Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Richard Strauss' Elektra Met's Saturday Matinee


The Saturday matinee broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera on December 26 will be Elektra by Richard Strauss. Classic 99.1 KFUO-FM will carry the broadcast beginning at 12:00 noon (CT). Running time will be approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Elektra will be conducted by Fabio Luisi and will star Susan Bullock in the title role and Deborah Voigt as Chrysothemis.

The fine folks at the ClassicLive web site say:
Elektra is a one-act opera by Richard Strauss, to a German-language libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal adapted from his drama of 1903—the first of many such collaborations between composer and librettist. It was first performed at the Dresden State Opera on January 25, 1909, and remains a part of the standard operatic repertoire.

There's a very interesting discussion of Elektra, complete with videos, at the web site The Awl. Seth Colter Walls, Choire Sicha, and Matthew Gallaway compare the impact of Elektra to punk rock, and argue that Richard Strauss "is one of the most important composers of the 20th Century. In the manner of say, Picasso, he paved the way for the atonal dissonance and 12-tone scales that would come to define progressive music for the next 100 years or more."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Les Contes d'Hoffman This Saturday's Opera Matinee


Photo: Joseph Calleja

The Metropolitan Opera's Saturday, December 19, matinee broadcast will be Jacques Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffman. Classic 99.1 KFUO-FM will carry the broadcast beginning at 12:00 noon (CT). The running time will be approximately 3 hours, 35 minutes.

According to the Met web site:
Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher (South Pacific) directs this new production, returning after the triumph of his Met Barber of Seville (seen live in HD in the 2006–07 season). Offenbach's fictionalized take on the life and loves of the German Romantic writer E.T.A. Hoffmann is a fascinating psychological journey. Met Music Director James Levine conducts Joseph Calleja in the tour-de-force title role. Anna Netrebko is the tragic Antonia and Alan Held sings the demonic four villains.

The Saint Louis Art Museum will present the live, high-definition performance transmissions in the Museum Auditorium. Doors open 30 minutes before showtime. Tickets are $22 ($15 Members of the Saint Louis Art Museum, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Metropolitan Opera, New York, and children 12 and under), and are available by calling 314-534-1111.

The SLAM web site notes:
The Museum Auditorium seats 480 people. The screen is approximately 12 feet by 22 feet, and the opera broadcasts will be received in high-definition via satellite. The auditorium uses a widescreen, high-definition projector at 1080i. The sound system is Dolby 5.1 digital surround. Those seeking the best sound experience will want to obtain seats in the center rear of the front section
.
The Met helpfully points out that "the Live in HD production of Les Contes d’Hoffmann will not include the partial nudity seen in the stage production."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Metropolitan Opera Presents Il Trittico

Saturday, December 12, is the first Saturday matinee broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera for the 2009-2010 season. KFUO 99.1 FM in St. Louis will be carrying the broadcast of Il Trittico, by Giacomo Puccini, beginning at 11:30 a.m.


Il Trittico has a running time of nearly four hours, and this production stars Patricia Racette in all three one-act operas that comprise Puccini's ambitious operatic triptych. According to the Met's web site, "Jack O'Brien's spectacular production also features Stephanie Blythe, reprising her acclaimed interpretation from the 2007 premiere run. The stellar cast also includes Željko Lucic and Alessandro Corbelli, who returns to the title role of Gianni Schicchi."

Interview with 'Amahl' Director Tim Ocel

Operatic Saint Louis recently interviewed Tim Ocel, stage director of Union Avenue Opera’s holiday production Amahl and the Night Visitors. Ocel’s directing credits include work at diverse venues such as Opera Theatre St. Louis, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Sacramento Theatre Company and Boston Lyric Opera. He has also served on the faculty of the University of Kansas-Lawrence, directing several mainstage operas. Amahl and the Night Visitors marks his first production with Union Avenue Opera.

Operatic Saint Louis: Amahl and the Night Visitors has become a beloved holiday piece since its television debut on NBC in 1951. What qualities and themes of this piece resonate with you as a viewer and director?

Tim Ocel: Whether I’m directing or as audience member I always like a good, clear story and Amahl is extremely clear and simple. The music is quite touching and very appropriate for the dramatic situations. The dramaturgy of the libretto is smart.

Thematically, I love the idea that people are given a second chance. Whether you can call that specifically “redemption” I’m not sure; the Amahl story isn’t as clearly a redemption story as A Christmas Carol. But anytime someone is given a second chance, I’m overjoyed. And the Kings are journeying to visit a child who will give a message of peace to the world. I like that. (Whether we listen to that message is another story.)

OSL: Another Menotti opera, The Saint of Bleecker Street, deals with spirituality and miracles just as in Amahl. How do you think Menotti’s Italian-Catholic background influences the Amahl libretto, if at all?

TO: It’s definitely there—the Catholicism—and the Italian emotion. I suspect there is a bit of borrowing of form and formula from Italian verismo operas, particularly Cavalleria Rusticana. “All that gold” has a similar arc to “Voi lo sapete” and the same passion. Both Santuzza and The Mother in Amahl have the same vocal range and are sung by both sopranos and mezzos. The opera also seems influenced by de Sica’s film The Bicycle Thief (1948).

There is pageantry both in the Journey of the Kings and in the March of the Kings into the hut and there is a good sense of mystery throughout; pageantry and mystery are certainly elements of the Catholic Church. And faith.

Both in The Saint of Bleecker Street and Amahl the “choir of angels” close harmonies that Menotti employs are very moving. They pull at you. This is Italian opera, musically and emotionally, though he writes with English text.
Patrick Blackwell (Balthazar), Robert Boldin (Kaspar), Robert Garner (Melchior) and Holly Wrensch (Mother) in rehearsal

OSL: Menotti’s score never lacks for tuneful, accessible arias and ensembles. Among them, do you have any particular favorites?

TO: Hands down my favorite piece is the quartet sung by the Kings and the Mother “Have you seen a child”. Its placement in the middle of the opera and its dramatic importance makes it the musical and emotional heart of the evening. I like the descending theme, the harmonies, the poetry, and the dramatic conflict. The Kings are in harmony; the Mother is in turmoil. It rips me up.

OSL: Do any of the arias or ensembles pose a particular challenge staging-wise?

TO: Since the opera was written for the TV Studio, the biggest challenge in this live staging is to keep the boy Amahl in focus and engaged in the action but also in a position in which we can hear and understand what he’s saying. It’s interesting that the boy who hobbles around on a crutch most of the evening is the one with the most action.

The above-mentioned quartet is difficult to stage because it’s poetically based. It’s difficult for the actors to find a thru line. Is this the concertato? Why do they keep repeating? Are they listening to each other or not? We’ve tried to figure it out.

OSL: Menotti expressly states in the vocal score that the role of Amahl must be sung by a young boy. This challenges a production team to find musically proficient, charismatic young singer-actors. What did UAO look for most importantly in casting the alternating Amahls?

TO: It really does need to be a boy playing Amahl to work dramatically. The most important quality was a good voice; coupled with savvy musicianship—someone who can count and is good with rhythms; the role has it’s difficulties. And he does shoulder the opera all by himself at times. We also wanted a boy who could be expressive and move naturally; an actor!

OSL: How has it been to work with Ricky Johnson and John Schultz [pictured above], the two boys singing Amahl?

TO: They’ve been great. Both of them learned blocking quickly and then adapted rapidly as I would change it; they have good questions, they’re good company members, and they are both disciplined and attentive. They also seem to enjoy being on stage and, for the most part, understand the task of telling a clear story. The acting is coming along. They are learning to listen on stage, which is the hardest thing an actor can do. They’ve developed a nice rapport with Holly and the guys—but particularly Holly Wrensch, the Mother. Amahl and his Mom are a little team in this life and at the beginning of the opera the team is falling apart, and Amahl pulls the team back together. He loves her and cares for her. Holly’s been wonderful with them; she’s very genuine.

