Wednesday, February 29, 2012

An eye-opener from far away

N.C. State University looked far from home when it picked the architect for its new library, named for former Gov. Jim Hunt.

A few twinges of jealousy struck me, I have to admit, during a presentation by Craig Dykers of Snohetta, a firm founded in Oslo, Norway, in 1989. (A quick apology: The first vowel in the firm's name should be that O-with-a-slash that their language uses but ours doesn't. As far as anyone can tell me, my keyboard can't get it from Sorry, Norway.)

Dykers devoted a hefty portion of his 90 minutes or so to the opera house his firm designed in its hometown. As you can see from the photo above (by Christopher Hagelund from it sits right on the city's waterfront.

Its plaza, rather than being hemmed in by a railing, slants right down to the water. If you click on the photo for a larger version, you'll see this: After the plaza rises alongside the theater and meets the roof line, it then turns and covers the roof. So a visitor can start at the water, standing toe-to-toe with the swans, and walk up and around to the promontory atop the building, where there's a commanding view of the harbor. Magnificent. People who don't care what's happening onstage go to sight-see or sunbathe.

The plaza is roomy enough to accommodate alfresco audiences for video relays from inside the theater. The indoor audiences can mingle in lobbies that are airy, spacious and free-flowing.

The building itself wasn't what set off my pangs, though, so much as what it represented. It showed what designers can come up with when they -- and their employers -- imagine a theater that's more than just a box. That's how Sydney, Australia, created the opera house that's the city's emblem around the world.

Charlotte's mind evidently doesn't work that way. The Blumenthal Performing Arts Center has almost no visual profile at all -- just a glorified awning on Tryon Street, basically. The newer Knight Theater collides with the rear of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art.

The Blumenthal center was built before my time in Charlotte, so I didn't see its creation. But I was on hand during the genesis of the Knight Theater and the rest of the South Tryon cultural center. During those months and months of public meetings, the discussions had one focus: making sure that the buildings used up no more money or land than necessary. That's reasonable enough, as far as it goes. But creativity with the buildings' appearance -- even as a road to saving money -- didn't figure in.

It's always possible to learn, though. There no doubt are years ahead of us before Charlotte builds any more cultural facilities. That leaves time to drag more of Charlotte's leaders, especially those with sway over the arts, to presentations like the one by the architect from Oslo. Maybe their minds -- and eyes -- would open.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Met showings will offer operatic time travel

Even though two of the Metropolitan Opera's movie-theater showings are still to come this springtime, opera lovers can already start planning their itineraries for next season's musical journeys -- which will carry them from ancient Egypt and Carthage to 1960s Las Vegas.

Hector Berlioz's "The Trojans." Richard Wagner's "Parsifal." Mozart's "La Clemenza di Tito." Handel's "Julius Caesar." The 12-opera schedule for next season's high-definition relays is dominated by works that have never been seen in Charlotte and probably won't be in the foreseeable future.

There's just a sprinkling of familiar operas, such as Donizetti's "The Elixir of Love"and Verdi's "Aida." One classic, Verdi's "Rigoletto," will appear in an unfamiliar guise: The Met's new staging will move the setting from centuries-ago Italy to 1960s Las Vegas. (Maybe the jester Rigoletto's outburst against the courtiers who torment him can be changed to, "Cortigiani! Vil Rat Pack dannato...")
The series includes one almost-new opera, Thomas Ades' "The Tempest." There will be revivals of two neglected Italian operas: Donizett's "Maria Stuarda," as in Mary Stuart, and Riccardo Zandonai's "Francesca da Rimini," which is inspired by a character from Dante. The Met will also showcase a Verdi opera that isn't performed as often as its stature merits, "A Masked Ball."

Here's the schedule:

Oct. 13: Donizetti's "The Elixir of Love." Russian soprano Anna Netrebko plays a small-town girl who's courted by a local boy who thinks a potion will help.

Oct. 27: Verdi's "Otello." The Shakespeare-based tragedy stars tenor Johan Botha as the deceived war hero and Renee Fleming as his unjustly accused wife.

Nov. 10: Thomas Ades' "The Tempest." Another Shakespeare-inspired opera. Ades, one of England's leading composers, will conduct his own work.

