Thursday, June 26, 2014

STL Public Radio's "Cityscape" to Feature "La Traviata" Artists

Soprano Zulimar Lopez-Hernandez & Tenor Riccardo Iannello
Tomorrow (June 27th) at Noon, Union Avenue Opera will be featured on St. Louis Public Radio's Cityscape. Host Steve Potter welcomes UAO Artistic Director and Conductor Scott Schoonover, Soprano Zulimar Lopez-Hernandez (singing the role of Violetta) and Tenor Riccardo Iannello (singing the role of Alfredo) to discuss UAO's upcoming La Traviata and the rest of the 20th Anniversary Season.

Cityscape airs on KWMU 90.7 at Noon-1pm on Friday, June 27th and will be repeated at 10pm that night. You may also listen to archived audio of the program on

Tickets for upcoming UAO productions start at $30 and are available online at or by calling the box office (open M-F, 10am-3pm) at 314-361-2881.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Union Avenue Opera: 20th Anniversary Season

Union Avenue Opera celebrates 20 years of bringing compelling, vibrant performances of opera to the St. Louis community from the sanctuary of Union Avenue Christian Church. UAO's 20th Anniversary Festival Season is full of excitement: the sets will be grander, the costumes more opulent, and our largest chorus to date will grace the stage as the company returns to a three opera summer to mark this milestone year. This season is not to be missed! Join us for the romance and tragedy of Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata presented by Raymond James, the passionate family drama of Andre Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire and the heroic adventure of Siegfried, the third part of Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle. On November 8th, Union Avenue Opera will celebrate 20 years and toast its friends, patrons, supporters and cheerleaders with a 20th Anniversary Concert featuring international opera singers Lise Lindstrom and Jordan Shanahan.


La Traviata, one of the most beloved tragedies in opera, tells the story of a worldly courtesan, Violetta, who decides to leave her life of glamour and frivolity behind for the love of one man, Alfredo. Returning to Union Avenue Opera after twelve years, La Traviata depicts the ultimate operatic life, one filled with grand parties, grander sacrifices, and some of Verdi's most memorable music, including the drinking song "Libiamo" and Violetta's virtuosic "Sempre libera." Both long time opera lovers and first-timers will be captivated by this irresistible classic. La Traviata will be performed in Italian with projected English supertitles on July 11, 12, 18 & 19 at 8:00pm.

Desire is taking on a new rhythm as Tennessee Williams' play sizzles onto the stage in the St. Louis Premiere of André Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire. Set against the backdrop of steamy New Orleans, this scintillating Streetcar adds a new level of drama and excitement to Williams' enduring portrait of sex, class and secrets. Southern belle Blanche DuBois moves to her sister's cramped apartment, creating all the wrong kinds of sparks with her brutish brother-in-law Stanley. When dark truths about her past begin to emerge, Blanche's world comes apart at the seams in a spiral of violence and madness. A Streetcar Named Desire will be performed in English with projected English supertitles on August 1, 2, 8 & 9 at 8:00pm.

Wagner's epic Ring Cycle continues with the penultimate opera, Siegfried. Swords are re-forged, dragons slain, a sleeping maiden awakened, treasures reclaimed, and justice dispensed as the power of the gods continues to dwindle. The fearless hero Siegfried, grandson of Wotan, is destined for greatness as he faces a multitude of challenges, including winning the love of Brünnhilde. Siegfried is a wonderful fairytale with the requisite happy ending ... for the moment at least. Siegfried is reduced and adapted by English composer Jonathan Dove. His masterful cuts condense the opera in length to under three hours and will be enhanced by video projections befitting the magnificent grandeur of the Ring Cycle. Siegfried will be performed in German with projected English supertitles on August 22, 23, 29 & 30 at 8:00pm.


Mark your calendar to join us on November 8th, when UAO alumni Lise Lindstrom and Jordan Shanahan return to our stage in a 20th Anniversary Concert. Since her debut as Turandot with UAO in 2004, Lindstrom has performed the role in over 30 productions world-wide and has sung leading roles in most of the world's great opera houses including: Wiener Staatsoper, Teatro alla Scala, The Metropolitan Opera, De Nederlandse Opera, Royal Opera House, Deutsche Oper Berlin, San Francisco Opera and many more. She will be joined onstage by Baritone Jordan Shanahan, an emerging international singer whose roles at Union Avenue Opera include Joseph DeRocher in Dead Man Walking and Alberich in 2012's Das Rheingold and this season's Siegfried. Soloists and a chorus will be backed by UAO's orchestra, whom has graciously donated its time and services to perform on this momentous occasion.


