Pittsburgh Opera presents Gregory Spears’s PAUL’S CASE

podcast logoimage001

A new production, based on Willa Cather’s 1905 story of a Pittsburgh boy

Pittsburgh, PA… Pittsburgh Opera continues its 75th anniversary season with Gregory Spears’s PAUL’S CASE, a new opera with a Pittsburgh connection, starring the Resident Artists of Pittsburgh Opera’s acclaimed singer training program. The second work in Pittsburgh Opera’s American Opera Series,* PAUL’S CASE is on stage at Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters February 22 – March 2, as the company’s 2013-14 Second Stage Project. Based on Willa Cather’s short story of the same name, PAUL’S CASE is the story of a high school “dandy” who yearns for a more exciting life away from gritty, industrial Pittsburgh. Paul’s fantasies have been fed by the glamorous musical performances he witnesses as an usher at Carnegie Music Hall. When Paul is suspended from school, he steals money and flees to New York City. After a stay in the Waldorf-Astoria, a shopping spree, and a fling with a Yale freshman, Paul’s escape is discovered by his father and by the media. Paul’s ambitions come crashing down in a wrenching finale.

Pittsburgh Opera’s new production of PAUL’S CASE features its Resident Artists. Daniel Curran is Paul; Alex DeSocio is Paul’s father. Phillip Gay performs the dual roles of Principal and Waldorf-Astoria Bell Boy. Resident Artist Samantha Korbey and Rebecca Belczyk (Dark Sisters, 2014) take on triple roles, as teachers, singers, and maids, while Nicole Rodin portrays a teacher and a maid. Christopher Toeller (The Magic Flute, 2013) is the Yale Freshman. Resident Artist George Cederquist is the stage director for PAUL’S CASE. Head of Music Glenn Lewis conducts.

Composer Gregory Spears is expected to participate in Opera Up Close February 16 [see “related events”] and will attend the opening night performance.

* Pittsburgh Opera’s American Opera Series is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and includes PAUL’S CASE (Jan. 25 – Feb. 2), PAUL’S CASE (Feb. 22 – Mar. 2) and ORPHÉE (Apr. 26 – May 4). 

Facts about the opera and the composer

PAUL’s CASE premiered in April 2013 at Urban Arias in Washington, DC, and was developed by American Opera Projects. The work blends minimalist and Baroque stylings to create a unique new chamber opera sound.

PAUL’S CASE received excellent reviews both from The Washington Post at its world premiere in April 2013, and from the New York Times, from the Prototype Festival in January 2014.

Gregory Spears and librettist Kathryn Walat took a fresh look at Willa Cather’s 1905 story, and drew timeless parallels from Paul’s character when they created the opera. To quote Gregory Spears, “he [Paul] seems to be saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to life throughout this piece. He’s so full of life, and a fascinating character, yet at the same time, he ultimately says ‘no’…. There’s something about that paradoxical feel of him…so fascinated by the world, and at the same time, feeling as if he needs to reject it – this powers the enigma that’s at the core of the Cather story.” See more remarks from Gregory Spears and Kathryn Walat here.


The story, in brief

Pittsburgh, 1906. Paul appeals his suspension in front of three teachers and the high school principal. The teachers are infuriated by his dandyish behavior and appearance, epitomized by the red carnation he wears. Paul is dismissed; he bows gracefully and exits.

Later that evening, Paul’s father is calculating figures at his desk, while Paul changes into a uniform – he works as an usher at Carnegie Music Hall. The father decries his son’s disdain for middle-class values, while Paul tells of his love for all things exotic and theatrical. Paul’s English teacher arrives unexpectedly at the Music Hall with two tickets given to her by a steel magnate. Waiting for the show to begin, the English teacher recounts a life full of disappointments. Two opera singers take the stage; Paul and the English teacher are enchanted. Paul’s father, still simmering at home, warns that this will be Paul’s last night working at the theater, on account of his recent suspension from school.

Paul’s father sends him to work as a cash-boy clerk. Distraught, Paul describes his contempt for the banalities of workaday life in Pittsburgh. He steals the firm’s weekend deposit and catches the next train to New York City.

Three hotel maids prepare a sumptuous suite at New York’s Waldorf Astoria. Paul enters triumphantly, and smugly catalogs his purchases from an afternoon shopping spree. At dinner in the Waldorf Astoria’s dining room, he encounters a Yale freshman in town for a weekend visit, and the two join up for a drunken night on the town.

Waking with a hangover the next day, Paul asks for the Pittsburgh newspapers, in which the maids read of his theft. Paul discovers that he has been spotted at a New York hotel and that his father is coming to take him back home. He then unwraps his final purchase, a shiny revolver, and contemplates his final actions. He puts the revolver away, and heads for the Newark train yard.

Arriving on an embankment overlooking railroad tracks, Paul buries a red carnation in the snow. He falls asleep and is later awakened by a distant train whistle. As the locomotive approaches, he leaps in front of it. Paul’s teachers and father lament Paul’s death as he dissolves into the landscape.

