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Ashley Mirakian 
Chief of Marketing and Audience Development


The Atlanta Opera Veterans Program Serves Record Number of Veterans, Doubling Impact Since Start

ATLANTA – February 27, 2020 – Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied, the gut-wrenching story of Col. Jim Thompson, America’s longest-held prisoner of war, will bring down the curtain on The Atlanta Opera’s 40th Anniversary season. 

Opening the week of Memorial Day, Glory Denied is a part of The Atlanta Opera’s critically acclaimed commitment to tell the stories of military veterans and recognize the contributions of America’s veteran and active duty servicemembers. Following each production will be a panel discussion, in which combat veterans will talk about their experiences alongside artists from the production. 

“Opera – all arts, for that matter – exist to connect with different people and communities. The Atlanta Opera Veterans Program initiative is a part of our effort to connect with our veterans, tell their stories, invite them in and thank them for their service to our country,” said Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. General & Artistic Director Tomer Zvulun. “I can’t think of a better way to close out our 40th year of bringing opera to Atlanta.”

The Atlanta Opera presents Glory Denied, a part of its Discoveries series, on May 21-24 on the Hertz Stage at The Woodruff Arts Center. General admission tickets are $50 and can be purchased at or by calling 404-881-8885. The opera will be performed in English with English supertitles. 

The Atlanta Opera Veterans Program has included a number of works with a strong connection to the lives of soldiers, including David T. Little’s Soldier Songs in 2015 and Kevin Puts’ and Mark Campbell’s Silent Night in 2016. At the same time, with the generous support of The Home Depot Foundation, The Atlanta Opera has distributed nearly 9,000 free tickets to retired and active duty service members and their families since 2015. The program has more than doubled in reach since its inception, with a record 4,000 veterans served in the 2019-20 season alone.       

The Atlanta Opera Veterans Program has twice been recognized. In 2016, the company was nominated for an International Opera Award and then, in 2018, the company garnered a Luminary Award from ArtsATL. In both cases, the company was recognized for its innovative efforts to expand audience interest in live opera.

The Atlanta Opera’s Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. General & Artistic Director Tomer Zvulun will direct this original production of Glory Denied. Michael Mayes, who also sings the role of Col. Jim Thompson, will co-direct. 

Glory Denied will be performed under the baton of Joshua Horsch, a two-time winner of the American Prize in operatic conducting. A veteran of several productions of Glory Denied, Horsch has been praised for his “steady acumen and considerable aplomb” and “awesome control” (Opera News). As a dedicated interpreter of new works, Horsch has enjoyed a number of collaborations with many of today’s leading composers including Tom Cipullo, Jennifer Higdon, and Libby Larsen.

In what is quickly becoming the definitive portrayal of Col. Thompson, Mayes “sings with a heroic baritone that magnifies his suffering” (Opera News). “There is no aspect of this tremendously complex role that eludes him musically or dramatically” (Opera Today). Mayes was last seen in Atlanta giving his iconic portrayal of unrepentant murderer Joseph De Rocher in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking in 2019 and in the title role of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street in 2018. 

Joining Mayes is soprano Kelly Kaduce as Older Alyce, Thompson’s wife. Known for her exceptional acting and rich voice, in her last performance as Older Alyce, Kaduce was lauded for her “secure, pliable tone and dramatic delivery in complete service to the role” (Opera Today) and a performance that gave Alyce “emotional complexity and heft” (Schmopera). Kaduce was last seen in Atlanta as Liu, the lovesick slave, in 2017’s Turandot

Hailed as “impassioned...and vibrant” (Opera Today), award-winning American tenor John Riesen makes his Atlanta Opera debut as Young Jim. Riesen impressed audiences in his last performance as Young Jim with his “substantial tenor that remains strong through all the scenes” (DC Metro Theater Arts). Riesen’s growing career boasts a variety of roles in which he excels and includes significant work in opera, musical theater and concert. 

Making her role debut as Young Alyce, Marietta native Maria Valdes, a former Adler Fellow at San Francisco Opera, has been described as a “first-rate singing actress” (New York Times). In her last appearance with The Atlanta Opera, in 2019’s production of Frida, Valdes “offered the finest singing of the evening” (Opera News). She made her company debut in Charlie Parker’s Yardbird in 2018.

Running time is approximately 90 minutes. There will be no intermission.   

Glory Denied

By Tom Cipullo, based on a book by Tom Philpott 

Creative Team

Conductor Joshua Horsch
Director Tomer Zvulun
Co-Director Michael Mayes
Scenic Designer Ryan McGettigan
Lighting Designer Ben Rawson


Col. Jim Thompson Michael Mayes    
Young Jim John Riesen* 
Older Alyce Kelly Kaduce
Young Alyce Maria Valdes
*Atlanta Opera Debut

About The Atlanta Opera

The Atlanta Opera’s mission is to build the major international opera company Atlanta deserves, with a vision to reimagine opera.

Founded in 1979, The Atlanta Opera celebrates its 40th anniversary in the 2019-20 season. The Opera works with world-renowned singers, conductors, directors, and designers who seek to enhance the art form.

Under the leadership of internationally recognized stage director and Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. General & Artistic Director Tomer Zvulun, The Atlanta Opera expanded from three to four mainstage productions at Cobb Energy Centre and launched the acclaimed Discoveries series. In recent years, the company was recognized by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as part of its “Best of 2015” awards; it was nominated for an International Opera Award in 2016; and it won ArtsATL’s 2019 Luminary Award for Community Engagement, recognizing its successful Veterans Program in partnership with The Home Depot Foundation.

In addition, The Opera was featured in a 2018 Harvard Business School case study about successful organizational growth, and Zvulun presented a TEDx Talk at Emory University entitled “The Ambidextrous Opera Company, or Opera in the Age of iPhones.”

For more information, visit

Administrative Office
The Atlanta Opera
1575 Northside Dr NW
Suite 350
Atlanta, Georgia 30318

Ticket Office
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ticket office: 404-881-8885