. Schlather. “Rodelinda is a crime thriller about a woman protecting her home and her child after the disappearance of her husband. It explores ideas about love, power, loyalty, tyranny, grief, and ultimately, redemption, with characters audiences can deeply connect with. Rodelinda is ideal for people who are curious about opera and want an introduction to it, as well as for people who love opera, especially baroque repertoire.”
An immediate success when first performed, Rodelinda was the third opera Handel wrote in twelve months. It followed the triumph of Giulio Cesare and Tamerlano but then fell into obscurity. With the revival of interest in Baroque music since the mid-20th century, Rodelinda is finding its way back into the repertory. When it had its American premiere in 1933 in Northampton, Massachusetts (just east of Hudson), The New York Times called the opera “Handel at his operatic best.”
Schlather has long been obsessed with the work of Handel. In 2014, he gained significant media attention as the impresario of a series of radical installations of Handel’s so-called “Ariosto Trilogy.” Presented as crowd-funded, open process installations at the WhiteBox art gallery on the Lower East Side of NYC, Schlather explored the boundaries of performance and access. The operas were praised in The New York Times by art critic Holland Cotter as a fascinating “species of performance art,” and classical music editor Zachary Woolfe called the series “a gift given to the New York cultural scene” and “a valuable project that deserves enthusiastic support.”
Schlather’s vision and determination to bring Handel to the Hudson Valley has found the ideal partner in Hudson Hall in Hudson, New York, his hometown since 2014. Schlather’s deepening collaboration with Hudson Hall signals an exciting new direction for the artform and reflects a pandemic-accelerated shift of creative artists and theater goers to Upstate New York and the surrounding areas.
“Thanks to a new generation of talented artists like R.B. Schlather, opera is getting a major refresh,” says Hudson Hall Executive Director Tambra Dillon. “The creativity and originality these artists bring to their work is, in part, born out of necessity. While they have fewer resources than their elder peers, innovators like R. B. bring a fresh and dynamic approach. He’s like an earthquake when it comes to shaking opera out of its late-life crisis.”
With Rodelinda, Schlather brings together a dynamic group of rising and established stars and creative collaborators, many of whom hail from or currently reside in the region. Playing Rodelinda, the soprano Keely Futterer was praised by The Wall Street Journal as the “stand out singer” in Tenor Overboard in the 2022 Glimmerglass Festival; mezzo-soprano Sun-Ly Pierce debuts as Bertarido, following her string of debuts with Houston Grand Opera, Opera Philadelphia, and the Fisher Center at Bard College; GRAMMY Award-winning tenor Karim Sulayman plays Grimoaldo; Hudson-based mezzo-soprano Teresa Buchholz (The Mother of Us All) is Eduige; Massachusetts-based early music specialist Douglas Williams (bass-baritone) is Garibaldo; and countertenor Brennan Hall is Unulfo.
Performing live, the shapeshifting baroque band Ruckus brings the score to life with its visceral and playful approach to early music. The young period instrument ensemble debuted in Handel’s Aci, Galatea e Polifemo in a 2017 production directed by Christopher Alden featuring Anthony Roth Costanzo, Ambur Braid, and Davóne Tines at National Sawdust. The band’s playing has earned widespread acclaim: “Achingly delicate one moment, incisive and punchy the next” (The New York Times). Ruckus’s core is a continuo group, the baroque equivalent of a jazz rhythm section: guitars, keyboards, cello, bassoon, and bass, who are joined by violin, flute, and oboe soloists for a 13-member conductorless ensemble.
Kaatsbaan Cultural Park in nearby Tivoli, NY joins as a cultural partner, and is where the cast will be in residence for the month of October. The creative team includes writer and historian Joseph Cermatori as dramaturg, lighting by Masha Tsimring, and Jiayang Zhang as associate designer.
October 20, 22 (matinee), 24, 26, 28, 29 (matinee), 2023
Hudson Hall at the historic Hudson Opera House
327 Warren Street
Hudson, NY 12534
Opera by G.F. Handel, premiered at the King’s Theater in London, 1725
Sung in Italian with English supertitles
Approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes
Tickets start at $25 (on sale as of July 1, 2023)
Direction and Production by R. B. Schlather*
Keely Futterer, Rodelinda
Sun-Ly Pierce, Bertarido*
Karim Sulayman, Grimoaldo
Teresa Buchholz, Eduige*
Douglas Williams, Garibaldo*
Brennan Hall, Unulfo
EARLY MUSIC BAND RUCKUS
Doug Balliett, bass
Elliot Figg, harpsichord
Ravenna Lipchik, violin
Fiona Last, oboe / flute / recorder
Manami Mizumoto, violin / viola
Kyle Miller, viola
Joseph Monticello, flute
Paul Holmes Morton, guitar / theorbo
Rebecca Nelson, violin
Gaia Saetermoe-Howard, oboe / recorder
Michael Unterman, cello
Clay Zeller-Townson, bassoon*
Assistant Director: Emily Cuk*
Lighting Design: Masha Tsimring
Associate Designer: Jiaying Zhang
Dramaturg: Joseph Cermatori*
Supertitles: Steven Jude Tietjen
Musical Preparation: David Sytkowski*
Associate Producer: Daniel Stermer
Video Production: Jeremy Jacob*
Costumes built by Gaby LaRoche*
Set built by Consigli Brothers*
Residency in partnership with Kaatsbaan Cultural Park*
ABOUT R. B. SCHLATHER