Tickets to PAUL’S CASE are $40, with all performances at Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters, 2425 Liberty Avenue, in the Strip District. For additional information, videos, photos, musical samples, cast biographies, and the full story of PAUL’S CASE, visit www.pittsburghopera.org. To purchase tickets, call 412-456-6666 or visit www.pittsburghopera.org.

The 2013-14 Pittsburgh Opera season is generously supported by PNC.
Paul’s Case is generously sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Alvin Filstrup and the Filstrup Foundation.
The National Endowment for the Arts provides project support for Pittsburgh Opera’s

2014 American Opera Series.

Giant Eagle Foundation is the Resident Artist Program Sponsor.


Cast and Artistic Team (cast is listed in order of vocal appearance)


Paul                                                                 Daniel Curran *

Principal/Bell Boy                                            Phillip Gay *

History Teacher/Opera Singer 1/Maid 1        Rebecca Belczyk

Drawing Teacher/Opera Singer 2/Maid 2      Samantha Korbey *

English Teacher/Maid 3                                  Nicole Rodin *

Father                                                              Alex DeSocio *

Boy (Yale Freshman)                                     Christopher Toeller

Conductor                                                       Glenn Lewis

Director                                                           George Cederquist *

Costume Designer                                          Antonia West

Lighting Designer                                            Jerry Sherk


Director of Musical Studies                            Mark Trawka

Assistant Conductor                                        James Lesniak

Hair & Makeup Designer                                Nicole Pagano

PAUL’s CASE is a new production by Pittsburgh Opera.
+    Pittsburgh Opera debut

*     Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist

**   Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist alumni


Tickets and Group Discounts

Tickets for all performances of PAUL’S CASE are $40. Group discounts are available. For tickets, call (412) 456-6666 or visit www.pittsburghopera.org. For discounted group tickets (6 or more), contact Randy Adams at 412-281-0912, x 213.


Related Events


Brown Bag Concert
Saturday, February 8 – 12:00 p.m.

George R. White Opera Studio, Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters (2425 Liberty Avenue)

These casual, one-hour concerts feature our Resident Artists in the George R. White Opera Studio at Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters. Guests can meet the performers after the concert. Free and open to the public; no RSVP required. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. For more information, call (412) 281-0912 or visit www.pittsburghopera.org


Opera Up Close: PAUL’S CASE

Sunday, February 16 – 2:00 p.m.

An in-depth look at the music and story of Gregory Spears’s PAUL’S CASE with singers and directors from the production, in the George R. White Opera Studio at Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters. Panelists include PAUL’S CASE composer Gregory Spears; Willa Cather scholars Dr. Timothy Bintrim of St. Francis University and Dr. James Jaap of Penn State

New Kensington, Resident Artist stage director George Cederquist; and Pittsburgh Opera Director of Artistic Operations Bill Powers. Admission is $5; the event is free to members of FRIENDS of Pittsburgh Opera and donors at $50 and above. For more information, visit www.pittsburghopera.org.


PAUL’S CASE Previews on WQED-FM 89.3 and WQED.ORG

Saturday, February 15 – 12:30 p.m.; Friday, February 21 – 7:00 p.m.

Hosted by WQED’s Anna Singer, and broadcast over the airwaves as well as the WQED website, the PAUL’S CASE preview gives listeners an engaging introduction to the singers, music and story of the opera. For more information, visit www.pittsburghopera.org

Audio Description: PAUL’S CASE
Tuesday, February 25

Ticketholders with visual impairments are invited to use Pittsburgh Opera’s Audio Description service at our Tuesday performances. Trained volunteers describe the scenery, costumes, and stage action via headphones. Those wishing to use Audio Description should reserve seats to the Tuesday, February 25 performance: call Randy Adams at 412-281-0912, ext. 213 or groups@pittsburghopera.org. Braille and large-print opera programs are also available.

Meet the Artists of PAUL’S CASE

Tuesday, February 25

Immediately following the opera, in the George R. White Studio, Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters

Ticketholders for the Tuesday, February 25 performance of PAUL’S CASE are invited to remain in the George White Studio immediately following the performance for interviews with General Director Christopher Hahn and the stars of the opera. This event is free to all Tuesday performance ticketholders.

Pittsburgh Opera celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2013-14 with OPERA FOR A NEW AGE, a mix of long-beloved operas and new favorites. Established by five intrepid women in 1939, Pittsburgh Opera is viewed as one of the most vibrant opera organizations in the U.S., with a rich artistic tradition, outstanding educational programs, an acclaimed artist training program, and a progressive outlook toward the future. Its green initiative culminated in LEED® Silver certification for its Strip District headquarters, and its capacity as a true community partner has increased significantly under General Director Christopher Hahn’s leadership. Tickets for the 2013-2014 season start at just $12.

2013-14 Season
AIDA •• October 12 – 20, 2013
THE MAGIC FLUTE •• November 9 – 17, 2013

DARK SISTERS •• January 25 – February 2, 2014

SECOND STAGE PROJECT: PAUL’S CASE •• February 22 – March 2, 2014
LA BOHÈME •• March 26 – April 6, 2014
ORPHÉE •• April 26 – May 4, 2014
For ticket information visit our website www.pittsburghopera.org or call (412) 281-0912

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *