Anita Rachvelishvili makes her Seattle Opera debut as Carmen. Photo courtesy: Marco Brescia, Teatro alla Scala.

Carmen and Don Jose. Porgy and Bess. Butterfly and Pinkerton. Attila the Hun. How can one stage support so many magnificent hotheads? Seattle Opera’s new season is rife with big names, popular productions and memorable scores. In short, it’s a smart move in a down economy. Here’s the lineup:

Porgy and Bess
July 30–Aug 20, 2011
SO’s all-new staging of this Gershwin classic re-creates Catfish Row and the sights and sounds of an African-American community in 1920s South Carolina. Chris Alexander (The Tales of Hoffmann, upcoming The Magic Flute) directs; Gordon Hawkins and soprano Lisa Daltrius play the title roles.

Oct 15–29, 2011
It doesn’t get better—or sexier—than Bizet’s Carmen, the thrilling story of the ultimate seductress and all the besotted soldiers left in her wake in Seville, Spain. SO newcomer Anita Rachvelishvili and Malgorzata Walewska, a standout as Azucena in Il Trovatore this season, will alternate in the title role.

Jan 14–28, 2012
This lesser known Verdi opera was actually booed in its Metropolitan Opera debut last year, but SO is off to a strong start for its first-time production: Acclaimed bass-baritone John Relyea (slated to play Don Quixote next month) will play the ruler of the Huns, and Bernard Uzan will direct.

Orpheus and Eurydice
Feb 25–Mar 10, 2012
For only the second time in company history, SO performs the revised French version of Gluck’s opera, based on the Greek myth of Orpheus’s descent into the Underworld to rescue his lady love Eurydice. Tenor William Burden and soprano Davinia Rodríguez play the title roles.

Madama Butterfly
May 5–19, 2012
Puccini’s three-act closes out the season, with Patricia Racette reprising the title role as the Japanese maiden Cio-Cio San (Butterfly) after a critically lauded Met Opera performance. Steffano Secco plays the U.S. Naval officer who breaks her heart.

Tickets for the 2011–2012 season go on sale May 23. SO’s upcoming production, The Barber of Seville, runs Jan 15–29.

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