Union Avenue Opera welcomes back artists from seasons past:

La Traviata: Robert Garner (Germont), Debra Hillabrand (Flora), Mark Freiman (Barone Douphol), Robert Reed (Dottore Grenvil), Anthony Heinemann (Gastone), Jon Garrett (Giuseppe) and Philip Touchette (Messenger). A Streetcar Named Desire: Jimmy Stevens (Young Collector). Siegfried: Marc Schapman (Mime), David Dillard (The Wanderer), Jordan Shanahan (Alberich), Nathan Whitson (Fafner), Alexandra LoBianco (Brünnhilde), Cecelia Stearman (Erda) and Kate Reimann (Forest Bird).

Several artists make their UAO stage debut:

  • Soprano Zulimar Lopez-Hernandez (Violetta)
  • Tenor Riccardo Iannello (Alfredo)
  • Baritone Phillip Bullock (Marquis D'Obigny).
  • Soprano Lacy Sauter (Blanche DuBois)
  • Baritone Bernardo Bermudez (Stanley Kowalski)
  • Soprano Katherine Giaquinto (Stella Kowalski)
  • Tenor Anthony Webb (Harold "Mitch" Mitchell)
  • Mezzo-soprano Johanna Nordhorn (Eunice Hubbell)
  • Tenor Robert Norman (Steve Hubbell)
  • Mezzo-soprano Natanja Tomich (Flower Woman)
  • Tenor Clay Hilley (Siegfried)
Twenty artists--local professional singers and members of UAO's Crescendo young artist program-- comprise the chorus of La Traviata.


UAO Artistic Director and Conductor Scott Schoonover is set to conduct La Traviata and Siegfried this season. Guest Conductor Kostis Protopapas, who last conducted 2010's La fille du Régiment, returns to conduct A Streetcar Named Desire. Stage director Tim Ocel, who last staged Union Avenue Opera's critically-acclaimed Dead Man Walking in 2011, returns to stage La Traviata. Accomplished actor, theatre teacher and stage director Christopher Limber makes his UAO debut staging A Streetcar Named Desire. Stage director Karen Coe Miller, who helmed last season's Die Walküre, returns to stage Siegfried. MK Jacobi (Traviata), Claire Stark (Streetcar) and Allyson Ditchey (Siegfried) serve as Stage Managers. Sean Savoie serves as UAO Production Manager. The company welcomes back several designers to collaborate on the 2014 season including Patrick Huber (set, Traviata; set and lighting, Siegfried), Teresa Doggett (costumes for entire season) and Michael Perkins (projections, Siegfried).

Designers making their UAO debut: Maureen Berry (lighting, Traviata), Kyra Bishop (set, Streetcar) and Sean Savoie (lighting, Streetcar).


La Traviata runs July 11, 12, 18 & 19 at 8:00pm. A Streetcar Named Desire runs August 1, 2, 8 & 9 at 8:00pm. Siegfried runs August 22, 23, 29 & 30 at 8:00pm. Our 20th Anniversary Concert takes place on November 8th. All performances take place in the sanctuary of Union Avenue Christian Church at 733 Union Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63108. Single tickets and Season tickets (at discounted prices) are available by calling the UAO Box Office at 314-361-2881 or visiting

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Review of "Dialogues of the Carmelites" at Opera Theatre

Christine Brewer and cast of Dialogues of the Carmelites
Photo: Ken Howard
On July 17th, 1794, the sixteen women of the monastery of the Carmel of Compiègne in France were guillotined by the revolutionary government for refusing to abandon their vows and their community. The execution, which is widely believed to have been instrumental in bringing about the end of the Reign of Terror ten days later, inspired a novella, a play, and finally, Francis Poulenc's opera "Dialogues of the Carmelites" in 1953.

Opera Theatre's production is a good one, but I have to confess that I don't find the text of "Dialogues" all that persuasive. Adapted by the composer from the play by French Catholic writer Georges Bernanos (which was itself based the novella "The Last One at the Scaffold” by the German author Gertrud von Le Fort), the libretto far too often descends in to a mere recitation of Catholic dogma. Furthermore, as Erica Jeal noted in her review of a Royal Opera House production last month, "some of Poulenc's scenes linger beyond their usefulness to the story."

