News from Opera in Williamsburg, Virginia (August 2015)

Opera in Williamsburg logo June 2013 hi resSummer is a time of preparation at Opera in Williamsburg. We are thrilled to bring to Virginia a terrific cast and creative team for our October production, Mozart’s masterpiece Don Giovanni.  Some of them have worked with us before and others are new to Williamsburg. Singers love coming to our beautiful town, to be a part of one of the exciting productions we have a track record of putting together.   For up-to-date details please see

News! News! News!

We have great news to share: we have been notified that we will receive for 2015-16 our first grant from the Williamsburg Area Arts Commission, for $5000. We appreciate very much both the help and the recognition. Thank you all so much!

Who’s coming to town:

Three of our leads for Don Giovanni have already performed together with us in Lucia di Lammermoor in October 2014 (see picture). Our title character will be played by Suchan Kim, whose beautiful voice and dramatic intensity shone in the role of Enrico, Lucia’s manipulative brother.  Sean Christiansen, who excelled as his right hand Normanno, will be Giovanni’s rival, Don Ottavio; and Williamsburg’s own favorite bass Branch Fields, who was Lucia’s confidant, will now take on the double role of the Commendatore and Masetto. Mozart’s operas demand and reward outstanding ensemble work, as we have shown last April in our production of Cosi fan tutte.  We look forward to hear this trio of fabulous singers again creating gorgeous moments together.

The pianist for our Don Giovanni will be the outstanding Mexican pianist Abdiel Vazquez. You can find a recording of him playing the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 here: — see for more information and recordings.

Where are they now?

Jamison Livsey, the Assistant Conductor of Opera in Williamsburg’s L’elisir d’amore (October 2012), La Traviata (April 2013), Il Trovatore (October 2013), and Don Pasquale (April 2014), is now on the musical staff of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, holding one of the most highly coveted positions in the opera world.

Emily Dorn (nee Duncan-Brown), who was our Lucy in Menotti’s The Telephone in May 2012 and Violetta in our La Traviata in April 2013, is singing major roles at the Semperoper in Dresden, one of the top opera houses in the world. She was highly praised for her performances there as Violetta, Michaela (Carmen), and Adele (Die Fledermaus), and is scheduled to perform there as Cleopatra (Giulio Cesare), Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro), and Musetta (La Boheme). She also performed as Mimi in Opera Southwest and as both Susanna and Michaela at the Savonlinna Festival in Finland.

Won Whi Choi

Won Whi Choi (here with his wife, Metropolitan Opera soprano Haeran Hong, who was our breathtaking Lucia) was Alfredo in our La Traviata in April 2013 and Edgardo in our Lucia di Lammermoor in October 2014.  He is currently one of the artists at Theater Erfurt in Germany. Over the last year, Won Whi Choi has been captivating and thrilling audiences from Hong Kong to Croatia to the USA with his gorgeous voice, elegant musicianship, and sensitive artistry, singing many of the major roles of the tenor repertoire: Alfredo (La Traviata), Il Duca (Rigoletto), Rodolfo (La Boheme), Don José (Carmen) and more. Mr. Choi is right now in Sweden as Alfredo in La Traviata for Opera på Skäret.

Jonathan Blalock, who was Nemorino in our L’elisir d’amore in October 2012 and Arturo in our Lucia di Lammermoor in October 2014, has been making the news in the world of opera.  Jonathan has a busy career combining contemporary opera (including world and USA premieres) with classical roles, like Ramiro (La Cenerentola) with Opera Roanoke, The Mole (The Fantastic Mr. Fox) with both Opera San Antonio and Odyssey Opera, Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni) with Cedar Rapids Opera, Count Almaviva with LOFT Opera in New York City in a performance that won rave reviews in the New York Times, Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni) with Nevada Opera, Fenton (Falstaff) with Mercury Opera in Rochester, and Pedrillo in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail with Des Moines Metro Opera. Jonathan’s recent blog was picked by Classical Singer as the featured blog of the week — you can read it here:!blog/c9rg . We are thrilled that Jonathan will join Opera in Wiliamsburg again as Prince Ramiro in La Cenerentola in April 2016.

Coming up

Don’t miss our upcoming productions, both at the Kimball Theatre, Merchants Square, Williamsburg –Tickets and other details are already available on our web site,

Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Friday October 30 (evening) and Sunday November 1 (matinee)

Rossini’s La Cenerentola (Cinderella), Friday April 8 (evening) and Sunday April 10 (matinee)

Please tell your friends!

Thank you so much and see you at the Kimball!


Naama Zahavi-Ely, Founder and Artistic Director
Frank Knuettel, Advisory Board Chair
Opera in Williamsburg (VA)

(large high-definition versions of all pictures are available; please ask)

Opera: a love story

o gioia

Dear friends and opera-lovers,

Opera in Williamsburg was founded in 2012 in Williamsburg, Virginia, by a passionate opera lover — myself. I wanted to share with my community intimate fully-staged opera productions of the kind that I have seen and enjoyed elsewhere. I thought it was possible, and I was determined to try.

Six productions and five full-length operas later, the challenges are still formidable. But boy, is it worth the effort!

We have been putting together two operas a year since 2012. We engage the best singers — great talent I would gladly go to hear anywhere. We team them up with outstanding conductors, directors, musicians, and stage personnel; and we let them do their magic.

Opera is, literally, “the works.” One needs the full resources required for an outstanding musical performance, plus the full resources required for an excellent theatrical performance, and merge the two together. Even when each aspect is stripped to its essentials, the total adds up.

Please join us in bringing the next production into life. We can do it!

