Opera Theater of St. Louis

Sculpture of David Mesker by Dorothy Haase
Provided by the family

David Mesker, a civic leader and financier who died of cancer on Sunday morning, two days after his 84th birthday, impressed an acquaintance as being an encyclopedia on two feet, a fountain of information on subjects he held in esteem. There was that, and then there was his generosity of treasure, time and spirit.

He was a gentleman, too, a person of grace and generosity, distinguished by splendid talents and decided tastes, a fellow who cared deeply for many people and many things, and loathed others, and had no compunction about allowing his loves and loathes to be known.

Richard Gaddes introduces Christine Brewer at the Walk of Fame ceremonies Wednesday.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

On Wednesday, Christine Brewer was properly awarded a star on St. Louis' Walk of Fame in the Delmar Loop. To think about her journey there, it is useful to go back 34 years, when Opera Theatre of St. Louis had become the regional American opera company to watch. And that dates to 1976, when Richard Gaddes, a fearless young British impresario, was brought to town to establish the company.

Ken Howard | OTSL

Thirty-one years ago, Opera Theatre of St. Louis pulled off a season that resounds in memory as an artistic volcano, a bonanza, an operatic gold mine, a tour de force. It followed the defining 1982 season, one crowned with Jonathan Miller’s “Così fan tutte,” a show conducted by Calvin Simmons, who died the summer following his and Dr. Miller’s triumphant achievement.

Power of Poulenc

Elizabeth Futral as Alice B. Toklas with Theo Lebow, Tobias Greenhalgh and Daniel Brevik as paintings
Ken Howard | OTSL

When confronted with apparently transcendent genius, the predictable mere-mortal inclination is to concentrate attention and fascination on the person anointed with this luminous intellectual and artistic blessing and to ignore, or to try to explain away, character deficiencies – minor or monstrous. Sometimes the deficiency may be as much a part of the genius’ character as the super-human talent itself, and in some cases leaves the genius Caesar-like with the good interred with his bones.

Rene Barbera as Nemorino and Susannah Biller as Adina
Ken Howard | OTSL

A few years – well, decades – ago, I happened across opera. On public television, I found America’s opera sweetheart, Beverly Sills, in “Daughter of the Regiment.” The performance was joyous, beautiful and fun. And the composer was Gaetano Donizetti.

Now Opera Theatre of St. Louis is presenting another Donizetti opera that is equally engaging: “The Elixir of Love.” And this one matches “Daughter” in actually fitting the oft-made promise of being a perfect first opera.

Terence Blanchard
Provided by Mr. Blanchard

When the Sheldon Concert Hall asked Terence Blanchard to replace Latin jazz pianist Chucho Valdés for a scheduled performance this Saturday, Feb. 15, the jazz trumpeter jumped at the opportunity.

“I was sorry to hear about Chucho’s unexpected surgery that forced him to cancel his tour,” Blanchard said during a recent conversation from his home in the New Orleans area. “But I’m very happy to be coming back to St. Louis. I’ve spent quite a bit of time there over the past three years. My wife is starting to think of it as our second home.”

Opera Theatre Reports A Record Financial Year

Dec 10, 2013
photo of Tim O'Leary
Courtesy Opera Theatre of St. Louis

A celebratory concert for donors to Opera Theatre of St. Louis began with a thank you. Donations and total assets had both grown substantially.

General Director Timothy O'Leary had announced earlier on Dec. 9 that donations were up 17 percent over the previous year. For the first time in the company's history, contributions designated for productions and operating support exceeded $5 million. 

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: For one old enough to remember when Opera Theatre of St. Louis was the Little Company That Could, the public relations release that bounced in Wednesday was full of information I at first regarded as bizarre.

Corinne Winters as Vendulka and Garrett Sorenson as Lukáš in "The Kiss."
Ken Howard | OTSL

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: I ran into an old friend at a Clayton Starbucks the other day, a fervent opera aficionado and Opera Theatre of St. Louis fan, a man whose family lives and breathed opera, promoted it passionately when he was growing up and continues to support it enthusiastically now. He’s a partisan, and this time of year he is busy bringing his particular talents and expertise into play to help move things along.

xxxFrom left) Arthur Woodley as Emile Griffith, Jordan Jones as Little Emile Griffith and Denyce Graves as Eelda Griffith
Ken Howard | Opera Theatre of St. Louis

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: "Champion" has been described as "a jazz opera," but it would be more appropriate to describe it simply as "an opera." Or "a good opera."

