William Andrews — Eugene Onegin’s Lensky

William Andrews is no stranger to Undercroft Opera, and he (and his magnificent voice) returns to us to play Lensky.


William Andrews (Tenor), a Pittsburgh native, graduated from Muskingum University.  After completing his studies, he was awarded the Mary Bartlett Reynolds Award for excellence in music. Over the years, he has performed several operas such as Sam (Susannah), Alfredo (La Traviata), Nemorino (L’Elisir d’Amore), Rinuccio (Gianni Schicchi), Tamino in (Die Zauberflöte), and the title role (Pygmalion). In 2011, he was awarded the first prize in a singing competition with the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh and was given the role of Rodolfo in the world premiere of Alberto Garcia Demestres’ (The Honeymoon Suite) at their Summerfest. In 2013, he played the role of Don José in (Carmen), covered Rodolfo in (La Boheme), and Buster Peeves in a world premier of (Penthouse Suite).  Last May, he played B.F. Pinkerton in Puccini’s (Madama Butterfly), and Martin Luther in the world premier of (Katharina von Bora).  Future engagements include Henry in (Silent Women) with Opera Theater of Pittsburgh in July, and a winners concert with Pittsburgh Concert Society in October.   William studies voice under Ross Dacal.

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Mary Beth Sederburg — Eugene Onegin’s Olga

Mary Beth Sederburg is not only the Artistic Director of Undercroft Opera, and the Producer of Eugene Onegin, she is also the magnificent Olga!


A former Resident Artist with the Pittsburgh Opera, Mezzo-Soprano Mary Beth Sederburg recently performed with the Pittsburgh Savoyards as Zita in Gianni Schicchi, OT Summerfest as Marcellina in The Marriage of Figaro, and the dual roles of Old Lady and Matron in the world premiere of Mercy Train by Douglas Levine with the Microscopic Opera Company. She happily returns to sing with Undercroft Opera this season. Ms. Sederburg has performed over 50 roles with various companies on the East Coast. Favorites include the title roles in Carmen and The Medium, and Amneris in Aida. She has led a multi-faceted career in music education, stage direction, vocal instruction, and as a collaborative pianist. Mary Beth is the Founder and Artistic Director of Undercroft Opera, a company in Pittsburgh that features local artists in traditional operatic productions. With the motto “Because everybody deserves an OPERAtunity!!”, the award-winning company just celebrated its 10th Anniversary Season this year with productions of Giulio Cesare and Don Giovanni. With Undercroft Opera and as an independent producer, Ms Sederburg has presented over 30 fully staged operas and looks forward to many more. Future productions this season include La Rondine, The Impresario, and Djamileh, in which she will sing the title role.    www.undercroftopera.org

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Katie Manukyan — Eugene Onegin’s Tatiana

We are excited to introduce our Tatiana, Katie Manukyan. Dr. Manukyan is an Instructor of Slavic languages at the University of Pittsburgh, and we are proud that she is also the primary Russian diction coach for this production of “Eugene Onegin”!


Soprano Katie Manukyan has quickly become a regional favorite for the beauty and strength of her voice as well as for her specialization in Slavic repertoire. In 2016 Katie made five role debuts and was selected as a winner at the Pittsburgh Concert Society Major Artist Auditions. Notable roles in Katie’s repertoire include: Cio-cio-san (Madama Butterfly), Pamina (The Magic Flute), Gorislava (Ruslan and Ludmila), and her upcoming debut as Tatiana (Eugene Onegin) with Undercroft Opera in February of 2017. Katie frequently appears in principal roles with Undercroft Opera, Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, and Bel Cantanti Opera (Washington DC) and with the ensemble of Pittsburgh Opera. Katie received musical training at Northwestern University, Tchaikovsky Musical College-Conservatory in Moscow, Russia, and The Ohio State University. www.katiemanukyan.com

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Ian Greenlaw — Eugene Onegin’s Onegin

Read all about our fantastic Eugene Onegin, Ian Greenlaw, making his debut with Undercroft!


