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  • Press Release

Modern Masterpiece Fellow Travelers



Words and Images Courtesy of Virginia Opera



Makes Virginia Premiere

World-class production with local roots ushers in 2023 at Virginia Opera, and offers discussions with composer Gregory Spears and author of the novel that inspired the opera Thomas Mallon


Fellow Travelers is a contemporary masterpiece that has thrilled audiences across the country since it premiered in 2016. Composed by Virginia native Gregory Spears with a libretto by Greg Pierce and based on the 2007 novel by Thomas Mallon, Fellow Travelers is a must-see theatrical event in 2023. The New York Times dubbed the opera “one of the best classical music events of 2016” and “a near-perfect example of fast-flowing musical drama,” while the Chicago Tribune declared it “one of the most accomplished new American operas.” Press passes are available by contacting Virginia Opera’s Director of Marketing, Amanda Ivy, at Amanda.ivy@vaopera.org.

The “Red Scare” infiltrated American society, politics, and culture, and Fellow Travelers delves into the murky, political world of Washington, D.C. in the 1950s. During this period, homosexuals were unjustly targeted by Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee as homosexuality was wrongfully equated to communist sympathy. Together, McCarthy and his cronies worked to ruthlessly root out gays and lesbians from the federal government. This dark period of American history, the “Lavender Scare,” led many individuals to lose their jobs, careers, and more.

Set against this historical backdrop, Fellow Travelers tells the story of two men, Hawkins Fuller and Timothy Laughlin, as they fall in and out of love, struggling to find personal happiness in a world spiraling out of control. Notable for its representation of LGBTQ+ characters, Fellow Travelers is ultimately a historical opera about the difficulties of living in a repressed society and the consequences of living an inauthentic life.

“When I saw the premiere of Fellow Travelers in Cincinnati, Ohio, I knew we had to bring this work to Virginia,” explains Artistic Director, Adam Turner. “Not only was it composed by a Virginian who grew up attending performances at Virginia Opera, but I saw myself—and the lives of so many others—on stage. Representation matters. Everyone deserves to see themselves reflected in the work we produce.”

“Virginia Opera is committed to telling diverse stories,” says Peggy Kriha Dye, General Director and CEO of Virginia Opera. Fellow Travelers is one of many productions we’ve planned that feature modern stories and contemporary music. What is so exciting for us is to see new works such as Fellow Travelers connect with audiences and patrons. There is an energy surrounding these pieces, and I think Fellow Travelers represents what opera has always done best: explore important stories through powerful emotions and gorgeous music.”

Virginia Opera’s production of Fellow Travelers welcomes renowned stage director, Kevin Newbury, who also directed the world premiere of Fellow Travelers, lauded by The New York Times for its “heart-wrenching yet musically lucid drama… the music, libretto, and sure-handed direction by Kevin Newbury create a tidal pull that rushes the action along and the audience’s sympathies with it.” The Wall Street Journal said, “Kevin Newbury’s directing…was as honest and touching as the opera.” Known for his staging of contemporary work, Newbury’s productions have been seen at most major opera houses across the United States.

“We cannot wait to bring Kevin’s original production of Fellow Travelers to our audiences,” Turner continues. “He is one of the high-profile directors working today, and I’m sure this cinematic production will resonate with audiences.”

Fellow Travelers is sung in English with English surtitles, and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra will perform Spears’ gorgeous, evocative score. The New Yorker notes that “Spears… possesses a singular compositional voice, unlike any that has been heard in opera before” and The New York Times also praised his originality, citing his “personal, boldly quirky score for the wrenching, and sadly timely, opera Fellow Travelers.” Conducted by Turner, Fellow Travelers is sure to be a musical and dramatic highlight of the 2022-2023 season.