Composer Terence Blanchard is best known as a jazz trumpeter and arranger, but he knows his way around a symphony orchestra and has written many movie scores -- including the hauntingly elegiac music accompanying Spike Lee's "When the Levees Broke," about the Katrina hurricane striking New Orleans.

Corinne Winters in "The Kiss"
Poster | Opera Theatre of St. Louis

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: A comic opera about a charming woman who won't disrespect mourning customs opens Sunday night at 7 p.m. at the Loretto-Hilton Theater.

It’s Bedřich Smetana and Eliška Krásnohorská’s “The Kiss.” And this opera is OTSL’s second opening night in succession. Saturday is the world premiere of Terrence Blanchard and Michael Christofer’s “Champion.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Six and a half years ago leaders of Opera Theatre of St. Louis and Jazz St. Louis met to consider commissioning an American opera in the jazz style.

They’ve nursed it, rehearsed it and will give birth to “Champion,” by composer Terence Blanchard and librettist Michael Christofer, at 8 p.m., Sat., June 15.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Tenor Michael Hayes stepped on short notice into two roles Friday night at Opera Theatre -- as the sensitive lover Luigi in Puccini’s "Il tabarro" and as the jealous husband Canio in Leoncavallo’s "I Pagliacci."

He displayed remarkable vocal and dramatic gifts, tightening up the paired Italian tragic operas that opened last Saturday night.

Tim Mix as Michele and Emily Pulley as Giorgett in "Il tabarro."
Ken Howard | Opera Theatre of St. Louis | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: A green eye glares from a man’s face, which is framed by a graffiti-style heart sketched in lipstick.

That’s the image on the cover of Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ gorgeous 160-page annual program book. It is a look of sheer terror.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Two short operas about love triangles will show St. Louis audiences Saturday night that gorgeous music can often more effectively aim a story straight to the heart than words alone.

A double bill of Giacomo Puccini’s 1918 "Il Tabarro" and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s 1892 "Pagliacci" runs in rotation through June 29 as part of Opera Theatre of St. Louis' 38th spring festival.

Hugh Russell as General Stanley
Ken Howard | Opera Theatre of St. Louis | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Why should we be so surprised and so filled with wonder when, year after year, we deliver ourselves to Webster Groves and submit ourselves to the devices of Opera Theatre of St. Louis and find ourselves swaddled in the miraculous?

Is it because some organizations and individuals, pushing the age of 40, get flabby around the middle and become complacent, and in case of artistic industry, offer crowd pleasing certainties in the hope of maintaining the elusive status quo?

Deanna Breiwick as Mabel, Matthew Plenk as Frederic, and members of the chorus in Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’ 2013 production of The Pirates of Penzance.
Ken Howard | Opera Theatre of St. Louis | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: A rollicking band of singing pirates will open Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ 38th festival season of five operas (two a double bill) on May 25. Gilbert and Sullivan’s infinitely hummable, romantic comedy “Pirates of Penzance” launches the season and continues with eight performances in rotation through June 29.

New York-based composer and Peabody Institute faculty member Kevin Puts has won the Pulitizer Prize for music with Silent Night, his first opera. The work received its world premiere in November in at Minnesota Opera in St. Paul.

Pulitzer officials described Silent Night as "a stirring opera that recounts the true story of a spontaneous cease-fire among Scottish, French and Germans during World War I, displaying versatility of style and cutting straight to the heart."

It's been nearly 20 years since the John Adams/Alice Goodman/Peter Sellars/Mark Morris opera The Death of Klinghoffer has been given a full U.S. stage production; the last was in San Francisco in 1992. Perhaps that should come as no surprise, given the rancor stirred by its 1991 American premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. But it's back at Opera Theater of St. Louis for the next week. Its revival has tried to address some of the issues and concerns raised by the controversial premiere.