American baritone Ian Greenlaw’s compelling vocalism has brought him to center stage of opera companies and orchestras on both sides of the Atlantic. Career highlights include his Metropolitan Opera debut as the Theater Manager in Poulenc’s Les mamelles de Tirésias, furthered by other roles at the Metropolitan, including Moralès in Carmen and Harlekin in Ariadne auf Naxos. He has performed principal roles with Lyric Opera of Chicago, Chicago Opera Theater, Kentucky Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, Opera Colorado, Central City Opera and Opera Theatre of St. Louis. A gifted concert artist, Ian Greenlaw has performed with the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Dallas Symphony, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra in such works as Orff’s Carmina Burana, Brahm’s Ein deutsches Requiem, Rodrigo’s Ausencias de Dulcinea, Britten’s War Requiem, and Bartòk’s Cantata Profana. He is the recipient of a Richard Tucker Career Grant and was a first place winner of the Heinz Rehfuss Singing Actor Competition. His singing career began as an artist with the Pittsburgh Opera Center where he performed the title role in Eugene Onegin among other works. Upcoming performances include Bach’s B-minor Mass with the Bach Festival Society of Kalamazoo. Dr. Greenlaw currently is a Vocal Instructor at Interlochen Academy for the Arts.

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In memory of Dr. Robert Page

Dr. Robert Page, while not having a direct impact on Undercroft Opera, has been such an influence in the Pittsburgh Music Community that there have been many indirect impacts on Undercroft. Many of the artists who have worked with Undercroft have been taught by Dr. Page, and he had been known to attend some of Undercroft’s performances to see his students perform. Our music directors and artistic directors have often worked with Dr. Page in other venues as well.

Dr. Page passed away this week, even while his ripples of influence on us remain active, we have lost a tremendous source of musicianship and mentor to so many. We at Undercroft mourn his loss.

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Happy and Vampy Libretto Team

A wonderful run of "Don Giovanni" this weekend--and a great shot of our libretto team! — with Mary Beth Sederburg, Bonnie Bogovich, Liz Rishel, Michael Greenstein and Gwendolyn Schmidt and Sean Donaldson (not pictured).We had a wonderful run of “Don Giovanni” this weekend. Here is a great shot of our hard-working libretto team!

(Left to right) Mary Beth Sederburg, Bonnie Bogovich, Liz Rishel, Michael Greenstein, Gwendolyn Schmidt, and Sean Donaldson (not pictured).

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Meet the Company: Laura Arledge, FLUTE

13254419_1294428017252256_1677998779008067539_nLaura Arledge, FLUTE

On the eve of the premiere of Undercroft’s Don Giovanni, we are excited to feature long-time Undercroft flutist, Laura Arledge. Learn some perspectives from the pit in this interview and don’t forget to get your tickets now! https://www.undercroftopera.org/community/tickets/

UNDERCROFT OPERA: Tell us about your journey in music.

LAURA ARLEDGE: Music has always been a big part of my life! I come from a family of musicians and music-appreciators, so it is no wonder that music became my career. I started playing the flute when I was in the fourth grade, and the decision to major in music was an easy one. After I graduated from Carnegie Mellon University, I spent a summer in Arkansas with the Opera in the Ozarks orchestra, and that is where my love of opera began! I jumped at the chance to play in Undercroft’s production of Tales of Hoffmann in the summer of 2007, and have been performing in the orchestra on and off ever since.

UO: How does playing in an opera orchestra with staged drama compare to other performance contexts? Any added challenges?

LA: Playing opera is an exercise in endurance! An average symphony performance is an hour or two long with breaks in between each piece. An opera typically runs three (or more) hours and requires nearly constant playing and intense concentration. From watching the conductor and listening for vocal cues, to checking intonation and counting rests, opera orchestra musicians are always “on” during a performance. There is very little down time!

UO: How do you go about preparing to play Don Giovanni? Does Mozart’s music present any challenges for your instrument that you don’t meet in the operas of other composers?

LA: Mozart’s music is technically difficult, so I did a fair amount of “wood-shedding”, but building up my endurance was also a part of my practice routine. I think my school students know when I am playing an opera, because they hear me practicing in my classroom during breaks! :) I also made sure that I listened to excerpts from Don Giovanni as well as other Mozart works to help emulate the style that is required to play this piece.

UO: Do you have a favorite memory from the pit at Undercroft?

