Sunday, March 29, 2009

Classic 99 For Sale?

Sarah Bryan Miller, Post-Dispatch classical music critic, reports that the owner of Classic 99 (KFUO 99.1) plans "to quietly sell" the radio station. Classic 99, of course, is the home for the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts in St. Louis.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

New Opera Saint Louis Presents "Don Pasquale"

New Opera Saint Louis' Gina Galati, soprano, and founder and artistic director; Andrew Martin, administrative director; and Tim Ocel, stage manager, appeared on KWMU's "Cityscape" on Friday, March 27, to discuss their current production of Donizetti's "Don Pasquale."

Click here to listen to an archived version of the program.

New Opera Saint Louis' next presentation of "Don Pasquale" will be Sunday, March 29, at 5:00 p.m. Tickets range from $22.00 to $30.00, with student rush tickets available for $15:00 at the door with valid student identification.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Stella Markou: Opera at the Touhill

From Chris King's Poetry Scores blog:

Opera in color
New UMSL production features ample black talent

By Chris King
St. Louis American

Classical music traditions are struggling to find new, younger, more diverse audiences. They need to ask Stella Markou what her secret is.

Markou –- an operatic soprano and director of vocal studies at UMSL -– has a new production coming to stage at the Touhil on March 3 and 4 that features (count ‘em) four African-American students: Wyatte Jamison, April Lowe, Jenny Beasley and Audreia Norman.

This beautiful young teacher and performer has glowing things to say about all of them.“Jenny Beasley is a double major, biology and Spanish –- she just got back from Spain,” Markou said.

“She is a huge aficionado of opera, but this is her first time staging and doing things.”

Wyatte Jamison also is only dabbling in opera, rather than pursuing a major –- he is studying political science, though his director said he plays a “vital role” in one piece and a “pivotal role” in another.

“He is just a joy, an incredible human being overall,” she said of Jamison. “He is a youth leader, sings in a gospel choir and his father is a preacher.”

His father, the Rev. Henry C. Jones, is pastor of Ira Grove Free Will Baptist Church in East St. Louis, where the family lives.

April Lowe comes to the voice from another instrument – she plays bass clarinet in the university symphonic band.

“Last year, she wanted to sing, wanted to learn, though she had no exposure whatsoever,” Markou said.

“I couldn’t fit her in, so I tracked her down this year. This is her first debut in opera, period. She has made quite extraordinary strides.”

Audreia Norman is the one with the operatic name – as in soprano Jessye Norman – and training. She was formerly part of the artist-in-training program at Opera Theater of St. Louis.

“She has a tremendous lyric voice,” Markou said of her.

Markou is directing all of these talents (and more) in UMSL Opera Theatre in an interesting production based on the seven deadly sins titled Desire, Deception and All Things Wicked, incorporating the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Benjamin Britten, Gioachino Rossini and others.

Opera might sound boring and old-fashioned to those who haven’t developed an ear for art song or an eye for highly theatrical staging, but you wouldn’t think “boring” if you read plot summaries of famous operas or just followed the stories.

There is a reason why they call soap operas “soap operas.” There is a whole lot of loving and cheating and losing going on.

In describing her students’ roles, Markou resorts to descriptions such as “the servant of the wronged wife” and “the forsaken wife who is killed off.”

As for the director herself, Markou served as moderator for the Teatro Lirico D'Europa performance of Aida at UMSL's Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center, and has performed with the Ambassadors of Harmony and Arianna String Quartet.

She is scheduled to sing at a Maria Callas tribute in Boston and in the June staging of the musical Booth in New York, which was composed by UMSL’s own Barbara Harbach and Niyi Coker.

UMSL Opera Theatre will perform Desire, Deception and All Things Wicked 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 3 and Wednesday, March 4 in the E. Desmond and Mary Ann Lee Theater at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center on the UMSL campus. It is free and open to the public.

Call 314-516-5980 or visit the Touhill's web site.