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Colorful productions of Opera Week celebrate the vocal arts

Like Viva Vivaldi and “Baba Yaga,” Opera Week is fast becoming an autumn tradition for music-minded Western New Yorkers.

Every year, the celebration – which burst on the scene in 2012 – seems to get a little bit richer. This year’s festival, which kicks off today with a ceremony in the Buffalo and Erie County Central Library, celebrates more than opera. It embraces a wide variety of vocal arts.

There is opera live and opera on screen, entire operas and scenes from operas, student productions, professional productions and a few curiosities thrown in. There is a strong American presence with the music of Carlisle Floyd, George Gershwin, Scott Joplin and Buffalo native Darryl Nettles. There are events in Western New York and in Toronto.

Most importantly, there are a lot of freebies and budget events. The message is clear: Opera belongs to all of us.

Buffalo Niagara region

12:10 p.m. today, Central Library: Be there when Opera Week kicks off at the library’s Ring of Knowledge. Guests include Valerian Ruminski, celebrated bass and founder of Nickel City Opera; Tim Kennedy of Buffalo Opera Unlimited; the young artists of SUNY Fredonia’s Hillman Opera Company; and Ann Mikoll, president of the Chopin Singing Society. Free. 858-8900.

7:30 p.m. Friday, Canisius Montante Cultural Center (2001 Main St.): The Camerata di Sant’Antonio, joined by the Canisius College Chorale, presents the first of its concerts called “Mostly Mozarts,” with music by Salieri, Buxtehude, Mendelssohn and Mozart’s Concertone for two violins, oboe and cello. A preconcert talk starts at 7 p.m. $17. 856-3626.

1 p.m. Saturday, Central Library: The Hillman Opera Company and SUNY Fredonia present excerpts from Carlisle Floyd’s “Susannah.” Free. 858-8900.

1:15 p.m. Saturday, Niagara Arts and Cultural Center (1201 Pine Ave., Niagara Falls): Take a backstage tour of the NACC. Free.

3 p.m. Saturday, NACC: Follow up your tour of the NACC as the Hillman Opera Company reprises its performance of scenes from “Susannah.” Free. 885-2486.

3 p.m. Sunday, Villa Maria College Auditorium (240 Pine Ridge Road): The Cheektowaga Symphony, conducted by John Landis, is performing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. It is called “the Choral” because of the last movement, which features the uplifting “Ode to Joy.” Soloists are Holly Bewlay, Melissa Thorburn, Joe Dan Harper and Jeffery Strauss.

5:30 p.m. Monday, Screening Room Cinema Café (3131 Sheridan Drive, Amherst): A reception with cake and champagne precedes a free HD screening at 7 p.m. of Nickel City Opera’s production of “La Bohème.” 837-0376.

5 and 7 p.m. Oct. 30, Burchfield Penney Art Center (1300 Elmwood Ave.): Enjoy a screening of Buffalo Opera Unlimited’s pioneering production from earlier this year of two jazz operas – “Blue Monday,” an early creation of George Gershwin, and “Stag Lee” by Buffalo native Darryl Nettles, featuring dancers from LehrerDance. A question-and-answer session takes place at 6:30 p.m. $10. 882-1692.

10:30 a.m. Oct. 31, 8 p.m. Nov. 1 and 2:30 p.m. Nov. 2, Kleinhans Music Hall: Not exactly opera, but exquisite music and drama. The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Irish Classical Theatre Company are collaborating on a rare production of Moliere’s “Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme,” with neoclassical, Baroque-inspired incidental music by Richard Strauss. BPO Music Director JoAnn Falletta conducts. Directed by Fortunato Pezzimenti, it features Vincent O’Neill. When you call for tickets, mention Celebrate Opera Western New York and receive a 20 percent discount. 885-5000.

10:30 a.m. Nov. 1, Rockwell Hall Room 124, SUNY Buffalo State (1300 Elmwood Ave.): Contralto Suzanne Fatta is giving a free lecture and performance irresistibly titled “Wayward Sisters: Witches, Sorceresses and Gypsies in Opera.” Free parking.

3 p.m. Nov. 1, Frank E. Merriweather Jr. Library (1324 Jefferson Ave.): You know 19th century American composer Scott Joplin for his bittersweet rags like “The Entertainer” and “Solace.” Enjoy a free screening of Joplin’s seldom-heard opera “Treemonisha,” with an introduction by soprano Tediyra Barton-Harris. Admission is free and all are welcome.

3 p.m. Nov. 2, St. Casimir’s Catholic Church (160 Cable St.): Polish composer Stanislaw Moniuszko is beloved for his vivid operas full of Slavic flair. The Chopin Singing Society, conducted by Dr. Thomas Witakowski, is presenting a performance featuring the Overture to “Halka” and “Mazur” from “Straszny Dwor” or “The Haunted Manor.” A $10 donation is requested. 685-9466.


In Toronto, the Canadian Opera Company is rolling out two operas at the Four Season Centre (145 Queen St. West). For info call (800) 250-4653.

Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly.” Metropolitan Opera star Patricia Racette stars in this production, which also features Stefano Secco. 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 30 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 31.

Verdi’s “Falstaff.” This production of the Verdi comedy based on Shakespeare is especially noteworthy because it features the terrific baritone Gerald Finley, in addition to Simone Osborne and Frederic Antoun. 4:30 p.m. Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 1.

Want to sample Baroque opera? Opera Atelier is presenting Handel’s “Alcina” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 31 and 4:30 p.m. Nov. 1 in the Elgin Theatre (189 Yonge St.).

“La Gran Via,” by Federico Cheuca, is described as full of fantasy, comedy and the rich flavors of Spain. The Canadian premiere of the piece will be presented by the Toronto Operetta Theatre at 2 p.m. Nov. 2 in the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts (27 Front St.). (416) 366-1656.

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