Dec. 1: Mozart's "La Clemenza di Tito." Mozart's last opera centers on a conspiracy to kill a Roman emperor, who thwarts the plotters but forgives them.

Dec. 8: Verdi's "A Masked Ball." To get his historically based story of regicide past censors, Verdi had to move the setting from Sweden to Boston. Stage director David Alden's version will be in a "dreamlike setting," the Met's announcement says.

Dec. 15: Verdi's "Aida." The Egyptian epic will star a Ukrainian soprano new to the Met -- not to mention the rest of us -- named Liudmyla Monastyrska.

Jan. 5: Berlioz's "The Trojans." This is one of the few operas that can out-epic "Aida." It never even had a complete performance during its composer's lifetime. The cast includes Deborah Voigt, who played Brunnhilde in the Met's staging of Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung."

Jan. 19: Donizetti's "Maria Stuarda." This will be the Met's first staging of Donizetti's loosely historical drama about the doomed Mary Stuart. Like the play by Schiller (of "Ode to Joy" fame) that inspired it, the opera includes a confrontation between Mary and Elizabeth I that didn't really take place. Audiences don't seem to mind a little fiction in the interest of theatrics.

Feb. 16: Verdi's "Rigoletto." Verdi meets Las Vegas.

March 2: Wagner's "Parsifal." Tenor Jonas Kaufman -- who starred in the Met's recent HD showing of "Faust" -- portrays the "pure fool" who finally attains wisdom. Bass Rene Pape, who played the devil in "Faust," leaves the dark side to become one of the Knights of the Holy Grail.

March 16: Zandonai's "Francesca da Rimini." This luxuriant creation by a contemporary of Puccini's is inspired by a character from Dante's "Inferno."

April 27: Handel's "Julius Caesar." Spartanburg native David Daniels plays Caesar in this tale of the emperor and Cleopatra.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Verdi ups the ante on romantic rivalry

If two men competing for the same woman make a love triangle, what do you call it when a woman is being pursued by three men?

That's the situation in Verdi's "Ernani." It's one of Verdi's less-familiar operas, but the Metropolitan Opera will work on that Saturday, Feb. 25, when it beams "Ernani" into movie theaters, including Stonecrest near Ballantyne and Concord Mills in Concord.

The opera takes us back to 16th-century Spain. The heroine, Elvira, faces a trio of eager admirers. The one she loves is Ernani, a banished nobleman who has sneaked back leading a band of outlaws. The one she's engaged to is the elderly grandee Silva -- who's also her uncle, not that they considered that a barrier to marriage back then. The suitor who's most powerful is Carlo, the king of Spain. When he isn't focused on Elvira, he's angling to be elected as Holy Roman emperor. So he has to be cagey.

You can imagine the possibilities for romance, rivalry and revenge. While "Ernani" and the Victor Hugo play that inspired it were hot properties in the 19th century -- the play was a warhorse for Sarah Bernhardt -- they've now fallen into eclipse. In the eyes of 21st-century audiences, they probably have believability issues.

But Verdi's version is full of fiery, toe-tapping melodies, and they're its main claim for opera lovers' affections. While "Ernani" doesn't have a full-fledged hit tune, Elvira's stirring aria begging her sweetheart to fly away with her -- "Ernani, involami" -- has always been a soprano favorite.

The Met's Elvira will be Angela Meade, a young soprano who's tackling a role that has been a vehicle for some of the Met's biggest stars, including Leontyne Price. Marcello Giordani, the tenor whose ringing tones helped energize the movie-theater showing of Puccini's "Girl of the Golden West," will play Ernani. The sonorous tones of baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky -- star of the HD showing of Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin" -- should make for a kingly Carlo. And even though Silva is the opera's heavy, the smooth Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto may reveal at least a little something in him that's poignant.

(Photo of Marco Giordani as Ernani by Marty Sohl, Metropolitan Opera)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Bausch's choreography for the ages

Here's a pleasant surprise: "Pina," the film about the dance visionary Pina Bausch, will stay at the Stonecrest theater for a third week. Even at just one showing a day as of Friday, Feb. 24, it will still let dance lovers make acquaintance with a choreographer whose work has never been seen on a Charlotte stage.