LA: Madama Butterfly has always been my favorite opera, so it was a thrill to perform in the orchestra for Undercroft’s production last year. I love to immerse myself in the music of any opera, but it was very special to do that with Butterfly. And it is always a pleasure to make music with excellent musicians who are also good friends. My colleagues in the Undercroft orchestra are the best! I’m not sure which one of us coined the phrase “super-tacet,” but I have been guilty of this at one time or another during rehearsals! (A “tacet” is a movement of the opera in which a certain instrument does not play; a “super-tacet” is the act of forgetting to come back in at the conclusion of the tacet!)

UO: What are you most excited about in this opera? What should the audience be on the lookout for?

LA: As a scary movie enthusiast, I’m really looking forward to seeing how the Dracula/Don Giovanni theme plays out! However, watching the stage at any time during a rehearsal or production may result in the aforementioned “super-tacet”!

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13240573_1294249060603485_5949440595165043866_nGwendolyn Schmidt, LIBRETTIST and ENSEMBLE

Here is another interview featuring one of Undercroft’s fabulous librettists, Gwendolyn Schmidt. Gwen shares some great behind-the-scenes details about the writing process. You can catch her onstage too. Get your tickets to Don Giovanni now: https://www.undercroftopera.org/community/tickets/

UNDERCROFT OPERA: Tell us about your artistic background. Have you ever worked on a libretto before?

GWENDOLYN SCHMIDT: Not officially. I did start something for a personal project once, got about halfway through a one-act 3-person opera, and then got stumped and then distracted by other projects. But I was able to use that went-nowhere experience for this, I had already learned a lot about looking up phrases and digging deeper than just using translate.google.com to find the meanings, and then working to fit the line to the music so that it sounds right and is easy to sing. Similarly, I translated text from French to English at my last job from time to time, which gave me a lot of experience in learning how to find the good meaning from translations rather than just the literal one.

But we were a team, and having the help from Mary Beth, who does know Italian well was of course invaluable there. It helped things run faster than doing a lot of searching online for deeper meaning. Having the experience of Michael really helped us learn how to find rhyming schemas more easily — he introduced us to tools and to concepts such as “female rhymes”. And lastly, Bonnie and Liz wrote their own opera which they then starred in (The Zombie Opera: Evenings in Quarantine), so they were already familiar with fitting words to music, and making that work.

Most of all, though, we were all a team. We all put aside egos and would bounce ideas off of each other for lines — not relenting until we all agreed that it worked. We would often check the lines by singing them too. It was a lot of long days and nights working together, but with a group that works together that well, it was great!

UO: Tell us about the genesis of the Dracula version of Don Giovanni. Did you have any doubts going into this project or did you know it would work?

GS: I love seeing things done in new and different ways, so taking this challenge on was something I was excited to do. I knew the stories of both, I have read Dracula many times and being a Mozart fan, have known the Don Giovanni opera! It was good to see Don Giovanni as performed by The Neighborhood Opera as “Don’s Fire” (under the direction of Tom Douglas), and have that fresh in my memory. Also, Liz started a group of people to read Dracula together last year — we made a calendar of what diary entries* happened on which days, and would read those diary entries on those days together and discuss. This really made sure we had the Dracula story, along with its themes, fully ingrained into our minds.

* For those who are unaware, Dracula is written in a series of diary entries by the main characters, primarily Mina Harker, Jonathan Harker, and Doctor Steward, with some additional entries by Van Helsing, letters from Lucy Westerna, newspaper articles, and other sources. These are not always fully chronologically in order, so separating them out and resorting them into a chronological order makes for a different story path.

UO: What was it like to collaborate with the other librettists? Many people think of writing as such a personal process. How did you divide up responsibilities and manage differences of opinions?

GS: In this case, we all just worked on it together. Michael had found a public domain version of the libretto from Victorian times, which gave us the seed we needed. We went through that together line by line, with one of us (usually me or Bonnie) reading out the English version of the line, Mary Beth reading and translating the Italian, and all of us throwing out ideas on how to rework the line (if needed) or add in the Dracula storyline. Liz would transcribe our final version into the master copy — but I often had scribbled note pads of our ideas so that we could work on blocks of lines at once.

UO: What surprised you the most about the project?

GS: How much we all got along on this. I knew we were all good friends and would work as a team, but we never had conflict at all — there were no egos, everyone contributed, everyone decided, we worked as a unit. I’m not sure I will ever see that sort of cohesiveness in a group again in my life.

