Opera Memphis made its long-awaited return to Playhouse on the Square in March of 2022 with a titillating double bill entitled Pygmalion 2.0. Exploring themes of desire, control, frustration, and perfection, this production paired Donizetti’s Pygmalion with Robert Paterson and David Cote’s provocative rom-com, The Companion. While the former takes its inspiration from the Roman poet Ovid and the ancient tale of a sculptor and king, the latter catapults the audience into the not-so-distant future, where companion robots can be customized to satisfy any clientele. Despite the centuries that separate these stories, both highlight the profound desire for companionship and the unforeseen and often comic results of attempting to design the perfect lover.
Pygmalion is a lyric opera in one-act by famed bel canto composer, Gaetano Donizetti. Donizetti is best known for soaring musical dramas including Lucia di Lammermoor and Anna Bolena, as well as whimsical, comedic masterpieces like L'esire d'amore and Don Pasquale. During his storied career, Donizetti composed nearly 70 operas, but at age 19 at the Bologna Academy, he composed his very first one-act comedy: Il Pigmalione or Pygmalion. It is believed to have been composed in just six days, as the composer developed his "gift for spontaneous composition". Despite that remarkable feat, it was not debuted until 1960, more than a hundred years after Donizetti's death.
Pygmalion is based on the Classical tale of the king and sculptor, Pygmalion (acclaimed tenor Anthony Webb), originally taken from the tenth book of the Metamorphoses by Ovid. As the sculptor bemoans the possibility that he may never find the ideal of feminine beauty in real life, he creates a sculpture himself. Pygmalion falls in love with his own creation, naming her Galatea (Memphis soprano Alyce Tarver Wells), and prays to the goddess Venus to bring her to life.
Robert Paterson and David Cote's provocative opera Three Way has been described as Puccini's "Il Trittico for the Tinder Generation". Three Way explores love and sex in our current times and in the future, with android lovers, BDSM, and polyamory often leading to funny and unexpected places. The powerhouse team of composer Robert Paterson and librettist David Cote delivered big laughs and even bigger emotion with their vignette opera, In Real Life, earlier this season. The Companion is the first act of Three Way's tumultuous and tantalizing tale, focusing on the pursuit of the perfect lover by any means necessary. But can love be built through an algorithm?
"The composer and librettist explore a trio of carnal situations, often with surprisingly touching—and funny—results…" - Musical America
The Companion takes place in the not-so-distant future. Maya (Handorf Company Artist Keely Futterer) lives with her android lover named Joe (Handorf Company Artist Sergio F. Mandujano), an interactive, programmable "companion" built to satisfy Maya's every need. Still, Maya wants more from Joe - a more complex and deeper connection. She enlists technician Dax (local Memphis favorite Marcus King) to come to her home to install new experimental software, with unexpected results.
“An excellent comic opera that will appeal to audiences well steeped in opera, as well as those who are new to the experience..." - Opera News
Meet the cast of Donizetti's Pygmalion
Tenor Anthony Webb as Pygmalion
Praised by Opera News for his “fine comic flair and well-schooled voice,” tenor Anthony Webb is in demand throughout the United States for both opera and concert. Recent highlights include his Carnegie Hall debut as Jack Prence (MERRY MOUNT), Goro (MADAMA BUTTERFLY) with Opera Colorado, Opera Idaho and The Princeton Festival, Harold “Mitch” Mitchell (A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE), Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni), 4 Servants & Spalanzani (Les contes d’Hoffmann) and Enoch Snow (Carousel) with Union Avenue Opera, Pirelli (SWEENEY TODD) with New Orleans Opera, tenor soloist in Orff’s (CARMINA BURANA) with the Omaha Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, San Antonio Symphony and the Pacific Northwest Ballet, and appearances with Israeli Opera Tel Aviv-Yaffo as Third Jew (SALOME), Howard Boucher (DEAD MAN WALKING), Monostatos (Die Zauberflöte), and upcoming performances in Tel Aviv as Goro (Madama Butterfly), Gastone (La Traviata) and as the 4 Servants & Spalanzani (Les contes d’Hoffmann).