Operatic Saint Louis: What would your “sales pitch” be to those still unsure about attending this holiday production?

Tim Ocel: Even if you aren’t in a Christmas mood, you should come hear this small, lovely story. The production is simply told and beautifully sung. You really won’t be disappointed. And for those of you with kids this would be a very good intro to opera for them since its main character is a 10 year-old boy and the piece is short—50 minutes/no intermission.

Amahl and the Night Visitors runs December 11, 12 and 13. Performances begin at 8pm Friday/Saturday and 3pm on Sunday. Tickets range $25-$47; $15 for children. For tickets & more information on the opera, call Dana Stone at 314.361.2881 or visit http://www.unionavenueopera.org/

Washington University Opera Scenes

This weekend, Washington University Opera presents its Fall Scenes program with abridged versions of Beaumarchais's Figaro story, both with Rossini's The Barber of Seville and Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. Graduate and undergraduate voice students from the WU Music Department perform the roles you know and love. Jolly Stewart, director of WU Opera stages the scenes. John Stewart, director of Vocal Activities, conducts. Sandra Geary accompanies on piano.

Fall Scenes run Friday, December 11 & Saturday, December 12 at 8pm in the Karl Umrath Hall Lounge, next to the Danforth University Center on the Danforth Campus of Washington University. Scenes performed in English. Admission is free.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"Amahl and the Night Visitors" Opens This Weekend

Union Avenue Opera presents Gian Carlo Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors for the first time this weekend. Journey back in time to the Middle East during the first century, and meet the young, crippled shepherd Amahl, and his mother. One mysterious night, a knock at their door reveals three kings on a long journey. Will Amahl’s mother’s dream of a better life for her disabled son be answered? Discover the kings’ wondrous generosity and Amahl’s selflessness as a miracle ensues.

UAO’s Artistic Director and Conductor Scott Schoonover has collaborated with stage director Tim Ocel—known for his work at OTSL, New Opera St. Louis and the University of Kansas—to present this holiday favorite. The crew also includes Allyson Ditchey (stage manager), Jennifer Medina (choreographer) and designers Tina McCartney (costumes), Jonathan Loesch (sets) and Patrick Huber (lighting).

Ricky Johnson and John Schultz alternate the role of Amahl (Johnson on Thur/Sat; Schultz on Fri/Sun). Mezzo-soprano Holly Wrensch, last seen as Filipyevna in 2003’s Eugene Onegin, sings the role of Amahl’s Mother. Making his Union Avenue Opera debut, Tenor Robert Boldin sings King Kaspar. Baritone Robert Garner, most recently seen as Count Almaviva in 2006’s Le Nozze di Figaro, sings King Melchior. Bass-Baritone Patrick Blackwell returns after his engagement as Ferrando in this summer’s Il Trovatore to sing King Balthazar. Tenor Philip Touchette, last seen as the Fortune Teller in Lakmé will sing The Page. A chorus of local singers and dancers rounds out the cast.

School groups are invited to attend a FREE Student Matinee production on December 10 at 10am. Fox Charitable Performing Arts Foundation and the Boeing Employee Community Fund sponsor this event. Seating is limited. Inquire with the company for availability.

Amahl and the Night Visitors runs December 11, 12 and 13. Performances begin at 8pm Friday/Saturday and 3pm on Sunday. Tickets range $25-$47; $15 for children. For tickets & more information on the opera as well as the Student Matinee, call Dana Stone at 314.361.2881 or visit http://www.unionavenueopera.org/

Friday, December 4, 2009

KFUO To Broadcast 'O Pioneers!' Tomorrow

Classic 99 KFUO FM will broadcast Barbara Harbach's opera O Pioneers! tomorrow, Saturday December 5th, as part of its weekly program Saturday Afternoon at the Opera.

O Pioneers! was given its world premiere staging this past October at the Touhill PAC at UMSL. St. Louisan soprano Gina Galati leads the cast as Alexandra; soprano Ann Hoyt sings Marie, tenor Thomas Wazelle sings Emil; tenor Robert Boldin sings Carl; baritone David Dillard sings Ivar; baritone Ian Greenlaw sings Frank. Maestro Scott Schoonover conducts.

The broadcast begins at 12:30PM Central on 99.1 FM.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

UAO to present Menotti’s "Amahl and the Night Visitors"

This December, Union Avenue Opera launches a new holiday tradition with its production of Gian Carlo Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors. Journey back in time to the Middle East during the first century, and meet the young, crippled shepherd, Amahl, and his mother. One mysterious night, a knock at their door reveals three kings on a long journey. Will Amahl’s Mother's dream of a better life for her disabled son be answered? Discover the kings’ wondrous generosity and Amahl’s selflessness as a miracle ensues.

In addition to three performances, UAO will present a FREE matinee production for school groups only on December 10th at 10am. Students will take a tour of the opera company, learn about opera, and see a fully staged performance. Fox Charitable Performing Arts Foundation and the Boeing Employee Community Fund sponsor this event.

Amahl and the Night Visitors runs December 11, 12 and 13. Performances begin at 8pm on Friday/Saturday and 3pm on Sunday. Ticket prices range from $25-$47 with a $15 child ticket.

For tickets & more information on the opera as well as the December 10th Student Matinee, call Dana Stone at 314.361.2881 or visit http://www.unionavenueopera.org/

Monday, October 26, 2009

Interview with 'Family Dynamics' Co-Creator Allyson Ditchey

Operatic Saint Louis recently interviewed Allyson Ditchey, librettist and stage director of Family Dynamics - The Funeral, a new music-theatre piece opening this weekend. (production information below the interview).
Operatic Saint Louis: Family Dynamics - The Funeral focuses on the journey of its protagonist--Betty--from this life into the afterlife. Can you offer some background on this pivotal character?

Allyson Ditchey: Betty struggles with her transition into the afterlife because she is not quite ready to let go of her old life. I think she is a very relatable character--she's quirky, she's loving, she has strong opinions, she's childish. She's a mixture of mature and immature qualities--adult and childlike.

OSL: What inspired you to pen the libretto of Family Dynamics?

AD: A series of funerals that I attended with my family inspired me. We always talk about incidents within our family funerals that would make great scenes in movies, so I finally decided to write something. While writing, I really was interested in exploring spectrums of personalities. In thinking about the presentation of the piece, I also decided to use a lot of color and black-and-white to represent these personalities. For example, the funeral attendees are dressed all in black, but have brightly-colored accessories to represent their differences and unique attributes. Betty is dressed in white to represent the purity of her soul and that she is now part of a different physical realm. The Guide is in gray to represent the in-between as well as a compilation of Betty's choices in life. The Officiator is in black-and-white to represent his connection between earth-based life and the afterlife.

OSL: How long did the writing process take, and when did William Lenihan become involved as composer?

AD: The process took me roughly six weeks. I asked Bill to write the music when I first thought of creating the piece before I ever started writing anything. We always discussed writing things together--probably on and off for a year or so--but we never did. With this idea, I just said "let's do it" and Bill agreed. So we set a schedule for ourselves and now here we are frantically trying to stick to it!

OSL: Family "drama" makes for one of the most compelling subjects in literature, theatre, opera and film. Do any of your own family experiences play out in Family Dynamics?

AD: Definitely. One scene that comes to mind is Scene Three. The grandma is trying to take a picture and it pretty much takes her about twenty minutes to take four pictures due to all of the chaos. That was my family photo experience growing up.

OSL: Among the characters, what kind of personality types can we expect to see on display at the funeral?

AD: All kinds: the quiet, soft-spoken son; the always-trying-to-be-helpful son's wife; the energetic grandchildren; the old cowboy husband; the quirky cousins, etc.

OSL: Could you elaborate on how the physical production/set design helps to tell the story?