Fellow Travelers cast features baritone Joseph Lattanzi as Hawkins Fuller, who premiered the role at Cincinnati Opera and was praised by The New York Times for his “buttery-baritone, luxuriant and robust,” and tenor Andres Acosta as Timothy Laughlin, whose acting the Star-Tribune noted “skillfully externalized the feelings of a credulous ingénu beguiled by the bright lights and bustling egos of the big city.” While these two artists have sung these roles across the country to critical acclaim, this marks the first time they will perform Fellow Travelers together.

The cast also includes soprano Katherine Pracht as Hawkins’ confidant Mary Johnson, Katrina Thurman as the gossiping Miss Lightfoot, and baritone Joshua Jeremiah as Senator McCarthy and additional roles. Local artist John Fulton will portray Senator Potter and additional roles, while Virginia Opera’s Herndon Foundation Emerging Artists Kaileigh Riess, Kyle White, and Jeremy Harr round out the cast, playing a variety of different roles.

Surrounding this production, Virginia Opera has engaged local groups to create programs that use the opera as a springboard for community conversation. Sponsored by Virginia Humanities, Virginia Opera is hosting “Creators in Conversation” statewide where audiences can meet and learn about the opera from composer Gregory Spears along with special guest, novelist Thomas Mallon in Fairfax. Additionally, each market will host “Nite Out” activities to inform audiences about the LGBTQ+ community of Virginia, and each weekend will feature pre-show lectures, artists talkbacks, and more. Visit vaopera.org/events for more information.

Fellow Travelers is a relevant opera with a stunning score,” Dye concludes. “I cannot wait to welcome audiences new and old to this masterpiece of our time.”

Tickets for Fellow Travelers can be purchased at vaopera.org/fellow-travelers or by calling 866.673.7282.

Please be advised that Fellow Travelers features adult content not suitable for audiences under the age of thirteen.

Creators in Conversation Series

Sunday, January 22, at 2:00 PM, Cocktails & Conversation in Richmond featuring composer Gregory Spears

Monday, January 23, at 7:00 PM, Artists in Conversation in Fairfax featuring composer Gregory Spears and novelist Thomas Mallon

Tuesday, January 24, at 5:30 PM, Cocktails & Conversation in Norfolk featuring composer Gregory Spears

Fellow Travelers Performances

Harrison Opera House, Norfolk, Virginia

Wednesday, January 25, 2023, Student Night at the Opera

Friday, January 27, 2023, at 8:00 pm

Saturday, January 28, 2023, at 7:30 pm

Sunday, January 29, 2023, at 2:30 pm

Center for the Arts at George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia

Saturday, February 4, 2023, at 8:00 pm

Sunday, February 5, 2023, at 2:00 pm

Carpenter Theatre at the Dominion Energy Center, Richmond, Virginia

Friday, February 10, 2023, at 8:00 pm

Sunday, February 12, 2023, at 2:30 pm

Fellow Travelers Production Notes

Music by Gregory Spears

Libretto by Greg Pierce

Based on the 2007 novel Fellow Travelers by Thomas Mallon

Sung in English with English Surtitles

Orchestra provided by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra

Fellow Travelers Cast and Creative

Andres Acosta*

Timothy Laughlin (tenor)

Virginia Opera Debut

Recent Highlights: Tony, West Side Story, Teatro Lirico di Cagliari; Nemorino, L’elisir d’amore, Seattle Opera; Jasper, The Snowy Day, Houston Grand Opera

Upcoming: Mr. Rodriguez, Awakenings, BMOP Records; Ismaele, Nabucco, Washington Concert Opera; Javier, Ghosts, San Diego Opera

Joseph Lattanzi

Hawkins Fuller (baritone)

Last Virginia Opera Appearance: Dandini, La Cenerentola, 2020

Recent Highlights: Hawkins Fuller, Fellow Travelers, Cincinnati Opera World Premiere; Figaro, The Barber of Seville, Atlanta Opera; Don Giovanni, Don Giovanni, Jacksonville Symphony

