Overview


The Summer King tells the story of Negro Leagues baseball legend Josh Gibson, considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time. It’s a story of talent, heartbreak and one man’s journey to overcome prejudice and discrimination. MOT is proud to present this groundbreaking new work co-produced with the Pittsburgh Opera.

Stephen Lord – “Detroit is such a great sports town. It was home to one of the original Negro National League teams and a place where Josh Gibson played in the visiting dugout. His inspirational story just begs to be told as an opera.”

Artists

Lester Lynch

Josh Gibson

Baritone Lester Lynch makes his return to Michigan Opera Theatre starring as Josh Gibson in The Summer King. He is the second singer to perform the role since its Pittsburgh Opera premiere in April, 2017. Lester previously performed with MOT in its 2003 production of A Masked Ball as Renato. Recognized for his charismatic portrayals and commanding voice, Lester is receiving rave reviews as he tackles some of Verdi’s most important baritone roles from Scarpia to Rigoletto to Count di Luna. Highlights of recent engagements include the title role in Rigoletto with the Canadian Opera Company, Gerald in Andrea Chénier with the Bregenzer Festspiele festival, Carbon in Cyrano de Bergerac with San Francisco Opera, Herald in Lohengrin with Lyric Opera of Chicago, Porgy in Porgy and Bess with Washington National Opera, and Scarpia in Tosca with the Glimmerglass Festival. Additional engagements include leading roles with Opera Philadelphia, Los Angeles Opera, and with the Cleveland Orchestra, Master Chorale of Washington, Nashville Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and in concert at Carnegie Hall.

Lester Lynch

Josh Gibson

Kenneth Kellogg

Sam Bankhead

Washington D.C. bass Kenneth Kellogg makes his Michigan Opera Theatre debut as Count Montenero in Rigoletto. He will reprise the role of Sam Bankhead in The Summer King, which he originated with Pittsburgh Opera in 2017. Performance highlights include Zuniga in Carmen and Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte with Washington National Opera; Mefistofeles in Faust and Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte with Opera de Lausanne; Gremin in Eugene Onegin with North Carolina Opera and Young Emile Griffith in Terence Blanchard’s Champion with Opera Parallèle. He holds a Master of Music degree from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor of Music degree from Ohio University. He has also served as a resident artist at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia and is an alumnus of Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program. Future performances include Handel’s Messiah with the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra, Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte with the National Philharmonic at Strathmore.

Kenneth Kellogg

Sam Bankhead

Deborah Nansteel

Grace

Mezzo-soprano Deborah Nansteel recently made her Michigan Opera Theatre début as La Duegne in Cyrano and returns this season to portray the role of Grace in The Summer King. Some highlights from Ms. Nansteel’s career include her Lyric Opera of Chicago début as Gertrude in Roméo et Juliette, a world-première performance of Douglas Pew and Dara Weinberg’s new opera Penny with Washington National Opera’s American Opera Initiative and the creation of the role of Lucinda in the highly-anticipated world première of the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon’s adaptation of Cold Mountain at Santa Fe Opera, which she reprises this season with North Carolina Opera. Ms. Nansteel is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music where she earned an Artist Diploma in Opera and a Master of Music in Voice. This season, Ms. Nansteel returns to Lyric Opera of Chicago as Siegrune in Die Walküre and sings the role of Alisa in Lucia di Lammermoor with The Metropolitan Opera.

Deborah Nansteel

Grace

Sean Pannikkar

Wendell Smith

Jaqueline Echols

Helen Gibson

A native of Detroit, lyric soprano Jacqueline Echols has been praised for her “dynamic range and vocal acrobatics” by Classical Voice in theaters across the United States. When she debuted as Pip in Moby Dick with the Los Angeles Opera, her performance was described by Opera Today as having “soared gracefully over Heggie’s orchestra, soloists and chorus.” Recently, Jacqueline made her debut with the Boston Symphony at the 2017 Tanglewood Music Festival as Woglinde in Das Rheingold. A graduate of the Young Artists Program with the Washington National Opera, Jacqueline has performed with the organization as Micaëla in Carmen, Woglinde and Forest Bird in the full Ring Cycle, as the Unicorn in the world premiere of Jeanine Tesori’s The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me, and Clorinda in La Cenerentola. Jacqueline will once again take the stage as Pip in Moby Dick with the Pittsburgh Opera. She will also be performing as Gilda in the North Carolina Opera’s production of Rigoletto.

Jaqueline Echols

Helen Gibson

Norman Shankle

Elder Barber & Gus Greenlee

Tenor Norman Shankle made his Michigan Opera Theatre début as Tamino in The Magic Flute and will be returning this season for the role of Elder Barber/Gus Greenlee in The Summer King, a role he recently originated in the world première with Pittsburgh Opera. Mr. Shankle’s career highlights include his Dallas Opera house début as Ernesto in Don Pasquale; participation in The Metropolitan Opera’s productions of The Enchanted Island and Parsifal; Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia with English National Opera, and Dresden Semperoper; and the title role in Idomeneo and Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni with Staatstheater Stuttgart, Arena Opera Festival in Verona, and Teatro Municipale Reggio Emilia. Mr. Shankle began his career with San Francisco Opera in their Merola Opera Program and as an Adler Fellow. This season, Mr. Shankle will perform the tenor solo in Handel’s Messiah with Baltimore Symphony, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, and National Philharmonic, where he will subsequently sing the role of Ferrando in Così fan tutte.

Norman Shankle

Elder Barber & Gus Greenlee

Sam Helfrich

Director

Steven Mercurio

Conductor

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