Soprano Alyce Tarver Wells as Galatea
Alyce Tarver Wells is a soprano based in Memphis, TN pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in Vocal Performance at the University of Memphis. She is the adjunct instructor teaching musical theatre freshmen and sophomores at the University of Memphis’ Department of Theatre and Dance. Alyce’s recent engagements include Donna Elvira in the University of Memphis’ productions of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Countess Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, Adele in Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus, and Polly Peachum in Benjamin Britten’s Beggar’s Opera. She has also regularly performed for the annual 30 Days of Opera with Opera Memphis since 2018. Her Opera Memphis credits include First Novice in Suor Angelica and chorus for Pirates of Penzance, H. M. S. Pinafore, Madama Butterfly, La Traviata, and a company member for their improvisational Christmas special “A Victorian Holiday” at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens. Alyce was selected to perform as Laetitia in Menotti’s The Old Maid and the Thief at the Curso Internacional de Música Vocal in Aveiro, Portugal in 2013. She was also a finalist in the NATS regional competition in 2013-2014 and for the Savell Vocal Competition in 2015 and 2016. Alyce holds a Bachelor of Music Degree in Vocal Performance with a piano minor from Louisiana Tech University and a Master’s of Music in Vocal Pedagogy from the University of Memphis, where she was and is a graduate assistant. She lives in Memphis, TN with her husband and two dogs, Magnolia and Belle.
Meet the cast of Robert Paterson & David Cote's The Companion
Soprano Keely Futterer as Maya
Arkansan-born soprano KEELY FUTTERER, has been praised by Opera News as a “high-quality lyric soprano with a keen verbal nuance,” and has been seen in performances across the globe in China, Italy, and the United States. Career highlights of Ms. Futterer include the leading ladies of Elle in La Voix Humaine, the title role of Suor Angelica, Adina in L’elisir d’amore, and Countess Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro. She received critical acclaim for her role debut of Marie in La fille du régiment at Opera Saratoga, where she was reviewed as having “one of the most gorgeous voices you can imagine with charm to match. Hers [was] a performance you will remember and speak about for years.” She has also performed an array of new opera, in addition to the classics, such as Isabella Beecher in Victoria Bond's Mrs. President, the Witch Mother in the American premiere of Philip Glass’s The Witches of Venice, and in 2017, she was part of the New Works Forum in NYC with American Lyric Theatre, premiering the role of Sara Turing in The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing.
Baritone Marcus King as Dax
Born and raised in Memphis, TN, Marcus King has always been musically gifted. In 2013, he made his European debut in Norfolk, England as Demetrius in the Yorke Trust Opera production of Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. In 2014, he rejoined the company as Ubalde in Gluck’s Armide. He has been a young artist for the Utah Festival Opera as well as The Charlottesville Opera, formally known as Ash Lawn Opera. For Opera Memphis, he has had many solo roles such as Mr. Gobineau in The Medium, Aeneas in Dido and Aeneas, Vernon in Blue Viola, Samuel in Pirates of Penzance, Joe Harland in Later the Same Evening, and Erminio in The Triumph of Honor. This 2020/2021 season he will be company artist for Moon River Opera, Savannah GA. He will also join the cast of the Magic Flute as Papageno for The Lighthouse Opera’s 2021/22 season.
Tenor Sergio F. Mandujano as Joe
Sergio F. Mandujano is a Mexican American tenor who will be playing the role of Joe in Robert Paterson’s The Companion, as well as Ferrando in Così Fan Tutti. He attended Seagle Festival 2021 where he performed Rodolfo in La Boheme and Broadway excerpts from Hamilton, Follies, Company, and more. Previous credits include Nemorino in L’Elisir D’Amore, Tamino in The Magic Flute, The Witch in Hansel und Gretel, Harry in Company, Burrs in The Wild Party, and Adolpho in The Drowsy Chaperone. He received an Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship nomination for his portrayal of Burrs in The Wild Party and Distinguished Performance by an Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of Adolpho in The Drowsy Chaperone from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. He is originally from Norwalk, Connecticut.
Production Photos by Ariel Cobbert