THE HOTEL CASABLANCA – World Premiere of Thomas Pasatieri Opera at San Francisco’s Cowell Theater

Singers of the Merola Opera Program debut work August 3rd and 5th

By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Fine Arts Critic
Copyright © 2007 San Francisco Sentinel

MEROLA OPERA PROGRAM has announced casting details for the forthcoming World Premiere of Thomas Pasatieri’s “The Hotel Casablanca”, scheduled for two performances on August 3rd and 5th at the Fort Mason Center Cowell Theatre. Joseph Illick will conduct the 17-member chamber orchestra in a production directed and designed by Richard Kagey. The Hotel Casablanca is sponsored by Reid and Peggy Dennis.

“The Hotel Casablanca” will be presented during Merola’s 50th Anniversary Season and is the first world premiere opera ever to be produced by the renowned Merola Opera Program, the nation’s leading summer training program for 29 young professional opera singers, coach accompanists and directors. This year’s program began June 4 and features artists from around the globe.

TAMARA WAPINSKY, Soprano and TOM CORBEIL, Bass-Baritone


Following the Pasatieri premiere, the highly anticipated Merola Grand Finale concert will take to the stage of the War Memorial Opera House Aug. 18 with Merola graduate Patrick Summers on the podium leading members of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. The Grand Finale concert will feature the singers in a program of concert arias and ensemble works spanning a variety of composers from Monteverdi to Sondheim. The annual Grand Finale concert will formally conclude the Merola Opera Program’s Golden Anniversary Season.

“The Hotel Casablanca”, Pasatieri’s 19th opera set to an original libretto by the composer, is a two-act comedy set in the summer heat of Texas 1948, and follows a certain wealthy Texan couple and their attempts to “toughen up” their 25 year-old nephew visiting from New York. Based on the Feydeau play A Flea in Her Ear, Pasatieri’s inventive plot takes place at the mythical Double-T Ranch and the seedy Hotel Casablanca riddled with assorted eccentric guests. The opera is composed for nine principal singers and will be sung in English.


The featured artists are tenor Andrew Bidlack (Charles Carter, nephew of Tom Carter); baritone Jason Plourde (Burton, butler at the Double T Ranch); soprano Tamara Wapinsky (Tallulah Carter, wife of Tom Carter); mezzo-soprano Paula Murrihy (Lucy Perez, Tallulah’s former vaudeville partner); bass-baritone Tom Corbeil (Tom Carter, owner of the Double T Ranch); baritone Nathaniel Hackmann (Raul Perez, bull breeder and husband of Lucy Perez); bass Kenneth Kellogg (Tobias, manager of the Double T Ranch); mezzo-soprano Meredith Woodend (Miss Pooder, proprietor of the Hotel Casablanca); and soprano Jamie-Rose Guarrine (Veronique, a Hotel Casablanca employee).



Pasatieri was born in New York, 1945. He was an accomplished pianist and performer by the age of ten and a composer at age fifteen. As a teenager, he studied with the renowned French teacher, Nadia Boulanger. He entered the Juilliard School at age sixteen and eventually became the school’s first recipient of a doctoral degree. Among his 19 operas are La Divina (1966), Padrevía (1967), Black Widow (1972), The Trial of Mary Lincoln (1972), Signor Deluso (1974), Washington Square (1976), Before Breakfast (1980), Three Sisters (1986), and his best known work, The Seagull (1972), which received its premiere recording in 2003 from Albany Records. Earlier this year, Pasatieri presented the world premiere of another one of his operas, Frau Margot, for the Fort Worth Opera.

In addition to his opera works, Pasatieri has composed numerous chamber pieces, choral works, and hundreds of songs for many of the leading opera singers of the past three decades. Now living in Los Angeles, Pasatieri has been drawn to the film industry. His film orchestrations may be heard in The Good German, Road to Perdition, American Beauty, The Little Mermaid, The Shawshank Redemption, Fried Green Tomatoes, Legends of the Fall and Scent of a Woman.

Conductor Joseph Illick worked with Pasatieri on the recent premiere of Frau Margot at Fort Worth Opera, and Washington Square for Manhattan School of Music. Illick’s credits include Salome for Fort Worth Opera, Un Ballo in Maschera for Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Madama Butterfy for Opera Carolina, and The Mikado for Opera Theatre of St, Louis. Later this season, he will return to Fort Worth for Turandot and Of Mice and Men.


Director and scenic designer Richard Kagey recently directed the premiere of Pasatieri’s Frau Margot. His upcoming engagements include Crazy For You and Lysistrata at the Seagle Music Colony, The Hotel Casablanca for the University of Kentucky, Cold Sassy Tree for Atlanta Opera, Of Mice and Men for Fort Worth Opera, and director of the soon to-be-opened Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Atlanta.

For tickets, call the San Francisco Opera Box Office: 415-864-3330

Seán recommends:
CDLETTER TO WARSAW – Thomas Pasatieri’s song cycle featuring soprano Jane Eaglen, conducted by Gerard Schwarz.
CD THE SEAGULL – Thomas Pasatieri’s opera based on Chekov’s classic play; David Gilbert conducting. The cast includes baritone Raymond Ayers as “Constantine”, soprano Amy Gough as “Arkadina”, soprano Amy Shoremount as “Nina”, and baritone Matthew Worth “Trigorin”.

For your dining pleasure before or after “The Hotel Casablanca”, Seán suggests:
McCormick & Kuleto’s Seafood Restaurant – At Ghirardelli Square, 900 North Point Street. Try the truly operatic Jumbo Shrimp Pomodoro with Garlic, Basil, Chili Flakes, Pomodoro Sauce and Linguine.

Ana Mandara – Modern Vietnamese cuisine at 891 Beach Street. Be sure to include a side order duet of Grilled Japanese Eggplant With Scallion Oil and the Sticky Black Rice .

See Seán’s recent articles:
NEIL SEDAKA and PATTI LUPONE – Summer in The City at Symphony Hall
JOHNNY MATHIS – Gets Misty with San Francisco Symphony
INSIGNIFICANT OTHERS – A Conversation with Composer Jay Kuo
IPHIGÉNIE EN TAURIDE – Everything old is new again at SF Opera
NORMA SHEARER Flick Opens the San Francisco Silent Film Festival
JERSEY BOYS – Earth Angels invade Curran Theatre! Cast #2: Their Eyes Adore You!
JEANETTE MacDONALD – First Lady of “San Francisco”
DER ROSENKAVALIER – A Viennese Bon-Bon At San Francisco Opera
An Interview with PASCAL MOLAT, Principal Dancer of the San Francisco Ballet
SAMSON vs DELILAH at AT&T Park – Can Stadium Survive Biblical Shearing?
SPIDER-MAN 3, An All-American Cinematic Marvel
JOAN of ARC – Dolora Zajick, A Simmering Success!
THE DAMNATION OF FAUST – Absolute Heaven at Davies Symphony Hall

San Francisco Sentinel’s Fine Arts Critic Seán Martinfield is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Ask him a question on . If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at:

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