Atlanta Opera Moves into Top 10 Ranks
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Atlanta Opera Moves into Top 10 Ranks

This coming season’s record-setting budget and innovative works underscore the growth of the company in recent years.

The Atlanta Opera latest program was a traditional staging of Puccini’s “La bohème.”
The Atlanta Opera latest program was a traditional staging of Puccini’s “La bohème.”

The Atlanta Opera, which for the past 10 years has been led by its Israeli-born artistic and executive director, Tomer Zvulun, has been recognized as one of the top 10 opera companies in America. The Atlanta company, which celebrates its 45th anniversary this year, joins the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the National Opera in Washington, D.C., the Lyric Opera in Chicago, and companies in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston, and Dallas.

The designation by Opera America, a New York-based center for the promotion of opera in America, is in recognition of not only the artistic excellence of the company’s productions but of its solid financial foundation as well.

The company has tripled its budget since Zvulun arrived in Atlanta and has operated for the last eight seasons in the black. For the 2024-2025 season, the company, for the first time, will have an operating budget of more than $15 million.

Tomer Zvulun (right) participated in a program at The Breman Museum about Wagner’s antisemitism.

The chairman of board of the Atlanta Opera, Rhys Wilson, credited Zvulun for much of what has been accomplished since Zvulun was hired 10 years ago.

“He immediately went to work innovating and celebrating the art of opera in our city. We’ve created new ways of thinking about opera and supporting the next generation of creative artists and audiences through our program.”

Among its many accomplishments in recent years, the Atlanta Opera has brought its production to a more diverse audience in the city, including partnering with the Alliance Theatre and with Morehouse College.

Later this year, in May, the Opera will present a special performance with the support of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta at The Temple in Midtown to commemorate Yom HaShoah, the Holocaust.

The Atlanta Opera’s budget next season tops $15 million.

During the recent pandemic, with the guidance of the Emory School of Medicine and Grady Hospital, it was one of the few opera companies in the nation to continue its performances. It erected a large tent for performances on the campus of Oglethorpe University and streamed 40 shows on-line.

From that experience, the company created The Atlanta Opera Film Studio. It is one of the few professional companies to bring its recorded productions online to a national and international audience.

In acknowledging the move by the company to the front ranks of the opera world in America, Zvulun acknowledged the hard work that made it possible.

“This encouraging moment is a testament to the determination of so many staff and board members, donors, and community leaders. Working alongside these people has been one of the greatest honors of my life.”

The Atlanta Opera, which presented a production of “Cabaret” at Pullman Yards, returns there to open its new season in September.

The company, which has just completed a traditional staging of Giacomo Puccini’s classic opera, “La bohème,” will open its new season with a program of reinterpretations in a contemporary setting. In what the opera is calling The Boheme Project, the Puccini work will be updated with a contemporary setting, and a modern theme, where COVID is the source of the tragedy that besets the main characters.

In September, the more modern version will be performed at Pullman Yards, the industrial center in East Atlanta that has been repurposed as a non-traditional performance space. To co-direct the new production, Zvulun will be joined by another Israeli, his longtime colleague and frequent associate, Vita Tzykun.

“We’re doing ‘La bohème’ in an immersive environment — updated to modern times — amplified at Pullman Yards. And it will allow us to connect with the community in ways that we were never able to do before, to tell a story that has historical resonance, health resonance, and community resonance in a way that goes way beyond just putting on a show.”

To complete the Bohème Project, the Atlanta Opera will present nine performances on alternate evenings of the hit Broadway musical, “Rent,” which is a modern interpretation of the “La bohème” story, where the health crisis is HIV/AIDS.

Rounding out its 2024-25 season, the company will present four works about the hero’s journey: Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” Verdi’s “Macbeth,” Wagner’s “Siegfried,” in a five-hour performance of the third opera of his Ring cycle, and one of Handel’s early 18th century works, “Semele,” in English, based on the classic mythological tale of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses.”

These may be old stories, but for Tomer Zvulun the challenge is always to tell them in a way that demonstrates that opera is an exciting contemporary art form.

“My purpose in life is to tell those stories in the most immediate, visually arresting, vocally spectacular way possible, so that audiences will understand that opera is vital and alive and is not some museum art form that is gathering dust.”

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