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  • Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Announces 2nd Annual Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation Prize

    St. Louis, MO – Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is pleased to announce that baritone Aubrey Allicock will be this year’s recipient of the Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation Prize, which recognizes extraordinary artistic potential in early-career artists and provides support for their continued artistic and professional development. Mr. Allicock was selected by a committee of Opera Theatre’s leadership as the artist from the 2012 Season with the greatest potential to make a significant contribution to the art form of opera. He receives a $10,000 cash prize, which may be applied to expenses that will further his artistic and professional growth.

    The award is a key component of the Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation Young Artist Education and Development Programs at OTSL, which were named in recognition of a $2 million gift from The Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation in 2010. This gift helps endow OTSL’s acclaimed commitment to nurturing the careers of “stars of tomorrow,” both on stage and off stage, through professional development programs. Opera Theatre counts among its alumni some of the most celebrated names in opera internationally, including singers Christine Brewer, Susan Graham, Nathan Gunn, Patricia Racette, Thomas Hampson, Jerry Hadley, Dawn Upshaw, Sylvia McNair, Erie Mills, Dwayne Croft, Kelly Kaduce, and Lawrence Brownlee.

    The Foundation’s gift helps support the Gerdine Young Artist program, which offers training and experience to early-career singers, as well as the Emerson Behind the Curtain program, which offers similar opportunities to backstage artisans. More than 60 of the country’s finest emerging singers, technicians, and administrators participate in these OTSL professional development programs, among several others, each year.

    “Aubrey Allicock is an artist with a gorgeous voice and rare dramatic gifts. His first season with Opera Theatre was my first as general director, so it’s been a thrill to watch him grow from a Gerdine Young Artist in our chorus to become a leading baritone at our company and elsewhere. He has a big future ahead, and we are privileged to help him achieve it thanks to the generosity of the Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation.”

    Mr. O’Leary awarded The Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation Prize to Mr. Allicock at a luncheon that took place at the Sally S. Levy Opera Center on February 22, 2013.

    About the Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation 

    Mabel L. Purkerson, MD., Trustee.Mabel Dorn Reeder (1908-2007) was committed to creating a better world for future generations, by giving financially to worthy causes. From McCormick, South Carolina, she was the daughter of a prominent businessman and state senator. Her background enabled her to attend Greenville Women’s College and pursue graduate studies at Columbia University. “She was my namesake and role model because she embodied many of the things I thought I’d like to do in life,” explains Mabel L. Purkerson, M.D., professor emerita of medicine and the niece of Ms. Reeder. Dr. Purkerson is co-trustee of the Foundation and makes allocations honoring Ms. Reeder’s passion for music, education, photography, animals, travel, and history.

    About Aubrey Allicock

    Aubrey Allicock began his professional operatic career in 2009 as a member of Opera Theatre’s Gerdine Young Artist program. In 2010, he joined the roster at the Metropolitan Opera, covering the roles of Astarotte in Armida and Marullo in Rigoletto, and he returned to the Gerdine Young Artist program, singing Zaretsky in Eugene Onegin. He joined Opera Theatre as a principal artist in 2011, singing the role of Mamoud in The Death of Klinghoffer, a performance hailed by the New York Times as ‘striking’ and ‘riveting,’ and has since performed with the company as the Mad Hatter in the American premiere of Alice in Wonderland in 2012. Mr. Allicock is currently an Artist Diploma in Opera Studies student at the Juilliard School and is the recipient of the Richard Gaddes Fund for Young Singers as well as a Sullivan Foundation Grant winner. A native of Tuscon, Arizona, he received his Bachelors of Music from Grand Canyon University in 2006, and his Masters of Music from Indiana University in 2009.

    About Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

    Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is one of the leading American opera companies, known for a spring festival of inventive new productions, sung in English, featuring the finest American singers and accompanied by members of the St. Louis Symphony. As of 2012 Opera Theatre has presented 22 world premieres and 23 American premieres – which may be the highest percentage of new work in the repertory of any U.S. company. Described by The Sunday Times of London as “one of the few American companies worth the transatlantic fare,” Opera Theatre of Saint Louis annually welcomes visitors from nearly every state and close to a dozen foreign countries. Although the size of the theater typically limits box office income to less than a quarter of the budget, the company has consistently produced work of the highest quality while never accumulating a deficit.

    Opera Theatre also has a long tradition of discovering and promoting the careers of the finest operatic artists of the current generation. Among the artists who had important earlyopportunities at Opera Theatre are Christine Brewer, Susan Graham, Nathan Gunn, Patricia Racette, Thomas Hampson, Jerry Hadley, Dawn Upshaw, Sylvia McNair, Erie Mills, Dwayne Croft, Kelly Kaduce, and Lawrence Brownlee. Opera Theatre has always been known for distinguished leadership: founding general director Richard Gaddes was succeeded in 1985 by general director Charles MacKay, with famed British stage director Colin Graham as artistic director and Stephen Lord (1992 – present) as music director. Timothy O’Leary was named general director in October 2008 with acclaimed stage director James Robinson succeeding Colin Graham. For more information, visit ExperienceOpera.org.

     

     Opera Theatre gratefully acknowledges season presenting sponsor Wells Fargo Advisors.

     

    Opera Theatre is a sustaining member of the Arts and Education Council of Greater Saint Louis, and receives major support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Missouri Arts Council.

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  • Opera Theatre Hosts Weeklong Series February 18-24, Featuring Grammy Award Winner Terence Blanchard and a Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Creation of the World Premiere of Champion

    Acclaimed composer and musician will lead workshops, master classes, a panel, and a film screening

    St. Louis, MO – Opera Theatre of Saint Louis will introduce Terence Blanchard’s highly-anticipated new opera Champion with a week of events, February 18 – 24, in the lead-up to single tickets to Opera Theatre’s 2013 season going on sale.  Champion, an opera in jazz written with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Michael Cristofer, is Blanchard’s first opera.  Co-commissioned by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Jazz St. Louis, the opera is inspired by the true story of prize fighter Emile Griffith – an immigrant from the Virgin Islands who claimed the title of World Welterweight Champion in a fatal 1962 fight which transformed him into a tragic hero and left the two-year old son of his opponent Benny “The Kid” Paret, without a father.

    As a performer, Terence Blanchard has wowed audiences worldwide, including sold-out appearances with Jazz St. Louis. As a composer, he is deeply committed to developing the careers of future musicians and inspiring new audiences to engage with the power of great music. Mr. Blanchard will be central to a dynamic series of free programs, many of which are open to the general public. Partners for the program include Washington University, Webster University, the Ferguson-Florissant School District, Boys and Girls Clubs of St. Louis, the Missouri History Museum, Jazz St. Louis, COCA, Street Dreamz, the Urban League Young Professionals, the Links Inc., Team St. Louis, Athlete Ally, PROMO, PNC Bank, the Whitaker Foundation, The St. Louis American, and The Vital Voice. Highlighted programs include:

    Musical Fusion: Jazz and Opera in the 21st Century
    Monday, February 18, 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.
    Webster University, Emerson Library

    Join Terence Blanchard for a conversation about trends in 21st century American music, giving specific focus to the fusion between the musical styles of opera and jazz that inform the score of Champion. A master class on the future of 21st century music, this program is designed for college music students but is open to the general public.

    Creating Original Works
    Tuesday, February 19, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m.
    Lee Hamilton Elementary

    A select group of 3rd to 6th grade students at Lee Hamilton Elementary will experience a workshop with Terence Blanchard and Koran Bolden, of Street Dreamz, to explore ways to set their stories to music across three musical styles – hip hop, jazz, and opera. After the completion of the residency, students will have the opportunity to record the original pieces they created with Mr. Blanchard and Mr. Bolden in studio at Street Dreamz.

    Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story Screening with Q&A
    Thursday, February 21, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
    Missouri History Museum

    The documentary Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story traces the story of the life of Emile Griffith, the subject of the opera Champion. One of the final moments in the documentary, the meeting between Emile and the son of his opponent Benny “The Kid” Paret, is dramatized in Champion as the culmination of Emile’s journey towards forgiveness. After the documentary, Terence Blanchard will lead a Q&A discussion with the audience about Emile’s life and the process of translating it into the form of an opera. Screening is sponsored by The Vital Voice.

    Meet the Composer: A Young Professionals Happy Hour
    Friday, February 22, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Mary’s Attic Rooftop Longue // Hamburger Mary’s // 3037 Olive Street

    The Young Friends of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and of Jazz St. Louis co-host a happy hour event, featuring drinks and appetizers and a sneak peek of music from Champion. Terence Blanchard will be joined by singer Aubrey Allicock (who plays the role of Young Emile in the opera) and celebrated jazz pianist Peter Martin.

    Hip Hop, Jazz, and Opera Collide – An Interactive Workshop for Kids Grades 6 – 12
    Saturday, February 23, 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
    Centene Center for the Arts

    Students from the Boys and Girls Clubs of St. Louis, Jazz St. Louis’s Jazz U program, and the hip hop and theatre programs at COCA will combine for an interactive program on musical storytelling, featuring vocal performance, instrumental performance, and dance.

    Out for the Count: A Legacy in Athletes
    Saturday, February 23, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
    Washington University, Whitaker Hall

    This panel, sponsored by Washington University, explores the legacy of LGBT athletes in American culture, starting with Emile Griffith in the 1960s and moving forward to the challenges and opportunities that face amateur and professional athletics to become increasingly inclusive today. Terence Blanchard is joined on the panel by singer Aubrey Allicock,  as well as Hudson Taylor (Executive Director of Athlete Ally), Greg Larocque (former North American President of the Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association), and Philip Deitch (St. Louis amateur athlete and community activist).

    More details on each program, including rsvp information, are available at ExperienceOpera.org. This weeklong series is part of New Voices for Opera, audience engagement program which is made possible through support from Opera America’s Opera Fund and PNC Arts Alive.

    The commissioning and development of Champion was made possible with a leadership gift from the Whitaker Foundation with generous support from the Fred M. Saigh Endowment at Opera Theatre, and with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and OPERA America’s Opera Fund.  The production of Champion is made possible with a leadership gift from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and generous support from the Whitaker Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Phoebe Dent Weil

    Single tickets to the 2013 Festival Season at Opera Theatre, including the world premiere of Champion, go on sale to the general public on Saturday, February 23, 2013. All participants in this weeklong series will receive advance access to purchase tickets to Champion before they go on sale to the general public. Ticket prices for Champion start as low as $25. For more information, visit ExperienceOpera.org or call the Opera Theatre Box Office at (314) 961-0644.

    About Terence Blanchard

    World-renowned jazz musican and trumpet player Terence Blanchard is known for his work as a composer of hauntingly beautiful jazz pieces for small ensembles, symphonic settings, film, and stage. He has received five Grammy Awards, including the 2007 Large Ensemble Grammy for A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina). Most recently for film, he wrote the score to Lucasfilm’s Red Tails, which chronicled the story of the Tuskegee pilots and starred Cuba Gooding, Jr. His music was also recently represented on Broadway with the score to Emily Mann’s new production of A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Blair Underwood.

    About Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

     

    Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is one of the leading American opera companies, known for a spring festival of inventive new productions, sung in English, featuring the finest American singers and accompanied by members of the St. Louis Symphony.  As of 2012, Opera Theatre has presented 22 world premieres and 23 American premieres – which may be the highest percentage of new work in the repertory of any U.S. company.  Described by The Sunday Times of London as “one of the few American companies worth the transatlantic fare,” Opera Theatre of Saint Louis annually welcomes visitors from nearly every state and close to a dozen foreign countries. Although the size of the theater typically limits box office income to less than a quarter of the budget, the company has consistently produced work of the highest quality while never accumulating a deficit. 

     

    Opera Theatre also has a long tradition of discovering and promoting the careers of the finest operatic artists of the current generation.  Among the artists who had important early opportunities at Opera Theatre are Christine Brewer, Susan Graham, Nathan Gunn, Patricia Racette, Thomas Hampson, Jerry Hadley, Dawn Upshaw, Sylvia McNair, Erie Mills, Dwayne Croft, Kelly Kaduce, and Lawrence Brownlee.  Opera Theatre has always been known for distinguished leadership: founding general director Richard Gaddes was succeeded in 1985 by general director Charles MacKay, with famed British stage director Colin Graham as artistic director and Stephen Lord (1992 – present) as music director.  Timothy O’Leary was named general director in October 2008 with acclaimed stage director James Robinson succeeding Colin Graham. For more information, visit ExperienceOpera.org.

     

    Opera Theatre gratefully acknowledges season presenting sponsor Wells Fargo Advisors.

     

    Opera Theatre is a sustaining member of the Arts & Education Council of Greater Saint Louis, and receives major support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Missouri Arts Council.

    

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  • Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Offers Opera Fans Worldwide the Chance to Win VIP Tickets and Travel Packages with New Video Competition

    January 16, 2013 – Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has launched Opera Stories Revealed: Share Your Story and Win, a new competition designed to inspire audiences, artists, and fans to share their excitement about opera, in partnership with KMOX radio. The grand prize winner of the competition will receive VIP tickets to the opening night of Opera Theatre’s world premiere opera-in-jazz Champion, as well as a music travel package to New Orleans to hear Champion’s composer Terence Blanchard perform at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

    Opera lovers of all ages and all backgrounds have moving, surprising, and funny stories about opera. Through this contest, Opera Theatre and KMOX encourage those fans worldwide to share a personal video of one of those stories on the webpage www.OperaStoriesRevealed.com.  Videos can be captured on a smartphone or standard digital video camera and uploaded directly to the competition’s webpage. The story might be that of a first experience with opera, a favorite opera memory, falling in love with opera, how someone fell in love because of opera, or any other experience with opera that surprised or delighted. For inspiration, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has prepared a series of videos featuring the stories of current singers, staff members, and board members, which can also be viewed at www.OperaStoriesRevealed.com.

    Contestants will be able submit videos starting now through March 3, 2013. Through March 3, the public will be able to rate each video, helping to select the top ten finalists. From March 6 – 19, 2013, through online voting, audiences will be able to vote on their favorite video from among the top ten – with one vote permitted per day per email address. A grand prize winner and two runners up will be selected March 20, 2013.

    Grand prize winners will receive not only a VIP experience at the opening night of the world premiere of Terence Blanchard and Michael Cristofer’s Champion in St. Louis on June 15, 2013, but they will also enjoy the opportunity to hear five-time Grammy Award winner Terence Blanchard perform live at the 2013 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The New Orleans travel package features round trip air fare to New Orleans, two nights hotel accommodations, two days’ access to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and a pre- or post- concert meet and greet opportunity with Terence Blanchard. Two runners up will also receive a pair of tickets to the world premiere of Champion, and all top ten finalists will receive an autographed Champion poster signed by Mr. Blanchard.

    Opera Stories Revealed: Share Your Story and Win was developed in partnership with KMOX radio. As part of New Voices for Opera, a program designed to grow and deepen engagement in opera, the competition is generously funded with grants from Opera America’s Opera Fund and PNC Arts Alive. The support from PNC is part of a multi-year initiative to support visual and performing arts groups with the goal of increasing arts access and engagement in new and innovative ways.

    “The PNC Foundation has a long history of providing grants to organizations that strengthen and enrich the lives of our communities,” said Rick Sems, the Regional President of PNC Bank.  “We understand that a rich arts community is a significant driver of our economic success, providing employment, boosting tourism, and making the region attractive for businesses, residents, and visitors.”

    Single tickets to Opera Theatre’s 2013 Festival Season go on sale to the general public on Saturday, February 23, 2013. Subscriptions are currently available to all four operas in the season: The Pirates of Penzance, a double bill of Pagliacci and Il tabarro, the world premiere of Champion, and The Kiss. For more information on the upcoming season, visit www.ExperienceOpera.org. For more information on Opera Stories Revealed, including detailed rules, visit www.OperaStoriesRevealed.com.

