3 firsts in Union Avenue Opera’s 23rd season – here's what you need to know about each production | St. Louis Public Radio

3 firsts in Union Avenue Opera’s 23rd season – here's what you need to know about each production

Jun 30, 2017

Union Avenue Opera’s 23rd season kicks off next week Friday and runs through August. This year, the company is introducing nothing but firsts. Each of its three productions is a premiere for the company.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, contributor Steve Potter sat down with three people associated with this year’s productions to hear about what to expect.

He was joined by Soprano Christine Brewer, who stars in “Albert Herring,” the first production of the season,” and Ken Page, who directs “Carousel,” the second production of the season. Scott Schoonover, the artistic director and conductor of Union Avenue Opera, also joined the program to discuss the last production of the season “Hansel and Gretel” and add insights about the other performances.

Here’s what you need to know about each:

‘We want virgins, not trollops!’ – Benjamin Britten’s ‘Albert Herring’

Brewer stars in Union Avenue Opera’s “Albert Herring,” a comedic opera that will debut next Friday. Comedic roles are not common for the famed soprano.

“I think it is my voice type, there are just not a lot of yucks in ‘Tristan and Isolde,’ ‘The RingCycle,’ … a lot of the roles I sing are not really jolly,” Brewer said. “I think I’m funny. I always like to tell stories that are funny. When I do recitals, I usually put some pieces in with humor. But this, as an operatic role, is really the only time.”

Benjamin Britten’s “Albert Herring,” focuses on the town of Loxford, England where the “lady of the village,” Lady Billows, played by Brewer, lords over the town.

“She thinks and I think, rightly so, that she knows what everyone needs to be doing,” Brewer said.

Lady Billows is responsible for planning the annual May Day festival, but is having trouble finding virtuous girls in town to play the part.

One of the funniest moments in the production, Schoonover said, is when Brewer yells rather abruptly “We want virgins, not trollops!”

Shenanigans unfold from there.

Related Event

What: Union Avenue Opera Presents "Albert Herring" by Britten
When: July 7, 8, 14 and 15 at 8 p.m.
Where: Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 N. Union Blvd, St. Louis, MO, 63108

More information.

‘We all know a Billy Bigelow’ – Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘Carousel’

So, we’ll get this off the table right away: “Carousel” is not traditionally considered an opera, but Richard Rodgers himself thought of the Broadway musical in operatic terms. The musical first premiered in 1945 and later became a popular film in 1956, starring Gordon McRae and Shirley Jones.

Page, who directs the production, said this is one of the few musicals he hasn’t himself performed in but he’s excited that Union Avenue Opera took a chance on producing it in St. Louis, because it has been several years since it was performed here.

“We do something varied every year,” said Schoonover. “We try to come up with a season that would appeal to many different people. Now, moving into musical theatre, that extends the grasp even further.”

This production is set in the 1870s in a little fishing village in upper New England. It focuses on the story of Billy Bigelow.

“We all know a Billy Bigelow,” Page said. “To me, he’s usually played as someone in love with himself, but I think he is full of a lot of contradictions. He falls in love with Julie Jordan. I would call her not the norm for an upper New England girl, she has dreams outside there.”

What: Union Avenue Opera Presents "Carousel" by Rodgers and Hammerstein
When: July 28 and 29, August 4 and 5 at 8 p.m.
Where: Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 N. Union Blvd, St. Louis, MO, 63108
More information.

‘It’s like the Grimm’s fairytale, but it goes deeper and darker’ – Engelbert Humperdinck’s ‘Hansel and Gretel’

The last production of Union Avenue Opera’s 23rd season is “Hansel and Gretel,” an opera from the late 1800s. It will be performed in German with English supertitles.

“It is like a Grimm’s fairytale, but it goes deeper and darker,” said Schoonover. “It is a dark story and there’s magic. Creatures come out of the woods. A witch gets thrown into an oven and transformed into something else, which I won’t say. Cookies come to life as children. There’s a lot happening. It is a light, romantic German score. Some people compare it to Wagner, but I think it is lighter. There’s something for everyone in the show — it is not just for kids.”

Kids are welcome at the production, Schoonover said, but it does get pretty dark.

Related Event

What: Union Avenue Opera Presents "Hänsel und Gretel" by Humperdinck
When: August 18, 19, 25 and 26 at 8 p.m.
Where: Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 N. Union Blvd, St. Louis, MO, 63108
More information.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.