Star Duo: Vassileva and Dougherty Headline WGO’s New La Bohème, October 1 at Century II

Friday, September 16 2016 5:40 PM
  News Release
For Immediate Release
September 16, 2016
 Parvan Bakardiev, General Director                      Margaret Ann Pent, Artistic Director 
Century II Performing Arts Center, 225 W. Douglas, Wichita, KS 67202
For more information, call (316) 262-8054
           (WICHITA, September 16, 2016) – Wichita Grand Opera continues its tradition of bringing great tenors to Wichita this fall in its October production of Puccini’s La Bohème. WGO’s new production, which opens at 7:00pm on October 1, 2016, at Century II Concert Hall, will introduce Wichita audiences to rising American tenor Kirk Dougherty.

          Puccini’s masterfully crafted opera begins on Christmas Eve in the Latin Quarter of Paris in the 1830s. The lives of four starving artists are forever altered by a chance meeting between the young poet Rodolfo and his beautiful neighbor Mimi. The friends share laughter and heartache, and struggle to cope as Mimi’s health begins to fail.

          In past seasons, the WGO has welcomed legendary talents such as Luciano Pavarotti and Plácido Domingo, esteemed artists such as Evgeny Akimov and Marcello Giordani, and relative newcomers such as Hector Sandoval and Michael Spyres. Kirk Dougherty may still be considered a newcomer, making his operatic breakthrough just six years ago, but he has already amassed an impressive list of credits.

          Opera News has praised Dougherty’s ability to “unleash a laser-focused tenor of ringing clarity and smooth beauty.” He has starred in roles such as Don Jose (Carmen); Rodolfo (La Bohème); and Edgardo (Lucia di Lammermoor), at Opera San Jose.

          Of his company debut at Sarasota Opera, in Verdi’s notoriously demanding title role of Manrico (Il Trovtore), esteemed critic George Loomis wrote that Dougherty “rose valiantly to the challenge with a committed and exciting performance. To his credit, he even sang the notes of the coda, which tenors often leave out as they gear up for the (unwritten) high note. His performance crowned a satisfyingly ardent and appealingly muscular performance.” Kirk’s other leading roles include Pinkerton (Madama Butterfly), Alfredo (La Traviata), and the title roles of The Tales of Hoffmann and Faust.

          However, La Bohème is anything but a one-man show. Renowned European soprano Zvetelina Vassileva returns once again to WGO’s stage to sing her signature role of Mimi. Her debut in the title role of Turandot with the WGO last season led the Belgian Opera Guide to marvel at her voice, which they called “enormous, coping magnificently with the stratospheric climaxes, and also handling the lyric passages with surprising ease.”

          Best-known as a Verdi specialist throughout Europe, Ms. Vassileva is now expanding her repertoire to include many of Puccini’s most taxing soprano roles, such as Turandot last season, and Mimi this season. Past appearances have taken Ms. Vassileva to prestigious opera houses all over the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, Houston Grand Opera, the Bregenz Festival, Rome Opera, and Italy’s renowned Arena di Verona.

          Opera superstar Samuel Ramey makes a personal debut in this production, cast in the dual roles of Benoît, the lecherous landlord, and Alcindoro, Musetta’s wealthy suitor. Renowned for decades as one of opera’s most distinguished artists in roles ranging from leading men to despicable villains, this is a rare chance for Mr. Ramey to display his comedic skills. Mr. Ramey is a three-time Grammy Award-winner and the most-recorded operatic bass in history.

          Stage Director Laura Alley also makes her WGO debut with this production. Ms. Alley is a highly-regarded director, with credits ranging from the highly-praised European premiere of John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles at Germany’s Hannover Opera to multiple U.S. productions at San Francisco Opera, New York City Opera, and Lyric Opera of Kansas City. Ms. Alley is also a faculty member of New York City’s renowned Mannes School of Music.

          Wichita Grand Opera’s Principal Guest Conductor, Martin Mázik, returns to conduct the production. Maestro Mázik was the youngest conductor ever to earn the title of principal conductor at Slovakian National Opera, and now conducts close to 200 performances every year in opera houses across France, Spain, Germany, and Italy. His last appearance at Wichita Grand Opera, conducting Verdi’s immense Don Carlo, led reviewer Joseph Newsome to praise his conducting which “lent ample power to scenes requiring it but also engendered great tenderness in delicate passages… virtually flawless.”

          Argentinian baritone Gustavo Feulien makes his WGO debut as the painter Marcello, Rodolfo’s roommate. Mr. Feulien is well-known in his native country, appearing in Lohengrin and La Forza del Destino at the Teatro Colon. He recently debuted as Scarpia in Tosca, earning raves from The New York Times for his “rich-voiced baritone,” and from Opera News for his “convincing portrayal of Scarpa, most impressive in the Act 1 Te Deum.”

          Feulien recently made a very successful European debut, singing 22 performances as Belcore (The Elixir of Love) and 15 performances of Count Almaviva (The Marriage of Figaro) at Germany’s Theater Bremen. His repertoire also includes major roles such as Di Luna (Il Trovatore) and Escamillo (Carmen), and he recently co-starred in a “Legends of Opera” gala performance with Samuel Ramey and Metropolitan Opera tenor Michael Fabiano in Florida.

          Soprano Julia Radosz, an Academy Fellow of WGO’s Opera Academy of the Midwest, makes her company debut as Musetta. Ms. Radosz has already won praise from critic George Loomis (Musical America) for her “lovely lyric soprano.” She has appeared with Tri-Cities Opera in roles including Adina (The Elixir of Love), Gilda (Rigoletto), and Susanna (The Marriage of Figaro). Other members of the cast include Metropolitan Opera bass-baritone William Powers as Colline, Benjamin Czarnota as Schaunard, and Daniel Snyder as Parpignol.

          Sung in Italian, WGO’s new production of La Bohème will have English translations projected above the stage. Tickets are $85, $58, or $37 with senior, student, group, and corporate discounts available. Tickets can be purchased in person at Century II Performing Arts Center, by phone at the WGO Box Office at (316) 262-8054, and online at

          Hotel and Opera packages are also available with the Ambassador Hotel, including a double room and two best tickets to the performance for $199. In addition, WGO’s popular Day at the Opera program is available for student groups, sponsored by a major grant from the Kansas Health Foundation. For more information, call the Box Office at (316) 262-8054.

          For WGO’s out-of-town fans, a second performance will take place at 8:00pm on Saturday, October 15, 2016 at the Carlsen Center in Overland Park, KS.

For more information, visit

This production is sponsored in part by:
Mrs. Carolyn Dillon, Dr. Joseph & Stella Galichia,
Mr. Colby Sandlian, and Dr. Lyle & Debbie Zepick

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