The story centers on Blanche de la Force, a young woman so consumed with fear that she screams at shadows. In an effort to escape her dread of life, she joins the convent, even though the mother superior, Madame de Croissy, is unsure of her motivation.

Kelly Kaduce
Photo: Ken Howard
Blanche soon becomes friends with cheerful (if absurdly naïve) Sister Constance and starts to settle into convent life—only to have her world turned upside down when the Reign of Terror seizes the monastery's assets and demands that the nuns abandon their community and become ordinary citizens. They refuse, deciding instead to take a vow of martyrdom. Blanche panics and runs at the last minute, but returns in the final scene to embrace death along with her compatriots.

That scene is easily the most riveting the opera. Poulenc has the nuns, now wearing the secular clothes forced on them by their jailers, singing "Salve Regina" as, one by one, they are led to the scaffold and executed. The choir becomes smaller and smaller until only Blanche is left. Her death is followed by two soft, mournful chords, a final note in the low strings, and silence.

Christine Brewer and nuns
Photo: Ken Howard
Following what appears to be a recent trend in productions of this opera, stage director Robin Guarino keeps the nuns on stage for their death scene. They all sign their character names on the upstage wall in charcoal and then walk, one by one, into the large rectangular set piece that is used for most of the interior scenes. As the blade descends (an unnervingly realistic sound effect from the percussion section), each singer drops her head to her chest and takes a seat at a bench inside the rectangle. At the end the benches are filled with downcast nuns, forever silent. Curtain.

It's a potent image and while I would have preferred the empty stage implied by the libretto to mirror the silence in the orchestra, I have to admit that it works. Indeed, the production generally makes good dramatic choices. Andrew Lieberman's stark set—there is nothing on stage aside from that big rectangular box, which shifts easily on wheels to suggest scene changes—emphasizes the stark choices available to the nuns and allows an uninterrupted dramatic flow.

The cast of this production is excellent, all the way down to the smallest parts. There are far too many of them (twenty-seven named roles) for me to list them all, so I'll concentrate on the principals.

L-R: Kelly Kaduce and Ashley Emerson
Photo: Ken Howard
Soprano Kelly Kaduce adds another feather to her already plumage-heavy cap as Blanche, credibly portraying the character's fear and doubt. Soprano Ashley Emerson is equally persuasive, making Sister Constance's simple faith charming rather than foolish (as it might seem in lesser hands). Both women sing like angels.

Contralto Meredith Arwady brings impressive vocal power and impeccable diction to the role of Madame de Croissy. Her death scene, in which her faith fails her at the end, was as harrowing as it should be. Local favorite Christine Brewer is also a vocal powerhouse as the replacement Prioress Madame Lidoine, who leads her charges to martyrdom.

Making her OTSL debut as Mother Marie, who becomes Blanche's mentor, mezzo Daveda Karanas has an arresting presence that makes it impossible not to watch her when she's on stage. She matches that with a fine, clear voice.

L-R: Meredith Arwady and Daveda Karanas
Photo: Ken Howard
Making his second appearance in the OTSL pit, former St. Louis Symphony Resident Conductor Ward Stare leads the orchestra in a forceful and impassioned reading of Poulenc's wonderfully transparent and appealing score. Some critics have compared it to film music in the way it supports and underlines the action on stage. It's not a bad analogy and, in fact, there is a cinematic quality to this production with its fluid scene changes and James F. Ingalls's dramatic lighting.

I find the theological and historical perspective of "Dialogues of the Carmelites" suspect at best and somewhat appalling at worst. The libretto glosses over the real oppression that led to the revolution—along with the Church's support for that oppression—and dotes on death in a way that frankly becomes a bit creepy. But maybe that's just because I'm a lapsed Catholic; your mileage, as they say, may vary.

The important point is that Opera Theatre is making a very strong case for "Dialogues of the Carmelites." Performances continue through June 28th at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. To get the full festival experience, come early and have a picnic supper on the lawn or under the refreshment tent. You can bring your own food or purchase a gourmet supper in advance from Ces and Judy's. Drinks are available on site as well, or you can bring your own. For more information:

This review originally appeared at 88.1 KDHX, where Chuck Lavazzi is the senior performing arts critic.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Review of "27" at Opera Theatre

The cast of "27"
Photo by Ken Howard
Trivia question: what do Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Man Ray, Henri Matisse, and Ernest Hemingway all have in common? Answer: they all frequented the Saturday evening salons at 27 Rue de Fleurus in Paris presided over by Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. And they're all characters in the world premiere production of "27," at Opera Theatre.

