Ott for 'Cold Mountain'

The most hotly awaited event of the opera season just got a new leading man. Cold Mountain, the years-in-the-works Jennifer Higdon opera based on Charles Frazier's 1997 Civil War-era novel, was written with star baritone Nathan Gunn in mind - but he has been replaced by up-and-coming Jarrett Ott. Gunn withdrew from the Feb. 5-14 run at the Academy of Music. His stated reason was family illness.

"It is in the best interest of my family, Opera Philadelphia, my colleagues, and me personally that I withdraw from February's performances of Cold Mountain," Gunn said in a statement Opera Philadelphia released.

As a Curtis Institute graduate and member of Opera Philadelphia's Emerging Artists Program, Ott has been singing the leading role of Inman over three years of development workshops for the opera. Well before its August 2015 premiere at the Santa Fe Opera, administrators were saying how fortunate they felt to have a singer of his calibre in the wings.

It's safe to say this breakthrough puts Ott, a native of the Lehigh Valley area, in extremely good operatic company. "I look forward to working alongside Isabel Leonard, Jay Hunter Morris . . . and this incredible cast of world-class singers under the tutelage of conductor Corrado Rovaris and stage director Leonard Foglia," he said in a statement.