Union Avenue Opera Prepares Its 24th Festival Season

Union Avenue Opera presents three company premieres in 2018

Union Avenue Opera receives $25,000 grant from the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, Inc., for their production of “Lost in the Stars.”

Over 40 artists will make their Union Avenue Opera debut this summer during its 24th Festival Season. The seven-week summer season will open Friday, July 6 with a traditional take on Gilbert & Sullivan’s comedic H.M.S Pinafore and continue through August 25 with performances of Verdi’s dramatic Nabucco and Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars, a provocative work which addresses the weighty moral issues of racism and injustice, relevant now more than ever in St. Louis.

“It’s going to be a wonderful summer at Union Avenue Opera as we tackle three unique and significant company premieres” said UAO Founding Artistic Director Scott Schoonover. “We’ve once again assembled top-notch casts and crews that will bring these dynamic productions expertly to life. UAO has a successful track record of producing Gilbert & Sullivan and Verdi operas, but I’m especially pleased to bring Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars to the St. Louis stage. It’s UAO’s first-ever Weill production and in my estimation, one of his most important and relevant works. This season truly offers something for every fan of the musical stage and I’m thrilled to offer it to our audiences.”

For their production of Lost in the Stars, Union Avenue Opera received a $25,000 grant from the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, Inc., New York, NY. “In these contentious times and in cities where the struggle against racial injustice is painfully real, it is critical that some of what we produce as artists mirror our surroundings and challenges us to see ourselves in the characters and situations onstage. Lost in the Stars with its searing portrayal of 1940’s South African apartheid allows contemporary audiences to connect with these issues, and in a visceral way realize that tragically, we continue to face many of the same challenges today. A powerful theatrical work like this one has the power to evoke self-reflection, dialogue and potentially even a shift of mentality. While it’s heartbreaking conclusion is difficult to bear, the last moments of Lost in the Stars offer hope for reconciliation and the possibility of a path to understanding” said Schoonover.

Over the past twenty-three years, UAO has grown in artist quality and excellence. Known throughout the region for presenting original language operas such as RigolettoLa traviata, and Wagner’s epic four-part Ring cycle alongside newer works including Dead Man WalkingA Streetcar Named Desire, and Doubt.

All operas will be presented in their original language with projected English supertitles and accompanied by a full union orchestra; all instrumentalists are members of the American Federation of Musicians.

Single tickets are on sale for as low as $32 and subscription packages start at $80. Tickets may be purchased online at www.unionavenueopera.org, by phone at (314) 361-2881, and in person at Union Avenue Opera, 733 N. Union Blvd, St. Louis, MO, 63108. Student rush tickets are available at the door for $15 (cash only) with a valid student ID. There is ample free parking available.

Don’t miss UAO’s Free Friday Night Lecture Series at 7:00 p.m. before the performance in the Union Avenue Fellowship Gallery presented by Dr. Glenn Bauer of Webster University (July 6, 13, 27, August 3, 17, 24). Lectures are free and open to the public.

Gilbert & Sullivan’s: H.M.S. PINAFORE
Four Performances: July 6, 7, 13, 14 at 8:00 p.m.
Presented in English with English supertitles

Take to the high seas aboard Her Majesty’s Ship Pinafore in this traditional telling of Gilbert & Sullivan’s beloved comic operetta full of mistaken identity, duty, intrigue and lots of laughs. Seaman Ralph Rackstraw is love-struck with a lass above his station—the Captain’s daughter, Josephine. What’s a fellow to do when his love is promised by her father to The Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Porter, KBC, First Lord of the Admiralty who is followed everywhere by his sisters and his cousins and his aunts; how can a sailor of such a low station compete with that? Enter the mysterious Little Buttercup, a bumboat of a woman with a secret that turns everything upside down. Poking good-natured fun at patriotism, party politics, the Royal Navy, and the appointment of unqualified people to positions of authority, H.M.S. Pinafore is a classic, time-tested delight not to be missed.

