FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT:
Julie Maslov, Cincinnati Opera
(513) 744-3204;
jmaslov@cincinnatiopera.org

Cincinnati Opera Announces
Principal Casting for MARGARET GARNER

Renowned Mezzo-Soprano Denyce Graves Stars in Title Role
Alongside Acclaimed Artists Angela Brown, Gregg Baker, Rodney Gilfry, and John Mac Master

Project Marks Operatic Debut for Stage Director Kenny Leon

Maestro Stefan Lano Continues to Champion New Work

February 23, 2004 -Cincinnati Opera is pleased to announce principal casting for Margaret Garner , a new American opera based on the true, local story of Margaret Garner's quest for freedom. The project marks the anticipated operatic debut for the highly acclaimed creative team of Grammy Award-winning composer Richard Danielpour and librettist Toni Morrison , celebrated novelist and winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize for Literature.

The first main stage commission in the company's 84-year history, Cincinnati Opera will present Margaret Garner in July 2005 in honor of the opening of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Co-commissioners include Michigan Opera Theatre and Opera Company of Philadelphia .

Principal Casting
Internationally renowned mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves will star in the title role. Ms. Graves returns to Cincinnati following her triumphant Cincinnati Opera debut performance as Amneris in Aida (2000). Recognized worldwide as one of today's most exciting vocal stars, Ms. Graves continues to gather unparalleled popular and critical acclaim in performances on four continents. The combination of her expressive, rich vocalism, elegant stage presence, and exciting theatrical abilities allows her to pursue a wide range of operatic portrayals as well as delight audiences in concert and recital appearances.

Acclaimed baritone Rodney Gilfry makes his Cincinnati Opera debut in the role of Edward Gaines. Praised by the San Francisco Chronicle for his "rich, rolling baritone with a superb upper range," Mr. Gilfry has established himself as a compelling musician on the world's operatic stages, as well as a distinguished recital and concert artist. No stranger to new works, he has performed in the world premieres of Nicholas and Alexandra , A Streetcar Named Desire , and Sophie's Choice , and has a growing repertoire of impressive debuts with the Metropolitan Opera, the Opéra National de Paris/Bastille; the Royal Opera House-Covent Garden; the Glyndebourne Festival; the Dallas, San Francisco, and San Diego Operas; and Lyric Opera of Chicago.

A baritone of "imposing voice and stature," Gregg Baker will portray the role of Robert Garner, Margaret's husband. A successful veteran of Broadway and a Lawrence Olivier Award nominee, Mr. Baker discovered his gift for opera while performing the role of Crown in Porgy and Bess . The Metropolitan Opera heard his performance in Radio City Music Hall 's production of Porgy and Bess and immediately engaged him for their own production. Since then, he has returned to the Met in the roles of High Priest ( Samson et Dalila ), Amonasro ( Aida ), Escamillo ( Carmen ), Silvio ( Pagliacci ), Donner ( Das Rheingold ), and Belcore ( L'Elisir d'Amore ), and performs leading roles with the major opera houses throughout the world.

Emerging as one of the leading Verdi sopranos performing today, Angela M. Brown will return to Cincinnati Opera's stage in the role of Cilla, Margaret's mother-in-law. Brown was last seen as the Fourth Maid in the company's acclaimed production of Elektra (2002) . A 1997 National Metropolitan Opera Council Auditions Winner, Ms. Brown brandishes pure vocal power and finesse and has won the acclaim of critics and audiences. The roles of Aida, Amelia, Tosca, Elisabetta, Leonora, and Ariadne are the perfect conduit for her musical abilities, which have been described by one Opera News critic as "a powerhouse of an instrument, shimmering with color and imaginatively used, and she knows how to take center-stage."

The role of Casey marks the Cincinnati Opera debut for Canadian tenor John Mac Master . With a concentration in the lyric spinto repertoire, Mr. Mac Master has earned triumphant reviews for his debut performances as Canio in Pagliacci , Laca in Jenufa , and Aegisth in Elektra . Next season he adds Calaf ( Turandot ) to his repertoire and has performed the roles of Herodes , Pollione, Don José, Florestan, Arnold , and Rudolph ( William Tell ) with leading opera companies in the U.S. , Canada , and Europe . Musical theatre credits include the role of Ubaldo Piangi in Phantom of the Opera , both on Broadway and in Toronto , and the title role of Sweeney Todd in the Calgary Opera production.