    About Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

    Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is one of the leading American opera companies, known for a spring festival of inventive new productions, sung in English, featuring the finest American singers and accompanied by members of the St. Louis Symphony.  As of 2012 Opera Theatre has presented 22 world premieres and 23 American premieres – which may be the highest percentage of new work in the repertory of any U.S. company.  Described by The Sunday Times of London as “one of the few American companies worth the transatlantic fare,” Opera Theatre of Saint Louis annually welcomes visitors from nearly every state and close to a dozen foreign countries. Although the size of the theater typically limits box office income to less than a quarter of the budget, the company has consistently produced work of the highest quality while never accumulating a deficit.

     Opera Theatre also has a long tradition of discovering and promoting the careers of the finest operatic artists of the current generation.  Among the artists who had important early opportunities at Opera Theatre are Christine Brewer, Susan Graham, Nathan Gunn, Patricia Racette, Thomas Hampson, Jerry Hadley, Dawn Upshaw, Sylvia McNair, Erie Mills, Dwayne Croft, Kelly Kaduce, and Lawrence Brownlee.  Opera Theatre has always been known for distinguished leadership: founding general director Richard Gaddes was succeeded in 1985 by general director Charles MacKay, with famed British stage director Colin Graham as artistic director and Stephen Lord (1992 – present) as music director.  Timothy O’Leary was named general director in October 2008 with acclaimed stage director James Robinson succeeding Colin Graham.  For more information, visit ExperienceOpera.org.

     

    Opera Theatre gratefully acknowledges season presenting sponsor Wells Fargo Advisors.

     

    Opera Theatre is a sustaining member of the Arts and Education Council of Greater Saint Louis, and receives major support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Missouri Arts Council

     

     

    

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  • Opera Theatre announces New Works, Bold Voices

    Composers Terence Blanchard, Ricky Ian Gordon, and Jack Perla will each premiere new works beginning in the 2013 season

    October 29, 2012 – Timothy O’Leary, General Director of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, today announced a three-year cycle of world premiere operas by American composers, beginning with the company’s 2013 festival season in May.  The new operas are Champion by Terence Blanchard with libretto by Michael Cristofer (2013), Twenty-Seven by Ricky Ian Gordon with libretto by Michael Korie (2014), and Shalimar the Clown by Jack Perla, based on the novel by Salman Rushdie (2015).  The cycle is underwritten in part by a $1 million challenge grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

    Casting for the cycle includes two of the world’s most acclaimed mezzo-sopranos, Denyce Graves in Champion and Stephanie Blythe in Twenty-SevenChampion is a co-commission with Jazz St. Louis.  Casting and collaborators for Shalimar the Clown will be announced at a later date.

    “Opera has lately entered an exuberant era of new works,” said Mr. O’Leary, “and Opera Theatre is excited to build on a 37-year tradition of adventurous programming. We call this cycle New Works, Bold Voices recognizing these tremendous composers, librettists, and singers, as well as the courageous characters they will depict.”

    Mr. O’Leary continued, “Music Director Stephen Lord, Artistic Director James Robinson, and I consider it central to Opera Theatre’s mission to present American works, telling compelling stories of the modern era, exploring our common humanity through the special power of music and theatre.  I am deeply grateful to Opera Theatre’s audience and generous supporters who make this work possible.”

    Champion is the first opera for Mr. Blanchard and Mr. Cristofer.  Mr. Blanchard is a five-time Grammy Award-winning jazz, film, and theatrical composer.  Mr. Cristofer is a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, as well as an award-winning filmmaker and actor.  Mr. Gordon and Mr. Korie have collaborated on operas before, including their acclaimed The Grapes of Wrath which was premiered at the Minnesota Opera and has been performed in concert at Carnegie Hall.  Mr. Perla is known for his wide-ranging compositional style including symphonic, choral, and chamber music, as well as work in multiple jazz idioms.  His one-act opera Courtside was presented by the Houston Grand Opera as part of its Song of Houston project for HGOco, and his chamber opera Love/Hate has been performed in a co-production by the Opera Center of San Francisco Opera and ODC Theater.

    At the completion of this cycle in 2015, Opera Theatre will mark its 40th anniversary season having produced 25 world premieres and 24 American premieres.  England’s Opera magazine recently described Opera Theatre as “one of the country’s most enterprising, off-centre festivals.  Indeed, it is hard to think of any other major opera festival on either side of the Atlantic that has so devoted itself to new work.”  Recent successes with works by composers John Adams, John Corigliano, Peter Ash, and Unsuk Chin have helped expand Opera Theatre’s audience, which is drawn from nearly 50 states and about a dozen foreign countries in addition to every zip code in the St. Louis metropolitan area. 

     

    CHAMPION (2013)

    An opera in jazz

    Music by Terence Blanchard

    Libretto by Michael Cristofer

    June 15, 19, 21, 25, 27, 30, 2013

     The Story

    Emile Griffith was a three-time world welterweight champion and twice a world middleweight champion, fighting from the late 1950s into the 1970s.  However, one of his greatest professional triumphs – winning back the title from Benny “The Kid” Paret in 1962 – was also his greatest personal tragedy.  The seventeen punches he landed on Paret in seven seconds resulted in not only a knockout, but also a coma from which Paret would never recover.  Paret would die ten days later.  For Griffith, who had never wanted to be a boxer, the impact of the fight was devastating, and his career soon went downhill.

    Before that life-changing televised fight, in a room full of press and officials, Paret had mocked Griffith with a derogatory term for homosexual.  Years later, Griffith’s sexuality was revealed after he was nearly killed by a gang outside a gay bar in New York. “I kill a man,” Griffith was quoted to have said, “and most people understand and forgive me. I love a man, and to so many people this is an unforgiveable sin.”  Much later in his life, beginning to suffer from dementia, Griffith met the son of his opponent, Benny Jr., who was two years old at the time of the match, and who forgave the aging champion.  In an inspiring, moving, and painful journey of self-discovery, Champion presents audiences with a contemporary tragic hero – a story of strength, courage, rage, regret, and compassion.

    About Terence Blanchard

    Renowned for his work as a composer of hauntingly beautiful jazz pieces for small ensembles, symphonic settings, film, and stage, Terence Blanchard has received five Grammy Awards, including the 2007 Large Ensemble Grammy for “A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina).”  Most recently for film, he wrote the score to Lucasfilm’s Red Tails, which chronicled the story of the Tuskegee pilots and starred Cuba Gooding, Jr.  His music was also recently represented on Broadway with the score to Emily Mann’s new production of A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Blair Underwood.  Champion is Mr. Blanchard’s first opera.

    About Michael Cristofer

    For playwright, filmmaker, and actor Michael Cristofer, the Champion libretto is also a first.  In 1977, he received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play for The Shadow Box.  Mr. Cristofer’s other plays include Breaking Up, Black Angel, The Lady and the Clarinet which starred Stockard Channing, and Amazing Grace starring Marsha Mason, which received the American Theater Critics Award for Best Play in 1997.  His work on such films as The Witches of Eastwick, Falling in Love, The Bonfire of the Vanities, and HBO’s Gia has earned him a Golden Globe, a Writer’s Guild Award, two Emmy nominations, and a best director award from the Director’s Guild of America.  Currently, he appears on the NBC drama Smash.

    More information on Champion, including the cast and artistic team, is available at http://www.opera-stl.org/about/news-press/2012/10/29/national-and-local-funders-provide-major-support-for-three-year-cycle-of-new-american-operas-in-st-louis/

    The commissioning and development of Champion were made possible with a leadership gift from the Whitaker Foundation and with major support from the National Endowment for the Arts and OPERA America’s Opera Fund.

    The production of Champion is made possible with a leadership gift from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and generous support from the Whitaker Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Phoebe Dent Weil.  New Voices for Opera, the audience development programming surrounding the project, is made possible by OPERA America’s Opera Fund and PNC Arts Alive.