Opera in Williamsburg has a fascinating evening of music and fun to share with you: Mozart’s 1790 comic masterpiece “Cosi fan tutte” (“All Women Do So”) at the Kimball Theatre on April 15 and 17, 2015. We have an amazing cast and creative team eager to go. All we need is a little help from our friends.

We can do justice to this gorgeous work. All of our past productions were exceptionally beautiful and very well received. Our two 2014 productions, Donizetti’s Don Pasquale and Lucia di Lammermoor, were picked by David Nicholson of the Daily Press of Newport News for his list of the best performances of 2014 (December 28).

Why should opera-lovers care about opera in a small town in Virginia? Because any place where excellent opera can take place is to be treasured. Smaller opera companies like us fulfill a crucial need. We can take risks that larger groups can’t afford. We have shown in all six of our previous productions that we know how to pick singers who are magnificent in their roles, and they relish the opportunity to work together. We also draw new audience to opera, college students and others who do not care to drive over an hour each way for the nearest other opportunity to see live opera, but are willing to give it a try when it comes to their neighborhood, and fall in love with it.

Williamsburg in April is a true delight. Come visit us on one of our two performances and combine a first-class intimate opera production with gracious lodging, excellent dining, and beautiful gardens, all within five minutes’ walk.

We don’t need much. Please give us what you would spend on a nice dinner. Believe us, it will make a difference. Even $10 will make a real difference. Fractured Atlas, our fiscal sponsor, provides excellent oversight of our spending. Our crowd-funding link is here.

Direct donating is by far the most efficient way to support the arts. Please give to the performing groups you love. Give $10 to us in Opera in Williamsburg, because we ask you to; and give another $10 to the performing group you have enjoyed the most in the last month or year. They will thank you, and so will we. You will be benefiting the arts, and benefiting the economy, since your money will most certainly be spent, most likely locally. Direct donations are by far the most efficient way to support the arts. They are also one of the strongest tools at your disposal to encourage the arts that YOU like in your community and in the world.

We treasure your good will. Please tell others about us. Spread the word. Thank you so much for your love of opera and for your faith in Opera in Williamsburg!

Naama Zahavi-Ely
Founder and Artistic Director, Opera in Williamsburg (Virginia)
Web site

The Economy and the Performing Arts

By Naama Zahavi-Ely

*** I wrote this piece in 2009. Little did I know then that I was embarking on a path that would lead me to found in 2012 a new, innovative opera company in Williamsburg, Virginia. Opera in Williamsburg (VA) is still going strong.  We perform two full-length fully-staged classical operas a year,  with world-class singers.  See more at . Please give to the arts you love, and please support Opera in Williamsburg! We promise you we’ll put your money to very good use.  To contribute please click here.  Thank you 🙂 ***

In times like these, when millions are out of a job or losing their homes, how can one ask fellow-citizens to donate to luxuries like art, rather than help people make a living?

One could argue that the arts are not a luxury but a necessity. My point is far less lofty. I would argue that by supporting the performing arts, we are in fact creating and sustaining jobs – worthy and deserving jobs.

Performing artists, by and large, don’t work for the sake of money. The hard labor and the long and costly training required by their professions rarely win adequate compensation in purely monetary terms. Artists choose their professions for love: they love music and ballet and theater, and they want to share that love with you. They want to share with you their music, their acting, their dancing, their vision of a great masterpiece that cannot come fully to life without being performed. In order to do so, they need to make a living.  And some of them manage to make their living by performing art.

Without an audience, there can be no performing arts. One can’t put a production in a drawer, like a poem or a painting waiting to be discovered in better times, and one can’t perform in a vacuum. So, if you love music – if you love theater – if you love opera – if you love ballet: please do your part. Please come: if you can’t afford expensive tickets, buy the less expensive ones. Please support your local companies, and the national companies we all benefit from. Please enable the musicians to transport you with their music, the actors to perform their magic, the ballerinas to soar, the directors to create their alternate reality, one evening at a time. Please give an opportunity to those who work behind the stage — the organizers, the builders of sets, the lighting directors, the costume-makers – to do their part. They are skilled in making wonders out of almost nothing; but they do need to be given the opportunity to work their wonders.

If you support the performing arts – by attending and buying tickets, and by offering donations – you are sustaining jobs that cannot be exported overseas. There are few profiteering middlemen in the performing arts, either on the stage or behind it: the gleanings are too slim for those not moved by love of the arts. By supporting local companies, you enable dedicated artists to continue sharing the excitement of live arts with you and with your loved ones. By supporting the large, national companies such as the Metropolitan Opera or the Martha Graham Dance Company, you help make the arts available at the highest level to yourself and to millions of others.

Every symphony orchestra or local opera company that folds is a major loss. Beginning performers must start somewhere, and so must choreographers, directors, and set designers. If there are no smaller companies for them to begin and develop in, we may find ourselves years from now starved at the top. Even with up-to-date broadcasting like the Metropolitan Opera in HD, which I love and urge you to attend, there is no substitute for a live performance. But for that to happen, one needs to have performing companies within reach. Each such institution holds intangibles that can be lost irretrievably: a hands-on tradition of the craft passed from veterans to newcomers, a spirit of collaboration, an artistic vision, a place in the lives of families.

So – please do your part. Come to concerts. Applaud your favorite opera diva or divo. Support young artists’ programs. Donate if you can. Let Shakespeare go on living, and Euripides, and Sophocles. Let Don Giovanni keep up his catalog of ladies, and Musetta charm her admirers. Let them transport you to a world where there is no recession, and help them preserve the ephemeral thread of the performing arts, one evening at a time.

*** To donate to Opera in Williamsburg, please go here  —  thank you so much for your support! ***

Don’t miss our next opera, Cosi fan tutte, April 15 and 17 in Williamsburg, Virginia.  Details at