Guest Blog: Oh!'s Mariam Khalili On Rossini's LA CENERENTOLA

Mariam Khalili
Photo by Carl Cramer

I'm currently sitting at my desk, the sun is setting beautifully out of my window to the west, and downstairs in our theater space here at Lambert Hall, are some out-of-this-world singers having a one-on-one rehearsal with our Maestro, Eiki Isomura. Their occasional chatter and banter is mixed with song and accompanied by piano. What a dream it is to hear such rich voices singing in Italian, perfecting line by line, as we all prepare for opening night. I couldn't ask for a better way to end the work day.


LA CENERENTOLA is an opera Oh! has been waiting for. It's our 20th anniversary season, and we chose to present a diverse selection of works. We wanted past and present, comedy, tragedy, traditional, contemporary. And works that would inspire all age groups.

For me, especially, after witnessing the joy of HANSEL UND GRETEL in our 2014-2015 season, I knew it was paramount that we presented another opera that spoke to young audiences.

As we all know, opera can be downright tragic and even violent; not necessarily appropriate for tender eyes and ears. Yet with Rossini's LA CENERENTOLA, our third opera of the season, the story is family-friendly and uplifting. Pair this sweet and treasured tale with the comedic genius of our stage director David Ward, and our dream team designers Jodi Bobrovski and Macy Lyne, and you've got a visually stunning art deco-inspired set, colorful costumes, and eye candy scene after scene.

Our cast and chorus fill the space beautifully, and their voices touch more than just your ears. Our chorus has never sounded better - they are absolutely sensational. Of course, nothing would be complete without my favorite part of this operation - the Opera in the Heights orchestra. Have you heard Maiko Sasaki play the clarinet? Being a former bassoonist, I'm partial to the bassoon, so naturally my heart sings when James Roberson gets a solo in any of our operas.

To encourage audience engagement, our female office staff agreed that we should invite our youngest (and young-at-heart) patrons to wear their favorite princess dresses or prince attire to the performances. Mezzo-Soprano Megan Berti, our CENERENTOLA readily agreed to pose for portraits with costumed guests after performances. I predict our social media will be flooded with adorable photos, and I can't wait to see them.

Now that I've clearly made the pitch for children, I need to take a step back. This opera is absolutely for adults, too. The story line differs from our familiar Disney cousin, CINDERELLA. I could elaborate on the differences, but instead I'll invite everyone to come and see for themselves. Who doesn't enjoy a great comedy, live music, and hearing others laugh? I've said that when children come into our theater to watch a performance, it's as if they are hypnotized. They can't look away from the scenes unfolding in front of them just feet away, and it's all happening in a foreign language. That alone is worth a trip to Lambert Hall, because chances are you'll be hooked, too.

With nearly two years under my belt with Opera in the Heights (one year as Executive Director), I can't believe how quickly time has passed, nor can I describe what an incredible journey the last year has been. I'm truly proud of this company, our staff, board of directors and our conductor. And I cherish our loyal patrons and donors.

Working in opera is a wild ride. It's a blessing. Opera is one of those gifts to humanity that has the ability to transport us to another time and place; it erases the crazy and often unstable world around us and provides a needed escape. How is this possible, you ask? It's simple. Music can take you anywhere; it is the ultimate travel vehicle. I am surrounded by dedicated artists who have tremendous talents that the written word cannot do justice - they are to be witnessed and cherished. These performances remind us of what a beautiful place this world is.

LA CENERENTOLA. 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 5, 11 and 13 and 2 p.m. on Feb. 7. $35 - $67. Lambert Hall, 1703 Heights Blvd. 713-861-5303. operaintheheights.org

Photo courtesy of Opera in the Heights



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From This Author Guest Blogger: Mariam Khalili

Mariam Khalili is the Executive Director of Opera in the Heights in Houston, Texas. She has been with the organization since its 2013-2014 season, and (read more...)