    TWENTY-SEVEN (2014)

    Music by Ricky Ian Gordon

    Libretto by Michael Korie

    June, 2014

    The Story

    Twenty-Seven explores the story of Gertrude Stein’s life in Paris between World War I and World War II at her famous home at 27 Rue de Fleurus.  Destined to become a legendary author, poet, raconteuse, and patroness of the arts, Stein established in Paris one of the great salons of all time, hosting the most influential artists and personalities of her day.  She was particularly fond of those she dubbed “the lost generation” – a group of artists who came of age during World War I.  While they suffered its ravages, they also rose to the challenges of the interwar period to create many of the great works that defined the advent of Modernism.

    The role of Gertrude Stein will be the centerpiece of the opera, sung by renowned mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe.  Ms. Blythe will be joined by a cast of four virtuosic singing actors who will change identities fluidly to portray those who surround Stein – from her brother Leo and her companion Alice B. Toklas to Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Juan Gris, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

    About Ricky Ian Gordon

    American composer Ricky Ian Gordon has quickly emerged as a leading writer of vocal music that spans art song, opera, and musical theater.  Mr. Gordon’s songs have been performed and/or recorded by such internationally renowned singers as Renee Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Nathan Gunn, Deborah Voigt, Elizabeth Futral, Judy Collins, Kelli O’Hara, Audra MacDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, Nicole Cabell, the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Frederica Von Stade, Andrea Marcovicci, Harolyn Blackwell, and Betty Buckley, among many others.  Recent productions of his work include Rappahannock County with libretto by Mark Campbell, Sycamore Trees for which he is the composer and lyricist, The Grapes of Wrath with libretto by Michael Korie and Orpheus and Euridice (OBIE Award) for which he is the librettist.  Renee Fleming premiered the orchestral version of his Night Flight To San Francisco, a setting of Harper’s final monologue from Tony Kushner’s Angels In America in March, and his Green Sneakers for Baritone, String Quartet, Empty Chair, and Piano, for which he is also the librettist, will have its New York premiere at Lincoln Center on April 6th, 2013.


    About Michael Korie

    Michael Korie writes librettos to operas and lyrics to musicals.  His libretto to composer Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath premiered to acclaim at Minnesota Opera followed by productions at Los Angeles Disney Concert Hall, Utah Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, and Carnegie Hall.  Librettos with composer Stewart Wallace include Harvey Milk (San Francisco Opera), Kabbalah (BAM Next Wave Festival) and Where’s Dick? (Houston Grand Opera). Lyrics include award-winning Broadway musical Grey Gardens, and this season’s Far From Heaven (Playwrights Horizons) and the UK production of Finding Neverland, all with composer Scott Frankel.  He teaches lyric-writing at Yale Drama School, and serves as an artistic advisor to emerging opera and theater composers and librettists at the American Lyric Theater and The Dramatists Guild.

     

    SHALIMAR THE CLOWN (2015)

    Music by Jack Perla

    Based on the novel by Salman Rushdie

    June, 2015

    The Story

    Shalimar the Clown is based on Salman Rushdie’s acclaimed novel of the same title.  Its themes of personal and political power and betrayal are played against the story of three generations of women, beginning in the “paradise lost” of rural Kashmir and culminating in late 20th century Los Angeles.  Shalimar is a young Muslim Kashmiri known for his gregarious personality and his skill as a tightrope walker.  His Romeo-and-Juliet romance with a Hindu girl named Boonyi manages to meet with approval from their families and their village, but the romance is shattered when an American ambassador begins an affair with Boonyi.  Shalimar goes on to train as an assassin and seeks revenge not only on the ambassador but also the child of the affair, a daughter named India, who lives in California. 

    Mr. Rushdie’s novel was a finalist for the 2005 Whitbread Book Awards, and has been described as “Rushdie’s greatest novel since The Satanic Verses” by The Los Angeles Times.  The novel’s magic-realist world incorporates Mr. Rushdie’s signature humor, balanced by a thrilling, sinister ending, which offers a glint of hope in the form of an unanswered question.  Mr. Perla has recorded and performed with many well-known artists in the Indian tradition, and plans to create a score that blends the contemporary Western opera tradition with that of traditional Indian sounds, employing the tabla and sitar in the orchestra and the exuberance of Bollywood films for large choral scenes.

    About Jack Perla


    San Francisco-based composer Jack Perla has forged a reputation for writing engaging, sophisticated, and accessible works using a palette that includes symphonic, operatic, choral, and chamber music, as well as multiple jazz idioms.  In 2010, Mr. Perla was commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera for a one-act opera with playwright Eugenie Chan, for Song of Houston. Courtside was the first in that series and led to a second commission for the final opera of the series, with author Chitra Banerjee Divarakuni.  Love/Hate, commissioned by American Opera Projects, premiered in 2012 in a co-production with the Opera Center of San Francisco Opera and ODC Theater.  Other commissions include Belongings, a new one act opera for the Seattle Opera with Atlantic writer Jessica Murphy Moo, and Pretty Boy, commissioned by the Paul Dresher Ensemble.  Mr. Perla has received awards from the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition, American Composers Forum, Zellerbach Fund, Argosy Foundation Contemporary Music Fund, James Irvine Foundation, American Music Center, Meet the Composer and Civic Orchestra of Chicago.  He is the 1997 recipient of the Thelonious Monk Institute Jazz Composers Award, and earned his DMA at the Yale School of Music.

     

    About Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

    Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is one of the leading American opera companies, known for a spring festival of inventive new productions, sung in English, featuring the finest American singers and accompanied by members of the St. Louis Symphony.  As of 2012 Opera Theatre has presented 22 world premieres and 23 American premieres – which may be the highest percentage of new work in the repertory of any U.S. company.  Described by The Sunday Times of London as “one of the few American companies worth the transatlantic fare,” Opera Theatre of Saint Louis annually welcomes visitors from nearly every state and close to a dozen foreign countries. Although the size of the theater typically limits box office income to less than a quarter of the budget, the company has consistently produced work of the highest quality while never accumulating a deficit.

    Opera Theatre also has a long tradition of discovering and promoting the careers of the finest operatic artists of the current generation.  Among the artists who had important early opportunities at Opera Theatre are Christine Brewer, Susan Graham, Nathan Gunn, Patricia Racette, Thomas Hampson, Jerry Hadley, Dawn Upshaw, Sylvia McNair, Erie Mills, Dwayne Croft, Kelly Kaduce, and Lawrence Brownlee.  Opera Theatre has always been known for distinguished leadership: founding general director Richard Gaddes was succeeded in 1985 by general director Charles MacKay, with famed British stage director Colin Graham as artistic director and Stephen Lord (1992 – present) as music director.  Timothy O’Leary was named general director in October 2008 with acclaimed stage director James Robinson succeeding Colin Graham.  For more information, visit ExperienceOpera.org.

     Opera Theatre gratefully acknowledges season presenting sponsor Wells Fargo Advisors.

    Opera Theatre is a sustaining member of the Arts and Education Council of Greater Saint Louis, and receives major support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Missouri Arts Council.

     

     

     

    

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  • National and Local Funders Provide Major Support for Three-Year Cycle of New American Operas in St. Louis

     

    The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation leads support with $1 million commitment, which is the largest challenge grant for production support in the history of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

    October 29, 2012 – Opera Theatre of Saint Louis General Director Timothy O’Leary announced today the award of a $1,000,000 challenge grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in support of a three-year cycle of world premiere operas.  The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation provides grants on an invitation-only basis to a small number of leading performing arts companies in the United States.  The grant complements the local and national funds already secured for the first year of the cycle, including a $260,000 gift from the Whitaker Foundation to Opera Theatre and its commissioning partner, Jazz St. Louis, for the 2013 world premiere of Champion by five-time Grammy Award-winning composer Terence Blanchard and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Michael Cristofer.

