Opera | St. Louis Public Radio

Opera

British songwriter Benjamin Clementine says he changed his nomadic ways after a visit to the United States inspired his latest album.  6/7/18
Craig McDean

Songwriter Benjamin Clementine calls himself a nomad, and with good reason. Born in London to Ghanaian parents, he left home as a teenager to live and play music on the streets of Paris.

His low profile changed dramatically when his debut album, “At Least for Now,” earned him an international following and won the Mercury Prize in 2015 for best album of the year by a British artist. He has since moved to the United States, where his travels inspired his latest album, “I Tell a Fly,” released last year. He’s on a U.S. tour to promote his new recording, and opens for David Byrne at Peabody Opera House on Friday.

Andrew Stenson as Private Danny Chen, in the new opera "An American Soldier."  6/1/18
Ken Howard | Opera Theatre of St. Louis

U.S. Army Private Danny Chen died at his guard post in Afghanistan in 2011 — not in combat, but from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after enduring racially motivated hazing by his fellow soldiers.

A new opera opening at Opera Theatre of St. Louis on Sunday looks at Chen’s life and death. The creators of “An American Soldier” say it asks basic questions about the nature of identity and belonging in this country.

Andrew Potter (L), Gina Galati and Peter Scott Drackley joined host Don Marsh to talk about Winter Opera St. Louis’ final production of the season, “L’Elisir d’Amore.’
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

For more than 10 years, Winter Opera St. Louis has filled what once was a void in St. Louis’ opera scene – no opera performances during the winter months.

The professional company’s final production of the season is Gaetano Donizetti’s comic opera, “L’Elisir d’Amore.” The opera, which translates to English as “The Elixir of Love,” is about a poor villager (Nemorino) who buys a love potion from a traveling salesman (Dulcamera) after his attempts to woo a wealthy and beautiful woman (Adina) fail.

Christine Brewer and David Walton in Union Avenue Opera's "Albert Herring."
Union Avenue Opera

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.

"The Trial" will have its American Premiere with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis on Sunday, June 4.
Kelsey Nickerson | Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’ 42nd season started last month with a production of “Madame Butterfly” and runs through the end of June. This Sunday, it adds the American premiere of famed minimalist composer Phillip Glass’ opera “The Trial.”

In this May 24, 2017 photo, Robert Orth as Uncle John and Katharine Goeldner as Ma Joad tangle with each other in "The Grapes of Wrath."
Ken Howard | Opera Theatre St. Louis

St. Louisans can experience a musical makeover of the classic Depression-era tale of a poor Oklahoma family when Opera Theatre of St. Louis debuts a new rendition of “The Grapes of Wrath” on Saturday.

Drought and desperation drive the Joad family of tenant farmers off the plains to California for the promise of a better life. It’s a story of good intentions and bad outcomes that resonates today, said Katharine Goeldner, who sings the role of Ma Joad.

“All they were trying to do was feed their families,” Goeldner said.

David Greenhaw, Ghazala Hayat and Mont Levy joined "St. Louis on the Air" to discuss "The Cave."
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis on the Air

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An upcoming production from Arts & Faith St. Louis aims to connect Jewish, Christian and Muslim people together in the shared traditions and history of the Abrahamic faiths.

Christine Brewer
Christian Steiner

Good morning, darling, the sun has just come up. It is a beautiful morning…

So begins a letter from 1944 that 1st Lt. George W. Honts wrote his wife Evelyn Honts, while deployed during World War II.

The text to these letters has been set to music by composer Alan Smith. The song cycle, “Vignettes: Letters from George to Evelyn, from the Private Papers of a World War II Bride,” will be performed by soprano Christine Brewer on March 3 at Concord Trinity United Methodist Church.

This collage of new RAC Fellows includes, clockwise, Agnes Wilcox, Jess Dugan and Robert McDonald Jr. and Damon Davis.
Provided and file photos

The Regional Arts Commission has chosen its 2016 Artists Fellows, who will each receive $20,000 checks to help with their work.

This is the fourth year RAC has presented the awards. Winning artists do not have to designate a specific project; they may use the money in any way that helps make their work possible.

The new group of 10 features literary, visual and performing artists, including a local performer who wants to spread his love of opera.