There's a reason I didn't write "modern-dance lovers" above, even though Bausch was a trailblazer of that style. Inventive, surprising and compelling though her works are, a substantial part of their power comes from something that must be a byproduct of the choreography. I hope it would speak even to dance buffs whose devotion goes to other genres.

Something dawned on me as I was leaving the theater last weekend. Especially if someone is partial to classical ballet and its descendants, he or she could go through life thinking dance is mainly about the joys and sorrows of gorgeous twentysomethings. (Even in "Don Quixote," the old guy is mostly a sideshow.) Ballet's physical demands practically ensure that dancers are superannuated by the time they're into their 30s -- if they've been lucky enough to make it that far without their bodies' giving out.

Bausch is different. Though "Pina" does include a scene for a woman on pointe -- where Bausch's recipe includes an unconventional ingredient I mustn't give away -- most of Bausch's work goes nowhere near classical technique. Often, its intensity has nothing to do with sheer physical exertion.

So her dancers can keep performing into their 30s, 40s or even later. "Pina" reveals that when they do, they have an eloquence that youngsters can't equal. No doubt it's partly because they've lived in the choreography so long. But it's also because their faces and bodies are a little lived-in, too.

In "Cafe Mueller," a work that unfolds to poignant baroque music, a woman steps slowly forward. Her bare arms are by her sides, held just slightly forward -- and rotated around with their undersides exposed. It's as though she's inviting us to open her veins. The vulnerability that conveys wouldn't be half as telling if the dancer were a fresh-faced 20-year-old.

"Pina" is full of moments like that. On the way out of the theater, I ran into some members of N.C. Dance Theatre. You might think they wouldn't care about such things. But they, too, were struck by the veterans' skill and power. If you see "Pina," you may be, too -- especially if you aren't 20 any more.

Charlotte Symphony -- ready for its closeup

Audiences will see the Charlotte Symphony next month as they never have.

At the concerts March 30 and 31, video cameras will zero in on the stage. The images of the conductor and players at work will be beamed onto a screen above the orchestra, giving the audience an up-close-and-personal view of the musicians at work, the orchestra announced Monday.

The orchestra also will let the listeners vote on an encore to cap off the concerts. A list of options will flash onto the video screen, and the audience will vote via text message before the concert and during intermission.

This is the orchestra's latest venture aimed at revamping the concertgoing experience. Classical music, which has been presented in much the same way for generations, has to adapt to modern times, says the sponsor of the new ingredients.

"In our rapidly changing high-tech environment, innovation, creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit are essential ingredients for success," says Francisco Alvarado, president of Marand Builders, in a statement.

Drawing in new listeners ties in with the orchestra's years-long effort to put financial crises behind it. The orchestra is now in the third season of its KnightSounds series, which offers shorter concerts, a more-casual atmosphere and pre-concert mingling in hopes of attracting people who are new to classical music. The next KnightSounds program -- this Friday and Saturday, Feb. 24 and 25 -- features the choral blockbuster "Carmina Burana."

In the late-March concerts, Christopher Warren-Green will lead the orchestra in works by Tchaikovsky, climaxing with the tempestuous Symphony No. 4. The program is part of monthlong festival that will bring together Charlotte's leading cultural groups in a celebration of Tchaikovsky and Russian culture.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Charlotte's newest arts center: Stonecrest

Now that the Metropolitan Opera has helped turn multiplexes into performing-arts centers, this probably was inevitable: the Saturday afternoon cultural double feature.

I doubt that the Stonecrest theater planned it this way. So it isn't an official double bill. But look what you can do: first, make acquaintance with a trailblazing choreographer whose work has never been seen in Charlotte; second, experience a famously monumental symphony that's unlikely to be performed in Charlotte in the foreseeable future.

"Pina," (photo at right) Wim Wenders' film about the choreographer Pina Bausch, is starting its second week at Stonecrest. That lines it up with the Los Angeles Philharmonic's high-definition relay of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 8 -- the "Symphony of as Thousand," nicknamed for the massive number of players and singers it sets loose.

"Pina" has attracted notice because it not only showcases the late Bausch -- who often is credited with blending the art forms of dance and theater -- but it shows long stretches of her works in 3-D. I have yet to see it. But here's a testimony: A friend of mine who isn't particularly a dance lover enjoyed it because of the sheer visual impact of the 3-D sequences.

