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Opera Theatre Of St. Louis Sells Out 2021 Season In 5 Days

051021_TauraStinson_LauraKarpman.jpg Taura Stinson Laura Karpman Opera Theatre of St. Louis
Opera Theatre of St. Louis
Taura Stinson and Laura Karpman's new opera, "On the Edge," has its world premiere as part of Opera Theatre of St. Louis' 2021 Festival Season.

Last Monday, Opera Theatre of St. Louis opened up ticket sales for its 2021 summer season.

By Friday, tickets were sold out.

“We were really humbled and overwhelmed by the response to our ticket sales,” Anh Le, Opera Theatre’s director of marketing and PR, said on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air. “We had hoped of course that with only 263 seats, we would have no problem filling those seats every night, but to sell out so quickly is something that we really hadn’t anticipated.”

For the reconfigured festival season, the company is moving from its usual home inside the Loretto-Hilton Center to the outdoors. Audience members will sit in pods in a newly designed festival grounds on the campus of Webster University. Total capacity is about 25% of what it was indoors.

The outdoor venue brings a host of challenges, Le acknowledged. While pre-show picnics on Webster’s campus are a ritual for many opera lovers, Opera Theatre has never previously staged a season outdoors.

“I’m not joking when I say we feel like we are building the plane even as we fly it,” Le said. “This has been completely different, but it’s been fun in so many ways. It’s a chance for us to reenvision our business model, what we do, what part of the experience connects with audiences — there’s just so much excitement from all of our staff and all of our artists to finally be back, performing live in front of an audience once again.”

This is the first time in Opera Theatre’s history that the season has sold out before it opened.

Monday’s conversation also featured two artists premiering new works in Opera Theatre’s 2021 season. Composer Laura Karpman and librettist Taura Stinson created one of the three world premieres comprising the “New Works, Bold Voices” production, which features three new 20-minute operas, each with a small ensemble of singers and musicians. It debuts on June 10.

Their opera, “On the Edge,” explores parenting during a pandemic — something that drew directly on Karpman’s lived experience.

“It was not hard to find the comedy, because it was like a physical comedy,” said Karpman of attempting to play teacher at “virtual school.”

“That’s not to make light of the people who were really suffering, because there’s real suffering going on,” she added. “But I think what we wanted to look at, at least in some of the piece, was capturing that moment in time.”

Opera Theatre Of St. Louis On Its Sold-Out 2021 Season — And That Pandemic Parenting Opera
Laura Karpman and Taura Stinson discuss their new opera, and Anh Le gives festival highlights

The opera’s third movement, however, brings other issues to the fore. That includes the death of George Floyd, which has since led to the murder conviction of a former Minneapolis police officer.

“There’s a lot of kids who were starting to feel unsafe, unprotected in their own homes,” Stinson said. “The same number you were calling for help, that 911, is the same number that was hurting us. We wanted just to speak from the children’s perspective. Who’s going to protect their father? Who’s going to protect us, if our father’s not here to protect us?”

A native of Oakland, California, Stinson has composed and written songs for TV and the movies. (The LA-based Karpman, while an experienced opera composer, also stays busy in Hollywood; she is the co-composer for HBO’s “Lovecraft Country.”) Stinson said this is not just her first opera as a librettist; when she comes to the world premiere in St. Louis this summer, it will be the first opera she’s ever attended in person.

But she’s now hooked. Now, she said: “I’d love to do an opera in Oakland. I’d love to have people from my old neighborhood see what kind of libretto they would bring. What kinds of songs could we get from some East Oakland slap, and make it into an opera?”

And if Karpman’s recent experience incorporating an aria into “Lovecraft Country” is any indication, the world is hungry for the power of opera.

“After that aired, I picked up the phone and called Jim Robinson, [artistic director of] Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and I said, ‘We are missing an audience,’” Karpman recalled. “There are people out there who have never heard the sound of an operatic voice, who reacted to this in a way that was just beyond anything that I could have imagined.

“And I think there is an audience there, and it’s incumbent upon all of us to go out there and find it and deliver opera to people who will love and appreciate it.”

Related Event

What: Opera Theatre of St. Louis 2021 Festival Season

When: May 22 to June 20

Where: Webster University grounds

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Sarah Fenske served as host of St. Louis on the Air from July 2019 until June 2022. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.

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