It’s New Year’s Eve, 1935, and a series of puzzling murders have rocked the city of New York. Opera Las Vegas (OLV) asks the musical question: Is that something to sing about?
Composer/Librettist Evan L. Snyder emphatically thinks it is, and in tandem with co-librettist John Riesen, he has masterfully crafted A Capacity for Evil, an original, dramatic operatic detective tale. This devilishly clever whodunit inspired by the tradition of Sherlock Holmes will have its West Coast premiere at The Space, January 27-29.
Daniel Pilgrim is a famed 1930’s private eye who, with help from his partner Doyle and fiancée Angelica, works to unravel a series of grisly homicides occurring on December 31. As tensions rise and the clock runs out at midnight, the bonds of friendship and the limits of human compassion are challenged against the dark ordeals of this imperceptible murderer.
Tuneful plot complications and soaring voices are underscored by harmonically evil intent. Can these melodic singing detectives and NYPD’s Captain Smith figure things out before the unknown killer is able to realize the full scope of his/her perverse aims? Someone may not be who they seem to be, but will audiences suss it out before the plot reveals all?
Spoiler Alert: The culprit does indeed “sing” before the show’s end!
Award-winning tenor (and co-librettist) John Riesen will portray the sleuthing Daniel Pilgrim, a role he created in the original premiere production in September 2018 with Opera MODO. Riesen’s growing career boasts success with a variety of roles in which he consistently excels and includes significant work in opera, musical theatre, studio recording, and concert. He was most recently widely seen on Season 17 of America’s Got Talent, where he sang Nessun Dorma as part of the group Metaphysic and making his OLV debut.
Mezzo-soprano Erin Gonzalez is featured as Detective Pilgrim’s fiancée, Angelica She has performed with UNLV Opera Theater, Pacific Symphony, Milwaukee’s Florentine Opera, and the Martina Arroyo Foundation. She performed at OLV and is remembered for her star turn last season as Dinah in Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti. Erin was the winner of the 2015 and 2016 Nevada District Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions. She graduated with a Doctorate in Musical Arts, Voice from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Gregory Schmidt brings his lyric tenor to the role of Pilgrim’s former investigative partner, Doyle. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut in the role of Arbace in Mozart’s Idomeneo, with James Levine conducting. His professional debut with Washington D. C. Opera was in the role of Belfiore in Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera, returning to the Kennedy Center the following season as Tamino in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. This production marks Greg’s return to OLV after portraying the Prince in Rossini’s Cinderella in 2018.
Baritone André Chiang rounds out the cast as Captain Smith of the NYPD. Mr. Chang has been described as “vocally commanding” (Oregonian), “handsome of voice” (Opera News), and lauded with “let’s hear more from this singer” (Washington Post). Chiang’s recent engagements include Silvio in Pagliacci with Painted Sky Opera, Escamillo in Carmen with Mobile Opera, and Masetto in Don Giovanni with Dayton Opera. This production marks André’s OLV debut, and he is an assistant professor of voice at UNLV.
Director Linda Lister staged last season’s The Bremen Town Musicians, subsequently adapted as an in-school O is for Opera video learning tool. Dr. Lister is a Professor of Music and Director of Opera at UNLV, where she has led the program to two first-place wins in the 2015 National Opera Association Collegiate Opera Scenes Competition and a second-place honor in NOA’s 2016 Opera Production Competition. A notable author and composer, she sings her own compositions on Albany Records’ Pleas to Famous Fairies.
Conductor Joshua Horsch has been praised for conducting with "steady acumen and considerable aplomb" and "awesome control” (Opera Today). Maestro Horsch is an extremely versatile operatic and symphonic conductor. A two-time winner of the American Prize in Opera Conducting, he serves as OLV’s Music Director and Principal Conductor. Recent and upcoming conducting engagements include appearances with Atlanta Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Opera Orlando, Greensboro Opera, Mobile Opera, Pacific Opera Project, and Tri-Cities Opera.
Composer Evan L. Snyder was the winner of the 2017 Fort Worth Opera Frontiers Competition for A Capacity for Evil. Best known for his works for the operatic stage, Mr. Snyder has been praised for his “genuine understanding of the human voice” and his “unapologetically beautiful music.” For him, bringing stories to life through music is the center of his work. A Capacity for Evil broke with conventional opera genres, telling a complex detective tale on the opera stage. It premiered in the fall of 2018 with Detroit’s Opera MODO and was enthusiastically received by the run’s sold-out audiences.
A Capacity for Evil is also a part of OLV’s unique Living Composers and Librettists Initiative, which has been honored with a prestigious grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for the third consecutive year. The composer will be present for the production process.
OLV will perform A Capacity for Evil on January 27 and 28 at 7:30 p,m, and January 29 at 6 p.m. at The Space, 3460 Cavaretta Court. For information and tickets, visit www.operalasvegas.com.