For the first time, the Atlanta Opera is performing at Sandy Springs’ new Byers Theatre, also known as the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center, inside the City Springs complex. But this won’t be a stuffy opera performance.
The Atlanta Opera presents Stephanie Blythe & Friends, set for May 18 at 8 p.m., will be a recital with numbers from Tin Pan Alley to the Great American Songbook to “classics that defined American theater and movies in the early 20th century, with a little opera thrown in for good measure,” according to a news release on the event.
Blythe, a world-renowned mezzo-soprano, has performed with the world’s top opera companies at some of its best venues, including Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, Paris National Opera and the San Francisco, Chicago Lyric and Seattle operas. She has won three awards, including being chosen Musical America’s Vocalist of the Year in 2009.
Blythe will be joined on stage by the Atlanta Opera Studio’s artists-in-residences, including baritone Jonathan Bryan, soprano Anna Kozlakiewicz, mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Sarian and tenor Justin Stolz.
Blythe previously performed with the Atlanta Opera in its 2018 production of Gaetano Donizetti’s “Daughter of the Regiment” at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre and before that sang at two recitals at Clayton State University’s Spivey Hall in Morrow.
“I’m always excited to perform with the Atlanta Opera. It’s a fantastic company,” she said, adding General and Artistic Director Tomer Zvulun “is a dear friend I’ve worked with for many years. It’s one of the best opera companies in the United States. I’m very excited to experience the new theater, as is everyone coming there.”
Blythe, who grew up in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York, lives in Greentown, Pennsylvania, near Scranton. While in Atlanta, she will spend several days teaching members of the studio program.
“I’m going to be working the whole time,” she said. “I’m teaching master classes and doing coaching. We’ve got quite a bit on our plate for the 10 days I’m working (in Atlanta). This is the end of a three-month tour for me.”
She also plans to spend some time with family while in the city. Her sister Melody and brother-in-law, Nathaniel Parker, DMA, and their family live Kennesaw. Nathaniel is the head of orchestral studies at Kennesaw State University.
Lauren Bailey, the Atlanta Opera’s director of artistic administration, said the organization is thrilled to have Blythe back.
“We were excited when she was here for ‘Daughter of the Regiment,’ and her reputation in the industry is phenomenal,” she said. “Everyone knows she’s wonderful to work with. She’s a great mentor to younger singers and a stellar world-renowned performer herself, in both the operatic field and in recitals, particularly of American songs.”
Bailey said the Atlanta Opera is equally excited about having its debut performance at the Byers Theatre.
“We’ve been talking about and thinking about projects for that space since we heard it was happening,” she said. “This is a great opportunity to get into that building, get into that community before (having) a longer show there in the fall.”
The Atlanta Opera will return to City Springs in October for four performances of “Frida,” part of its Discoveries Series that aims to draw audiences not familiar with operas. Bailey said the group is working with City Springs staff to schedule more future performances there but “nothing is set in stone yet.”
Blythe said this month’s recital has “something for everyone.”
“They can expect a really great selection of arias and songs from the Great American Songbook,” she said. “This is a concert that celebrates the human voice. It celebrates the American voice because the bulk of the music on this concert is songs from the Great American Songbook. They reflect who we are and where we’ve been and they’re songs people will know, (but there are) a lot of little chestnuts and songs they don’t know. There will be opportunities for the audience to sing. There won’t just be solo numbers but ensemble numbers for everyone.
“There’s something in this concert that will speak to everyone in the audience, and there’s a lot of nostalgia, too. It will illicit some lovely memories for the audience. There’s a whole section of songs that celebrate the region as well. It’s a concert that you’ll leave feeling better than you did when you arrive. It’s a fun, celebratory evening.”
Tickets start at $28. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.atlantaopera.org or call 404-881-8885.