Upcoming: Silvio, I pagliacci, Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera; Soloist, Carmina Burana, Sacramento Choral Society

Katherine Pracht*

Mary Johnson (mezzo-soprano)

Virginia Opera Debut

Recent Highlights: Elizabeth Cree, Elizabeth Cree, Chicago Opera Theater; Lady Wang, Dream of the Red Chamber, China tour; Ottavia, L’incoronazione di Poppea, Florentine Opera

Upcoming: Helen, February (Laura Kaminsky world premiere), Opera on the Avalon, Newfoundland

Katrina Thurman*

Miss Lightfoot (soprano)

Virginia Opera Debut

Recent Highlights: Meretaten, Akhnaten, The Metropolitan Opera; Musetta, La bohème, Florentine Opera & Lyric Opera of Kansas City; Maria, The Sound of Music, Anchorage Opera

Upcoming: Soloist, Mobbluz featuring ePOP, Kimmel Cultural Center of Philadelphia; Guest Soloist, Alumni Recital, Opera in the Ozarks

Joshua Jeremiah*

Estonian Frank/Interrogator/Senator McCarthy (baritone)

Virginia Opera Debut

Recent Highlights: Rigoletto, Rigoletto, Houston Grand Opera; Donner, Das Rheingold, Nashville Opera; Lt. Horstmayer, Silent Night, Minnesota Opera

Upcoming: Gianni Schicchi, Gianni Schicchi, Hawaii Opera Theatre; Tateh, Ragtime, Toledo Opera

John Fulton*

Senator Potter/General Arlie/Bartender (baritone)

Virginia Opera Debut

Recent Highlights: Jake, Porgy and Bess, Fort Worth Opera; Robbins, Porgy and Bess, Berlin Philharmonic; Figaro, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Opera Colorado

Upcoming: Full-time Regular Chorus Member, San Francisco Opera, 2023

Kaileigh Riess^

Lucy (soprano)

Last Virginia Opera Appearance: Isabel, The Pirates of Penzance, 2022

Recent highlights: Caroline (cover), A Thousand Acres (world premiere), Des Moines Metro Opera; Anne Trulove, The Rake's Progress, Boston University; Contessa Almaviva, Le nozze di Figaro, University of Southern California

Upcoming: Annina (Violetta cover and performance), La Traviata, Virginia Opera

Kyle White^

Tommy McIntyre (baritone)

Last Virginia Opera Appearance: Samuel, The Pirates of Penzance, 2022

Recent Highlights: Nardo, La Finta Giardiniera, The Hungarian State Opera; Schaunard, La bohème, Kentucky Opera; Older Thompson, Glory Denied, Boston Conservatory Opera

Upcoming: Giorgio Germont (cover and performance), La Traviata, Virginia Opera; Valentin, Faust, Wolf Trap Opera

Jeremy Harr^

Potter’s Assistant/Bookseller/Technician/French Priest/Party Guest (bass)

Last Virginia Opera Appearance: Police Sergeant, The Pirates of Penzance, 2022

Recent Highlights: Don Alfonso, Così fan tutte, Finger Lakes Opera; Don Basilio, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Opera Saratoga; Zuniga, Carmen, Pittsburgh Opera

Upcoming: Dottore Grenvil, La Traviata, Virginia Opera; Baron Ochs, Der Rosenkavalier, Pacific Northwest Opera; Tchelio (cover), The Love for Three Oranges, Des Moines Metro Opera

Adam Turner

Conductor

Artistic Director since 2018 (previously Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor, 2014-18)

Recent Highlights: The Pirates of Penzance, Die Walküre, The Marriage of Figaro, Three Decembers, Virginia Opera; Il Trovatore, Toledo Opera; Three Decembers, San Diego Opera; The Light in the Piazza, Madama Butterfly, Carmen, Man of La Mancha, Central City Opera; Eugene Onegin, Intermountain Opera Bozeman