The focus in "27" isn't on the famous men who displayed their genius in that salon, though. It's firmly on the two remarkable women who made it possible: expatriate American poet, novelist, and playwright Gertrude Stein and her amanuensis and lifetime companion Alice B. Toklas. The story of their love and their relationship is the backbone of the opera. It's also the basis for its most touching scene: the duet at the end of the first act in which the chiming of bells symbolizes a celebration of both Stein's genius and of the couple's love for each other. It's a lovely image, given shimmering life by Rick Ian Gordon's music, and it crops up repeatedly during the opera's ninety-minute run time.

Photo: Ken Howard
Laid out in five acts without intermission, "27" chronicles the lives and thoughts of Stein, Toklas, and many of the writers and artists who came under Stein's influence. We see Stein's break with her brother Leo (who disapproved of her relationship with Toklas), the couple's hard times during World War I, Stein's championing of the "lost generation" of writers, and Stein's survival during the Nazi occupation of France—controversial because she seems to have done so, in part, by collaborating with the Vichy government. There's a moving death scene for Stein and a final act in which Toklas, now alone, is comforted by the couple's old friend Pablo Picasso. "Picasso sketches an image of Gertrude for Alice," says the official synopsis, "as the bells of genius and love chime once more."

Royce Vavrek's libretto is poetic in a way that pays obvious homage to Stein's own work—especially her fondness for repetition—without ever descending to imitation or parody. It uses a small cast, assigning all the roles other than those of Stein and Toklas to a trio of men who appear first as characters in paintings in the salon. They play all the men who pass through the salon and all the women as well, including a comic quartet in which Toklas laments the banality of the conversations she is obliged to endure with the wives of the geniuses.

At one point they even take on the role of Stein's conscience, questioning the ethics behind her relationship with Vichy, but Mr. Vavrek otherwise plays down Stein's role as a collaborator and avoids entirely her openly Fascist politics (she was an open supporter of both Franco and Vichy leader Marshal Philippe Pétain, whom she compared favorably to George Washington). Perhaps that would have been too much to deal with in an already complex script.

Photo: Ken Howard
Mr. Gordon's score, while obviously contemporary, is clearly tonal and often harks back the musical styles of the era in which the opera is set. There are, to my ears, echoes of classic American popular song as well as the music of Virgil Thompson (for whom Stein wrote two libretti) and other mid-20th century American composers. That doesn't mean Mr. Gordon is in any way derivative, though. He clearly has his own voice. There is great beauty as well as high comedy in this music and I'd love to hear it again—which is not always the case with world premieres.

In her 1963 autobiography "What is Remembered," Alice B. Toklas recalls that Gertrude Stein's voice "was unlike anyone else's voice—deep, full, velvety, like a great contralto's, like two voices." How appropriate, then, that the role of Stein is sung by Metropolitan Opera veteran Stephanie Blythe, whose big, powerful mezzo has garnered praise in everything from "The Mikado" to the "Ring" cycle. Her Gertrude Stein commands attention the way the woman herself did in her salon. She's formidable and supremely confident—a force of nature.

Soprano Elizabeth Futral's Toklas, in contrast, reminded me of the line in "The Hound of the Baskervilles" in which Holmes tells Watson that while he is not himself luminous, he is "a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it." She flits and darts around the stage, always happily helping to illuminate Stein while staying in the shadows.

Mr. Gordon has given Toklas a vocal line that sounds more ornamental than Stein's, and Ms. Futral delivers it with the kind of easy grace you might expect from someone with so many coloratura roles in her pocket. She moves with a dancer's grace, and makes the character fundamentally endearing and sympathetic.

The members of the ubiquitous male trio are tenor Theo Lebow, baritone Tobias Greenhalgh, and bass-baritone Daniel Brevik. They're designated as both Gerdine Young Artists and Festival Artists—reflecting, I assume, the prominence and challenging nature of their roles. They take on a remarkable variety of roles, often with rapid costume changes, and do so brilliantly. Their individual characters are so well drawn that they create the illusion that you're seeing a much larger cast.

