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Three Decembers Produced By UrbanArias At Artisphere

September 22, 2014

Three Decembers – based on the unpublished play “Some Christmas Letters” by Tony Award winning playwright Terrence McNally. The opera chronicles three decades in the lives of Broadway diva Madeline Mitchell and her two adult children; as told through a series of letters written by Madeline (Maddy) during the Christmas of 1986, 1996, and 2006. Charlie the son, is gay, and yearns for his mother’s acceptance of him and his dying lover. Madeline’s estranged daughter Beatrice is now married with a family of her own, and fiercely resents her mother’s decision to choose “the stage” over family. Madeline herself must face the dark secret she has kept from both her children concerning the mysterious death of their father. Hailed by Opera Today as a “modern masterpiece” this poignant modern opera will take audiences on an emotional rollercoaster ride.

UrbanArias presents THREE DECEMBERS, a chamber opera in two acts by composer Jake Heggie with libretto by Gene Sheer. Three Decembers was first commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera under the working title Last Acts and premiered in 2008. The original cast featured the great American mezzo soprano Frederica von Stade as Madeline, along with baritone Keith Phares, soprano Kristin Clayton and conducted by Patrick Summers. The title of the opera was later changed to Three Decembers and has appeared at San Francisco Opera, Fort Worth Opera Festival, and Chicago Opera Theater.

American composer Jake Heggie has proven to be one of the most prolific and influential composers of his generation. He is known for such operatic masterpieces as Dead Man Walking, Moby-Dick, and The End of the Affair. His works have appeared at major opera houses throughout North America including New York City Opera, San Francisco Opera, Washington National Opera, and Dallas Opera among others. A notable composer of song repertoire; Jake Heggie has collaborated with some of the greatest opera singers of our time, including Frederica von Stade, Joyce Didonato, and Kiri Te Kenawa.

Widely known for his versatility; librettist and songwriter Gene Sheer has collaborated with Jake Heggie on several occasions. Most recently on the acclaimed Moby-Dick (San Francisco Opera, Dallas Opera, Washington National Opera) and To Hell and Back (Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra) featuring Patti Lupone. He has also worked with composer Tobias Picker, writing the librettos for An American Tragedy (Metropolitan Opera) and Thérèse Raquin (Dallas Opera). As a composer he has written songs for acclaimed opera singers Renée Fleming, Denyce Graves, and Nathan Gunn.

UrbanArias returns to Artisphere’s Black Box Theater and welcomes stage director Michael McConnell for the production of Three Decembers. Mr. McConnell served as executive director at Lyric Opera Cleveland for many years, receiving the Cleveland Critics Award for his work. He has directed a wide range of repertoire, from world premieres by composer Libby Larsen to lesser known works by Benjamin Britten, Igor Stravinsky, and Kurt Weill. Three Decembers stars actor/soprano Janice Hall (Lyric Opera of Chicago, The Seeing Place Theater) as Madeline Mitchell. Ms. Hall was hailed by the LA Times as a “great character actress” for her work in the operatic adaptation of Angels in America. The production also features baritone Michael Mayes as Maddy’s son Charlie. Mr. Mayes recently performed the title role in Heggie’s Dead Man Walking at Central City Opera. Soprano Emily Pulley (Metropolitan Opera), featured last season in She, After, returns to UrbanArias as Maddy’s daughter Beatrice.The production will be conducted by UrbanArias’ executive and artistic director Robert Wood.

UrbanArias was founded in 2009 by conductor Robert Wood. The mission of UrbanArias is to support modern opera and make it accessible to audiences. The company presents short works of opera (90 minutes or less) written by composers in the last 40 years. Productions are often produced in black box theaters and small intimate spaces. In addition to its regular season, UrbanArias presents master classes and community outreach events at schools, music festivals, and performance venues throughout Washington, DC. The 2013-2014 season began at Artisphere with She, After by composer Daniel Felsenfeld and starring soprano Emily Pulley; followed by an evening of “opera improv” at the INTERSECTIONS Festival at Atlas Performing Arts Center. In January of 2014, UrbanArias was invited to revive its production of Paul’s Case at the PROTOTYPE Festival in New York City. Paul’s Case was directed by Kevin Newbury and written by composer Gregory Spears. The production garnered significant critical acclaim from The New York Times, The New York Observer, The New Yorker and Wall Street Journal. UrbanArias concluded its 2013-2014 season with Bastianello & Lucrezia by librettist Mark Campbell with music by John Musto and William Bolcom. In recent seasons UrbanArias has supported works by composers Ricky Ian Gordon, Tom Cipullo, Jake Heggie, Thomas Pasatieri, and Conrad Cummings among others.

Robert Wood (Executive and Artistic Director) has conducted for the San Francisco Opera, Vancouver Opera, Minnesota Opera, and Opera Colorado among many others.

Tickets for Three Decembers are $28 (General Admission) and on sale at You may also purchase tickets through Artisphere’s box office at or call (888) 841 2787.

Performance dates are:
Saturday, September 27 at 8:00pm., Sunday, September 28 at 2:00pm.
Friday, October 3 at 8:00pm., Saturday, October 4 at 8:00pm.
Note: Doors Open at 7:30pm (1:30pm for the matinee)
The Black Box Theater at Artisphere, 1101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22209.

For more information contact Robert Wood at rw[email protected] or Benjamin de Boer at [email protected]


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