Mahler's titanic symphony will be transmitted live from a concert hall in Caracas, Venezuela. The LA Philharmonic will perform alongside Venezuela's best-known export other than oil: the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, which is famous as the product of a music-education system that gives opportunities to children who otherwise have none. Gustavo Dudamel, the LA Philharmonic's music director -- and a product of the Venezuelan system -- will conduct.

Here's how it could work Saturday afternoon. There's a "Pina" showing at 1:35. The theater's website says the movie lasts an hour and 44 minutes. You could see it -- for $11.50 -- then have time for a break before Mahler begins at 5 p.m. Tickets for that are $20 for adults, $16 for children.

Nobody has to see both, of course. "Pina" will run at least through Feb. 23. So if you can't spare all afternoon Feb. 18, and you like music, you probably should aim for Mahler's Eighth. There's no telling when the Charlotte Symphony might ever be able to afford to perform it. And if there was ever a piece that can't quite come across through a CD or DVD in your living room, this is it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Celebrate victory with Copland

Even if no one is sleeping, the Charlotte Symphony's audiences will get a wake-up call this weekend.

Most people will go into the concerts thinking they aren't familiar with Aaron Copland's Symphony No. 3. They won't quite be right, though. And the orchestra will thunderously clear them up about it.

The symphony, clocking in at about 40 minutes, is Copland's biggest-scale orchestral piece. As it unfolds, listeners will no doubt pick up on a buoyant, balletic streak that links it to works they probably know well, such as "Appalachian Spring." Even in the slow movement, Copland kicks up his heels a bit before settling back down.

That sets up the surprise. The woodwinds spin out a few broad, quiet phrases that will give alert listeners a feeling of deja vu. Then, boom: The brasses and percussion let fly with "Fanfare for the Common Man," Copland's musical version of American exceptionalism.

Copland actually composed the "Fanfare" first, in 1942. He then borrowed it from himself when he wrote the symphony, from 1944 to '46 -- in other words, before and after the end of World War II.

Fans of the "Fanfare" can listen for the ways he tinkered with it. But there's no mistaking it. It doesn't take a leap of the imagination to hear its appearance in the symphony as Copland's way of welcoming the Allied victory. That sets up the finale as a dance of celebration. Who can resist a happy ending?

Photo: Copland in 1956, Associated Press

Monday, February 13, 2012

Whodunit will conclude at the Mint

Could we have a perp walk on Tryon Street? The crime that hit the spotlight when the Arts & Science Council's president was hauled away from the ASC's campaign kickoff event is about to be solved.

The clues to the murder mystery have been scattered around uptown for two weeks. They'll all be tied together when the saga ends where it began -- the Mint Museum Uptown -- at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 14.

It's the big finish of "The Lady of Charlotte," a story that unfolds in installments at 10 bus kiosks across uptown. When the final pages are unveiled Tuesday in the breezeway alongside the Mint, readers will learn not only who's the killer who left behind the bloody corpse found at the Mint, but who cooked up the tale.

Despite what we've always heard about crime not paying, this one actually will: The ASC, which sponsored the killing -- I mean, the story -- will have a prize drawing for people who went onto its Facebook page and submitted guesses at the solution. The prizes include a CarolinaTix gift card worth $100. You still have time to weigh in.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Charlotte teen dances into Wall Street Journal

If you go by the Wall Street Journal's dance critic, Charlotte-born Silas Farley must be a prize pupil at the New York City Ballet's school.

In a retrospective on NYCB's winter season, the Journal's Robert Greskovic mentions a Jan. 22 performance -- a tribute to company founder George Balanchine -- that concluded by spotlighting Balanchine's brainchild, the company's school.

Peter Martins, the company's artistic director, "conducted a ballet class onstage with advanced students from NYCB's School of American Ballet," Greskovic writes.
"The ... demonstration revealed a none-to-impressive selection of young dancers. Few presented any especially eye-catching expertise, through the strikingly tall, handsome and poised Silas Farley stood out."

Farley apparently stands out without even trying. In a 2009 New York Times story about a young-choreographers' workshop, dance critic Gia Kourlas turned attention onto him even though he wasn't actually part of the program.

