Opera Theatre Announces 2020 Season Repertory

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis announces the complete repertory for the 2020 Festival Season, which will run May 23 – June 28, 2020. In addition to the previously announced world premiere of Tobias Picker and Aryeh Lev Stollman’s Awakenings, the season will also present three exciting new productions of celebrated operas: Bizet’s gripping opera Carmen, Strauss’ effervescent comedy Die Fledermaus, and the long-awaited company premiere of Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah, which features the directorial return of Patricia Racette. The annual Center Stage concert — a one-night-only audience favorite — takes place on June 23, highlighting the talented singers in OTSL’s nationally lauded young artist programs.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to announce Opera Theatre’s 2020 Festival Season, the first of my planning, which promises to be filled with comedy, passion, poignancy, and everything in between. We offer two fresh interpretations of classic repertoire: Rodula Gaitanou’s US debut directing a powerful production of Carmen and Shawna Lucey’s witty take on Strauss’s comedic classic Die Fledermaus,” said General Director Andrew Jorgensen. “Two operas also will be seen for the first time on the OTSL stage next season: the world premiere of Tobias Picker and Aryeh Lev Stollman’s Awakenings and Carlisle Floyd’s great American opera Susannah. I’m deeply grateful to James Robinson for his vision and partnership, and am excited to welcome so many talented directors, designers, and musicians to breathe life into the 2020 season.”

The 2020 Festival Season features several notable debuts of emerging conductors and stage directors, including David Charles Abell, Rodula Gaitanou, Shawna Lucey, Timothy Myers, and SLSO Resident Conductor Gemma New. Several up-and-coming singers will also be making company debuts, including Nicholas Brownlee, Deborah Nansteel, Jarrett Logan Porter, Christian Pursell, and Adam Smith.


Georges Bizet

May 23, 29, June 4, 6, 10, 14, 17, 24 and 27

Free, rebellious, and elusive to all admirers, Carmen is the most desired woman in Seville. When she sets her sights on the corporal Don José, a passionate love affair between the two is briefly ignited. But nothing can pin Carmen down for too long, and when she leaves José for the handsome toreador Escamillo, a twisted love triangle ensues that spells doom for the femme fatale. Carmen’s dark portrayal of love, jealousy, and freedom has cemented its place as one of the most performed operas in the canon.

Sarah Mesko, who makes her Opera Theatre debut in the 2019 season as Ottavia in The Coronation of Poppea, sings the title role. In their OTSL debuts, Adam Smith and Christian Pursell will sing the roles of Don José and Escamillo, Carmen’s rival admirers. Former Gerdine Young Artist Erica Petrocelli sings her first principal role, Micaëla. Director Rodula Gaitanou and conductor Timothy Myers both make their OTSL premieres interpreting Bizet’s lush opera.

Major production support is provided by the William T. Kemper Foundation and Commerce Trust Company.

Die Fledermaus

Johann Strauss II

May 30, June 3, 12, 18, 20, 24 and 28

Prince Orlovsky is holding the hottest party in town, and everyone is determined to get an invitation. Man-about-town Eisenstein sneaks out for one last hurrah before serving a short jail sentence, and his friend Falke uses the opportunity to get revenge for an old practical joke. However, Eisenstein’s wife Rosalinde and her maid Adele also have plans, and a harmless prank quickly turns into a series of mistaken identities, flubbed French, and over-the-top flirtations. However the evening ends, one thing’s for sure — you can blame it on the champagne!

A cast of OTSL favorites returns for this stylish new production. Mary Dunleavy, last seen in 2003 in the title role of Thaïs, sings the role of Rosalinde. Fresh off recently celebrated performances at Opera Theatre, Roland Wood takes a comic turn as Eisenstein, and Deanna Breiwick sings the role of the crafty maid Adele. Two former young artists return to join the cast in their first season as principals: Briana Hunter in the role of Prince Orlovsky and Joshua Blue in the role of Alfred. David Charles Abell conducts Strauss’ lively score with staging by Shawna Lucey, both appearing for the first time at Opera Theatre.


World Premiere from Tobias Picker and Aryeh Lev Stollman

June 7, 11, 13, 20, and 26

Awakenings, based on the book by Dr. Oliver Sacks, tells the true story of his astounding treatment of survivors of the great sleeping-sickness pandemic, encephalitis lethargica, which swept across the globe in the early twentieth century. Thousands of victims lived on, left immobile like living statues. In the late 1960s, by experimenting with the drug L-DOPA used to treat Parkinson’s Disease, Dr. Sacks began to “awaken” these patients — men and women who had never stopped thinking or feeling — temporarily bringing them back to an active and engaged life.

Baritone Jarrett Logan Porter will make his Opera Theatre debut as Dr. Oliver Sacks. The opera will feature the return of tenor David Portillo as Mr. Rodriguez, the nurse caring for the encephalitis lethargica patients. OTSL veterans soprano Joyce El-Khoury and tenor Paul Groves will portray Rose and Leonard, two patients awakened from their immobile states. Mezzo-soprano Deborah Nansteel makes her OTSL debut as Miriam, another patient of Dr. Sacks. OTSL Resident Conductor and Head of Music Roberto Kalb leads the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. The production is directed by OTSL Artistic Director James Robinson.

Made possible in part by the Fred M. Saigh Endowment at Opera Theatre and by the Sally S. Levy Family Fund for New Works, which provides support for contemporary opera and related community engagement activities.

Leadership support comes from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the production is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Audience development programming for this project is made possible by PNC Arts Alive.


Carlisle Floyd

June 13, 17, 19, 21, 25 and 27

Based on the apocryphal story of Susanna and the Elders in the biblical Book of Daniel, Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah is one of the most celebrated American operas performed today. The young and beautiful Susannah lives with her brother in the small religious community of New Valley, Tennessee. Susannah is discovered bathing in a stream by church elders, who spread salacious rumors about her. As gossip circulates, the community ostracizes and abuses her, setting into action a series of events that shake the foundation of her world. Susannah tells a fraught and resonant coming-of-age story in the American Appalachia.

Soprano Patricia Racette, renowned for previous portrayals of the title role, returns to OTSL for her second directorial feature. Internationally renowned soprano Susanna Phillips sings the title role, last seen at Opera Theatre in her critically acclaimed performance of Birdie in 2018’s Regina. Bass-baritone Nicholas Brownlee makes his OTSL debut as Reverend Olin Blitch. Gemma New, resident conductor of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, conducts at Opera Theatre for the first time.

Made possible in part with a leadership gift from the Whitaker Foundation.

Center Stage

June 23

OTSL’s annual Center Stage concert returns for one night only, featuring the talents of the Gerdine Young Artists and Gaddes Festival Artists of the 2020 Festival Season. Among the most selective of young artist programs in the country, Opera Theatre handpicks these talented young singers from an annual pool of more than 1,000 applicants across the US.
The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra appears on stage for this exclusive performance featuring classics from the operatic canon.

All operas are accompanied by members of the Grammy Award-winning St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and are performed in English with projected titles. Subscriptions for the 2020 Festival Season start at just $80. Subscriptions go on sale Saturday, May 25, 2019, and can be purchased online, via phone, or in person at the OTSL Box Office at the Loretto-Hilton Center. Single tickets will go on sale in October 2020. For more information about the season, visit ExperienceOpera.org, or call the Opera Theatre Box Office at (314) 961-0644.