    This financial support from the Mellon Foundation will help enable Opera Theatre to expand American operatic repertoire through a cycle the company has entitled New Works, Bold Voices, which includes Champion (2013), Twenty-Seven by composer Ricky Ian Gordon and Michael Korie (2014), and Shalimar the Clown by composer Jack Perla based on the novel by Salman Rushdie (2015).  The attached release provides more information about the operas.

    The Mellon Foundation awards grants based on artistic merit and leadership, concentrating on companies that demonstrate a commitment to advancing an art form by presenting ambitious new works.  The Foundation’s gift to Opera Theatre is structured as a challenge grant: Opera Theatre’s goal is to raise an additional $1.5 million from its donor base to secure the Mellon Foundation’s $1 million challenge, the largest ever to support Opera Theatre’s productions.  Qualifying gifts must represent new or increased support, and must be designated for Opera Theatre’s productions in its 2013, 2014, and 2015 seasons.

    “We are profoundly grateful to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for this leadership support,” said Timothy O’Leary.  “From the beginning, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has been committed to opera as a living, breathing, contemporary art form.  We are excited to be presenting new works by great American composers and librettists – we believe in opera from and for our own time, and we deeply appreciate the generosity that makes this work possible.”

    Each season, about 25% of Opera Theatre’s contributed revenue comes from sources outside the St. Louis metropolitan area, including national foundations such as The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, as well as members of Opera Theatre’s National Patrons Council.  Opera Theatre’s budget for 2013 is $9.2 million.

    The 2013 world premiere of Champion has already inspired considerable support from donors in St. Louis and beyond.  In addition to support from the Mellon Foundation, Opera Theatre has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and OPERA America’s Opera Fund.   Locally, the Whitaker Foundation’s leadership gift of $260,000 to Opera Theatre and its commissioning partner Jazz St. Louis provided the funding needed to launch Champion, helping to underwrite the commissioning and development of the piece, as well as the production itself. 

    “When two organizations of the caliber of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Jazz St. Louis join forces on a single project, one needs to take notice.  Opera and jazz share much musically – from the talent of their creators to the passion of their audiences.  It is natural to be curious about how artists negotiate a common vision that guides their work. The Whitaker Foundation is pleased through our support to help enable this exciting collaboration,” says Christy Gray, Executive Director of the Whitaker Foundation, about the project. Further underwriting for the production is provided by a member of Opera Theatre’s board of directors, Phoebe Dent Weil.

    Champion also marks the start of New Voices for Opera, a program designed to grow new audiences for Opera Theatre, with an emphasis on building an audience as culturally diverse as the St. Louis community.  This effort is funded with grants from OPERA America’s Opera Fund and PNC Arts Alive.  The support from PNC is part of The PNC Foundation’s two-year, $1 million investment in St. Louis that supports visual and performing arts groups with the goal of increasing arts access and engagement in new and innovative ways.

    Opera Theatre’s announcement of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant came shortly after the company closed its books on the fiscal year ending September 30, 2012.  During the fiscal year, Opera Theatre increased subscribership, increased single ticket sales, achieved a record for new and diverse audiences, and exceeded its goals for both earned and contributed revenue.  In addition to artistic excellence, Opera Theatre is known for its tradition of fiscal health and stability, having operated for 37 years without accumulating a deficit.

    About Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

    Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is one of the leading American opera companies, known for a spring festival of inventive new productions, sung in English, featuring the finest American singers and accompanied by members of the St. Louis Symphony.  As of 2012 Opera Theatre has presented 22 world premieres and 23 American premieres – which may be the highest percentage of new work in the repertory of any U.S. company.  Described by The Sunday Times of London as “one of the few American companies worth the transatlantic fare,” Opera Theatre of Saint Louis annually welcomes visitors from nearly every state and close to a dozen foreign countries. Although the size of the theater typically limits box office income to less than a quarter of the budget, the company has consistently produced work of the highest quality while never accumulating a deficit.

    Opera Theatre also has a long tradition of discovering and promoting the careers of the finest operatic artists of the current generation.  Among the artists who had important early opportunities at Opera Theatre are Christine Brewer, Susan Graham, Nathan Gunn, Patricia Racette, Thomas Hampson, Jerry Hadley, Dawn Upshaw, Sylvia McNair, Erie Mills, Dwayne Croft, Kelly Kaduce, and Lawrence Brownlee.  Opera Theatre has always been known for distinguished leadership: founding general director Richard Gaddes was succeeded in 1985 by general director Charles MacKay, with famed British stage director Colin Graham as artistic director and Stephen Lord (1992 – present) as music director.  Timothy O’Leary was named general director in October 2008 with acclaimed stage director James Robinson succeeding Colin Graham.  For more information, visit ExperienceOpera.org.


    Opera Theatre gratefully acknowledges season presenting sponsor Wells Fargo Advisors.

     Opera Theatre is a sustaining member of the Arts and Education Council of Greater Saint Louis, and receives major support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Missouri Arts Council

     

     

    

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  • Five-Time Grammy Award-Winning Composer Terence Blanchard and Pulitzer Prize-Winning Playwright Michael Cristofer to Premiere New Opera at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

    “Champion,” a co-commission with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Jazz St. Louis, will receive world premiere June 15 – 30, 2013

    Oct. 29, 2012 – Continuing their individual traditions of commissioning music that showcases the talents of the world’s best contemporary composers, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Jazz St. Louis have joined forces in the development of a new opera, featuring a powerhouse team of writers and performers.  With music by Terence Blanchard and libretto by Michael Cristofer, Champion blends the uniquely American tradition of jazz with the dramatic power of opera.  Based on the story of prizefighter Emile Griffith, the opera will star Denyce Graves, Arthur Woodley, Robert Orth, Aubrey Allicock, and Meredith Arwady.  Directed by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Artistic Director James Robinson and conducted by George Manahan, Champion will receive its world premiere June 15 – 30, 2013 as part of Opera Theatre’s 2013 Festival Season.

    The Story of Champion

    Emile Griffith was a three-time world welterweight champion and twice a world middleweight champion, fighting from the late 1950s into the 1970s.  However, one of his greatest professional triumphs – winning back the title from Benny “The Kid” Paret in 1962 – was also his greatest personal tragedy.  The seventeen punches he landed on Paret in seven seconds resulted in not only a knockout, but also a coma from which Paret would never recover.  Paret would die ten days later.  For Griffith, who had never wanted to be a boxer, the impact of the fight was devastating, and his career soon went downhill.

    Before that life-changing televised fight, in a room full of press and officials, Paret had mocked Griffith with a derogatory term for homosexual.  Years later, Griffith’s sexuality was revealed after he was nearly killed by a gang outside a gay bar in New York. “I kill a man,” Griffith was quoted to have said, “and most people understand and forgive me. I love a man, and to so many people this is an unforgiveable sin.”  Much later in his life, beginning to suffer from dementia, Griffith met the son of his opponent, Benny Jr., who was two years old at the time of the match, and who forgave the aging champion.  In an inspiring, moving, and painful journey of self-discovery, Champion presents audiences with a contemporary tragic hero – a story of strength, courage, rage, regret, and compassion.

    The Cast of Champion

    Champion marks the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis debut for one of the world’s most acclaimed mezzo-sopranos, Denyce Graves, who originated the title role in Toni Morrison’s opera Margaret Garner.  Ms. Graves sings the role of Emelda, Griffith’s mother. The cast is led by Arthur Woodley, distinguished for his portrayal of the role of Porgy in Porgy and Bess world-wide, in the central role of Emile Griffith.  Aubrey Allicock returns to Opera Theatre to play Young Emile after performances as Mamoud in The Death of Klinghoffer in 2011 and the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland in 2012.  Robert Orth, who has one of this country’s strongest pedigrees for originating roles in new American operas, plays trainer Howie Albert.  2012 Grammy Award-winner Meredith Arwady plays bar owner Kathy Hagen.  Rounding out the principal roles are Victor Ryan Robertson, doubling as Benny ‘The Kid’ Paret and Benny Jr. and Brian Arreola as Luis Rodrigo Griffith, Emile’s adopted son.