AD: I would have loved to stage the work in-the-round, but I couldn't for a few reasons, so what I've tried to do is design a set that allows for the characters to move onstage and offstage easily so that they can sort of float into their scenes. Also, the main characters talk about repeated patterns in life and the sort of cyclical journey that people go on when they are trying to work through a problem. This definitely plays into the actual physical way in which the two main characters move around the stage.

OSL: What types of voices did you and Bill have in mind when casting?

AD: When casting, we definitely wanted classically-trained singers. The music is pretty difficult in the sense that the ranges and the interval leaps are large and there are high tessituras. We actually knew that the soprano Megan Higgins would be singing the part of Betty, so we were able to do a lot of extra things due to the fact that she has a beautiful high range and an agile voice. It was really nice to have that freedom.

OSL: The title Family Dynamics is followed by: "The Funeral." Does this leave open the possibility of future compositions revolving around other family gatherings?

AD: Absolutely. I already have in mind two more short pieces: "The Wedding" and "The Reunion."

Operatic Saint Louis: If you were speaking with a person on the fence about attending this production, what would your selling points be?

Allyson Ditchey: I would say that if you are interested in new works, if you like music and theatre and visually interesting things, then you will probably enjoy this piece. It is sort of a feel-good comedy--don't let the title fool you. There are moments of strangeness and seriousness as well. We also feature fantastic oil paintings by Reno-based artist Naomi Ferrall.

Family Dynamics - The Funeral runs this weekend, with performances on October 30 and 31 @ 8pm. Venue is Satori, an artists space (Located in Midtown--3003 Locust). Tickets are $15 General Admission/$10 Students, and can be reserved for will call or purchased at the door. Cash or check only. Please inquire at familydynamics2009@gmail.com or call 530.604.1431

Friday, October 23, 2009

New Piece 'Family Dynamics' Opens Next Weekend

Family Dynamics - The Funeral is an original music-theatre piece with libretto by Allyson Ditchey and musical score by William Lenihan, which opens next weekend (Oct 30-31). Betty, recently deceased, attends her own funeral and is horrified by the way people are behaving. With the help of a mysterious guide, she finds herself examining her life in different ways, and slowly transitioning into her afterlife - letting go of the people she loved.

Ditchey is a local soprano and freelance stage manager with a Master of Music in Vocal Performance from Washington University. Lenihan serves as lecturer and Director of Jazz Performance for the Washington University Music Department. Librettist and composer have collaborated with several local singers to premiere this one-act piece, which strives to place equal value on theatre, music and visual components in order to tell a multi-dimensional, invigorating story. The works of visual artist Naomi Ferrall of Reno, Nevada will be featured in the production.

Performances: October 30 & 31 at 8pm

Venue: Satori, an artists space; located in Midtown (3003 Locust)

Tickets: $15 General Admission/$10 Students; Please inquire at familydynamics2009@gmail.com or call 530.604.1431; Tickets can be reserved at will call or purchased at the door. Cash or check only.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

KFUO-Classic 99 Sold

KFUO-Classic 99 (99.1 FM), the radio home of the Metropolitan Opera broadcast has been sold. Below is an e-mail that was sent out by the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.
The sale of St. Louis’ only classical music station was announced this morning, Tuesday, October 6, 2009. KFUO-Classic 99 (99.1 FM), which is owned by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, was sold to Gateway Creative Broadcasting, which plans to change the station to JOY FM, a contemporary Christian music station. The sale is pending approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). You may read the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s report on the sale here.

KFUO-Classic 99 has been providing classical music to the St. Louis community for over 60 years. The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra has a long and valued relationship with KFUO. During the 2009-2010 season, Saturday night orchestral concerts have been broadcast live on Classic 99. The SLSO is one of only a handful of orchestras in the United States to offer live broadcasts.

The SLSO, along with many of its fans and friends in the local artistic community, believes the loss of KFUO-Classic 99 would diminish the cultural diversity of the St. Louis community. With the loss of KFUO, the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, one of the cultural jewels of the city, would lose a vital advocate. The sounds of classical music over the region’s airwaves would be silenced.

We suggest that you express your opinion on the pending sale of KFUO. You may contact the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod via its website or e-mail its Board of Directors: bod@lcms.org. Or you may reach the Synod by phone 1-888-THE-LCMS (843-5267). You may also contact the FCC via its website or e-mail fccinfo@fcc.gov.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"O Pioneers!" Premieres Friday

Barbara Harbach's opera O Pioneers!, based on the 1913 novel by Willa Cather, makes its world premiere this weekend at the Blanche M. Touhill PAC on the campus of UMSL.

In a recent radio interview, Harbach stated that her inspiration to write O Pioneers! stemmed from an earlier commission of a symphony based upon another Willa Cather novel--One of Ours--which enamored her to the author's works. She also believes that the original novel has "all the elements that an opera needs: long-term loving relationships, sibling rivalry and murder."

The Collaborators & Designers

Harbach worked with librettist Jonathan Yordy, director of public relations at UMSL, to adapt the Willa Cather novel. Artistic Director/Conductor Scott Schoonover, of Union Avenue Opera, has assembled a cast of professional singers, a 16-member chorus and a 32-piece orchestra. Mark Meier, who has worked extensively at UAO and Muddy River Opera Company stages the production. Dimensions Dance Center provides a troupe of dancers. Allyson Ditchey stage manages. Patrick Huber, Felia Davenport and Kimberly Klearman design the sets, costumes and lighting, respectively.

The Cast

Soprano Gina Galati, founder of New Opera St. Louis, heads the cast as Alexandra Bergson, a strong, prosperous, reserved pioneer woman. Tenor Thomas Wazelle sings the role of Emil Bergson, Alexandra's educated, well-traveled youngest brother. UAO veteran soprano Ann Hoyt appears as Marie Shabata, a lively, yet unhappily-married bohemian woman. Portraying Marie's jealous husband, Frank, is baritone Ian Greenlaw. Baritone David Dillard returns to St. Louis to sing the role of rustic seer Ivar. Making his St. Louis debut, tenor Robert Boldin sings the role of Carl Linstrum, Alexandra's childhood friend and rekindled love interest. Tenor Joshua Stanton sings the role of Amédée, Emil's close friend. Tenor Philip Touchette and Baritone Thomas Sitzler portray Alexandra's disapproving, bumbling brothers Oscar and Lou.
Last week, Barbara Harbach, Mark Meier and Scott Schoonover sat down with Steve Potter of 90.7 KWMU's Cityscape to discuss the opera and its production. The Cityscape program may be heard here. Sarah Bryan Miller of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has written an article in advance of the production.

O Pioneers! runs October 9 & 10 at 8:00 pm in the Anheuser Busch Hall of the Blanche M. Touhill PAC. Visit the Touhill PAC website for tickets and more information.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Composer Barbara Harbach to appear on KWMU's "Cityscape"

UMSL professor and composer Barbara Harbach will be a guest on tomorrow's episode of Cityscape on 90.7 KWMU (airing at 11am) to discuss her latest composition: an operatic adaptation of Willa Cather's 1913 novel O Pioneers!, which will be given a fully-staged world premiere October 9th and 10th at the Touhill PAC on the UMSL campus.

The production team of O Pioneers! includes Artistic Director/Conductor Scott Schoonover and Chicago-based stage director Mark James Meier, both of whom have assembled a cast of professional singers. Jonathan Yordy provides the libretto. Designing the production are Patrick Huber (sets), Felia Davenport (costumes) and Kimberly Klearman (lighting).

Cityscape with host Steve Potter airs tomorrow, Friday October 2nd, at 11am-12pm on 90.7 KWMU.

O Pioneers! runs October 9 & 10 at 8pm at the Touhill PAC. For tickets and more information on the opera, click here to visit the Touhill PAC Website.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Metropolitan Opera at SLAM, 2009

Directly from the St. Louis Art Museum web site:

Saturday, October 10, 12:00 p.m.
Tosca
(3 hours, 30 minutes; 2 intermissions)
Composer Giacomo Puccini; Conductor James Levine; Production Luc Bondy; Karita Mattila, Marcelo Álvarez, George Gagnidze, Paul Plishka

"From the very first bar of the piece, the opera seizes you and keeps you on the edge of your seat until the last note," says Music Director James Levine. Luc Bondy, acclaimed for his imaginative theater and opera productions, directs. A co-production of the Metropolitan Opera and Teatro alla Scala, Milan.

