New Operas About Memphis Come to Midtown Opera Festival
Opera Memphis will present a series of new operas about Memphis, The Opera 901 Showcase, during the 2018 Midtown Opera Festival at Playhouse on the Square April 6-14. This year's Festival will also include a rarely performed opera by Alessandro Scarlatti and a full range of Fringe events designed to satisfy any lover of the performing arts. Tickets and the full event schedule are available at operamemphis.org/mof18.
The first of the two Festival operas to open is The Opera 901 Showcase, an evening of four new operas presented back-to-back and accompanied by a remounted presentation of Movin' Up in the World from Opera Memphis' 2014's smash hit, Ghosts of Crosstown. Each ten- to twenty-minute opera is inspired by a Memphis story - some true and some fictional-- and most use text by Memphis' favorite playwright Jerre Dye.
Formidable is composed by Kamala Sankaram, one of the hottest young composers in American opera and leader of Bombay Rickey, a Bollywood/Surf-Rock/Spaghetti Western/Opera band based in New York City. The opera tells the story of a woman who has come to Memphis to scatter her father's ashes. His dying wish was that his remains be scattered in the Mississippi at Memphis, a place she only knows as the home he left.
Kayfabe: a Wrasslin' Opera is composed by maverick Memphis musician Sam Shoup, a jazz musician, jingle writer, and prolific arranger for ensembles including the National Symphony Orchestra. Kayfabe is a rock opera about Memphis wrasslin' in the 80's. Our hero, The Face, is getting too old for the wrasslin' spotlight, but maybe one last match will silence his demons forever.
Welcome to GRC LND 2030: The Demo is written by Memphis-based hip hop phenomenon and political activist Marco Pavé, and presents a concept he will expand into a full-length opera. In the year 2030, Yellow Fever has returned to ravage the black community in Grc Lnd (a city very much like Memphis). When the stakes are higher than ever, will we see a new Civil Rights Movement?
A Pretty Little Room is written by Memphis Symphony Orchestra musician and composer Robert G. Patterson, a student of the profoundly influential avant-garde composer George Crumb and resident composer with Luna Nova Music. Based on a notorious 1892 murder, A Pretty Little Room meets Alice Mitchell as she has just arrived at Western State Hospital for the Insane in Bolivar, Tennessee. It is her sentence for a crime that captivated the nation: the murder of her former lover, Freda Ward.
Movin' Up in the World premiered in 2014 as a part of Ghosts of Crosstown. Originally performed in the Sears Crosstown building, pre-renovation, it is inspired in part by an interview with Lafayette Draper. Set the night before Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, it tells the story of Mr. John, a recently promoted elevator operator, giving advice to his replacement about how to handle various types of white people. He outlines an optimistic vision for the future, never dreaming of the tragedy that awaits the following day.
In addition to these brand new operas, Midtown Opera Festival will feature a 300 year-old operatic jewel, Alessandro Scarlatti's The Triumph of Honor. Though several centuries old, the opera tells a story that is familiar in our era of dating apps; When there are too many options, how do you chose? This charming opera is given new life with a 1990s set production that draws connections between classic Commedia Dell-Arte roles and characters from Friends, Clueless and other pop-culture touchstones. Featuring an all-star cast of local talent and visiting singers, this energetic performance will be a treat for all.
"The vision of Midtown Opera Festival has always been to explore opera in all its' breadth and depth, " says General Director Ned Canty. "For us that means looking to the past to unearth lost classics as well as commissioning brand new operas by Memphians, for Memphians. More American operas have been written in this century than in the preceding two centuries, and we are proud to be a part of that explosion of new work."
As always, Midtown Opera Festival will also feature performances by several other arts organizations, including Collage Dance Collective, High Expectations Aerial Arts, and a film screening from WKNO. Soprano Shawnette Sulker will present Feel the Spirit, a concert of songs and spirituals from the African Diaspora (accompanied by brunch), and violinist Hajnal Pivnik and mezzo soprano Kayleigh Butcher will present a concert of new American music. Rounding out the schedule are two audience favorite events: Cartoons and Cereal (where families can gather for a morning of classic Bugs Bunny cartoons about opera) and Aria Jukebox, a late-night event where the audience votes and our singers sing!
More information and the full event schedule can be found at operamemphis.org/mof18 or by calling 901.257.3100. Tickets start at only $10 and Festival Passes, which allow patrons to experience everything the Festival has to offer, are only $100.
Guests should note that several pieces in The Opera 901 Showcase feature adult language and themes.
Opera Memphis was founded in 1956 and has grown into a world-class opera company. Widely respected for its innovative approach to outreach and audience development, Opera Memphis has become a nationally recognized thought leader on the process of evolving to meet the needs of 21st century audiences. For more information on upcoming Opera Memphis performances, call 901-257-3100 or visit www.operamemphis.org. To keep up with the latest news and happenings, follow Opera Memphis on facebook.com/operamemphis or on Twitter as @operamemphis.