UO: What is your favorite part of the opera in terms of the text in its new translation?

GS: I’m not sure I can point to any specific text as much as just how well the original libretto worked with the Dracula concept. It’s already so dark, gritty, and yet beautiful. It was very easy to match Leporello to Renfield, Don Giovanni to Dracula, Donna Anna to Mina, Octavio to Jonathan, Zerlina to Lucy, Masetto to Arthur Holmwood, Il Commendatore to Van Helsing. We did have to lose Doctor Steward in this version, and we wrote Elvira as a sort of master Vampire Wife as a new character, one who is conflicted about her status. In Dracula, there are 3 vampire wives, but they have few lines and mostly serve to show how creepy vampires can be when in their native form. Originally we wrote Elvira as the master of the three, and the other two brides as her shadows — but that wasn’t going to work for staging, so Elvira was further separated out from the pack, there are 3 brides on stage still serving that purpose of showing how creepy vampires can be! Elvira herself is now a new character, and a very interesting one with her inner conflict!

The hard part was to keep the theme of womanly strength from Dracula — what many people do not realize is that Bram Stoker wrote Dracula in homage to his recently passed wife. He wrote Mina to show just how strong and noble his wife was — she is truly the central figure of the book. I don’t think any movie has ever captured this theme, and Mozart did not write his women with any real strength (a product of the times more than anything). We had to rewrite a significant part of the final aria for Donna Anna to capture that spirit back, to show how strong she had been the entire opera by finally revealing what she had been going through. And yet, that her thoughts are always with her companions and husband first and foremost. OK, perhaps that is my favorite part.

UO: You are singing in the opera too. What are you most excited about and what should the audience be on the lookout for during the performance?

GS: In the finale of Act I, Bonnie pulls me aside from the rest of the party and starts munching on my arms. Watch our faces to see how close to laughter we really are there! Or maybe by the time of performance we’ll finally have that out of our systems…. OK, that’s unlikely.

The finale of Act II is just super cool. But I won’t spoil.

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13256133_1293678870660504_2585686993548804459_nBonnie Bogovich, VAMPIRE BRIDE, LIBRETTIST, and ZERLINA COVER

Learn about the multi-talented Bonnie Bogovich’s work on Undercroft’s Don Giovanni and her other artistic projects here in Pittsburgh in this special feature. Don Giovanni opens this Thursday and runs through Sunday!

UNDERCROFT OPERA: Tell us about your artistic background. Have you ever worked on a libretto before?

BONNIE BOGOVICH: I went to Duquesne University for Music Composition and Multimedia from 2000-2005 during which one of my main focuses was writing and designing projection and electronic based music performance pieces. After school I toured with and worked for a variety of different performing arts organizations including Squonk Opera, Attack Theatre, Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, all the while keeping active performing wise by singing in choral ensembles and eventually making my way to Undercroft Opera and the Pittsburgh Savoyards. On the side, I now work professionally as a music composer and sound designer at Schell Games, a local video game studio, and collaborate regularly with The Materia Collective, a network of professional recording specialists, orchestrators, and performers who do tribute arrangements of video game soundtracks.

This is the third libretto I have worked on, the first being the original Evenings in Quarantine: The Zombie Opera, which I wrote with my former college roommate and long time cohort fellow D.G. Librettist Elizabeth Rishel, and the second being Super Smash Opera in which the whole cast and artistic staff took part in the writing process. Both were very different productions however, Zombie Opera being a completely original production with new music that we composed, but with Super Smash Opera we wrote the show from the ‘Bugs Bunny’ standpoint of taking classics and rewriting the words to be more comfortable and welcoming to a newer audience, in that case we created an original show about video game characters in the Nintendo universe but all of the music references classical works from Mozart to Puccini.

UO: Did you have any doubts going into this project or did you know it would work?