Saturday, October 24, 12:00 p.m.
Aida
(4 hours; 2 intermissions)
Composer Giuseppe Verdi; Conductor Daniele Gatti; Production Sonja Frisell; Violeta Urmana, Dolora Zajick, Johan Botha, Carlo Guelfi, Roberto Scandiuzzi, Stefan Kocán

The Met has assembled a cast of powerful voices to match Aida's epic scale. Violeta Urmana stars in the title role of the enslaved Ethiopian princess, with Dolora Zajick as her rival for the affections of Johan Botha's Radamès.

Saturday, November 7, 12:00 p.m.
Turandot
(3 hours, 30 minutes; 2 intermissions)
Composer Giacomo Puccini; Conductor Andris Nelsons; Production Franco Zeffirelli; Maria Guleghina, Marina Poplavskaya, Marcello Giordani, Samuel Ramey

Franco Zeffirelli's breathtaking production stars Maria Guleghina in the title role of the ruthless princess. As Calàf, Marcello Giordani sings "Nessun dorma." Andris Nelsons conducts.

Saturday, December 19, 12:00 pm
Les Contes d'Hoffmann
(3 hours; 2 intermissions)
Composer Jacques Offenbach; Conductor James Levine; Production Bartlett Sher; Kathleen Kim, Anna Netrebko, Ekaterina Gubanova, Kate Lindsey, Joseph Calleja, Alan Held

A powerhouse team joins forces for Offenbach's psychological fantasy. James Levine conducts, and Tony Award winner Bart Sher (South Pacific) returns after the triumph of his Met Barber of Seville to direct. Joseph Calleja sings the title role opposite Anna Netrebko as the tragic Antonia.

Auditorium Details:

The Museum theatre seats 480 people. The screen is approximately 12 feet by 22 feet, and the opera broadcasts will be received in high-definition via satellite. The auditorium uses a wide-screen, high-definition projector at 1080i. The sound system is Dolby 5.1 digital surround. Those seeking the best sound experience will want to obtain seats in the center rear of the front section.

Ticket Information:

$22 ($15 Members of the Saint Louis Art Museum, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Metropolitan Opera, New York, and children 12 and under).

Advance tickets are highly recommended and are available through MetroTix at www.metrotix.com and at 314.534.1111. Tickets are also available in person at the Museum. Tickets purchased through MetroTix will incur a $2.75 service fee per ticket; the service fee is waived for tickets purchased at the Museum.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

OSTL Season Reviewed In "Opera News"

Judith Malafronte reviews the 2009 Opera Theatre St. Louis season in the September issue of Opera News. Here's the first paragraph:
The festival atmosphere at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis — the combination of standard and exotic repertoire, the superb young ensemble and the return of favorite stars — continued this season, even as the company undergoes a transition in administration. OTSL's excellent reputation — built by general director Charles MacKay, who now helms Santa Fe Opera, music director Stephen Lord and the late Colin Graham, longtime artistic director — rests in the hands of a new triumvirate, in which Lord has been joined by artistic director James Robinson and the energetic young visionary Timothy O'Leary, who succeeded MacKay as general director this season. The company's 2010 season will bear the first real fruits of the new team's collaboration.

Click here to read the entire review.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Critics on 'Lakmé' Artists

Sarah Bryan Miller of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Chris Gibson of BroadwayWorld.com and Missy Miller of KDHX have offered their critiques on the artists involved in Union Avenue Opera's Lakmé:

Patricia Johnson
"As the Brahmin priestess Lakmé, soprano Patricia Johnson looked beautiful in her midriff-baring costumes, and sounded lovely when she floated her voice." —SBM

"Patricia Johnson does stong work as Lakmé, and her coloratura soprano is perfectly suited to the material. Her version of 'The Bell Song' during the second act is splendidly realized, but it's her pairing with Crystal Philippi as Mallika, on the familiar 'Flower Song' that really sparkles." —CG
Roderick George
"Roderick George displays a pleasing tenor as Gérald." —CG

"Tenor Roderick George was sympathetic as Gérald, the British officer who loves [Lakmé]. He has a big voice and high notes that won't quit." —SBM
On Johnson & George:
"Both Johnson and George deliver performances with ultimate precision, hitting the center of each note with ease. As the courtship between Lakmé and Gérald crescendos, so does the vocal intensity of both performers." —MM
David Dillard
"David Dillard is a powerful Nilakantha, and his bass thunders as he vows and seeks his revenge." —CG
Crystal Philippi
"Also noteworthy is Crystal Philippi, who plays Lakmé's servant, Mallika. Philippi does an excellent job of blending her rich, lower tones with the upper register of Johnson, particularly when performing Delibes' infamous 'Flower Duet,' as made popular by British Airways in the late 1980s." —MM
Nathan Wentworth
"Baritone Nathan Wentworth, Gérald's friend Frédéric, has a luscious tone." —SBM
Jon Garrett
"Tenor Jon Garrett was touchingly sweet and sang beautifully as Hadji." —SBM
Debra Hillabrand
"Mezzo-soprano Debra Hillabrand was a delight as the governess" —SBM
Kostis Protopapas, conductor
"Kostis Protopapas does an impeccable job conducting the orchestra for this tuneful and moving piece." —CG

"Conductor Kostis Protopapas showed a fine command of the score and maintained balance between stage and pit." —SBM

"[Kostis Protopapas's] standing ovation during Saturday evening's performance was well deserved." —MM
Scott Schoonover, stage director
"Regular conductor Schoonover moves over to handle the stage direction, and does solid work with a more formalized approach." —CG
Patrick Huber, set design
"Patrick Huber's changeable set conjures up the locale in colorful fashion." —CG

"While my ears were ringing with delight, my eyes were wide with wonder; thanks to the colorful set created by Patrick Huber. Taking place in Raj, India, Huber does an excellent job of bringing the small space to life, using a variety of colors, textures and layers to create height and depth on stage." —MM
Felia Davenport, costume design
"Felia Davenport's costumes neatly capture the feel of these competing cultures." —CG

"Complementing Huber's dynamic set, costume designer Felia Davenport carefully dresses characters in period attire with colorful silk saris for Hindu characters, army coats for the British officers, and traditional floral dresses and ribbon trimmed hats for the officers' female counterparts." —MM
Lakmé continues its run tonight and tomorrow (August 28 & 29). Performances begin at 8pm. Venue: Union Avenue Christian Church located at 733 Union Blvd in St. Louis. Sung in French with projected English supertitles. To purchase tickets or learn more about this production, please visit the Union Avenue Opera Website or call 314. 361.2881

Sunday, August 23, 2009

"Lakmé" Preview on YouTube

Click below to watch a preview of Lakmé on YouTube.  Stage director Scott Schoonover and Conductor Kostis Protopapas offer their insights on this production of Delibes' opera.



Lakmé continues its run August 28 & 29. Performances begin at 8pm. Venue: Union Avenue Christian Church located at 733 Union Blvd in St. Louis. Sung in French with projected English supertitles. To purchase tickets or learn more about this production, please visit the Union Avenue Opera Website or call 314.361.2881

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"Lakmé" opens Tomorrow at UAO

Cultures collide and love blossoms in exotic Colonial India. Léo Delibes' Lakmé is a romantic thriller set amidst the scents and sights of a faraway land—a temple garden at dawn, a Hindu market, a bamboo hut in the forest—the perfect backdrop for sensuous, touching and spectacular drama. Lakmé, a Hindu priestess, falls in love with Gerald, a British soldier. Their union, however, is impeded by her father's lust for vengeance on the British who have profaned his temple. Be our guest as you enjoy the ambiance of this priceless operatic gem to see if love, honor or duty prevails.

