Mezzo-soprano Deborah Nansteel, who earned a degree in music from East Carolina University in 2007, premiered the role of Lucinda in the Santa Fe Opera Festival’s world premiere production of “Cold Mountain” on Aug. 1.
Born in Okinawa, Japan, and raised in Havelock, North Carolina, Nansteel has performed as part of the American Opera Initiative; with the Seattle, Dayton and Merola opera companies; and with the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi in Milan and the Seattle Symphony. She completed her second season at Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program in May.
In its review of the premiere, “Opera Today” wrote that Nansteel “sang with formidable vocal power while expressing the desperation of a runaway slave.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon based the opera on Charles Frazier’s 1997 novel. Like the book, the opera tells the story of Confederate soldier W.P. Inman and his struggle to return to his North Carolina home and his wife during the Civil War. Isabel Leonard and Nathan Gunn sing the starring roles.
Additional performances of the opera are scheduled on Aug. 14, 17, 22 and 24. The Dutch recording label PentaTone will release a recording of the premiere.
The opera will be reprised at Opera Philadelphia in February 2016. The North Carolina Opera, a co-commissioner of the opera along with Santa Fe Opera, Opera Philadelphia, and Minnesota Opera, plans to present “Cold Mountain” as part of its 2017-2018 season.
“This piece has deeply ingrained historical and cultural connections to North Carolina that will invigorate our core audience, while inspiring our state-wide community,” said Timothy Myers, artistic director and principal conductor at North Carolina Opera.
– Steve Tuttle