Upcoming: Kiss Me, Kate, Central City Opera

Kevin Newbury

Stage Director

Last Virginia Opera Appearance: Director, Hansel and Gretel, 2011

Recent Highlights: Director, Castor & Patience, Cincinnati Opera; Director, Bernstein’s MASS, Ravinia Festival/PBS Great Performances; Director, Bel Canto, Lyric Opera of Chicago/PBS Great Performances

Upcoming: Director, The Righteous, Santa Fe Opera; Director, Eighty-Sixed (NYC); Director, Bel Canto, Aspen Music Festival

Brandon Eldredge

Associate Conductor & Chorus Master

Last Virginia Opera Appearance: Co-Conductor & Chorus Master, The Pirates of Penzance, 2022

Recent Highlights: Co-Conductor, Two Remain, Central City Opera; Associate Conductor & Chorus Master, Die Fledermaus, Central City Opera; Associate Conductor, The Sound of Music, Virginia Opera/Virginia Arts Festival

Upcoming: Co-Conductor & Chorus Master, La Traviata, Virginia Opera; Cover Conductor, Virginia Symphony Orchestra; Associate Conductor & Chorus Master, Roméo et Juliette, Otello, and Kiss Me, Kate, Central City Opera

Thomas C. Hase

Lighting Designer

Virginia Opera Debut

Recent Highlights: Company, The Barrymore Theatre, Broadway, New York, NY; Der Frieschütz, Vienna State Opera, Austria; The Demon, Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona & Opéra National de Bordeaux, France

Upcoming: Suor Angelica & Gianni Schicchi, San Diego Opera, San Diego, CA; Candide, The Atlanta Opera, Atlanta GA; Powder Her Face, The Nederlandse Reisopera, Netherlands

James P. McGough

Wig and Make-up Design

Resident Wig and Make-up Designer since 2006 (previously Wig and Make-up Artist, 1998-2006)

Recent Highlights: Wig and Make-up Designer, Light in the Piazza, Die Fledermaus, Two Remain, Central

City Opera; Wig and Make-up Designer, A Hitchcock Halloween, Cultural Arts Foundation of America; Season Wigmaster 2000-2006, The American Players Theatre; Wig and Make-up Designer 2006 -2013, The Fort Worth Opera; Wig and Make-up Designer, various, The Atlanta Opera; 2017-2019; Wig and Make-up artist, Spoleto Festival USA, 2017-2019

Karen T. Federing

Director of Production Residency Programs & Production Stage Manager

Recent Highlights: Director of Production (2002-2022), Central City Opera; Stage Manager, Sweeney

Todd, Opera Omaha; Production Manager, Cavalleria Rusticana at the Live Nation Seaport Pavilion, Boston Lyric Opera; Adjunct Instructor in Stage Management, Carnegie Mellon University; Stage Manager, Carmen, Tulsa Opera

Nora Winsler

Assistant Director

Last Virginia Opera Appearance: Assistant Director, The Pirates of Penzance, 2022

Recent Highlights: Director, All is Calm, Opera North; Assistant Director, Die Walküre, Virginia Opera; Assistant Director, Tenor Overboard (premiere), The Glimmerglass Festival

Upcoming: Assistant Director, La Traviata, Virginia Opera; Assistant Director, Carmen, Des Moines Metro Opera

*Denotes VA Opera Debut

^Denotes Herndon Foundation Emerging Artist

ABOUT VIRGINIA OPERA

Virginia Opera, the official opera company of the Commonwealth of Virginia, is one of the finest regional opera companies in the nation and is the only company to perform regularly in three separate main stage venues: the Harrison Opera House in Norfolk, the Carpenter Theatre at the Dominion Energy Center in Richmond, and Center for the Arts at George Mason University in Fairfax. Organized in 1974, Virginia Opera is respected nationwide for the identification and presentation of the finest young artists, for the musical and dramatic integrity of its productions, and for the ingenuity and variety of its education and outreach programs.

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