Elise Quagliata and Christine Brewer in Union Avenue Opera's production of "Doubt."
John Lamb | Union Avenue Opera

August 19 will mark the first time the opera version of “Doubt” is performed in its full glory after its Minneapolis premiere in January 2013. Famed soprano Christine Brewer will reprise her role as Sister Aloysius, the principled nun whose unwavering certainty begins to buckle over suspicions of a parish priest’s improper relationship with an eighth grade student.

(Mark Kitaoka, Courtesy: Opera Theatre of St. Louis)

Famed writer Salman Rushdie was born in 1947 in India. In 2005, he published a sweeping work about the beleaguered but beautiful territory of Kashmir, a place with ancestral ties. As of 2016, that novel is becoming an opera of the same name—to be premiered by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in June.  

The opera’s composer, Jack Perla, and librettist, Rajiv Joseph, joined “St. Louis on the Air” contributor Steve Potter to discuss the opera and how it came to be.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

The general director of Winter Opera St. Louis, Gina Galati, in addition to her duties as general director will also be performing in the organization’s next production. She will play Fiordiligi in Mozart’s “Così fan tutte.” The opera opens Friday, Jan. 22.

Clay Hilley as Siegfried, Alexandra LoBianco as Brünnhilde
John Lamb | Union Avenue Opera

Union Avenue Opera (UAO) concludes its 21st season along with its four-year production of Wagner’s ‘Ring cycle’ with the final opera in the series, “Götterdämmerung.”

New to opera? Try it with a little wine

Mar 27, 2015
Soprano Sydney Mancasola, left, and conductor Ryan McAdams talk to 'Cityscape' host Steve Potter about the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis' Opera Tastings program on March 27, 2015, at St. Louis Public Radio in St. Louis.
Alex Heuer / St. Louis Public Radio

Interested in having a little food and wine with your opera? No problem.

The Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’ Opera Tastings pair music with food and wine samples.

“It’s an opportunity for people who maybe haven’t been in direct contact with opera singers to experience it for the first time in a very intimate and very sort of delicious setting,” conductor Ryan McAdams told “Cityscape” host Steve Potter on Friday. “I’m still glowing from the indecent amount of fun we had last night.”

Jerry Springer opera bleeps its way to St. Louis

Feb 27, 2015
Security man Steve Wilkos, played by Matt Hill, holds back the Springer studio audience in New Line Theatre's "Jerry Springer: The Opera."
Jill Ritter Lindberg / New Line Theater

"Jerry Springer: The Opera" is promoted as "very adult." It's so adult that we can't find a clip suitable for radio. 

"Jerry Springer: The Opera" opened in 2003 in London. The first U.S. performance was in Las Vegas in 2007. Now the New Line Theatre is bringing the opera to St. Louis in March.

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis releases world premiere recording

Feb 19, 2015
Elizabeth Futral as Alice B. Toklas and Stephanie Blythe as Gertrude Stein
Ken Howard | OTSL

Opera Theatre of St. Louis’s “27” is the work of two men obsessed.

“I burrowed myself into a hole and completely allowed the life of Gertrude Stein to wash over me and to become part of my chemistry,” “27” librettist Royce Vavrek said on “Cityscape.”

Paintings portrayed by, from left, Daniel Brevik, Tobias Greenhalgh, and Theo Lebow; at center is Stephanie Blythe as Gertrude Stein and Elizabeth Futral as Alice B. Toklas
Ken Howard | OTSL

In a year when opera companies nationwide still struggle with the effects of the Great Recession, and sadly the venerable once-innovative New York City Opera closed, St. Louis continues to support three professional opera companies.

From the 2012 Opera on the Go program that worked with "Marriage of Figaro."
Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Many St. Louisans know about “The Pirates of Penzance” because of the 1983 movie version starring St. Louis native Kevin Kline or its more recent iterations on The Muny stage.

This month, Opera Theatre of St. Louis is using the Gilbert and Sullivan opera of the same name to introduce elementary, middle- and high-school students to a genre they may not be as familiar with.

Ron Lindsey

St. Louisans have seen the play "A Streetcar Named Desire." Now they have an opportunity to see the opera.

Quoting an original 1947 New York Daily News review of Tennessee Williams’ play, director Chris Limber said the reviewer pointed out “the tragic overtones of grand opera.”

Nearly 50 years later, composer André Previn was asked to turn the play into an opera. According to soprano Katherine Giaquinto, who plays Stella Kowalski in the Union Avenue Opera production, Previn responded: “The time it’ll take me to say yes is as long as it takes for me to hang up the phone.”

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