Tag Archives: opera

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis: a children’s opera

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis brings the magic of opera to children ages 5 – 14 with The Very Last Green Thing at the Touhill Performing Arts Center

Free Public Dress Rehearsal: October 19
School Day Matinees: October 21 through 25
Two Public Performances: October 26

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis continues its long-term commitment to inspiring the next generation of opera-goers with the production of The Very Last Green Thing, a young people’s opera by Cary John Franklin and Michael Patrick Albano. Originally commissioned by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in 1992, The Very Last Green Thing is an environmental fable set 400 years in the future. The 35 minute production will be conducted by Vince Lee and is directed by Doug Scholz-Carlson. The cast features 18 talented young singers (ages 9-16) from across the bi-state area, as well as former OTSL Gerdine Young Artist Daniel Brevik.

In The Very Last Green Thing, audiences journey to a classroom in the year 2413, where a group of students is raised and taught by an android. On a rare field trip “outside,” a group of students discover something completely foreign to them – the very last green thing on earth, uncovering secrets from our planet’s past. A beautiful story for young people, the production introduces both opera and ecological issues to audiences of all ages. Eighteen singers were selected through a rigorous audition process to perform the majority of the roles in the production:

Evan Adams – Grand Center Arts Academy
Hannah Belobrajdic – Edwardsville High School
Esther Davis – Francis Howell Central High School
Libby Hillerman – Our Lady of Lourdes School
Jordan Jones – Barbara Jordan Elementary School
Sydney Jones – Nipher Middle School
Lilly Kanterman – Forsyth School
Lauren Lundy – Notre Dame High School
Ellie McAvin – Edgar Road Elementary
Ifabunmi Muhammad-Ojedele – Crossroads College Preparatory School
Marissa Pineda – Grand Center Arts Academy
Alexander Pompian – Meramec School
Abigail Powers – Mehlville High School
Grace Robertson – Washington Middle School
Ellie Schwartz – Community School
Fiona Scott – Holy Cross Academy
Caden Self – Homeschool
Michelle Springer – Wydown Middle School

In keeping with the environmentally conscious themes of the opera, Opera Theatre is producing The Very Last Green Thing in a “green” manner, recycling and “up-cycling” a significant portion of the opera’s design. Set designer Scott C. Neale has imagined a world constructed in part from clear water bottles. Stacy Snyder Harris has employed similar ingenuity to the production’s costume design, as has lighting designer Joe Clapper. After the production closes in St. Louis, the sets and costumes will be re-purposed for a production at the Amarillo Opera in February of 2014, further reducing the production’s overall carbon footprint.

The Very Last Green Thing is made possible through generous support from both PNC Arts Alive and the Monsanto Fund, which also serves as the lead sponsor of Opera Theatre’s Monsanto Artists-in-Training program for high school students. The Monsanto Fund, the philanthropic arm of the Monsanto Company, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the communities where farmers and Monsanto Company employees live and work. PNC Arts Alive is part of The PNC Foundation’s multi-year, $2 million investment in St. Louis that supports visual and performing arts groups with the goal of increasing arts access and engagement in new and innovative ways.

As part of the American Arts Experience, Opera Theatre offers a limited block of free tickets to the production’s final orchestra dress rehearsal at the Lee Theater at the Touhill Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday, Saturday, October 19, 2013 at 3 pm. Students in grades 2-8 from across the St. Louis region will attend school day performances at 9:30 am and 11 am, Monday, October 21, 2013 through Friday, October 25, 2013. Tickets to these performances are $6 for students and teachers. Reservations for both the free orchestra dress rehearsal and the school performances can be made by phone at 314.963.4251 or via email to 251@opera-stl.org.

Two public performances will be offered Saturday, October 26, 2013 at 10 am and 11:30 am. Tickets to these performances are $10 for children and $12 for adults. Reservations for public performances can be made by phone at 314.516.4949 or online.

Free vocal recital featuring local high school students

23 students from 16 St. Louis high schools in Opera Theatre of St. Louis’s Monsanto Artists-in-Training program will perform opera arias this Sunday, January 29 at 3 pm, Graham Chapel on the campus of Washington University. The event is free and open to the public. Highly regarded mezzo-soprano Pamela Dillard, who has been coaching the students during a recent artist residency, will also perform at the concert. This is a wonderful opportunity to share classical music with your family and for your school aged kids to see high school students really excel at something that they love.

Currently in its 23rd year, Opera Theatre of St. Louis’s Monsanto Artists-in-Training Program has consistently identified, coached, and encouraged talented singers in St. Louis urban and suburban high schools. Students receive individual weekly coaching and voice lessons by Opera Theatre of St. Louis’s professional staff; two artist residencies conducted by visiting guest artists; numerous chances to attend performing arts events; and a three-day college retreat where they learn about college life and academics. Each spring, the students perform in a free public recital at the Sheldon Concert Hall. To date, more than 170 students have completed the program and Opera Theatre of St. Louis has awarded these graduates more than $335,000 in scholarships to support their college educations. Many graduates have continued to pursue academic degrees and professional careers in music. Artists-in-Training is generously supported by the Monsanto Fund, the philanthropic arm of Monsanto Company, who has been the principal underwriter since the program’s inception.

Photo: Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Death of Klinghoffer at Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Are you mesmerized by the works of contemporary artists Bill Viola, Shirin Neshat, and William Kentridge? Do you hold your breath at the subtle gestures embedded in William Forsythe’s choreography? Did Meredith Monk’s work (whose performances were utterly filled with undefinable sound) used to keep you up at nights? Have you felt the purity of Bach cello suites resonate in your hands and heart? Have you lost all track of time and place when listening to a choir rehearse in a cathedral in some tiny corner of Europe? Have you “seen” sound float up into the air when hearing a Urtiin duu (longsong)? And does the tender yet collapsing beauty of Prokofiev’s works make you close your eyes?

If some of this makes sense to you (and even if it doesn’t!), go experience Opera Theatre of St. Louis’s production of The Death of Klinghoffer. You’ll discover unspoken pieces of the artists and sounds above throughout a moving and provoking performance. No need to get hung up on the formality or structure of opera–this production is simply and gloriously meaty art. The brilliant score, stunning chorus and orchestra performances, singing, lighting, staging, video projections, gestures, use of props, and stillness will wow you and make your heart ache a little in the communal darkness of the audience.

The Death of Klinghoffer is based on the true story of a hijacking of the ship, the Achille Lauro, in 1985, by Palestinian terrorists and the murder of one of the passengers, Leon Klinghoffer. The 1991 opera was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Adams with an evocative and poignant libretto by Alice Goodman.

Conductor Michael Christie literally eats this score up. If you have a chance, sit in the theater where you can see him conduct. He sings every word with the artists on stage and wraps the orchestra (members of the St. Louis Symphony) together so cohesively, despite the crazy entrances, textures, and meter changes. Stage Director James Robinson has brought together a subtle, smart, and powerful vision of this opera. I absolutely loved the video projections of Greg Emetaz. Chorus Master R. Robert Ainsley did a superb job with the chorus whose moments on and off stage were some of the most memorable sounds in an opera production that I’ve ever heard. Baritone Brian Mulligan who performs the role of Leon Klinghoffer, was a standout. Beyond having an incredibly rich, solid, powerful, and tender voice, he has a unique dreamy yet somehow familiar sound. He sounds like coming home. For me, Brian Mulligan sings so perfectly the most moving phrase of the entire production. This phrase is seemingly so mundane, yet subtlety holds the immensity of everything that this story, this history, and this opera stirs up. Leon Klinghoffer sings to his wife surrounded by terrorists on the sunny deck of the ship in their last moment together (although they don’t know it yet), “I should have worn a hat.”

A huge bravo to Opera Theatre of St. Louis for having the courage to bring this production to light, the intelligence to present meaningful outreach and very thoughtful commentary and discussion, and the creativity and persistence to generate support from the community both in St. Louis and beyond. I feel lucky to have experienced this production.

(The only tiny criticism I feel worth mentioning… the bird “puppet” on a stick at the end was too literal and looked very awkward from the side seats. It kind of broke the moment.)

Three performances of The Death of Klinghoffer remain. Tuesday, June 21 at 1 pm; Thursday, June 23 at 8 pm; and Saturday, June 25 at 8 pm. Tickets $25 to $120. Special promotion for the Tuesday, June 21 at 1 pm show ONLY: mention the promo code HOOKYDK online or when you call the box office, and get tickets for $35 in section 2 of the theater. These seats are regularly $100 each.

Recent reviews of Opera Theatre of St. Louis’s The Death of Klinghoffer

St. Louis Post-Dispatch review
The Wall Street Journal review
The New York Times review

The Death of Klinghoffer discussion guides on the Opera Theatre of St. Louis’s web site.

Photo: Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions

Want to hear some of the newest and greatest emerging artists sing their hearts out?

The 51st Annual Metropolitan Opera National Council St. Louis District Auditions take place on Saturday, November 13, 10:30 am to 2:30 pm at Ladue Chapel. This year’s panel of judges includes soprano and Opera Theatre of St. Louis’s English Diction Coach Erie Mills.

The event is free and open to the public. Audience members are (quietly!) welcome to come and go throughout the day.

Read more about the auditions on the Metropolitan Opera’s site.

Look at this prestigious list of past winners.

A Little Night Music Smiles Big

Here are my thoughts about Opera Theatre of St. Louis’s A Little Night Music, June 11 at 8 pm performance. A few more shows remain!  Watch the preview video.

The title of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music comes across at first as being so casual, so uneventful, so well, “little.” Yet beneath a seemingly lush, at times movie soundtrackesque, rumbles something much deeper, a darker story that unveils how meaningful what we think nothing of, can really be.

Opera Theatre of St. Louis’s production of A Little Night Music is pure magic driven largely by Isaac Mizrahi’s playful and dreamlike set (fit for any Vogue photo shoot), the luscious sounds from members of the St. Louis Symphony (an extra bravo to the clarinets and the bassoons, and of course to Stephen Lord for keeping the complex music together), the lighting by Michael Chybowski, and the team who developed the movement of the artists on stage—the clarity and honesty of the blocking and choreography made a great deal of sense.

Among the cast, I loved every moment that Christopher Dylan Herbert (Henrik Egerman) opened his mouth. He had wonderful nuance in color, breath, and line. At the end of his song “Later,” Mr. Herbert sang “Doesn’t anything begin?” with a poignancy that carried throughout the rest of the performance.

Sondheim music is hard to sing. The chromatics, the words that get all jumbled up in your mouth, the hidden meanings, the required purity of phrasing, all while acting and moving around the stage requires an enormous amount of practice, talent, and the ability to “keep control while falling apart” as is sung in the song “Perpetual Anticipation.” In general, the cast walked the fine line of musical theatre and operetta well, although there were definitely some intonation issues here and there as well as some odd sound balance concerns.

Amy Irving as Desiree Armfeldt well captured the actress’s sad cynicism tinged with bits of hope for what has passed her by. Ms. Irving delivered good comedic timing although her “singing” voice earlier in the production lacked direction or confidence. It must have been very tough for her to share a stage with singers of such high caliber. But oddly, her performance of the famous “Send in the Clowns” struck a chord of success. It’s almost as if her uneven and somewhat raspy singing voice fit perfectly with the words of the song—those that conveyed lost chances, sad smiles, and what could have or should have been. The line “Me here at last on the ground/You in mid-air” was sung knowingly, a little tiredly, and a whole lot worldly by Ms. Irving.

A Little Night Music opens with the grandmother Madame Armfeldt telling her granddaughter Fredrika about how the night smiles three times—once for the young, once for the fools, and once for the old (who know too much). Opera Theatre of St. Louis so beautifully presented those smiles to an eager audience and all the important in-betweens, the seemingly inconsequential happenings of life that add up to a lot more.

When Madame Armfeldt asks her granddaughter Fredrika, “Will you tell me what it’s all for,” Fredrika innocently responds, “It’s all there is, isn’t it?” We smile.