Tenor Chad Shelton makes his Cincinnati Opera debut as young George Hancock. Mr. Shelton is frequently invited to Houston Grand Opera's stage to perform leading roles in contemporary works. In Fall 2004, he will create the leading role of Ulises in the new Daniel Catán opera Salsipuedes in a production by James Robinson. The tenor has portrayed Arcadio in the revival of Daniel Catán's Florencia en el Amazonas , Camille in The Merry Widow , Janek in The Makropolous Case , and in 1998 he created the role of Theodore Lawrence (referred to as "Laurie") in the world premiere of Mark Adamo's Little Women .

Production Team
Named by The Financial Times as "one of the Top 20 Southerners to Watch" (2003), renowned director Kenny Leon will make his operatic and company debuts as director of Margaret Garner . Winner of many industry awards, including MIT's prestigious Eugene McDermott Award, Mr. Leon is well known for his work as Founder and Artistic Director of the True Colors Theatre Company, and in his former role as Artistic Director of the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta . Cincinnati audiences may experience his work in the off-Broadway comedy-drama Blue at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park (February 29-April 2, 2004). Mr. Leon then heads to New York for his Broadway debut, directing the revival of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun , the first presentations since the show's original run in the 1950s featuring Sidney Poitier. Mr. Leon 's production opens in April and will feature an all-star cast including Sean Combs, Audra McDonald, and Phylicia Rashad.

Maestro Stefan Lano returns to Cincinnati Opera after his successes with Salome (2000) and Dead Man Walking (2002). Mr. Lano made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera with The Rake's Progress in 1997 where he also prepared the Met production of Arnold Schoenberg's Moses und Aron . He has performed with leading opera companies and orchestras throughout North and South America and Europe . A champion of new works, he has been contracted to conduct the 2005 world premiere of the new Mark Adamo opera, Lysistrata , in addition to his work on Margaret Garner . In 1988, he was appointed Associate Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra, and he continues to work as a composer. His Variations at Five was recorded by members of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and in 2001 he completed his Sinfonie Nr. 3 (Sinfonia - Eikasia).

The History of Margaret Garner
In its own time, the case of Margaret Garner was among the most significant and controversial of all antebellum fugitive slave stories in pre-Civil War America . Fleeing Kentucky 's Maplewood Plantation in 1856 to Ohio , Margaret Garner made the horrific decision to sacrifice her own children when capture was at hand, rather than see them returned to the bonds of slavery.

The Garner trial addressed crucial issues in constitutional law and posed key questions at the core of the rift in the Union . The case was hotly contested at the time in the courts of public opinion, and both sides saw in their differences nothing short of the simmering roots of civil war.

Cincinnati Opera will present Margaret Garner in July 2005 in honor of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (www.freedomcenter.org). Information is available by calling at (513) 241-2742 or at www.cincinnatiopera.org.

The second oldest opera company in America , Cincinnati Opera has been presenting dynamic performances every summer since 1920. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Nicholas Muni and Managing Director Patricia K. Beggs, the company presents internationally acclaimed artists and the spectacular Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in an exhilarating range of traditional and contemporary repertoire and production styles. The result is sold-out houses every June and July in Cincinnati 's historic Music Hall. Information is available by calling at (513) 241-2742 or at www.cincinnatiopera.org.

Margaret Garner is sponsored by The P&G Fund.

Support for the 2004 Margaret Garner Workshop provided by Opera America .

Additional Margaret Garner support by Corporex Companies, Inc ., and Joseph and Susan Pichler .

Cincinnati Opera receives support from:

the Fine Arts Fund, Ohio Arts Council, and City of Cincinnati .

Season Presenting Sponsor is U.S. Bank.

Delta Air Lines is the Official Airline of Cincinnati Opera.

Jaguar of Cincinnati is the Official Automobile of the 2004 Summer Festival.