(Pictured: Patricia Johnson; Photo: Wayne Crosslin)

Union Avenue Opera presents the Missouri premiere of Lakmé, which is also the first production in the Midwest since the Lyric Opera of Chicago produced the opera in 1983. UAO Artistic Director and Conductor Scott Schoonover stages the production. (See previous blog entry for an interview with Schoonover.) Kostis Protopapas, of Tulsa Opera, has returned as guest conductor after last season's Otello. Felia Davenport and Patrick Huber have collaborated with Schoonover on the production's costume and set designs, respectively.

For a full synopsis of the opera, please click here.

Soprano Patricia Johnson, Micaëla in last season's Carmen, returns to portray the title role. Tenor Roderick George, last seen as Tamino in 2007's Die Zauberflöte, sings the role of Gerald. Baritone David Dillard, fresh from his appearance in this season's Die lustige Witwe, will portray the priest Nilakantha—Lakmé's father. Mezzo-Soprano Debra Hillabrand, most recently seen as Frugola in Il Tabarro, sings the role of Miss Benson. Two artists make their UAO debut: Baritone Nathan Wentworth as Frédéric (friend of Gerald) and Mezzo-Soprano Crystal Philippi as Mallika (Lakmé's servant). Also appearing are Sopranos Linden Christ and Elise LaBarge as English sisters Ellen & Rose, as well as Tenor Jon Garrett as Hadji.

Lakmé runs August 21, 22, 28 & 29. Performances begin at 8pm. Venue: Union Avenue Christian Church located at 733 Union Blvd in St. Louis. Sung in French with projected English supertitles. To purchase tickets or learn more about this production, please visit the Union Avenue Opera Website or call 314.361.2881

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Interview with 'Lakmé' Director Scott Schoonover

Operatic Saint Louis recently interviewed Scott Schoonover, stage director of Union Avenue Opera’s Lakmé about the production and his directorial approach. This production marks the second time Schoonover has staged a full production—the first being Dido and Aeneas in 2004.
Operatic Saint Louis: What aspects of this opera compelled you to want to stage the piece?

Scott Schoonover: The first thing that attracted me to Lakmé was the lush, beautiful score. After listening to the entire work and envisioning how it could be brought to life keeping intact the exotic, mysterious feel of the opera, I decided it was something we ought to to try. Furthermore, it's a well-known piece that hasn't been done in this area and I thought it would be a great opportunity to bring something new to our audience.

OSL: Lakmé deals with conflicting cultures—British and Indian—in Colonial India. In preparing to stage the opera, what sort of research did you undertake to further understand the historical context of the piece?

SS: I read the book the story is based upon by Pierre Loti (Le Mariage de Loti)—it's really quite different than the work of Lakmé itself, but it still deals with cultural differences and misunderstandings. I also revisited a couple other classics such as Passage to India for another look at the cultural landscape of Colonial India. Lastly, we only need to look at the past several years of our own history to see parallels in this story with Americans not always understanding cultural differences in other countries. This certainly isn't the point of our production and doesn't really enter the picture, but it's difficult to ignore once you get into the piece a little.

OSL: Hinduism, specifically of the Brahmins, is a major focal point for the Indian characters of Lakmé. How did you go about researching this religion?

SS: I would never say that I know a lot about Hinduism or Brahminism, but I did do some basic work researching the history of the sect as well as specific temple rites that show up in our production. Things like mudras (hand signs that encourage different deities to commune), water purification rituals, offerings, as well as the structure of the basic temple service which happens in Lakmé are all based loosely on actual temple practices.

OSL: In your view, how do the Indians of the piece relate to the British occupying their country?

SS: In private, the Indians of our story loathe the British and pray for their deliverance. The British have overtaken their way of life, thrown out their religion, while profaning their temples, and made it illegal to meet and worship. In public, the Indians do their best to cope with the situation at hand. They have to deal with the reality that the British are a practicality of everyday life.

OSL: Conversely, how do the British relate to the Indians?

SS: The British are naïve about the Indians. They see them as romantic, sensual, but not as equal, educated people. They don't have respect for cultural differences, nor care to understand what effects their actions may have.

OSL: Lakmé is perhaps best known for the famous Flower Duet—"Dôme épais, le jasmin"—sung by Lakmé and her servant Mallika in Act One. In addition to this duet, what other arias, duets and ensembles of note should audience members anticipate?

SS: I love the opening scene of the show with the chorus, Lakme and Nilankatha who all provide an exotic backdrop for the rest of the story. When the English come in, they have a delightful quintet which on many levels rivals the Carmen quintet. Gerald has a beautiful 1st act aria—"O Fantasie"—which is a lovely, tuneful showpiece for the tenor. There is of course, the famous "Bell Song" which Lakmé sings in the marketplace and several beautiful duets between Lakmé and Gerald.

OSL: How has the rehearsal process been with the cast?

SS: I would say it's been challenging but always on the right track and constantly growing into the story which we hope to present. The actual story of Lakmé presents many challenges and more than a couple contradictions which make everyone's job a little harder. All that being said, it has been a great joy to work with every member of this cast. Everyone has been ready and willing to come along for the ride and put themselves out there.

OSL: The exotic setting of Lakmé can be a designer's delight. What visuals can one expect to see in Felia Davenport's costumes, as well as Patrick Huber's sets?

SS: As far as costumes go - we are looking at fairly standard, period Indian and English costumes. Lots of colors in the Indian costumes and lack of color in the English. The sets are a simple, lush, beautiful backdrop to a few outstanding scenic elements. There is a large, imposing statue of Ganesh which is the prominent feature of Act I. The second Act takes place on the thrust of the stage with the entire Market scene played out there. The 3rd Act takes place in a secluded jungle hut.

OSL: If appealing to the "man on the street" about why they should come to see Lakmé, what would your sales pitch be?

SS: Come hear gorgeous music that is rarely heard along with the most famous Flower Duet which everyone has heard. See an exotic love story between two star-crossed lovers (this story is often called the precursor to Madama Butterfly)...and great chorus scenes.
Lakmé runs August 21, 22, 28 & 29. Performances begin at 8pm. Venue: Union Avenue Christian Church located at 733 Union Blvd in St. Louis. Sung in French with projected English supertitles. To purchase tickets or learn more about this production, please visit the Union Avenue Opera Website or call 314.361.2881

Saturday, August 15, 2009

UAO "Lakmé" in Rehearsal

For the past two weeks, the cast of Union Avenue Opera's Lakmé has been busy in rehearsal. Below, you can take a look at a slideshow of the cast in its final run-through before tech rehearsal.



Lakmé runs August 21, 22, 28 & 29. Performances begin at 8pm. Venue: Union Avenue Christian Church located at 733 Union Blvd in St. Louis. Sung in French with projected English supertitles. To purchase tickets or learn more about this production, please visit the Union Avenue Opera Website or call 314.361.2881

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

UAO hosts 'High Tea' this Saturday

This Saturday, Union Avenue Opera will be hosting High Tea, an educational opportunity in conjunction with its upcoming production of Lakmé. It's not your grandmother's tea party, but you can bring your grandmother.

Guests will meet UAO principal artists from Lakmé, tour exotic sets, hear a presentation on the opera, listen to musical excerpts, and view costumes up close.

Tea, coffee and petit fours provided.