    The Creative Team for Champion

    Renowned for his work as a composer of hauntingly beautiful jazz pieces for small ensembles, symphonic settings, film, and stage, Terence Blanchard has received five Grammy Awards, including the 2007 Large Ensemble Grammy for A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina). Most recently for film, he wrote the score to Lucasfilm’s Red Tails, which chronicled the story of the Tuskegee pilots and starred Cuba Gooding, Jr.  His music was also recently represented on Broadway with the score to Emily Mann’s new production of A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Blair Underwood.  Champion is Mr. Blanchard’s first opera.  “My father loved opera,” Mr. Blanchard says, “He was a baritone who studied opera, so it was impossible not to feel an emotional connection to him in writing Champion.  I was drawn to tell Emile’s story through music from the moment I first heard of his incredible journey.  I knew there was no other way to tell this story but through the unique power of opera.”

    For playwright, filmmaker, and actor Michael Cristofer, the Champion libretto is also a first.  In 1977, he received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play for The Shadow Box.  Mr. Cristofer’s other plays include Breaking Up, Black Angel, The Lady and the Clarinet which starred Stockard Channing, and Amazing Grace starring Marsha Mason, which received the American Theater Critics Award for Best Play in 1997.  His work on such films as The Witches of Eastwick, Falling in Love, The Bonfire of the Vanities, and HBO’s Gia has earned him a Golden Globe, a Writer’s Guild Award, two Emmy nominations, and a best director award from the Director’s Guild of America.  Currently, he appears on the NBC drama Smash. “Champion is the story of a man struggling to make peace with himself and to find his place in the world… as a fighter and a gay man,” Mr. Cristofer says.  “It’s the story of courage in the face of sexual oppression, of love in the face of hate, of grace in the face of physical and mental decline.  For me, Emile’s story not only asks the question of what it means to be a man. It asks what it means to be a human being.”

    Director James Robinson is one of America’s most sought-after opera directors, winning wide acclaim for productions that range from standard opera repertory to world premieres and rarely performed works.  Artistic Director of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Mr. Robinson has staged productions for major opera companies, including New York City Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Washington National Opera, Welsh National Opera, Canadian Opera Company, San Francisco Opera, and Seattle Opera.

    Conductor George Manahan continues an esteemed career embracing everything from opera to the concert stage, the traditional to the contemporary.  Currently Director of Orchestral Studies at the Manhattan School of Music and Music Director of the American Composers Orchestra, Mr. Manahan served as Music Director of the New York City Opera for fourteen seasons.  He has conducted for the New Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Santa Fe Opera, Opera National de Paris, and the Teatro de Communale de Bologna, among others.  In 2011, he was recognized by ASCAP for his “career-long advocacy of American composers and the music of our time.”

    Commissioning Partner and Underwriting

    Co-commissioning partner Jazz St. Louis has been an integral part of the creation and development of this opera.  Terence Blanchard has performed with Jazz St. Louis on many occasions, and through that relationship, Jazz St. Louis Executive Director Gene Dobbs Bradford introduced Blanchard to Opera Theatre.  “Terence Blanchard is among the best jazz composers and musicians living today. We believe that this new opera will be remembered as a major work in the decades to come, both for American jazz and for American opera, as it bridges the two audiences and art forms in a fresh and exciting way.” says Mr. Bradford.

    The commissioning and development of Champion was made possible with a leadership gift from the Whitaker Foundation, and with major support from the National Endowment for the Arts and OPERA America’s Opera Fund.  The production of Champion is made possible with a leadership gift from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and generous support from the Whitaker Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Phoebe Dent WeilNew Voices for Opera, the audience development programming surrounding the project, is made possible by OPERA America’s Opera Fund and PNC Arts Alive.

    Performance Schedule

    Champion will be presented as part of Opera Theatre’s 2013 Festival Season (May 25 – June 30, 2013), which also includes Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, a double bill of Puccini’s Il Tabarro and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, and Smetana’s The KissChampion will receive six performances, on June 15, 19, 21, 25, 27, and 30, 2013.  Tickets to Champion are now available as part of a subscription to Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Single tickets will go on sale February, 2013.

     

    About Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

    Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is one of the leading American opera companies, known for a spring festival of inventive new productions, sung in English, featuring the finest American singers and accompanied by members of the St. Louis Symphony.  As of 2012 Opera Theatre has presented 22 world premieres and 23 American premieres – which may be the highest percentage of new work in the repertory of any U.S. company.  Described by The Sunday Times of London as “one of the few American companies worth the transatlantic fare,” Opera Theatre of Saint Louis annually welcomes visitors from nearly every state and close to a dozen foreign countries. Although the size of the theater typically limits box office income to less than a quarter of the budget, the company has consistently produced work of the highest quality while never accumulating a deficit. 

     

    Opera Theatre also has a long tradition of discovering and promoting the careers of the finest operatic artists of the current generation.  Among the artists who had important early opportunities at Opera Theatre are Christine Brewer, Susan Graham, Nathan Gunn, Patricia Racette, Thomas Hampson, Jerry Hadley, Dawn Upshaw, Sylvia McNair, Erie Mills, Dwayne Croft, Kelly Kaduce, and Lawrence Brownlee.  Opera Theatre has always been known for distinguished leadership: founding general director Richard Gaddes was succeeded in 1985 by general director Charles MacKay, with famed British stage director Colin Graham as artistic director and Stephen Lord (1992 – present) as music director.  Timothy O’Leary was named general director in October 2008 with acclaimed stage director James Robinson succeeding Colin Graham. For more information, visit ExperienceOpera.org.

     

    Opera Theatre gratefully acknowledges season presenting sponsor Wells Fargo Advisors.

     

    Opera Theatre is a sustaining member of the Arts & Education Council of Greater Saint Louis, and receives major support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Missouri Arts Council.

     

    About Jazz St. Louis

     

    Jazz St. Louis is on an incredible journey to advance the uniquely American art of jazz in St. Louis through live performance, education, and outreach. Each year, this non-profit organization presents over 270 performances on its internationally-acclaimed Jazz at the Bistro concert series. Artists appearing onstage at the Bistro regularly participate in one of Jazz St. Louis’s several education and outreach offerings. This unique, successful model sets the organization apart as an institution that presents jazz, educates future audiences, and nurtures budding musicians. Over 10,000 students are impacted each year by the organization’s work – all of which is offered free of cost to area schools and students. In this three-pronged approach, Jazz St. Louis maintains a commitment to inclusivity, diversity, and artistic quality unmatched in its field.

     

    Jazz St. Louis gratefully acknowledges Wells Fargo Advisors as the presenting sponsor of the 2011-12 and 2012-2013 Jazz at the Bistro Series.

     

    Jazz St. Louis receives significant support from the Arthur and Helen Baer Foundation, the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis, the Missouri Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, PNC Arts Alive, the Regional Arts Commission, the Trio Foundation of St. Louis, and the Whitaker Foundation.

     

    

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  • Opera Theatre Achieves Marked Growth in Attendance and Sales During 2012 Season

    St. Louis, MO, June 27, 2012 – Opera Theatre of Saint Louis general director Timothy O’Leary announced that the company’s 37th season yielded increased sales and continued growth in the size and diversity of its audience, a cornerstone of the company’s strategic plan adopted in 2009. 

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  • Five-Time Grammy Award-Winning Composer Terence Blanchard and Pulitzer Prize-Winning Playwright Michael Cristofer to Premiere New Opera at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

    Five-Time Grammy Award-Winning Composer Terence Blanchard and Pulitzer Prize-Winning Playwright Michael Cristofer to Premiere New Opera at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

    “Champion,” a co-commission with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Jazz St. Louis, will receive world premiere June 15 – 30, 2013

    St. Louis, MO, May 16, 2012 – Continuing their individual traditions of commissioning music that showcases the talents of the world’s best contemporary composers, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Jazz St. Louis have joined forces in the development of a new opera, featuring a powerhouse team of writers and performers. With music by Terence Blanchard and libretto by Michael Cristofer, Champion blends the uniquely American tradition of jazz with the dramatic power of opera. Based on the story of prizefighter Emile Griffith, the opera will star Denyce Graves, Aubrey Allicock, Arthur Woodley, and Robert Orth. Directed by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Artistic Director James Robinson, Champion will receive its world premiere June 15 – 30, 2013 as part of Opera Theatre’s 2013 Festival Season.

