Preparations are well underway for our April production of Puccini’s beloved opera, Madame Butterfly. This post focuses on the three artists who fill out the principle roles in the opera and one very prominent supporting role.
Bass-baritone Nathan Stark will make a cameo appearance in the role of The Bonze, Cio-Cio-San’s fearsome uncle and the village priest. Nate is a fast-rising star who has performed on operatic, concert and recital stages throughout the United States, Europe and China. He has been praised by the Washington Post as having a voice of “unearthly power,” The Houston Press as being a “blow away singer,” and the San Jose Mercury News as a “natural comic actor.” Although he is making his Townsend Opera debut in this production he is no stranger to Modesto, having grown up next door in Hughson. Before beginning his career on the operatic stage, Nate attended Capistrano Elementary School in Modesto, Ross Junior High in Hughson, and Hughson High. After high school, it was on to Modesto Junior College, to study with the likes of Lew Woodward and Cherie Llewellyn, then Cal State University, Long Beach and the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. His voice teachers have included Ms. Shigemi Matsumoto, Ms. Marilyn Horne and Mr. Kenneth Shaw.
We are grateful to Nate for taking time from a very busy schedule this season, which includes the roles of Banco in Verdi’s Macbeth with Opera San Antonio, Don Basilio in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia with Opera Santa Barbara, The Judge in An American Soldier with Opera Saint Louis, Colline in Puccini’s La Boheme with Opera Orlando, and Rocco in Beethoven’s Fidelio with Boston Baroque. Finally he will return to Opera San Jose for the United States premiere of Alma Deutscher’s Cinderella. On the concert stage this season, he will also be performing the bass solos for the Verdi Requiem with the Dayton Philharmonic, the Columbus Symphony and the Greenville Symphony. We are indeed fortunate that his local roots have motivated him to interrupt his busy schedule and come back to Modesto to perform on our stage at the Gallo Center for the Arts for the first time.
Linda Baird also makes her company debut in this production, singing the role of Suzuki, Cio-Cio-San’s servant and companion. Linda is a Canadian mezzo-soprano and native of North Vancouver, British Columbia, where she received a Master of Music Degree in Opera from the University of British Columbia. Currently she resides in San Francisco where she works as a Teaching Artist for San Francisco Opera. Recent performances include her debut as Fricka with Heroic Opera’s Die Walkure in Vancouver, B.C., and Tisbe in California Opera Association’s La Cenerentola.
Earlier this season Linda also performed the role of Kate Pinkerton in the Opera San Luis Obispo production of Madame Butterfly and covered the role of Suzuki. She will feel quite at home on the stage at the Gallo Center since we are borrowing Opera SLO’s set and costumes for our production. What’s more, Opera SLO’s Lieutenant Pinkerton was played by our very own Christopher Bengochea, with whom she will have a very different relationship in our production. Townsend Opera is excited to bring Linda’s beautiful, resonant voice and artistry to Modesto for her debut in this moving role.
Baritone Roy Stevens is well known to Townsend Opera audiences from his local performances throughout the decades. Many have followed his international career to the famous Teatro alla Scala in Milano, Italy and other leading theaters around the world. Most recently, he appeared in Townsend Opera’s September 2017 production of The Barber of Seville in the comic “buffo” role of Dr. Bartolo. Roy is a native of Modesto and graduate of Paradise Elementary School and Modesto High School. He has been an international opera singer since his 1987 professional debut at the Teatro Comunale in Alessandria, Italy, creating the title role of Marco Tutino’s CIRANO (Cyranno de Bergerac) in its world premiere production. He has performed at many of the great international opera houses; La Scala in Milano, the Liceu in Barcelona, the Semperoper in Dresden, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and many others. He has successfully performed on an international level as Heldenbaritone, Verdi Baritone and Heldentenor. In 2017, Roy enjoyed adding the comic “Buffo” roles to his broad repertoire, with recently debuted Don Magnifico in Rossini’s Cenerentola, and Dr. Bartolo in Barbiere, while returning to the Verdi baritone category with the title role of Macbeth in Panama.
A true career highlight was to portray the Albanian national hero, Skanderbeg (opera composed by Jakova) as part of Albania’s national celebration of 100 years of Albanian independence. In recent years, he has added the “role” of Co-Producer, the most unique of these projects was the first ever locally produced western style opera in Nepal, Arjuna’s Dilemma, a fusion of western classical music, jazz and Hindustani classical music, in which Roy also sang the role of Prince Arjuna… in Sanskrit!
Roy has previously appeared with Townsend Opera as a a young baritone (Marcello, La Boheme), dramatic Baritone (the title role of Rigoletto and Scarpia in Tosca) and tenor (Eisenstein, Die Fledermaus). In this production of Madame Butterfly, Roy looks forward to performing under the direction of his wife, Annalisa Winberg, for the first time, and returning to the lovely role of Sharpless. He last sang Sharpless in the Chiang Kai-shek National Theater of Taiwan in 1992. For the Townsend Opera production, he is also the Production Manager!