Union Avenue 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.

Melissa Parks sings the role of Katisha in Union Avenue Opera's season opening production of "The Mikado."
Union Avenue Opera

The curtain rises on Union Avenue Opera’s 22nd Festival Season on July 8 with a new adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s classic, “The Mikado.” 

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, contributor Steve Potter was joined by mezzo soprano Melissa Parks who sings the role of Katisha in “The Mikado.” Also joining the program were Eric Gibson, who directs the production, and Scott Schoonover, Union Avenue Opera’s artistic director and conductor, to discuss the production and preview the two other productions in the 2016 season.

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

On the way home Friday night from the Union Avenue Opera on North Union Boulevard, I landed in the middle of a beehive at the intersection of Euclid and Maryland avenues. The place is always busy, but on weekend evenings it's especially alive. However, this Friday the corner drew many more police officers than usual, including the chief, Sam Dotson.

Alderman Lyda Krewson was there; so were many worried longtime residents of the neighborhood. There were tourists from St. Louis County and beyond -- parents bringing their kids to college. Lots of folks were hanging out in the bars and outdoor cafes drinking up a storm. Gridlock-causing motorists, either just cruisin’ or looking for parking places or glimpses of civil disobedience, were in abundance.

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.”

Union Avenue Opera's "Rigoletto"
John Lamb | Union Avenue Opera

Musicologists have had a field day divvying up the operas of the towering Italian genius Giuseppe Verdi. “Rigoletto” -- performed this weekend with artistic muscle and dramatic agility by Union Avenue Opera – is pigeonholed in his middle period, along with  Il trovatore and La traviata.

Galen Scott Bower sings the title role in Union Avenue Opera's Don Giovanni
John Lamb | Union Avenue Opera

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 19th opera – the one sandwiched between “The Marriage of Figaro” and “Cosi fan tutte,” is described regularly and superlatively with the word “perfection.” This opera is “Don Giovanni,” presented over the weekend by Union Avenue Opera in a production conducted by Scott Schoonover and directed by Jon Truitt. Two more performances are to come, on Friday and Saturday, June 17 and 18, at 8 p.m..

Courtesy Union Avenue Opera

Union Avenue Opera opens its 21st festival season on July 10 with Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” When “Cityscape" host Steve Potter pointed out that age 21 in people usually indicates adulthood, UAO Artistic Director Scott Schoonover responded, “We have actually played around with that imagery, thinking about coming into our own at 21. We actually have a pretty serious season this year … a bit heavier in that sense. I think people will still enjoy it and get a lot out of it, but coming into our own, yes.”

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.”

Union Avenue Opera

When Union Avenue Opera opens its 2014 season on July 11 with Verdi’s La Traviata, it will be with a company that is vastly different than the one that mounted its first production 20 years ago. UAO founding artistic director and conductor Scott Schoonover recalled that he had just finished his degree, wanted a chance to conduct and knew a number of singers who needed work. He had just moved to St. Louis to take the position as music director of Union Avenue Christian Church and the church encouraged him to mount an opera there.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Brünnhilde, a majestic Valkyrie, pulls her golden shield tight to her heart, and jabs her long spear at semi-god Siegmund. With his magic sword he slams her spear. Clashing metal, thunder, ecstatic love duets, bloodshed, pandemonium then stillness -- that’s all in a night at the opera at Union Avenue Opera.

(Courtesy Union Avenue Opera)

When one thinks of Wagner’s Ring cycle, what comes to mind is a huge cast, orchestra and set which can only be performed in the world’s largest opera houses.  But Union Avenue Opera has brought the Ring to St. Louis thanks to the reduction and adaptation by composer Jonathan Dove and stage director Graham Vick. The company will mount the second opera, Die Walkure, on August 16, 17, 23 and 24.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Two extraordinary singers worked theatrical magic last week, singing beautiful music simultaneously in shows whose intricate beauties sweep us away, no matter how often we see them. Coincidence and propinquity brought “South Pacific” and “Madama Butterfly” together in the city’s West End. I saw each on successive evenings and found it impossible not to connect the dots in an effort to understand better the importance of these shows and the lessons they teach, lessons begging still, after all these years, to be absorbed and put into quotidien practice.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Puccini’s "Madama Butterfly," one of the most beloved and most often performed operas, comes to Union Avenue Opera Friday with singers who have become UAO favorites.

"The ‘Madama Butterfly’ story has so much joy and love in the first act," soprano Ann Hoyt Wazelle, who sings the title role, said. “Butterfly is very young, 15, and so faithful to (U.S. Naval Lt. Benjamin Franklin) Pinkerton. All its music is so beautiful.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Many of Allyson Ditchey’s St. Louis friends passionately love Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” but tell her they don’t like opera. “I tell friends that they should come to ‘Trouble in Tahiti’,” says Ditchey, the production’s stage manager.

“They will love this music, very Bernstein. It’s a perfect introduction to opera. It’s in English with supertitles. And the story is very smart, as relevant today as it was when he wrote it” in 1951.

“Trouble in Tahiti” opens Union Avenue Opera’s 19th season at 8 p.m. April 19.

Ron Lindsey

Union Avenue Opera opens its Nineteenth Festival Season with Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti. Written in 1952, the one act opera portrays the troubled marriage of a young suburban couple, Sam and Dinah, and follows the roller coaster of emotion as they try to reconcile their love.  Although Bernstein set his opera in the 1950’s, the Union Avenue Opera production moves the action to the present day.