Union Avenue Opera (UAO) prepares to raise the curtain on its 17th Festival Season. After great success with last season's local premiere of Tchaikovsky's psychological drama Pikovaya Dama (Queen of Spades), the comedic operetta Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan, and the romance of La fille du régiment (Daughter of the Regiment) by Donizetti, the company brings two well-loved operas and one local premiere to the stage at 733 North Union Boulevard: Puccini's Turandot, Rossini's La Cenerentola (Cinderella) and Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking.
Puccini's final masterpiece, Turandot, opens UAO's 17th season under the baton of Artistic Director Scott Schoonover. This passionate opera tells the tale of Princess Turandot whose cruelty masks her fear of love as she subjects her would-be suitors to answer three impossible riddles. Failure to answer means death, until the brave and noble Caláf falls in love with Turandot and attempts to beat her at her own dangerous game. Soprano Alexandra LoBianco returns to the UAO stage in the title role of Turandot after receiving rave reviews for her portrayal of Leonora in the company's 2009 production of Il Trovatore. Joining LoBianco on stage is tenor Adam Herskowitz who makes his UAO debut as Caláf. Christia Starnes returns to the UAO stage as Liú along with Todd von Felker, Clark Sturdevant and Andrew Papas as Ping, Pang and Pong. Turandot was first performed at UAO in 2004 under the direction of Mark James Meier who returns to once again dazzle the audience with his colorful interpretation of Puccini's most celebrated opera. Turandot will be performed in Italian with English supertitles on July 8, 9, 15, and 16 at 8:00 p.m.
Rossini's romantic comedy, La Cenerentola (Cinderella), is a sparkling rendition of the cherished fairytale in this timeless story of the triumph of love. Audiences of all ages will be delighted as the gentle and kind spirited Angelina, also known as Cenerentola, finds the courage within to defy those who stand in her way as she journeys from servants' quarters to a princess' throne. On July 29, 30 and August 6 at 8:00 p.m., and August 7 at 3:00 p.m. mezzo-soprano Abigail Fischer will make her UAO stage debut in the title role alongside UAO veteran tenor Keith Boyer as Prince Ramiro. Also making their UAO debuts are baritone Kenneth Mattice as Dandini and bass Adam Fry as Don Magnifico. Rounding out the cast as Cenerentola's stepsisters Clorinda and Tisbe are Gina Galati and Kara Cornell, as well as Scott Levin as the Prince's tutor, Alidoro. Presented in Italian with English supertitles, La Cenerentola will be directed by Jolly Stewart as Elizabeth Hastings makes her UAO conducting debut.
Closing UAO's 2011 Festival Season is the Missouri premiere of Dead Man Walking, an opera The Associated Press regards as "the most compelling new American opera in decades," and The Washington Post identifies as "an impressive piece of work." Commissioned by the San Francisco Opera with music by Jake Heggie, a libretto by Terrence McNally, and based on the novel of the same name by Sister Helen Prejean, Dead Man Walking made its World Premiere in 2000 and has performed to sold out crowds worldwide. Dead Man Walking brings to stage the modern-day story of Sister Helen Prejean and her journey as she takes on the role of spiritual advisor to Joseph De Rocher, an inmate on Louisiana's death row. Mezzo-soprano Elise Quagliata makes her UAO stage debut as Sister Helen Prejean in this gripping tale of compassion and redemption that will both shock and inspire audiences. Jordan Shanahan, who last appeared as Prince Yeletsky in UAO's 2010 production of Pikovaya Dama (Queen of Spades), takes the stage as the condemned Joseph De Rocher. Joining Shanahan is UAO veteran Debra Hillabrand as his mother, Mrs. Patrick De Rocher, alongside St. Louis native Marlissa Hudson as Sister Rose. Tim Ocel directs Dead Man Walking on August 19, 20, 26, and 27 at 8:00 p.m. as Scott Schoonover conducts the final notes of the 2011 Festival Season.
Tickets for the 2011 Festival Season are available by calling the UAO box office Monday - Friday at 314.361.2881 during normal business hours and are also available online at unionavenueopera.org.
UAO was founded in 1994 as a means 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, guest conductors, directors, designers and technicians both locally and from across the United States.