"As dancers slipped in to watch their peers' rehearsals, a potential ballet master emerged in Silas Farley, a 15-year-old intermediate student from North Carolina, who modestly referred to himself as 'the cheerleader with a notebook,'" Kourlas wrote.

Armed with his pad, Farley was everywhere watching and learning -- even when he wasn't taking part in a class.

"(Fellow student Lauren) Lovette, like everyone at the school, adores Mr. Farley," Kourlas wrote. " 'Oh, man, isn't he a character?' she asked, laughing. "'He sees things, little details, that I may not see, like: 'These people are doing different heads, Lauren. Just letting you know.'"

Apparently Farley can't help turning heads.

(Photo with Ellen Hummel in 2007 by Jeff Cravotta)

The end is near, courtesy of the Met

The saga has been playing out for than a year. Events are leading inexorably downhill. The world is about to go up in flames.

While that might apply to the European debt crisis and its chances of taking down the global economy, I'll leave that judgment to others. The conflagration that's undoubtedly at hand will break out in movie theaters Saturday.

The Metropolitan Opera has reached the big finish "The Ring of the Nibelung," Richard Wagner's four-part tale of gods and greed. The fourth and last installment, "The Twilight of the Gods," will beam out from New York into hundreds of theaters -- including Stonecrest and Concord Mills -- Feb. 11 at noon. An encore showing will come at a date to be announced.

It's the finale of a sequence that began in September, 2010, when the Met unveiled its new staging of the cycle's first installment. Now, the warrior sweethearts Siegfried and Brunnhilde will pick up where they left off in the third opera's love-duet conclusion. They're blissfully unaware that the gold ring he puts on her finger is cursed. But they'll soon find out the hard way, and Wagner's music will take them and the audiences on an epic journey of grandeur, gloom and apocalypse.

The cast will again include Jay Hunter Morris, the tenor plucked from relative obscurity earlier this season to play Siegfried. His route from his hometown of Paris, Texas, to the Met supplies the feelgood story to counterbalance Wagner's catastrophe. But he isn't the first singer to go from small-time Texas to the Wagnerian big-time.

One of the top Wagner singers of the 1960s and '70s was Thomas Stewart, a baritone from San Saba, Texas -- which is only a tenth the size of Paris. He became a regular at the ultimate Wagner shrine: Germany's Bayreuth Festival, founded by the composer himself. He gives Morris something to aspire to.

Monday, February 6, 2012

BofA exec has strings attached

The people who cheered for the young violin soloist with the Charlotte Symphony last weekend might want to think a few grateful thoughts about a key player who was nowhere in sight: the Bank of America executive who helped equip Chad Hoopes to make so much of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto.

Someone with Hoopes' flair, finesse and spontaneity could probably hit home with almost any old fiddle. But Hoopes (photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco) plays an instrument by the man who's synonymous with great violins: Antonio Stradivari.

How does a 12th-grader from Cleveland, Ohio -- even a competition-winning one -- get hold of a Strad? It wasn't his prize for winning the Yehudi Menuhin violin competition. The last sentence of his official bio, printed in the program wherever he plays, says simply that Hoopes uses the violin -- which will have its 300th birthday next year -- "courtesy of Jonathan Moulds."

Moulds is a British violin collector. And he may be the highest-ranking BofA executive whom most people in the bank's hometown have never heard of: BofA's London-based president for Europe and the chief executive of Merrill Lynch International. The last sentence of his official bio says: "He is a keen collector of fine musical instruments."

That's putting it mildly. At the time of a 2006 newspaper profile in the Yorkshire Post, from the British region where he grew up, Moulds owned three Strads and one violin by another revered maker, Giuseppe Guarnieri del Gesu.

Moulds, whose mother is a music teacher, grew up studying the violin and viola. Music won him a scholarship to college at Cambridge, but he majored in math. He explained his choice of career to the Yorkshire Post this way: "The first thought was that music was too damn hard. The second thought was that I could keep it as a hobby."

Moulds landed in the financial industry. In 1994, the Chicago firm he worked for was bought by then-NationsBank. His trajectory from that point was upward, obviously.