BB: I often joke with Liz Rishel that we seem to copy paste the same mission statement with the projects we collaborate with on the side… Take music that people don’t think they like, opera, and disguise it under something they are more comfortable or open to. With Zombie Opera, we were able to bring opera to horror fans, and open up music fans to zombie culture. With Super Smash Opera we focused specifically on classical music that people ‘know’ from popular culture, commercials, but don’t realize that it IS classical music or what the original sources were. The idea of doing anything with Don Giovanni is appealing, as the music is so darn catchy, and anyone who has seen the film “Amadeus” is familiar with the Act 2 Finale sequence. We even worked that into Super Smash Opera, changing the Commendatore into Master Hand, our villain, and the words into “Now it’s the Fiiiinal Round”. I will admit… now that I am working in the ‘real’ show, it’s hard not to follow the Commendatore first 8 bars with my kneejerk response of “Jiiiiiglypuff”, the first 8 bars of “Un Bel Di” from Madama Butterfly… Long story short, creative mashups like this and projects I have worked on before are fun for the cast, fun for the audience, and I have no doubt people will enjoy our Dracula take on D.G.

UO: What surprised you the most about the project?

BB: Two things pleasantly surprised me, I suppose. I was expecting some friction between the cast and the idea of doing a non-traditional take on Don Giovanni, but pleasantly surprised at how quickly they supported this opportunity. Members of the cast have read Bram Stoker’s novel, have seen the films, and seem very excited to try something ‘new’ and are having fun with it.

After being the Creature Designer of Undercroft Opera’s production of The Magic Flute in 2014, in which my team helped to create a giant 30 foot serpent, a flock of birds on poles for the Papageno sequence, and forest animal masks, I had expected to see a similar need in a production about a spooky classic monster like Dracula. After they had revealed the plan to instead involve elaborate video projections for the backdrops and effects, it was clear that we would not need to bring out the craft supplies. I still am a bit sad that there are no actual wolves or bats on strings…. But there are monsters…. Like demons from hell at the end, and of course the Vampire Brides:)

UO: You are also playing a role in the opera as a “vampire bride.” Can you tell us a little about what you will be doing in that role, without giving away too much?

BB:: So when the idea for combining Dracula and D.G. Had first begun, the team had analyzed the characters in the story to see who the Mozart characters would best fit; Don Giovanni was Dracula, Leporello was Renfield, Commandatore was Van Helsing, Masetto was Arthur, Donna Anna was Mina, and so on. Donna Elvira, in the opera, is always the ‘wronged yet dedicated woman’ who hated yet passionately loved D.G. Based on this the decision was made to make Donna Elvira into a Bride of Dracula, aka one of the Three Vampire Brides also known as The Three Sisters. You may have recognized them in various adaptations of the vampire story in popular media. There are always three brides, and one is the ‘leader’.

In the early stages the character of Donna Elvira would be split into three roles, D.E. And two ‘brides’, in which sometimes they would share arias, take turns in parts of the recitative, and also plans to harmonize on some sections of the music were to happen as well. Later down the line, after changes in the production, the decision was made to keep Donna Elvira a vampire, but separate herself from her sisters, as if she had left the ‘family home’ to be alone, and the remaining two Vampire Brides (played by me and the lovely Emily Swora) would take on more of a non-speaking supporting character role, remaining loyal to Dracula throughout the opera.

Though our roles turned out differently than originally intended, I am still having fun being a vampire, and one big benefit of Emily and I not having ‘speaking’ roles anymore… We can wear fangs on stage:) Also, fun fact, both the first time I had worked with Emily was when she auditioned for Evenings in Quarantine: the Zombie Opera, and she did a fabulous job originating the role of Angela the Party Girl and a Zombie in Act 2.

UO: What are you most excited about and what should the audience be on the lookout for during the performance?

BB: Even though we kept the title the same, and the character names the same, this is truly a show with a plethora of references to the original Dracula novel by Bram Stoker. Members of the performing cast and directorial staff have put lots of work into honoring the vampire mythos and hope that you catch, and enjoy, all the blatant fangalishious moments, and the subtle ones as well. My hope is people will leave this performance with a new appreciation for both the book and the original opera itself. Oh… And that they encourage others to “Take a Bite out of Opera” :)

UO: You seem to do a variety of projects, between operas, music collaborations, and video game composition. Where can we learn more about those online?