WHEN: Saturday, August 15, 11:00AM

WHERE: Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union Blvd, St. Louis 63108

HOW MUCH?: $15 per person

Please RSVP @ 314.361.2881

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Critics on 'Widow' Cast

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Classical Music critic Sarah Bryan Miller, KDHX FM Theatre Critic Steve Callahan and BroadwayWorld.com critic Chris Gibson have offered their critiques on Union Avenue Opera's production of Die lustige Witwe. The cast members have received positive notices for their work:

Sylvia Stoner
"Soprano Sylvia Stoner made an attractive, winning Hanna, acting and singing strongly." —SBM

"Sylvia Stoner gives a strong performance as Hanna, imbuing her role with a nice sense of playfulness. Stoner displays a powerful and clear soprano voice that's well suited to this tuneful material. And, she's well matched with Ian Greenlaw as Count Danilo." —CG

"Sylvia Stoner, as Hanna, is beautiful and vivacious, with a strong, clear soprano." —SC
Ian Greenlaw
"[Greenlaw's voice] is a lovely strong baritone. And he is such a gorgeously dashing romantic lead. ... [My wife] whispered to me, 'he is the sexiest thing I've ever seen on this stage!'" —SC

"Greenlaw gives the role an affable charm, and his pleasing baritone and handsome visage work to his advantage." —CG

"Baritone Ian Greenlaw was near perfect as Danilo: tall, handsome and with a beautiful dark-hued voice."
—SBM
Ann Hoyt
"Ms. Hoyt is ravishing, as usual, with a brilliant voice and most delightful and expressive eyes." —SC
Thomas Wazelle
"In the role of [Valencienne's] suitor, Camille, tenor Thomas Wazelle was romantically handsome and sang sweetly." —SBM
Scott Levin

"Scott Levin is a delight as Baron Zeta-both as a singer and as a gifted comic actor." —SC

"E. Scott Levin was an amusing Zeta."
—SBM


Die lustige Witwe ("The Merry Widow") continues its run this weekend: August 7, 8, & 9(m). Performances begin at 8pm, except for a 3pm Matinee on August 9th. Venue: Union Avenue Christian Church located at 733 Union Blvd in St. Louis. Sung in German with projected English supertitles. To purchase tickets or learn more about this production, please visit the Union Avenue Opera Website or call 314.361.2881

Saturday, August 1, 2009

"Merry Widow" Preview on YouTube

Click below to watch a preview of The Merry Widow on YouTube.  Conductor Scott Schoonover and stage director Jolly Stewart offer their insights on Lehár's operetta.



Die lustige Witwe
("The Merry Widow") continues its run August 1, 7, 8, & 9(m). Performances begin at 8pm, except for a 3pm Matinee on August 9th. Venue: Union Avenue Christian Church located at 733 Union Blvd in St. Louis. Sung in German with projected English supertitles. To purchase tickets or learn more about this production, please visit the Union Avenue Opera Website or call 314.361.2881

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"The Merry Widow" opens Friday night at UAO

Who needs a glass slipper and a prince when you have The Merry Widow with a castle full of extravagant wealth? This whimsical Franz Lehár operetta features memorable music, delightful comedy and romance as it follows the tale of a temperamental widow in search of a new husband. Lovers’ crazy trysts, lavish parties, spirited hijinks and political intrigue make this joyful operetta one not to be missed.

(Pictured above & below: Ian Greenlaw & Sylvia Stoner; Photos: Wayne Crosslin)

St. Louis audiences have been treated to The Merry Widow since its 1905 premiere at diverse venues—The MUNY and Opera Theatre St. Louis to name a couple—but Union Avenue Opera, in keeping with its mission statement, presents the first ever original language (German) production in St. Louis.

For a full synopsis of the operetta, please click here.

Familiar faces abound in this Union Avenue Opera production. Soprano Sylvia Stoner—Marguerite in 2004’s Faust—sings Hanna Glawari (the title role). Baritone Ian Greenlaw—Marcello in 2006’s La Bohème—sings Danilo, Hanna’s on-again-off-again suitor. Baritone Scott Levin, seen last year as Dancaïro in Carmen, sings the comic role of Baron Zeta. Also from last year’s Carmen is Soprano Ann Hoyt who sings the role of Valencienne, Zeta’s wife. Tenor Thomas Wazelle makes his UAO debut as Camille de Rosillon, Valencienne’s secret lover. (Hoyt and Wazelle are engaged to be married within a few days of closing night!) Tenor James Harr and Baritone David Dillard round out the cast as Raoul de Saint-Brioche and Vicompte Cascada—diplomats determined to marry Hanna.

Jolly Stewart directs; Scott Schoonover conducts; Designers: Patrick Huber (set/lighting) and Teresa Doggett (costumes).

A free lecture on the operetta will be given opening night (July 31) at 7pm in the Chapel of Union Avenue Christian Church.

Die lustige Witwe ("The Merry Widow") runs July 31, August 1, 7, 8, & 9(m). Performances begin at 8pm, except for a 3pm Matinee on August 9th. Venue: Union Avenue Christian Church located at 733 Union Blvd in St. Louis. Sung in German with projected English supertitles. To purchase tickets or learn more about this production, please visit the Union Avenue Opera Website or call 314.361.2881

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Interview with 'Widow' Director Jolly Stewart

Operatic Saint Louis recently interviewed Jolly Stewart, stage director of Union Avenue Opera’s Die lustige Witwe ("The Merry Widow") about the production and her directorial approach. In addition to her position as Principal Stage Director with UAO, Stewart is on the performance faculty at Washington University, where she directs the opera program, coaches acting and diction, and maintains a voice studio. She has been involved with UAO since its earliest years of existence. The Merry Widow marks her twelfth production with the company.

Operatic Saint Louis: You have a bit of a career history with The Merry Widow, both as a singer (having sung the title role, Hanna Glawari) and stage director. What qualities or elements of this operetta resonate with you?

Jolly Stewart: I love Lehár’s music and very romantic story. There is something about a romance between two more mature lovers that I find irresistible and absolutely delicious to play around with.

OSL: How does your past experience with Widow inform your approach to this current production?

JS: I feel that everything about ones past informs a reaction to and outlook on any artistic project. As you grow older and have more life experiences, you see romance as something that should be cherished and cultivated. When I sang Hanna Glawari, I was in real life a widow in my thirties. At the time combining that state with my years spent in Germany and Austria, I thought I could bring more to the role than some. Who knows whether I did, or not. But now that I have spent time with the piece over many years and helped several Hannas find their way into this marvelous role, I see many more qualities in the character’s personalities than I probably did all those years ago. The humor that maturity brings and the patience with which to wait out Danilo’s coming around is obviously part of the tension in the opera and the delight in seeing it.

OSL: Union Avenue Opera has a long-standing mission of presenting opera in its original language. Thus, this production of The Merry Widow will be sung in German, a unique occurrence among American opera companies which normally present an English translation of the piece. What sorts of challenges arise in presenting this operetta in its original language?

JS: Scott Schoonover and I had several chats/talks/go-arounds on the subject of spoken text in English or German. His commitment to operas being performed in the original language prevailed. A few nights ago, in front of many witnesses, I confessed that it was the right choice. The singers have been super diligent about coaching the German very thoroughly. In fact Sylvia Stoner-Hawkins, the widow, made a special trip here to spend the afternoon over our kitchen table working the text. She was already very very well prepared.

Trying for German inflection and line readings has been important to me and everyone has been extremely cooperative, sometimes going over and over certain tricky places. I have been tremendously impressed and gratified by the hard work everyone has done.

OSL: What are the advantages of an original language production?

JS: No matter how good a translation is, it almost never fits with the music as well as the original language does. There are some exceptions where the composer has written for two languages, but that is rare. One of the more difficult projects we have done at UAO was a few years back, Eugene Onegin in Russian. We had wonderful Alla Voskoboynikova coaching the language and playing the rehearsals. Sylvia, who has a very good ear for language, was also in this one, singing beautifully the role of Tatyana. Russian literature has always been fascinating to me, so there were many qualities I wanted to see and hear incorporated into this piece. Certainly hearing it in Russian supplied lots of the flavor I was looking for.

OSL: In working with designers Patrick Huber (sets/lighting) and Teresa Doggett (costumes), what style and era have you set this production?

