Wednesday, June 23, 2010

90.7 FM's "Cityscape" Features Union Avenue Opera

KWMU 90.7 FM's "Cityscape" broadcast this Friday, June 25, will feature a discussion of Union Avenue Opera's 16th season, which includes productions of The Pirates of Penzance, La Fille du Régiment ("The Daughter of the Regiment") and Pikovaya Dama ("The Queen of Spades"). Joining host Steve Potter will be UAO Artistic Director/Conductor Scott Schoonover, Pikovaya Dama stage director Tim Ocel, and Mezzo-Soprano Denise Knowlton, appearing as Ruth in UAO's Pirates of Penzance.

"Cityscape" airs on KWMU 90.7 FM at 11:00am-Noon on Friday, June 25 and will be repeated at 10:00pm. You may also listen to an archived podcast, to be posted after the initial airing, on KWMU's website.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Union Avenue Opera hosts "Pirates on Deck" this Sunday

Union Avenue Opera hosts "Pirates on Deck" this Sunday, June 27th at 8pm. Grab your parrot, eye-patch and bandana and hustle your peg leg to the deck! That is a downtown loft deck with appetizers, drinks, and swashbuckling pirate performances from the cast of UAO's season opening production: Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance.

Catering donated by Mosaic, Bridge and Rooster. $50 per person; all proceeds benefit UAO. RSVP 314.361.2881 to attend.

Visit the UAO Website for more information on this event as well as the 16th season, which also includes Donizetti's La Fille du Régiment and Tchaikovsky's Pikovaya Dama.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

"A Little Lunch Music" on Monday, June 14, at Kirkwood Presbyterian Church

Bradley Smoak

Opera Theatre of St. Louis' "A Little Lunch Music," a series of free noontime concerts presenting performances by some of the young artists featured in OTSL main season productions, will feature counter tenor David Trudgen, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Rivera and bass Bradley Smoak, all featured in The Golden Ticket, accompanied by pianist Damien Francouer-Krzyzek, at 12:30 p.m. on Monday afternoon, June 21, at Kirkwood Presbyterian Church, 100 E. Adams Street, in Kirkwood.

Classic 99 KFUO-FM sponsors the "A Little Lunch Music" series.

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

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Winning Ticket

What: The Golden Ticket
Where: Opera Theatre of St. Louis
When: through June 26, 2010
Reviewed by: Chuck Lavazzi

[(L to
R) Daniel Okulitch as Willy Wonka and Michael Kepler Meo as Charlie in
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis's 2010 production of The Golden Ticket.  Copyright: Ken Howard, 2010]

One of the many admirable things about Opera Theatre is the company's support for new works. Their thirty-five seasons are strewn with national and world premieres; an encouraging sign for a genre often depicted in popular entertainment as stodgy and old-fashioned. This year's new kid on the block—The Golden Ticket, an adaptation of Roald Dahl's 1964 children's classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory—is an appropriately tasty concoction of juvenile humor, adult wit, and musical invention with just the right amount of creepiness.

Composer Peter Ash has an impressive conducting resume, so it's perhaps not surprising that his work makes ingenious and clever use of the orchestra. Delicate ensemble passages alternate with great whoops and rushes of sound and unexpected instrumental combinations abound. The score is peppered with musical jokes, including characteristic music for the four badly behaved children who come to grief in Willy Wonka's factory. The egomaniacal Violet Beauregard, for example, sings in florid coloratura flourishes while the piggish Augustus Gloop parodies the stereotypical portly Italian tenor by spewing saccharine mock Puccini. Meanwhile Mike Teavee, who is obsessed with violent television, stutters machine-gun staccato passages.

As the Artistic Director of the Roald Dahl Foundation, librettist Donald Sturrock brings an insider's perspective to the words that accompany Mr. Ash's music. Fans of the book will likely be delighted to discover that the stage adaptation includes not only the major elements of the published version of the original novel, but bits and pieces of Dahl's numerous revisions as well—including, happily, a 1973 re-write that changes the Oompa Loompas in Willy Wonka's factory from racist stereotypes to oddball aliens. It's literate enough to keep adults engaged but chockablock with sufficient jokes to hold the attention of all but the youngest children—no small accomplishment.