BB: I keep my personal website/blog fairly up to date, and here are some other links to some of my current and past projects:

www.BlackCatBonifide.com @BlackCatBonFeed
www.SchellGames.com @SchellGames
www.materiacollective.com @MateriaColl
www.supersmashopera.com @SuperSmashOpera
www.thezombieopera.com @TheZombieOpera
www.steamtheopera.com @SteamOpera

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13255912_1293671570661234_2312171098423126513_nJesse Enderle, DON GIOVANNI

Two days until the premiere of Undercroft’s Don Giovanni, and at last we have an interview with the Don himself. The spellbinding Jesse Enderle appears on May 28th and 29th. For tickets: https://www.undercroftopera.org/community/tickets/

UNDERCROFT OPERA: Tell us a little bit about your journey in opera.

JESSE ENDERLE: Well, I may have come to singing a bit later than most. I sang in choir in high school and always toyed with the idea of majoring in voice in college, but a few major life events changed my course and I actually ended up enlisting in the Marine Corps. After I finished my term in the Corps, I started my undergraduate in Biology on a pre-med track with emphasis in neuroscience. I still sang in choir in college, though, and was eventually seduced back into the music world after a few serious sit downs with some of the music faculty. I was worried that it was too late to start singing – I was 22 or 23 years old at the time – but learned that for vocalists, as compared to violinists or pianists for example,it’s definitely not too late.

UO: Tell us about your character and his role in the drama.

JE: So, Don Giovanni. Yeah. Well, He really loves women! In all seriousness,though, he really does. I mean certainly he is egocentric and arguably a hedonist, but also very charming, charismatic, and very genuine. He honestly believes he is doing many of these women a favor by liberating and awakening them, sexually of course, from the constrains of society’s imposed ideas of propriety. His enjoyment doesn’t come from the consummation, however. His true joy comes from the seduction and successfully creating an environment which allows these women to make their own choices to be with him. He is of course the eponymous character in the opera and he really acts as catalyst for many of the other character arcs. He comes into their lives and his actions set those with whom he interacts on their course through the opera. He’s an instigator, intuitive and sensitive, although perhaps not sympathetic, and he feels all the emotions that any character feels. The unique aspect about Don Giovanni, however, is that he knows himself so well. This is what allows him to have such an iron will. He will not back down. To anyone. Or anyTHING…

UO: Tell us about the music you will sing. How do you go about vocally preparing to sing a Mozart opera?

JE: Where to start! So much amazing music in this opera. It truly is a masterpiece of the theatre. Well, this is not the first Mozart opera I’ve had the delight to sing, but it is definitely the most vocally demanding. I find that Don Giovanni requires a broader range of colors and variations vocally from the very beginning of the opera. I need to have everything in my vocal bag at my disposal, from the first entrance. It’s an on-demand opera for the Don, really. And then, there’s pacing. Not to give too much
away, but that last 15-20 minutes is intense, and it needs to land both dramatically and vocally to be at it’s most evocative.

UO: Tell us about the experience of staging a Dracula-themed Don Giovanni? Any special challenges it presents?

JE: It has been fun! I was a bit unsure of what to expect at the outset. This isn’t the first time a vampire themed Don Giovanni has been done in the history of opera, but as far as we know it’s the first time it’s been done based on this particular novel with an original libretto, which, in itself, was a monumental task for those involved. As far as challenges, I would say of course – every concept production you do in the standard repertoire has these – and one that comes to mind is settling on the vampiric ‘rules’ in use. There are so many variations on vampires and each comes with it’s own set of ‘rules’ about the abilities, benefits and drawbacks that vampirism bestows. I think we’ve come down in just the right place to be true to the novel Dracula while at the same time executing a compelling story. The story of Dracula has a number of parallels that overlay quite nicely with Don Giovanni. And I think that’s the key is this idea of overlay: because at heart, it is still the story of Don Giovanni with those same character relationships told as Mozart and Da Ponte intended, but with both a twist and a whole added layer of intrigue.

UO: What are you most excited about in this opera? What should audience members be on the lookout for?

JE: I mean, the music. The music in this opera is so so good. That is the most exciting part of this opera for me. I just love it. As far as the audience, I would say pay close attention to all who are on the stage. There is always a lot going on even with those who aren’t necessarily singing at that very moment, and with this particular concept we have an opportunity to add a layer of subtlety in certain areas that if you are paying attention make for a very well rounded story. Oh, and it helps to know the Dracula-specific rules of vampirism.

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