"I think Austin Opera is the highest-potential opera in the U.S. right now," says Annie Burridge, the newly-appointed general director for Austin Opera. "We have an outstanding artistic product."
As part of her mission at the opera, Burridge hopes to keep producing quality work while reaching a new and larger audience. She acknowledges that opera isn't the primary style of music that people associate with Austin, but adds with a laugh, "Now, I hope to change that."
To close out the opera's current, 30th anniversary season, they're presenting a fresh staging of Puccini's classic Madame Butterfly. "It's a timeless piece, but the themes of hope and love and conviction and the ways in which war can bring all of those things tumbling down is certainly a timeless theme," Burridge says. "And the reason that the opera persists and persists is because the music is that outstanding and the subject matter is that compelling."
Award-winning baritone Michael Chioldi is returning to Austin Opera to sing the role of Sharpless. It's a role that he's played to great acclaim several times, and one that he has grown to appreciate more as he's grown older. "I used to call him Pointless instead of Sharpless when I was younger," he says. "I wanted the meat, I wanted to do... the heavy lifting, as it were. And Sharpless does the heavy lifting in a very quiet way. And as I've matured as an artist and as a performer, I've realized how effective this role can be."
For Chioldi, Sharpless is as much an acting performance as a singing one. "Interestingly enough, I got into opera because of the stories. I wanted to be an actor more than a singer," he says. "So it's coming together perfectly as a puzzle right now."
This is Chioldi's third performance with Austin Opera (but not his last -- he's already planning a return for next season's La Traviata). "I just have to say that Austin Opera is one of my favorite companies to work for," he says. "I'm enjoying it a lot. You know, barbecue and opera is great for me."