    The Story of Champion

    Emile Griffith was a three-time World Welterweight Champion and twice a World Middleweight Champion, fighting from the late 1950s into the 1970s. However, one of his greatest professional triumphs – winning back the Welterweight Championship from Benny “The Kid” Paret in 1962 – was also one of his greatest personal tragedies. The seventeen punches he landed on Paret in seven seconds resulted in not only a knockout, but also a coma from which Paret would never recover. Paret would die ten days later.

    Before that life-changing televised fight, in a room full of press and officials, Paret mocked Griffith repeatedly with a derogatory term for homosexual. Years later, Griffith’s sexuality as a gay man was revealed to the public after he was nearly killed by a gang outside a gay bar in New York. “I kill a man,” Griffith was quoted to have said, “and most people understand and forgive me. I love a man, and to so many people this is an unforgiveable sin.” In an inspiring, moving, and painful journey of self-discovery, Champion presents audiences with a great contemporary tragic hero – a man of strength and courage consumed ultimately by rage, regret, and the terrible consequences of his actions.

    The Cast of Champion

    Champion marks the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis debut for Denyce Graves, who originated the title role in Toni Morrison’s opera Margaret Garner. Graves sings the role of Emelda, Griffiths’ mother. The cast is led by Aubrey Allicock, returning to Opera Theatre to play Young Emile after performances as Mamoud in The Death of Klinghoffer in 2011 and the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland in 2012. Arthur Woodley, distinguished for his portrayal of the role of Porgy in Porgy and Bess world-wide, plays Old Emile. Robert Orth, who has one of country’s strongest pedigrees for originating roles in new American operas, plays Howie. Further casting will be announced in 2013.

    The Creative Team for Champion

    Renowned for his work as a composer of hauntingly beautiful jazz pieces for small ensembles, symphonic settings, film, and stage, Terence Blanchard has received five Grammy Awards, including the 2007 Large Ensemble Grammy for A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina). Most recently for film, he wrote the score to Lucasfilm’s Red Tails, which chronicled the story of the Tuskegee pilots and starred Cuba Gooding, Jr. His music is currently represented on Broadway with the score to Emily Mann’s new production of A Streetcar Named Desire, which stars Blair Underwood. Champion is Blanchard’s first opera. “My father loved opera,” Blanchard says, “He was a baritone who studied opera, so it was impossible not to feel an emotional connection to him in writing Champion. I was drawn to tell Emile’s story through music from the moment I first heard of his incredible journey. I knew there was no other way to tell this story but through the unique power of opera.”

    For playwright, filmmaker, and actor Michael Cristofer, the Champion libretto is also a first. In 1977, he received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play for The Shadow Box. Cristofer’s other plays include Breaking Up, Black Angel, The Lady and the Clarinet which starred Stockard Channing, and Amazing Grace starring Marsha Mason, which received the American Theater Critics Award for Best Play in 1997. His work on such films as The Witches of Eastwick, Falling in Love, The Bonfire of the Vanities, and HBO’s Gia has earned him a Golden Globe, a Writer’s Guild Award, two Emmy nominations, and a best director award from the Director’s Guild of America. Currently, he appears on the NBC drama Smash. “Champion is the story of a man struggling to make peace with himself and to find his place in the world… as a fighter and a gay man,” Cristofer says.  “It’s the story of courage in the face of sexual oppression, of love in the face of hate, of grace in the face of physical and mental decline. For me, Emile’s story not only asks the question of what it means to be a man. It asks what it means to be a human being.” 

    Director James Robinson is one of America’s most sought-after opera directors, winning wide acclaim for productions that range from standard opera repertory to world premieres and rarely performed works. Artistic Director of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Robinson has staged productions for major opera companies, including New York City Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Washington National Opera, Welsh National Opera, Canadian Opera Company, San Francisco Opera, and Seattle Opera.

    Commissioning Partner and Underwriting

    Co-commissioning partner Jazz St. Louis has been an integral part of the creation and development of this opera. Terence Blanchard has performed with Jazz St. Louis on many occasions, and through that relationship, Jazz St. Louis Executive Director Gene Dobbs Bradford introduced Blanchard to Opera Theatre. “Terence Blanchard is among the best jazz composers and musicians living today. We believe that this new opera will be remembered as a major work in the decades to come, both for American jazz and for American opera, as it bridges the two audiences and art forms in a fresh and exciting way.” says Bradford.

    The commissioning and development of Champion was made possible with a leadership gift from the Whitaker Foundation and with major support from the National Endowment for the Arts and OPERA America.  Support for the production of Champion is generously provided by the Whitaker Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Phoebe Dent Weil.  New Voices for Opera, the audience development programming surrounding the project, is made possible by OPERA America and PNC Arts Alive.

    Performance Schedule

    Champion will be presented as part of Opera Theatre’s 2013 Festival Season (May 25 – June 30, 2013), which also includes Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, a double bill of Puccini’s Il Tabarro and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, and Smetana’s The Kiss. Champion will receive six performances, on June 15, 19, 21, 25, 27, and 30, 2013. Tickets to Champion are now available as part of a subscription to Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Single tickets will go on sale February, 2013.

     

    About Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

     

    Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is one of the leading American festival opera companies, known for a spring season of inventive new productions, sung in English, featuring the finest American singers and accompanied by members of the St. Louis Symphony.  As of 2012, Opera Theatre has presented 22 world premieres and 23 American premieres – which is perhaps the highest percentage of new work in the repertory of any U.S. company.  Described by The Sunday Times of London as “one of the few American companies worth the transatlantic fare,” and by Opera Today as “the leading summer opera destination in the United States,” Opera Theatre of Saint Louis welcomed visitors from 45 states and 12 foreign countries in 2011.  Although the size of the theater limits box office income to 26% of the budget, the company has consistently produced work of the highest quality while never accumulating a deficit.            

     

    Opera Theatre gratefully acknowledges 2012 season presenting sponsor Wells Fargo Advisors. 

     

    Opera Theatre is a sustaining member of the Arts & Education Council of Greater Saint Louis, and receives major support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Missouri Arts Council.

     

    About Jazz St. Louis

    Jazz St. Louis is on an incredible journey to advance the uniquely American art of jazz in St. Louis through live performance, education, and outreach. Each year, this non-profit organization presents over 270 performances on its internationally-acclaimed Jazz at the Bistro concert series. Artists appearing onstage at the Bistro regularly participate in one of Jazz St. Louis’s several education and outreach offerings. This unique, successful model sets the organization apart as an institution that presents jazz, educates future audiences, and nurtures budding musicians. Over 10,000 students are impacted each year by the organization’s work—all of which is offered free of cost to area schools and students. In this three-pronged approach, Jazz St. Louis maintains a commitment to inclusivity, diversity, and artistic quality unmatched in its field.

     

    Jazz St. Louis gratefully acknowledges Wells Fargo Advisors as the presenting sponsor of the 2011-12 and 2012-2013 Jazz at the Bistro Series.

     

    Jazz St. Louis receives significant support from the Arthur and Helen Baer Foundation, the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis, the Missouri Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, PNC Arts Alive, the Regional Arts Commission, the Trio Foundation of St. Louis, and the Whitaker Foundation.

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  • Opera Theatre Responds to High Ticket Demand for 2012 Season, with Extra Carmen Performance Added June 19 at 8 p.m.

    Opera Theatre Responds to High Ticket Demand for 2012 Season, with Extra Carmen Performance Added June 19 at 8 p.m.