Director – Eric Gibson
Conductor – Scott Schoonover
Sir Joseph Porter – Steven Condy*
Captain Corcoran – Thomas Gunther*
Ralph Rackstraw – Anthony Heinemann
Dick Deadeye – Jacob Lassetter
Josephine – Leann Schuering
Buttercup – Katherine Calcamuggio*
Hebe – Erin Haupt

Giuseppe Verdi’s: NABUCCO
Four Performances: July 27, 28, August 3, 4 at 8:00 p.m.
Presented in Italian with English supertitles

Nabucco, King of Babylon, seizes control of Jerusalem in his war with the Israelites. Meanwhile, his daughter Fenena and her half-sister Abigaille are both in love with Ismaele, the nephew of the King of Jerusalem. War rages on between Babylon and Jerusalem. Abigaille, thinking to stop the warring once and for all, tells Ismaele that she wills save his people if he vows to love her and not Fenena. When he denies her, Abigaille ruthlessly plans to take down the kingdom, claim Nabucco’s throne, and kill all the imprisoned Israelites.Not since Wagner’s Ring cycle has Union Avenue Opera presented a show with such epic splendor. Experience some of Verdi’s grandest orchestral and choral music ever written, including the soul-stirring “Va, pensiero” chorus.

Director – Mark Freiman
Conductor – Stephen Hargreaves
Nabucco – Robert Garner
Abigaille – Marsha Thompson*
Fenena – Melody Wilson
Ismaele – Jesse Donner*
Anna – Karen Kanakis*
Abdallo – Clark Sturdevant
High Priest – Jacob Lassetter
Zaccaria – Zachary James

Four Performances: August 17, 18, 24, 25 at 8:00 p.m.
Book and Lyric by Maxwell Anderson
Based on the novel “Cry, the Beloved Country” by Alan Paton
Presented in English with English supertitles

Merging influences from Broadway, traditional African music, jazz, and blues, Kurt Weill’s final work for the stage is a gripping musical tragedy based on Alan Paton’s novel Cry, the Beloved Country. Set in 1940s South Africa apartheid, Lost in the Stars tells the story of Absalom, the son of Stephen Kumalo, a local black preacher. When Absalom kills his white neighbor in a desperate bid to provide for his wife and child, he is arrested and sentenced to death. Before his son is executed, the murdered man’s father, James Jarvis, comes to the preacher to offer compassion and understand rather than hatred and retaliation. Lost in the Stars soars with thrilling operatic passages as it lays bare the tragedy of social barriers among all people, ending with a moving promise of reconciliation and hope for the future.

Director – Shaun Patrick Tubbs*
Conductor – Scott Schoonover
Stephen Kumalo – Kenneth Overton*
Irina – Krysty Swann*
Leader – Roderick George
Linda – Melody Wilson
(Speaking roles TBA)

*UAO stage debut

Additional offerings in 2018:
Opera Open Houses – Enjoy live previews by the casts of upcoming season productions as you browse Centro Modern Furnishings’ stunning showroom at 4727 McPherson Ave, in the CWE. Opera Open Houses are free and run from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.: H.M.S. Pinafore, June 21; Nabucco, July 19; Lost in the Stars, August 9. No reservations needed.

About Union Avenue Opera – UAO was founded in 1994 to bring affordable, professional, original-language opera to St. Louis, a mission the company continues to pursue to this day. UAO is committed to hiring the most talented artists, directors, designers and technicians both locally and from across the United States. UAO provides promising young singers the first stepping stone of their professional career. UAO is a publicly supported 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization registered in Missouri. In 2018 UAO became an OPERA American Professional Company Member. OPERA America is the national membership organization for artists, administrators and audiences, dedicated to support the creation, presentation and enjoyment of opera.

UAO offers vibrant and affordable opera experiences in original languages to audiences who reflect the breadth and diversity of the St. Louis region from the acoustically superb sanctuary of an historic church located in the urban Visitation Park neighborhood in St. Louis’ Central West End.

Financial assistance has been provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency, and with support from the Regional Arts Commission, and the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, Inc., New York, NY.

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