R.B. Schlather is an American artist and opera director, associated with immersive installations and unconventional stagings that push the boundaries of traditional opera performance. In 2023 he was profiled in The New York Times as one of the American opera directors bringing “fresh visions to Europe’s opera stages.” His work has been praised for creating new and engaging experiences for audiences, while also challenging the norms of the operatic art form. In 2014 he began a series of Handel operas as process art installations in alternative spaces in NYC. In 2017, his site-specific, community-cast production of Virgil Thompson and Gertrude Stein’s The Mother Of Us All for Hudson Hall at the historic Hudson Opera House was named among the Best Musical Performances of 2017 by The New York Times. He made his European debut at Oper Frankfurt in 2019 with a critically acclaimed production of Handel’s Tamerlano, followed by productions of Cimarosa’s L’Italiana in Londra (recorded for DVD by Naxos), and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. In 2023 he was commissioned by Hudson Hall to begin a series of Handel productions for their 19th century theater, New York State’s oldest surviving stage. Career highlights include Cosi fan tutte (Santa Fe Opera, “Revelation of the summer season” – Wall Street Journal), Fluxconcert (Los Angeles Philharmonic, New Yorker Magazine Best Performances 2018), the world premiere of composer David Hertzberg’s The Wake World (Opera Philadelphia O Festival, The Barnes Foundation, Best New Opera 2015 Music Critics Association of North America), John Adams’ Doctor Atomic (Curtis Opera Theater), Philip Glass’ Madrigal Opera (National Sawdust), Philip Glass’ In The Penal Colony (Boston Lyric Opera Annex, New York Time’s Best Performances 2015), Salome (Fisher Center at Bard). In 2014 Schlather conceptualized and produced a series of Handel’s operas as process art installations for alternative spaces. Alcina (2014) and Orlando (2015) were both in galleries on the Lower East Side, NYC, and called in The New York Times “a fascinating species of performance art,” “a valuable project that deserves support,” and “a gift given to the NY cultural scene.” He has directed productions for Oper Frankfurt, Lost Angeles Philharmonic, Santa Fe Opera, Opera Philadelphia, National Sawdust, Fisher Center at Bard, Boston Lyric Opera, Opera Omaha, Wolf Trap Opera, Curtis Opera Theater, Death of Classical, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Illumin Arts, and Hudson Hall. Upcoming productions include his return to Oper Frankfurt for 2024/25 season, and his debut with Spoleto Festival USA.
Ruckus (ensemble) is a baroque band with a fresh, visceral approach to early music. The ensemble aims to fuse the early-music movement’s questing, creative spirit with the grit, groove and jangle of American roots music, creating a unique sound of “rough-edged intensity” (The New Yorker). Ruckus’ first album, an acclaimed collaboration with Emi Ferguson of Bach Sonatas and Preludes, debuted at #2 on the Billboard charts.
The ensemble debuted in Handel’s Aci, Galatea e Polifemo in a production directed by Christopher Alden featuring Anthony Roth Costanzo, Ambur Braid, and Davóne Tines at National Sawdust. The band’s playing earned widespread critical acclaim: “achingly delicate one moment, incisive and punchy the next” (The New York Times); “superb” (Opera News). Based in New York City, Ruckus’ core is a continuo group, the baroque equivalent of a jazz rhythm section: guitars, keyboards, cello, bassoon, and bass. Other members include soloists of the violin, flute, and oboe. The ensemble aims to fuse the early-music movement’s questing, creative spirit with the grit, groove and jangle of American roots music, creating a unique sound of “rough-edged intensity” (The New Yorker). The group’s members are among the most creative and virtuosic performers in North American early music.
Ruckus’ debut album, Fly the Coop, a collaboration with flutist Emi Ferguson, was Billboard’s #2 Classical album upon its release. Performances of Fly the Coop have been described as “a fizzing, daring display of personality and imagination” (The New York Times). The Boston Musical Intelligencer describes the group as taking continuo playing to “not simply a new level, but a revelatory new dimension of dynamism altogether… an eruption of pure, pulsing hoedown joy.”
ABOUT HUDSON HALL at the HISTORIC HUDSON OPERA HOUSE
Hudson Hall at the historic Hudson Opera House is a cultural beacon in the Hudson Valley, offering a dynamic year-round schedule of music, theater, dance, literature, workshops for youth and adults, as well as family programs and large-scale community events. Located in an historic landmark that houses New York State’s oldest surviving theater, Hudson Hall underwent a full restoration and reopened to the public in April 2017 for the first time in over 55 years. The newly restored Hudson Hall reflects Hudson’s rich history in a modern facility that welcomes residents and visitors from throughout our local community, across the nation, and around the globe.
Hudson Hall was built in 1855 as the City Hall for Hudson, New York. From its founding until the building was abandoned in 1962, the magnificent performance hall provided a space for some of the most exciting cultural, social and political events of the day. The great Hudson River School showed their paintings here, Bret Harte read his poems, musical prodigy Blind Tom Higgins captivated audiences, Ralph Waldo Emerson gave a talk titled “Social Aims,” and Susan B. Anthony visited twice, lecturing to abolish slavery and rallying the cry for women’s suffrage. In 1914, Teddy Roosevelt even regaled a crowd with his adventures in Africa.
Hudson Hall at the historic Hudson Opera House is driven by a civic and social purpose founded in the belief that culture is central to our shared heritage, identity, and future. Its mission is to inspire and promote the arts, play a pivotal role in the cultural and economic advancement of the city and the region, and maintain its historic building, all of which serves to strengthen and unite our community.