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Virginia Opera's "Die Walkure", 10/11 & 10/13/02

September 17, 2002
Contact: Press & Media Relations Coordinator (703-993-8794)

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George Mason University’s Center for the Arts presents
The Virginia premiere of Virginia Opera’s
Die Walküre
Friday, October 11, 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, October 13, 2:00 p.m.






Fairfax, Virginia, September 16, 2002— Featuring Wagnerian hits galore, and a roster of internationally-acclaimed singers, Virginia Opera opens its 28th Season with Richard Wagner’s epic DIE WALKÜRE, the first time that the company has staged a RING Cycle opera. The company’s performances in Fairfax, Friday, October 11 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, October 13 at 2:00 p.m., at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts Concert Hall, are conducted by artistic director Peter Mark with stage direction by Lillian Groag (Elektra/2002). A new set for this Virginia premiere production is created by Robert Cothran, and its avant garde costumes are the creations of Tracey Dorman (Elektra/2002).
This jewel in Richard Wagner’s RING Cycle pairs gods and mortals in an epic fantasy, punctuated by some of the most famous music ever composed. The cast includes Jeannine Altmeyer as Sieglinde, Thomas Rolf Truhitte as Siegmund, Susan Marie Pierson as Brünnhilde, and Marc Embree as Wotan. All performances are sung in German with English supertitles projected above the stage.

A "Walküre", or, in English, a "Valkyr" is one of the nine daughters of Wotan, God of Gods, and Erda, the goddess of the Earth. These girls are Wotan's "honor guard," warrior virgin goddesses who take the fallen heroes from the battlefield to Walhalla, there to sit at Wotan's table with the gods, preparing to redeem the world from evil. They are the harbingers of Death, as the warrior who sees the beautiful Valkyr in the field knows he is doomed to die, albeit in glory. The "Ride of the Valkyrs" which begins Act III, and which has been "in the top ten" since Wagner put it on the charts in 1870, is possibly THE most famous and exhilarating piece of operatic music written. Describing the young and beautiful immortals, romping about in the clouds on winged horses, on their way to Walhalla, "Ride" served Bugs Bunny as well as Francis Coppola in "Apocalypse Now."

Wagner devoted his final years to completion of his monumental RING project combining an innovative melodic structure, ambitious orchestration and instrumentation, intensely dramatic characterization and evocative sets. His concept was immense: an orchestral, vocal and theatrical portrayal of the legendary struggle between gods and men for control of the earth. This compelling mythological drama would be presented over consecutive days in a series of four sequential operas: Das Rhinegold, Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Goetterdaemmerung.

Wagner died suddenly of heart disease in 1883, having been seriously debilitated by his efforts at premiering his final work, Parsifal. He was buried in the garden of his home Wahnfried, at Bayreuth to the music of "Siegfried's Death."

Jeannine Altmeyer (Sieglinde) was last seen on the Virginia Opera stage in Il Trovatore in 1977. At the age of twenty-one, Ms. Altmeyer won first prize in several major competitions, including the National Metropolitan Opera Auditions, resulting in an immediate contract with the Metropolitan Opera. She made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera as the heavenly voice in Verdi’s Don Carlos. Apart from her Wagnerian roles, Ms. Altmeyer sings Agathe (Der Freischütz), Strauss’ Salome and Chrysothemis, Lisa (The Queen of Spades) and Leonore, which she sang at La Scala in 1990. She portrayed Isolde in Los Angeles Opera’s landmark production of Tristan and Isolde.

Stage Director Lillian Groag returns to Virginia Opera following critical acclaim earlier this year for her stage direction of Strauss’ Elektra. Ms. Groag works in the theatre as an actress, writer and director, and her acting credits include Broadway, Off Broadway, Mark Taper Forum, and regional theatres throughout the country. She has directed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Old Globe Theatre, Mark Taper Forum's Taper Too, New York City Opera, Berkeley Repertory, Glimmerglass Opera, the Sundance Institute Playwrights Lab, and more.

Scenic Designer Robert Cothran’s career in scenic design extends over 50 years and some 250 productions. Recent projects include Il Signor Bruschino and Suor Angelica for the Knoxville Opera Rossini Festival, The Balcony, directed by Henrik Baranowski, for University of Nevada, Dinner with Friends for Virginia Stage Company in Norfolk, The Secret Garden for Studio Arena Theatre, Buffalo, and Hamlet for the Clarence Brown Company and the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra in Knoxville.

Tracey Dorman’s previous costume designs for Virginia Opera include Strauss’ Elektra and Handel’s Rodelinda. She has designed for Opera Festival of New Jersey, the New York premiere of A Death in the Family at the Manhattan School of Music, The Beard, La Mama, The Knee Desires the Dirt for the Women’s Project and Productions at Theater Four, NYC. Ms. Dorman received her MFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she was an Ettinger Award recipient.

Tickets for Die Walküre are $78-$42. Charge by phone at 703-218-6500 or visit The Center for the Arts complex is located on the Fairfax campus of George Mason University at the intersection of Braddock Road and Route 123. Paid parking is located in the deck adjacent to the mainstage Concert Hall and FREE parking is located in university lot K.

GREAT PERFORMANCES AT MASON is a program of George Mason University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. The College of Visual and Performing Arts exists to create an academic environment in which the arts may be considered both as individual disciplines and as interdisciplinary forms that strengthen each other. Believing that an education in the arts is deepened by regular contact with the work of distinguished visiting artists, the College draws on a variety of professional presenting and producing units where artists from across the country and around the world regularly perform, give master classes, work with students during extended residencies, and interact with the community in a variety of other ways. These programs at the Center for the Arts Concert Hall, TheaterSpace, Galleries, Harris Theater, and other venues, provide a diverse selection of challenging and entertaining cultural experiences for the University community, as well as Northern Virginia and the greater Washington, D.C. area. The College houses four academic departments: Art and Visual Technology, Dance, Music and Theater.