JS: We chose approximately the same time period that Lehár did [ca. 1905]. The costumes at this point in history are so gorgeous and add so much to the feel of the characters. A man in a uniform is almost irresistible (especially when it is worn by Ian Greenlaw) and beautiful women in flowing graceful gowns ....yummy!

Patrick Huber called up one day and excitedly told me the reference he was working with. We always work from art and architecture ideas and find a look we think will work for whatever opera we are producing. This time it was the Horta House in Brussels. During a visit to Brussels when my husband John Stewart was singing Pelleas at the Monnaie, we had spent several hours in this very house admiring the architecture and the beautiful art nouveau decoration.

OSL: How has it been to work with your cast over the past weeks?

JS: A total delight! The energy and enthusiasm has been phenomenal.

OSL: Viennese operetta often brings to mind images and conventions of musical comedy or early Broadway—in particular, a lot of dancing. The Merry Widow contains a famous, beloved waltz ("Lippen schweigen"), but what other kinds of dancing can audiences expect to see?

JS: Lots of dancing, absolutely. It’s a fun challenge for the singers. We have some terrific can-can dancers in this cast. The guys at one point do an early Hollywood movie-like dance. A little Fred and Ginger, some polkas, peasant dances, but most of all waltzes.

OSL: If appealing to the "man on the street" about why they should come to see The Merry Widow, what would your sales pitch be?

JS: Come see one of the most romantic stories in all of opera combined with ravishingly beautiful tune-filled music. You’ll go away singing the music for days.


Die lustige Witwe runs July 31, August 1, 7, 8, 9(m). Performances begin at 8pm, except for a 3pm Matinee on August 9th. Venue: Union Avenue Christian Church located at 733 Union Blvd in St. Louis. Sung in German with projected English supertitles. To purchase tickets or learn more about this production, please visit the Union Avenue Opera Website or call 314.361.2881

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

UAO "Merry Widow" In Rehearsal

For over a week now, the cast of Union Avenue Opera's Die lustige Witwe ("The Merry Widow") has been in rehearsal. Take a look at slideshow of the artists.



Die lustige Witwe runs July 31, August 1, 7, 8, 9(m). Performances begin at 8pm, except for a 3pm Matinee on August 9th. Venue: Union Avenue Christian Church located at 733 Union Blvd in St. Louis. Sung in German with projected English supertitles. To purchase tickets or learn more about this production, please visit the Union Avenue Opera Website or call 314.361.2881

Sunday, July 19, 2009

UAO hosts 'Kaffee Und Kuchen' this Saturday

This Saturday, Union Avenue Opera will be hosting Kaffee und Kuchen, a yummy educational opportunity in conjunction with UAO's upcoming production of The Merry Widow. Operagoers both veteran and novice are all welcome!

Guests will meet UAO principal artists, take a tour of the new sets for The Merry Widow, hear a presentation on the opera, listen to musical excerpts, and view costumes up close.

Iced tea, coffee and desserts will be served.

WHEN: Saturday, July 25, 11:00AM

WHERE: Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union Blvd, St. Louis 63108

HOW MUCH?: $15 per person and children under 10 FREE!

Please RSVP @ 314.361.2881

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

UAO Profile: Alexandra LoBianco

Soprano Alexandra LoBianco has made two debuts in Union Avenue Opera's Il Trovatore. Not only did she make a role debut as the noblewoman Leonora, but this has also been her debut as a soprano.

Her portrayal has earned high praise from Sarah Bryan Miller of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

"There’s no reason to do [Il Trovatore] without the right singers, and the Leonora of soprano Alexandra LoBianco definitely qualified. . . . LoBianco exhibited a true Verdian voice of velvet-covered steel, effortlessly tossing off trills and roulades. She really developed as a character, too, blazing through the second half."

Steve Callahan of KDHX commented:

"[I]t is soprano Alexandra LoBianco who runs triumphantly away with the evening’s laurels in the role of Leonora. Hers is a remarkably strong, clear, pure and open voice that rises easily to all of Verdi’s challenges. Hers is the voice that soars out over and above all the other fine voices in the cast. And as the story proceeds Ms. LoBianco shows all the flashing-eyed passion appropriate to the role."
In a recent interview with West End Word, LoBianco shares her insights on portraying such a classic role:

"There is tradition and convention to opera, so I listen to a lot of old recordings," LoBianco said. "You listen to those things and you hear what they are doing, you pick and choose what you want to do with the character. You can't imitate, you must make them your own. That is the true artistry in opera, being able to create and build beyond what is on the page.

For the full West End Word story, click here.

Il Trovatore runs for two more performances this weekend: July 17 & 18. All performances begin at 8pm; Venue: Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 N. Union Blvd, St. Louis. Tickets can be purchased by calling 314.361.2881 or by visiting http://www.unionavenueopera.org/

Thursday, July 9, 2009

"Il Trovatore" opens Friday night at UAO

Union Avenue Opera opens its fifteenth season with the Italian masterpiece Il Trovatore ("The Troubadour"), in which fast-paced action is propelled by an irresistible stream of haunting melody. Verdi's favorite themes of destiny and desire are threaded through this suspenseful story of a corrupt count, a dashing troubadour and a gypsy who plots to avenge her mother's wrongful death. St. Louis audiences have not seen a production of Il Trovatore since 1935 when the Metropolitan Opera brought a touring production to the Kiel Opera House. For a full synopsis of the opera please click here.

(Photo: Alexandra LoBianco & Eric Ashcraft)

Tenor Eric Ashcraft, who UAO audiences will remember as Calaf in 2004's Turandot, returns to sing Manrico (the troubadour). Two singers making their UAO debut include Baritone Thomas Beard as Conte di Luna (the count) and Soprano Alexandra LoBianco as the noblewoman Leonora. Mezzo-soprano Veronica McHale, last seen as La Zia Principessa in 2007's Suor Angelica, sings the crazed gypsy Azucena. Rounding out the cast, Bass Patrick Blackwell--Ludovico in last season's Otello--sings the role of Ferrando, the count's right hand man.

In a recent article from Sarah Bryan Miller of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, UAO Artistic Director/Conductor Scott Schoonover discusses the challenges and strategy of bringing a large-scale opera into the theatrical space of Union Avenue Christian Church:

[Il Trovatore is] one of the grandest of grand operas, and might seem a surprising choice for a company whose theater is comfortable but on the small side, with a stage and pit that won't accommodate large forces.

"It's probably not what Verdi had in mind, in terms of huge chorus numbers," said artistic director Scott Schoonover, who's doing it with just 16 choristers. "On a big stage, it wouldn't work."

Schoonover, who will conduct, said he's made up for it by selecting singers with big voices and by commissioning a new chamber version of the score. The orchestration is by Californian Bryan Higgins, who successfully shrank Puccini's "Suor Angelica" and "Gianni Schicchi." Higgins has reduced the orchestra to just 26 players.
Last week, UAO Artistic Director/Conductor Scott Schoonover, stage director Mark Meier and Soprano Alexandra LoBianco sat down with Steve Potter of Cityscape on 90.7 KWMU to discuss the production of Il Trovatore as well as the coming season. Click here to listen (interview located on July 3 archive, Segment A).

Il Trovatore opens Friday, July 10 and will run for three more performances on July 11, 17 & 18. All performances begin at 8pm and take place at Union Avenue Christian Church located at 733 N. Union Blvd in St. Louis. Sung in Italian with projected English supertitles.

To purchase tickets or find more information about Union Avenue Opera, please call 314.361.2881 or visit the UAO Website.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Union Avenue Opera: 15th Season Overview

Union Avenue Opera's 15th season commences this Friday evening with Giuseppe Verdi's Il Trovatore.

THE PRODUCTIONS

Audiences this season at UAO embark on a journey to Spain, France, India, and eventually Bethlehem. Opening the season is Giuseppe Verdi's Il Trovatore. Franz Lehár's Die lustige Witwe ("The Merry Widow") and Léo Delibes' Lakmé will follow. The season concludes in December with a holiday-inspired production of Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors.

