The cherub of Meany Hall


Her name is Tess Altiveros and, in the current UW production of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro (jointly staged by the Schools of Music and Drama), she plays the mezzo-soprano "pants role" of the love-struck pageboy, Cherubino. The operatic convention of an adult woman portraying an adolescent male makes musical sense; there's no better practitioner than the beloved Frederica Von Stade, who brings a golden voice and a winsome sprightliness to her art.

Tess as Cherubino.jpg Cherubino w Rosina Susanna.jpg
Tess Altiveros as girl-crazy Cherubino in the UW's "Marriage of Figaro."

Miss Altiveros enlivens the first half of this Figaro with two brilliant arias about a teenager's hapless, hopeless preoccupation with the opposite sex. First, in "Non so piu" Cherubino explains that he's turned on by every female he sees. Then, in Voi che sapete, he asks the universal question, "What is love?" Miss Altiveros makes the awkward lad's singlemindedness and befuddlement heartbreakingly credible.

She's been studying toward a degree in vocal performance with tenor Vinson Cole; in the meantime, she's sung at Town Hall and is the resident soprano soloist at Trinity Episcopal Church's Cascadian Chorale. Not bad for a singer who's still in college. One to watch.

Two performances to go, Friday night and Sunday afternoon, and do go. The $20 ticket price at Meany is a fraction of what you'd pay at McCaw, provides at least as much pleasure, and does far more to nurture the future of classical opera. More on the production below.

Le Nozze de Figaro, Meany Hall, May 19th & 21st. 206-543-4880

It all starts with Beaumarchais, the French social satirist. His tales of a street-wise barber named Figaro spawned an opera by Rossini, The Barber of Seville (in which Figaro arranges for Count Almaviva to marry Rosina) and another by Mozart, The Marriage of Figaro (in which Almaviva, by now bored with Rosina, lusts for Figaro's fiancee Susanna). The notion that a wily servant like Figaro would challenge his master's authority was considered revolutionary; for a time, French court censors banned performances of the Beaumarchais plays.

Mozart had to tone down the play's incendiary politics (which seem quaint today) in favor of its emotional impact, which puts Countess Almaviva's despair at being neglected by her husband at the heart of the opera. In Cosi Fan Tutte, the men demonstrate that all women are "like that," fickle. In this case, it's the women, the Countess and Susanna, who humiliate the philandering Count before letting him off the hook.

No such forgiveness, the following year, for the title character of Mozart's next opera, Don Giovanni; he gets consumed by the flames of hell. Indeed, within a matter of months, the Bastille was stormed and the French Revolution was underway.


I commend you for your complimentary review of the UW Opera's Figaro production and, in particular, your recognition of Tess Altiveros's soaring talent. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to correct an error in your reporting. Tess is the soprano soloist (and artist/instructor) with the Cascadian Chorale. The Chorale is located in Bellevue - has been for over 40 years - and is a non-profit 501c3 arts ensemble along the lines of Seattle Pro Musica. We have both a large 40 voice Masterworks ensemble as well as a chamber choir (Cascadian Singers) that performs more esoteric repertoire. The Chorale and Singers perform at various venues - including Benaroya Hall, Town Hall, First Presbyterian (Bellevue), Sacred Heart Church (Medina), and Trinity Episcopal (Seattle). The Cascadian Chorale organization has steadfastly supported both Masterwork repertoire (w/ the Cascadian Chamber Orchestra of musicians from the PNWB orchestra, Seattle Symphony, Northwest Chamber Orchestra) and modern repertoire in the past 12 years of my directorship. Bern Herbolsheimer, esteemed faculty member at Cornish and recently voted "Seattle's Favorite Composer," has been our composer in residence for almost ten years. In that time, we have commissioned and performed more of his music than any other composer. The Cascadian Singers released a recoding 3 years ago - Premiere - which consisted of newly commissioned and composed pieces by Bern Herbolsheimer, David White, and Troy Peters. The CD has been very favorably reviewed by the Stranger this year. Indeed, our recent performance of Haydn's Mass in Time of War was exceptional - as was Tess's solo work throughout that piece.

It should be noted that Tess has served as soprano soloist/section leader/artist instructor for two seasons. In that time, in response to the overwhelmingly positive membership response to her work and that of her colleagues in the other sections - Christopher Stagg, Tenor; Dustin Kaspar, Tenor; Jonathan Silvia, Bass; - we have begun to explore an Academy Concept that is unique and noteworthy. At each rehearsal our staff members teach voice lessons before, after, and during the rehearsal. This allows us to grow the talent, skill, and musical expression of our membership. This focus on pedagogy is unique among the region and commendable as well.

IMO, it is important that the efforts of the Cascadian Chorale be acknowledged. Few arts groups in our budget range - less than $80K - consistently champion new music and local composers, provide significant solo/ensemble experience for outstanding young professional talent (and pay them week in, week out for that), and provide a program by which to legitimately grow the skill of it's amateur membership.

The resources we extend to Tess and our other staff members is a significant budgetary percentage, and is made by sacrificing such things as advertising, marketing, and professional program management.

We believe in this program, and are duly proud when our staff shines in other venues. They are an exceptional bunch indeed.

But, we believe that we should be duly credited for the role we play in helping to develop their careers and growing their already tremendous talent.

So, Tess Altiveros is an artist instructor/soprano section leader/soloist with Bellevue's Cascadian Chorale.

We are deeply pleased and proud to have someone of her musical intellect, skill, and professionalism on our staff. We are equally pleased to say that she will be returning for next season - Mozart Requiem, Tchaikovsky Liturgy of St. John, and Elijah - to further grow our talent and hers.

You can find information regarding our next concert DIVINITUS at


Philip Tschopp, Artistic/Music Director
Cascadian Chorale

I have to say, Maestro, that this is the first time there's been a comment on this blog that's three times as long and ten times as thoughtful as the original post. Bravo!

Just a few comments about Tess Altiveros...I think she is a brilliant, outstanding young lady, extremely talented, and has a personality and spirit to match. Besides, she is beautiful too! How do I know?...I am her grandmother, I live in Colorado, and am so sorry I could not attend her performance. Perhaps, next time. Meantime, Tess, I am so proud of you.
I love you.."pop pop"

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This page contains a single entry by Cornichon published on May 18, 2006 5:25 PM.

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