Opera Theater of St. Louis

At the end of June I took a trip over to St. Louis to see the new opera, CHAMPION, and visit old friends. Due to scheduling conflicts, I had not been to this company for 20 years (!) and it was just as lovely as when I directed IPHIGÉNIE EN TAURIDE there in 1994. In fact, it was like jumping into a time machine. Everything was in place: the tent, the manicured landscape, the theater itself, the wonderful esprit du corps and the talented young artists, of whom around five had been former students of mine at CCM–it was great to see them blossom on a professional stage.

CHAMPION was marvelous in all regards. The casting itself was a work of art. Musically, Terrence Blanchard has written an excellent first opera. The use of jazz idiom was organic, not trendy, and it alternated with music of unusual quality and depth. Very hard to pin it down–which is a good sign. The production could not have been better and Jim Robinson overcame the few langeurs in the story as it presently stands by keeping things afloat with visual activity. George Manahan, with whom I will be doing DON GIOVANNI in Philadelphia next spring, conducted beautifully despite working with a contingent of jazz musicians unaccustomed to following a conductor. I look forward to this piece having a successful, much deserved, “after life”.

I was also able to attend a performance of THE KISS by Smetna, which I had never seen onstage. The revelation here was Corinne Winters, of whom I had heard and read much but had never seen in performance. She is a marvel. Gorgeous, rich sound and a compelling actress with whom I hope to work some day. The rest of the cast was strong and the production of this charming but dramatically thin piece was visually slick and clean.

Opera Theater of St. Louis is one of our treasures and I look forward to spending many a lovely evening there–and hopefully to returning to direct a production soon.

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