THE CREW

Chicago-based director Mark Meier stages the upcoming Il Trovatore. UAO Principal Stage Director Jolly Stewart returns this month to stage The Merry Widow. Kostis Protopapas, of Tulsa Opera, will be guest conductor of Lakmé, which will be staged by Scott Schoonover.

THE SINGERS

UAO is pleased to welcome back several singers of seasons past. Among them are Patricia Johnson (title role, Lakmé), Scott Levin (Baron Zeta, Merry Widow), Clark Sturdevant (Ruiz, Il Trovatore), David Dillard (Cascada, Merry Widow & Nilakantha, Lakmé), Patrick Blackwell (Ferrando, Il Trovatore), James Harr (Saint Brioche, Merry Widow), Roderick George (Gerald, Lakmé), Ian Greenlaw (Danilo, Merry Widow), Veronica McHale (Azucena, Il Trovatore), Eric Ashcraft (Manrico, Il Trovatore), Ann Hoyt (Valencienne, Merry Widow), Joy Boland (Ines, Il Trovatore) and Sylvia Stoner (Hanna Glawari, Merry Widow).

Singers making their debut with Union Avenue Opera this summer:
  • Mezzo-soprano Crystal Philippi (Mallika, Lakmé)
  • Baritone Thomas Beard (Conte di Luna, Il Trovatore)
  • Baritone Nathan Wentworth (Frédéric, Lakmé)
  • Soprano Alexandra LoBianco (Leonora, Il Trovatore)
  • Tenor Thomas Wazelle (Camille de Rosillon, Merry Widow)

THE EVENTS

This season, UAO offers two new exciting events in conjunction with its productions of The Merry Widow and Lakmé: Kaffee und Kuchen and High Tea. These events are informal educational opportunities for patrons to meet UAO principal artists, take tours of sets, see costumes up close, hear musical excerpts, listen to presentations on the operas and enjoy refreshments. For more information, visit the UAO Website (linked below) and visit this blog in the coming weeks.

TICKETS & PRODUCTION INFO

Il Trovatore runs July 10, 11, 17 & 18. All performances begin at 8pm and take place at Union Avenue Christian Church located at 733 N. Union Blvd in St. Louis. Sung in Italian with projected English supertitles.

To purchase tickets or find more information about UAO, please call 314.361.2881 or visit http://www.unionavenueopera.org/

Monday, June 29, 2009

UAO "Il Trovatore" In Rehearsal

The cast of Union Avenue Opera's Il Trovatore has been hard at work preparing individual scenes for the past week. Full runs of the production begin this week before the sitzprobe this coming Sunday. Take a look at the artists in rehearsal:

Soprano Alexandra LoBianco (Leonora)

Tenor Eric Ashcraft (Manrico) & Mezzo-soprano Veronica McHale (Azucena)

Baritone Thomas Beard (Conte di Luna)

Mezzo-soprano Veronica McHale (Azucena)

Soprano Alexandra LoBianco (Leonora) & Baritone Thomas Beard (Conte di Luna)

Il Trovatore runs July 10, 11, 17 & 18. All performances begin at 8pm and take place at Union Avenue Christian Church located at 733 N. Union Blvd in St. Louis. For ticket and production information, please visit the Union Avenue Opera Website or call 314.361.2881

Saturday, June 20, 2009

OTSL's "A Little Lunch Music" Series Concludes on Monday, June 22


Photo: Heidi Stober, from her web site.

"A Little Lunch Music, OTSL's series of free noontime concerts presenting performances by some of the young artists featured in OTSL main season productions, concludes on Monday, June 22.

This Monday, June 22, at 12:30 p.m. Heidi Stober, soprano; Paul Appleby, tenor; Carlton Ford, baritone; will perform at the Purser Center, on the campus of Logan College, 1851 Schoettler Road, Chesterfield, Missouri.

According to her web site,
Soprano Heidi Stober is rapidly gaining recognition for her beautiful voice, exquisite musicianship and exciting presence on the operatic stage. She has received high praise for performances with New York City Opera, Houston Grand Opera, the Santa Fe Opera, and Boston Lyric Opera. For her performance in Plateé, Opera News said: "Only soprano Heidi Stober, as Folly, stood out vocally; her extended aria … was a musical and theatrical tour de force."

Stober makes her company debut at OTSL as Aminta in Il re pastore. Patricia Rice, of the St. Louis Beacon writes:
Stober makes her St. Louis debut singing the role of the king. Mozart wrote the role for Tommaso Consoli, a famous adult male soprano, a castrato. Now that the gruesome operation on pre-teen boy singers is criminal child abuse, female sopranos are cast in castrato roles, called "pants roles."

Tenor Paul Appleby, a first year master's student at the Juilliard School, is making his debut as Agenore in Mozart's Il re Pastore in OTSL's production.

Baritone Carlton Ford, a student of Marlena Malas at the Julliard School, is appearing as a Cappadocian in OTSL's Salome.

Classic 99 KFUO-FM serves as a sponsor for the "A Little Lunch Music" series.

For more information, contact the OTSL's Education Department at (314) 963-4250.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

UAO In Rehearsal

Rehearsals for Union Avenue Opera's 15th season are underway. Since last week, members of the ensemble have met frequently with musical director and principal conductor Scott Schoonover for musical rehearsals of the choral scenes in UAO's summer productions.

(female ensemble, The Merry Widow)

(male ensemble, Lakmé)

Principal staging rehearsals begin Monday for the first production of the season: Verdi's Il Trovatore. Chicago-based stage director Mark Meier returns to UAO this season to stage Trovatore after his work on last season's L'Elisir d'Amore and Otello.

Visit this blog for further updates and content on the productions at Union Avenue Opera this summer. For more information on UAO and its 15th season, please visit the company's website.

Friday, June 12, 2009

OTSL's "A Little Lunch Music" Series Continues on Monday, June 15


Photo: Soprano Jeanette Vecchione

Opera Theatre of St. Louis's "A Little Lunch Music" continues this Monday with a free noontime concert presenting performances by some of the young artists featured in OTSL main season productions.

This Monday, June 15, at 12:30 p.m. Jeanette Vecchione, soprano; Eric Margiore, tenor; Gregory Dahl, baritone; and Curt Pajer, pianist; will perform at Kirkwood Presbyterian Church, 100 E. Adams, in Kirkwood, Missouri.

Vecchione will make her operatic debut at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis this summer as Florestine in John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles. Vecchione is a May 2006 graduate of the Juilliard School was accepted into the Master’s Program on full scholarship. She studies under the tutelage of Marlena Malas. (Information courtesy of the Iron Sharpens Iron blog.)

Click here to visit Vecchione's MySpace profile.

According to the Encompass Arts web site, "Lyric tenor, Eric Margiore, is quickly becoming recognized for his unique Italianate timbre and the excitement that it brings to the stage, especially in the high lying Bel Canto and lyric French repertory. Most significantly, Eric was hailed by Opera News for his stunning regional debut in the role of Arturo in the Malibran version of I Puritani with the Opera Theatre of St. Louis when he stepped in twice to replace an ailing tenor. This season, Margiore sings Narraboth in OTSL's Salome."

Blogger Philip Kennicott writes:
John the Baptist was sung by baritone Gregory Dahl, whose voice was the most traditionally matched to the role. He was an uncomfortably believable prophet, vocally authoritative, and at times almost pastoral in his warnings to Salome. He dominated the orchestral texture more than the other singers, which meant he had an unusually large impact on the drama.

Curt Pajer, not only a pianist but also a vocal coach, has been on the music staff of OTSL since 1999.

Classic 99 KFUO-FM serves as a sponsor for the "A Little Lunch Music" series.

The final concert in the series will be:

June 22, 2009
The Purser Center
(on the campus of Logan Chiropractic College)
1851 Schoettler Road
Chesterfield, Missouri

For more information, contact the OTSL's Education Department at (314) 963-4250.