Opera Theatre has assembled a stellar cast for this eccentric piece. Baritone Daniel Okulitch exudes impish delight as both the magical king of confections, Willy Wonka, and the mysterious shopkeeper Mr. Know. Vocally, the part sounds like quite a challenge, but he's more than up to it.

The roles of the four awful children are filled by four wonderful performers. Soprano Tracy Dahl (no relation, as far as I can see) handles Violet Beauregard's demanding vocal pyrotechnics with ease and is a convincing stage brat. On opening night Countertenor David Trudgeon rattled off Mike Teavee's opening aria with such superhuman precision that he got a burst of spontaneous applause from the audience. Mezzo Jennifer Rivera's Veruca Salt—the classic spoiled rich kid—is almost unnervingly monstrous in her greed, and tenor Andrew Drost's Augustus Gloop is the epitome of repellant gluttony.

Although occasionally swamped by the orchestra, boy soprano Michael Kepler Meo is nevertheless a charming Charlie Bucket, with a clear voice and solid enunciation. Tenor Frank Kelley is appealing as Charlie's lovable Grandpa Joe and in fine voice as well. Although a Gerdine Young Artist and therefore relatively new on the scene, Mezzo Jennifer Berkebile makes a strong impression as both the mistress of Wonka's exotic brigade of Turkish squirrels and the self-admiring television hostess Candy Mallow.

Making his Opera Theatre debut, conductor Timothy Redmond skillfully leads the orchestra through a score which, while clearly demanding, also sounds like rather a lot of fun to play. Chorus Master Sandra Horst has, once again, done a fine job with her singers, who are called upon to play a number of important roles throughout the evening, from sinister gargoyles to chattering squirrels to eccentric Oompa Loompas, who provide the moral for the downfall of each bad child in amusing rhymed couplets.

Video designer Greg Emetaz, set designer Bruno Schwengl, costumer Martin Pakledinaz and lighting designer Christopher Akerlind all go above and beyond the call of duty to handle the exotic characters and the many scene changes in Mr. Sturrock's libretto, especially during the tour of Willy Wonka's magical factory. My congratulations to them all. Stage director James Robinson does a nice job pulling it all together although here, as in his Marriage of Figaro, he seems overly found of blocking some key scenes as though there were no audience outside of house center.

There aren't that many operas out there that are family friendly in the sense that they can be enjoyed by all ages. Children's opera, like children's theatre, tends to be its own genre. The Golden Ticket is, happily, family friendly, mixing elements of opera, musical theatre, dance and even video into something akin to Willy Wonka's Three-Course Dinner Chewing Gum. Unlike that gum, though, it can be enjoyed without risking transformation into a giant blueberry.

Opera Theatre presents The Golden Ticket in rotating repertory with the rest of the season through June 26th at the Loretto-Hilton center, 130 Edgar Road on the Webster University campus. For more information, you may call 314-961-0644 or visit

OTSL Presents A Little Lunch Music Today at Kirkwood Presbyterian Church

Elizabeth Zharoff

A Little Lunch Music," Opera Theatre of St. Louis' series of free noontime concerts presenting performances by some of the young artists featured in OTSL main season productions, will feature Elizabeth Zharoff, Sean Pannikar and Christopher Magiera accompanied by Greg Ritchey, at 12:30 p.m. this afternoon (June 14) at Kirkwood Presbyterian Church, 100 E. Adams Street, in Kirkwood.

Classic 99 KFUO-FM sponsors the "A Little Lunch Music" series.

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

Friday, June 4, 2010

90.7 FM's "Cityscape" Features OTSL's The Golden Ticket

KWMU 90.7 FM's "Cityscape" broadcast of Friday, June 4, featured a discussion about the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis' world premiere of Peter Ash and Donald Sturrock's opera The Golden Ticket, based on Ronald Dahl's book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Joining host Steve Potter were composer Peter Ash, coloratura soprano Tracy Dahl, who sings the role of Violet Beauregard in The Golden Ticket, and OTSL's artistic director James Robinson.

"Cityscape" will be repeated at 10:00 p.m., Friday, June 4, on KWMU 90.7 FM. You may also listen to an archived podcast to be posted soon on KWMU's website.