    Growth in subscription base and strong single ticket presale prompt added performance, bucking national sales trends

    ST. LOUIS – Less than two weeks before the start of the Wells Fargo Advisors 2012 Festival Season, Opera Theatre announces the addition of a new Carmen performance, to be offered Tuesday, June 19 at 8 p.m. The performance will help Opera Theatre meet strong demand for center orchestra seating during the run of Carmen. Currently, less than 4% of center orchestra seating and barely 1% of tickets in the $25 seating section remain available in the previously scheduled 9 performances of the opera. This is the first time in 8 years that Opera Theatre has added a performance to its festival calendar after tickets have gone on sale.

    “I’m thrilled that popular demand for Carmen has necessitated this additional performance,” says Opera Theatre General Director Timothy O’Leary. “Not only is Carmen the most popular opera in the history of the world, but this production in St. Louis is special because of its phenomenal cast, especially our home-grown international opera star Kendall Gladen in the title role.  Watching her and the rest of the cast in rehearsals, I am certain that once the opera opens, tickets will become scarcer still.”

    The added performance of Carmen is one reflection of the high demand for Opera Theatre tickets in 2012. Other early sales highlights of the 2012 Season include:

    • Season Subscriptions at this early date are up 2% over 2011’s end-of-season final numbers, both by total number of households and by total revenue. This reverses a multi-year trend of declining subscription volume for Opera Theatre, which has been consistent with a national decade-long trend subscription decline in the performing arts. The company will welcome its largest number of new or lapsed subscribers since the economic downturn in 2008, up 8% from 2011, while renewing 86% of its 2011 subscription base.
    • Young Friends Events are already 33% ahead in sales of 2011’s end-of-season final numbers. Young Friends Nights for Carmen and Sweeney Todd are already sold out. Tickets remain available for the Così fan tutte Young Friends Night on June 9, as well as a newly added Young Friends reception at Spotlight on Opera on May 14.
    • Illuminating Opera, a four-week April lecture series, exceeded total attendance by 31% and subscription volume by 47% over 2011. Normally only offered one morning per week, Illuminating Opera added an additional weekly Saturday series to meet demand.
    • Spotlight on Opera, a four-week panel discussion series which began on Monday, April 30, continues its growth in subscriptions – up 9% over 2011 and up 14% since 2010. Two more Spotlight events continue on May 14 and May 21.
    • Opera Theatre’s Spring Gala, held on Saturday, May 5, raised a record $727,000 for the company’s annual fund and attracted nearly 450 guests. The event was chaired by Noémi Neidorff, with honorary chair Donna Wilkinson and co-chair Kara O’Leary.

    Carmen opens the Wells Fargo Advisors 2012 Festival Season on Saturday, May 19th. Before the 8pm performance that evening, Opera Theatre offers a complimentary wine tasting to all opening night guests from 6:30 – 7:30pm under the tent in the Opera Theatre gardens. Carmen performances continue on May 23 at 8 p.m., May 25 at 8 p.m., May 31 at 8 p.m., June 8 at 8 p.m., June 10 at 7 p.m., June 13 at 1 p.m., June 16 at 8 p.m., June 19 at 8 p.m., and June 23 at 1 p.m. The season also includes Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd (opening Saturday, May 26 at 8 p.m.), Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte (opening Sunday, June 3 at 7 p.m.), and the much-anticipated American premiere of Unsuk Chin and David Henry Hwang’s Alice in Wonderland (opening Wednesday, June 13 at 8 p.m.) Tickets for all performances are available at ExperienceOpera.org or (314) 961-0644.

    About Opera Theatre

    Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is one of the leading American festival opera companies, known for a spring season of inventive new productions, sung in English, featuring the finest American singers and accompanied by members of the St. Louis Symphony.  As of 2012, Opera Theatre has presented 22 world premieres and 23 American premieres – which is perhaps the highest percentage of new work in the repertory of any U.S. company.  Described by The Sunday Times of London as “one of the few American companies worth the transatlantic fare,” and by Opera Today as “the leading summer opera destination in the United States,” Opera Theatre of Saint Louis welcomed visitors from 45 states and 12 foreign countries in 2011.  Although the size of the theater limits box office income to 26% of the budget, the company has consistently produced work of the highest quality while never accumulating a deficit.           

    Opera Theatre gratefully acknowledges 2012 season presenting sponsor Wells Fargo Advisors.

    Opera Theatre is a sustaining member of the Arts & Education Council of Greater Saint Louis, and receives major support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Missouri Arts Council.

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  • Wells Fargo Advisors Makes Lead Gift to Sponsor Opera Theatre of Saint Louis's 2012 Season

    Wells Fargo Advisors Makes Lead Gift to Sponsor Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’s 2012 Season
    The Wells Fargo Advisors 2012 Festival Season Will Open May 19

     St. Louis, MO, April 11, 2012 – Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is pleased to announce that Wells Fargo Advisors has given a leadership gift of $150,000 to sponsor the 2012 Festival Season.  Now in its third year, the sponsorship extends the company’s role as both the presenting sponsor of the spring festival season as well as a presenting sponsor of the annual spring gala.

    “Wells Fargo Advisors is committed to enriching the civic and cultural fabric of the St. Louis community and our support for Opera Theatre is an important part of that effort,” said Danny Ludeman, president and CEO of Wells Fargo Advisors.

    Throughout this time, Opera Theatre’s relationship with Wells Fargo Advisors has grown beyond the sponsorship and into the community. General Director Timothy O’Leary, said “We are thrilled and grateful about this ongoing partnership with Wells Fargo Advisors.  Not only do they help us bring world-class productions to the stage, but they also strengthen our community outreach and education programs, such as our recent joint event with the St. Louis Public School District featuring St. Louis’s own internationally-celebrated mezzo-soprano Kendall Gladen.”  In all, Opera Theatre’s education programs reach 11,000 school children in 26 school districts throughout the metropolitan area.

    The Wells Fargo Advisors 2012 Festival Season at Opera Theatre opens on May 19 with rising sensation Kendall Gladen in Bizet’s Carmen and continues with Mozart’s sparkling comedy Così fan tutte and the company’s second Sondheim, his 1979 masterpiece Sweeney Todd. The season concludes with the much-anticipated American premiere of Unsuk Chin and David Henry Hwang’s Alice in Wonderland.   Full ticket prices begin at just $25, with special pricing available for as little as $15 for students and active members of the military.  For more information, visit www.ExperienceOpera.org.

    About Wells Fargo Advisors

     With $1.1 trillion in client assets as of December 31, 2011, Wells Fargo’s brokerage businesses are comprised of 15,263 full-service financial advisors and 3,548 licensed bankers.  This vast network of advisors, one of the nation’s largest, serves clients through offices in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  Wells Fargo Advisors is the trade name used by two separate registered broker-dealers and non-bank affiliates of Wells Fargo & Company: Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC and Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, LLC (members SIPC).  Statistics include other broker-dealers of Wells Fargo & Company.   www.wellsfargoadvisors.com

     About Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

    Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is one of the leading American festival opera companies, known for a spring season of inventive new productions, sung in English, featuring the finest American singers and accompanied by members of the St. Louis Symphony.  As of 2012, Opera Theatre has presented 22 world premieres and 23 American premieres – which is perhaps the highest percentage of new work in the repertory of any U.S. company.  Described by The Sunday Times of London as “one of the few American companies worth the transatlantic fare,” and by Opera Today as “the leading summer opera destination in the United States,” Opera Theatre of Saint Louis welcomed visitors from 45 states and 12 foreign countries in 2011.  Although the size of the theater limits box office income to 26% of the budget, the company has consistently produced work of the highest quality while never accumulating a deficit.            

     Opera Theatre gratefully acknowledges 2012 season presenting sponsor Wells Fargo Advisors.

     Opera Theatre is a sustaining member of the Arts & Education Council of Greater Saint Louis, and receives major support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Missouri Arts Council.

     

    Continue Reading

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