American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) continues its 2008-09 season Koret Visiting Artist Series with "The Inner 'I': How Artists See Themselves," a conversation with Lotfi Mansouri, celebrated opera director and the general director emeritus of the San Francisco Opera; Judy Kaye, the Tony Award-winning star of A.C.T.'s Souvenir; and the internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade. Moderated by A.C.T. Artistic Director Carey Perloff, the conversation will focus on the different ways artists view themselves and how these self-images affect their work. "The Inner 'I'" is presented in conjunction with A.C.T.'s production of Stephen Temperley's Souvenir, which tells the story of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York socialite and tone-deaf diva who thought she was a great soprano. The conversation will be followed by a Q&A session with the audience. The hour-long event is free and open to the public and takes place on the A.C.T. stage on Monday, February 23, 2009, at 5:30 p.m. Doors will open at 5 p.m. For more information, please visit www.act-sf.org/koret.
"Lotfi Mansouri has helped generations of singers work though their fears and passions in terms of how they see themselves and what they're 'right' for," says Perloff. "He loves the 'diva-ness' of opera singers, understands that strange and wonderful zone where the artist's personality meets the character. And I'm thrilled to have two incomparable divas, Frederica von Stade and Judy Kaye, weigh in with their own unique perspectives-and it will be a special treat to have these incredible artists reflect on the fascinating case of Florence Foster Jenkins." Stephen Temperley's Souvenir is directed by Tony Award winner Vivian Matalon and plays at A.C.T. February 13 through March 15, 2009. Tickets are available by calling A.C.T. Ticket Services at 415.749.2228, or at www.act-sf.org.
As part of a generous partnership with A.C.T., the Koret Foundation has made a three-year commitment to support A.C.T.'s audience programs, including artist panel discussions and A.C.T.'s regularly scheduled Audience Exchange and Prologue discussions. The Koret Visiting Artist Series, in its third season, features exciting talks with acclaimed artists from the American theatrical community, moderated by A.C.T. artistic staff. Held at the American Conservatory Theater before and after select performances throughout the season, the discussions are designed to illuminate the ways in which a theater affects and strengthens a community, the responsibilities of the artist in modern society, and the challenges of the creative process.
Judy Kaye originated the title role of Souvenir: A Fantasia on The Life of Florence Foster Jenkins on Broadway (Tony Award nomination), a role she has also played at The York Theatre Company, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Brentwood Theatre in Los Angeles (LA Stage Alliance Ovation Award), and Arizona Theatre Company. She appeared as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd on Broadway and at A.C.T. last season. She performed in Face the Music for New York City Center's Encores! series and in Zorba in the Los Angeles Reprise! series. Highlights of her career include Phantom of the Opera (Tony; Drama Desk Award nomination), Mamma Mia! (Tony, Drama Desk nominations), On the Twentieth Century (Theatre World Award; Drama Desk nomination), and Ragtime (LA Stage Alliance Ovation Award), all on Broadway, as well as La Bohème, Orpheus in the Underworld, and The Beggars Opera at The Santa Fe Opera. Kaye has performed with symphony orchestras around the world and sung at the White House twice. She is the voice of Kinsey Millhone for Random House's audio book series of the Sue Grafton alphabet mysteries.
LOTFI MANSOURI has been at the forefront of international opera directors and administrators for decades, directing productions across Europe and North America. After 14 years at the helm of the San Francisco Opera (1988-2001), Mansouri is now general director emeritus. During his 40-year association with that company, he directed more than 60 productions, introduced numerous international artists to U.S. audiences, established an historic exchange with the Kirov Opera in St. Petersburg (including productions of War and Peace and Ruslan and Lyudmila, among others), and developed an ambitious program designed to maintain the vitality of the opera repertoire through new commissions (including Dangerous Liaisons, Harvey Milk, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Dead Man Walking, among others) and the presentation of rarely performed and unusual operas. Born in Iran, Mansouri attended UCLA before serving as resident stage director at the Zürich Opera, head stage director of the Grand Théâtre de Genève, and general director of the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto, where he directed 30 new productions (12 of them Canadian premieres), including Wozzeck, Lulu, Death in Venice, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and Ambroise Thomas's Hamlet. While in Toronto, he established a young artist program and pioneered the use of supertitles-now employed throughout North America and Europe-with his production of Elektra in 1983. Mansouri was part of the team that originally presented Pauline Viardot and Friends in 2006 at London's Wigmore Hall and at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. He recently held a series of master classes at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara and taught with the young artist programs at Covent Garden and the Netherlands Opera Studio in Amsterdam. Future activities include directing Rigoletto for the San Diego Opera and teaching master classes at the Royal Conservatory and Canadian Opera Company Ensemble in Toronto.