While great violins can easily command seven-figure prices, Moulds declined to discuss his collection's value with the Yorkshire paper other than to say it had been "a spectacularly good investment." One violin from Moulds' stable -- nicknamed, as many are, for a former owner -- is the "Lord Spencer" Strad, which once belonged to an ancestor of Lady Di. Moulds has loaned that one out to another up-and-coming violinist, the UK's Nicola Benedetti.

When he isn't tending to BofA and Merrill, Moulds leads a group that's working to increase private-sector support for the arts in Great Britain. And he still plays the violin. As he told the Post: "It keeps me sane."

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Help solve uptown murder mystery

The front-page photo of the Arts & Science Council's president being led away by an officer must have caught a few eyes. Now everyone can help get to the bottom of it.

"No signs of breaking and entering," the police report says. "Nothing stolen. The security cameras show nothing conclusive. Just a security officer with his skull smashed."

The crime scene was the Mint Museum, but the clues are all over uptown.

The slaying was plotted by the ASC for "The Lady of Charlotte," a murder mystery whose authorship is a mystery, too. The story -- with the clues woven into the text -- is spread across 10 kiosks and bus shelters uptown.

The truth is out there.

The saga begins in front of the Rock Bottom restaurant at North Tryon and Seventh streets. Readers can follow it from there, and when they think they've solved the crime, they can submit their finding to the ASC on Facebook.

The ASC will reveal the guilty party -- as well as the story's author -- on Feb. 14 at a time and place to be announced. The sleuths who have identified the killer correctly get the chance to win a yearlong pass to the Mint and $100 gift card from CarolinaTix.

The mystery, sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, is meant to "bring the written word to Charlotte in an unexpected way," said ASC president Scott Provancher. That was before the officer interrupted the ASC's campaign kickoff Tuesday and hustled him away.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Warren-Green's St. Louis 'Saga'

Christopher Warren-Green is back home with the Charlotte Symphony after a weekend with one of the country's leading orchestras.

The St. Louis Symphony brought in Warren-Green on mere days' notice after the scheduled conductor, Russia's Vassily Sinaisky, bowed out. Warren-Green had to fly directly from Maine, where he led the Portland Symphony last Tuesday, Jan. 24, to St. Louis, where the first rehearsal was the next day.

That was the easy part, compared to this: The program included a work Warren-Green had never conducted, Jan Sibelius' "En Saga." So Warren-Green had to cram -- which is no simple task when you're talking about a quarter-hour of brooding Nordic music.

"'En Saga' is one of (Sibelius') deepest pieces," Warren-Green said. "He wrote it late in life. There's more of him in it than in any other piece.

"It was not an easy piece to interpret. But it came out OK," he added, emphasizing the OK -- as if he were saying, "OK but not great."

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch was more positive. Critic Sarah Bryan Miller wrote that Sibelius' "received a deeply felt and well-played performance."

Now that Warren-Green has "En Saga" in his head, be on the lookout for it here.

"I think we should program it in Charlotte," he said. "It's a really good piece."

The St.Louis concerts climaxed with Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony -- which Warren-Green will also lead with the Charlotte Symphony in March.

"Warren-Green brought a sure hand to shaping the symphony, bringing out all the inherent power ... and bringing it to a thrilling conclusion," Miller wrote, adding:

"Warren-Green will be back next season: excellent news."

Warren-Green, who debuted in St. Louis a decade ago, sounds glad about that, too.

"I remember thinking what a good orchestra they were then," he said, "and they're even better now."

Another switch: Opera Carolina just had to find a replacement, too.

Anthony Dean Griffey, a High Point native and Wingate University alumnus, was scheduled to play the poet Lensky in Opera Carolina's March staging of Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin." For Griffey, who has performed with some of the world's leading opera companies, this would've finally been his operatic debut in his native state.

But N.C. will have to wait. Griffey has been "forced to withdraw ... for personal reasons," Opera Carolina said in a statement.

The company signed up Yeghishe Manucharyan, a native of Armenia who has sung at New York's Metropolitan Opera and an array of other companies. With him in the picture, Opera Carolina's James Meena noted, all three of the "Onegin" leads will be Russian-speaking performers.

The performances will be March 17-25. If you'd like a foretaste, YouTube has a video of Manucharyan performing the aria Lensky sings before his fateful duel with his friend Onegin. I'd embed it, but YouTube has that blocked. Sorry!