Photo: Ken Howard
Director James Robinson has chosen to greatly simplify the action and set elements called for in the libretto. "In order to create Gertrude's salon," he writes in his notes, "we decided that the environment should not evoke the realistic world that is so often seen in photographs." He has opted instead for "an environment of joy and nostalgia, recalling T.S. Eliot's world of 'dust in sunlight and memory in corners.'"

That means a mostly bare stage with flats decorated to look like wallpaper, a large easy chair for Stein, a smaller one for Toklas for her endless knitting, and empty picture frames representing the dozens of paintings that covered the walls at the real 27 Rue de Fleurus. Three large frames, upstage, are occupied by the members of the male trio when they're not playing real people. Everything is done in shades of gray and most of it is made to look as though it had been knitted, since a central conceit of the show is that Toklas is literally knitting her memories into existence.

That simplicity makes for fast, fluid scene changes, but it also makes some of the action unclear. In addition, the members of the male trio, when not wearing character-specific costumes, are dressed in gray singlets, so it's not always apparent whom they're supposed to represent. The only reason I know that they're supposed to be the voice of Stein's conscience at one point, for example, is because I read it in the libretto. On stage it's not at all obvious. That said, Mr. Robinson's direction seems to serve the material well in general. And some of his ideas—like Hemingway's entrance hauling the corpse of a rhino and F. Scott Fitzgerald's toy wagon loaded with liquor—are truly inspired.

The orchestra of (mostly) symphony musicians under Michael Christie performs beautifully—as they generally do.

I don't mean to suggest that I found "27" to be an unqualified success. Mr. Vavrek's libretto felt like it could use some trimming here and there, especially in the final scene. But perhaps that had more to do with the ambiguity of the direction than the text itself. Whatever the reason, "27" did seem to drag a bit at times and felt somewhat longer than its ninety minutes. The opera's positives far outweigh its negatives, though, and brand-new productions are nearly always worth seeing.

The Opera Theatre production of "27" continues through June 27th at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus in rotating repertory with three other operas. To get the full festival experience, come early and have a picnic supper on the lawn or under the refreshment tent. You can bring your own food or purchase a gourmet supper in advance from Ces and Judy's. Drinks are available on site as well, or you can bring your own. For more information:

This review originally appeared at 88.1 KDHX, where Chuck Lavazzi is the senior performing arts critic.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Review of "The Elixir of Love" at Opera Theatre

(L to R) René Barbera as Nemorino, Tim Mix as Belcore, and Susannah Biller as Adina
Photo by Ken Howard
I can sum up the Opera Theatre production of Donizetti's 1832 romantic comedy "The Elixir of Love" in one word: bravi. Or maybe that should be "bravissimi," since every aspect of this funny, endearing, and beautifully sung show deserves heaps of praise.

Based on Eugène Scribe's libretto for Daniel Auber's popular comedy "Le philtre" from 1831, Felice Romani's book for "The Elixir of Love" is the story of Nemorino, a humble peasant smitten with the wealthy and beautiful landowner Adina. She, though, is more taken with the macho Sergeant Belcore. In desperation, Nemorino buys a love potion (actually just some cheap wine) from the traveling quack Dr. Dulcamara. Complications, as they say, ensue. But all ends happily for everyone—including Dr. Dulcamara who, as the curtain descends, is still fleecing the suckers.

René Barbera
Directors tackling theatre pieces remote in time and place from their audiences face a tough choice. Do you retain the original setting and risk having it come across as a museum piece, or do you update it and risk distorting character relationships? It's a major question for opera directors, since the vast majority of the works in the mainstream repertoire are up to four centuries old.

Fortunately, Donizetti and his librettist Felice Romani intended "The Elixir of Love" to be somewhat remote from its original Milan audience from the start, setting it in Basque country late in the previous century. That gave James Robinson and his team, who created this production for Opera Colorado back in 2007, an inspiration: why not move it to small-town America in the early 20th century? In particular, why not set it in a time and place reminiscent of Meredith Willson's classic musical "The Music Man"—a work which, as Mr. Robinson points out in his program notes, "Elixir" somewhat resembles?

The decision makes good dramatic sense. The setting of (as it says in the program) "a small American town in 1914" is remote enough to seem as quaint to a modern audience as Basque country no doubt did to the original Milanese, yet familiar enough to still resonate. Nemorino is now a small businessman—he owns an ice cream truck—instead of a peasant, and Adina, while she wields a lot of influence, is less clearly a member of the landed gentry. Nevertheless, the difference in their status is still obvious enough to drive the story.

Susannah Biller
As Mr. Robinson noted in an article for Boulder's Daily Camera back in 2007, productions of "Elixir" are often driven by great singing (as befits the opera's status as a bel canto classic) but a real sense of character and human relationships is sometimes missing. The great strength of the OTSL cast is that they are not only great singers, they're also solid actors. Their characters are credible and their emotions believable. This is Opera Theatre doing what it does best: real theatre with splendid voices.

When I first saw tenor René Barbera (our Nemorino) three years ago in OTSL's "Daughter of the Regiment," I observed that his voice was clear, powerful, and pretty much seamless throughout the wide range called for in the role. It still is. His little aria of despair, "A furtive tear" ("Una furtive lagirma") in the second act was such a thing of beauty that shouts of "bravo" followed hard upon it.

Back then, though, I wasn't much taken with his acting ability. This time around I have no such qualms. From the moment he appeared on stage, Mr. Barbera's Nemorino was an instantly appealing mix of passion and vulnerability. He means well, but he's shy and easily bullied. He's sympathetic from the get-go—which he must be if the opera is going to work.

Patrick Carfizzi
Soprano Susannah Biller's Adina is just as perfect. Like Mr. Barbera, she has the kind of powerful, flexible voice required for coloratura roles like this one. When she and Mr. Barbera are in full flight in one of the score's many duets, it's sheer opera heaven. Her acting skills are equally fine. She establishes her character as soon as she appears on stage and remains "in the moment" throughout.

Baritone Tim Mix is the swaggering Sergeant Belcore, the role he played in the 2007 Boulder production. He, too, has a big, accurate voice that easily navigates the rapid patter Donizetti often assigns to his comic villains. His gets the character's absurdly inflated self-regard just right, which makes his eventual comeuppance as satisfying as it should be.

Bass-baritone Patrick Carfizzi has the plum role of the wily Dr. Dulcamara, peddling his patently fake patent medicine from a vintage motorcycle. The role is written for a bass, but Mr. Carfizzi sounded entirely comfortable with the low notes and rattled off the patter songs with ease and accuracy. Dulcamara is a rogue, but essentially a likeable one, and Mr. Carfizzi's performance captured the man perfectly.

Tim Mix
The role of Adina's friend Gianetta isn't a large one, but the character's voice is prominent in the opening crowd scene. Soprano Leela Subramaniam (a Gerdine Young Artist) makes a powerful first impression in that number, with a big voice the soars effortlessly over the top of the chorus. The libretto doesn't give her much to work with in creating a character, but Ms. Subramaniam has found a charmingly coquettish woman in there nevertheless.

The orchestra of (mostly) St. Louis Symphony musicians under Stephen Lord sounded gave Donizetti's music the snap and precision it needs, with some especially impressive playing from the flutes, led by Mark Sparks. This repertoire is familiar territory for Mr. Lord, and he clearly loves it.

Stage direction by Jose Maria Condemi, based on Mr. Robinson's original, is crisp and clean, creating effective stage pictures and moving the large cast on and off the unit set (with its massive bandstand) quickly and easily. That keeps the pace brisk and the action fluid. I think his decision, in the final scene, to remind us of the impending horror of The Great War is somewhat out of keeping with the sunny tone of the opera overall. But that's a minor complaint.

Designer Allen Moyer's set design, based on his Opera Colorado original, colorfully evokes the Americana of Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton. And that working ice cream truck is a gem.

Leela Subramaniam and Chorus
Kelley Rourke's English translation of the libretto generally works well, but includes some turns of phrase (particularly for Belcore) that seem a bit too contemporary for the 1914 setting.

Opera Theatre's production of "The Elixir of Love" runs through June 25th in rotating repertory with three other operas. To get the full festival experience, come early and have a picnic supper on the lawn or under the refreshment tent. You can bring your own food or purchase a gourmet supper in advance from Ces and Judy's. Drinks are available on site as well, or you can bring your own. For more information:

This review originally appeared at 88.1 KDHX, where Chuck Lavazzi is the senior performing arts critic.