Opera Memphis presents American stories at Midtown Opera Festival

Opera Memphis presents American stories at Midtown Opera Festival

For the fifth year running, Opera Memphis will be in midtown for ten days of opera, concerts, parties, and more, including the reading of a first-of-its-kind collaboration with the US Army. Midtown Opera Festival takes place March 31-April 9 at Playhouse on the Square.

As always, Midtown Opera Festival centers on a collection of concise, intimate works. This year's operas are all by living American composers (the oldest written in 2008), and each is a vibrant example of contemporary opera.

The first, John Musto's Later the Same Evening, is inspired by five of Edward Hopper's paintings. It illuminates their stories with the rich musical language that is Musto's trademark.

The second opera is Jake Heggie's Three Decembers, one of the most frequently performed American operas of all time. The characters in this heartbreakingly beautiful opera are as familiar as they are real. The story deals with one of life's greatest challenges-learning to love your family not only in spite of, but because of, their flaws.

The third opera, Peter Hilliard's Blue Viola, premiered in Chicago in 2015. Based on the true story of a priceless musical instrument gone missing, the opera is infused with the sounds of the blues and jazz - a perfect combination for our Memphis audience!

The operas will be performed by a large group of singers, some familiar and some brand new to our audience, accompanied by the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. Joining them are nationally recognized musicians Andrew McIntosh (viola) and Mark Robson (piano). Opera Memphis Music Director Ben Makino and Opera Memphis regular Michael Sakir conduct, and Ned Canty and Dennis Whitehead Darling direct.

In addition to the operas, the Festival features a wide variety of Fringe events designed to deepen and expand the audience experience. This year's lineup includes a concert by local hip-hop artist Marco Pavé; the Ernest Withers Collection will unveil True Saint, a set of photographs featuring St. Jude founder Danny Thomas; High Expectations Aerial Arts presents "Opera Takes Flight"; "Cartoons and Cereal" invites families to enjoy some classic cartoon opera moments; and Ben Makino conducts a production of Schoenberg's groundbreaking Pierrot Lunaire, with photography by Memphian Joey Miller and stage direction by Dylan Evans.

The Festival also features the reading of a new opera co-commissioned by Opera Memphis and the US Army. The Falling and the Rising tells the stories of wounded veterans, gathered in personal interviews at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The libretto was written by Memphis' own Jerre Dye, and is in the process of being fully realized as an opera. As part of that process, Opera Memphis invites interested individuals, especially veterans and active duty military, to hear the piece and provide feedback. This event, on Monday, April 3, is free to attend.

"Three years ago we presented our first commission, Ghosts of Crosstown,which told the stories of Memphians and their relation to the Sears Crosstown building," says Opera Memphis General Director Ned Canty. "That project inspired our next round of commissions, including: The Falling and the Rising; an opera set in Elmwood Cemetery; and hip-hop opera by Marco Pavé. Creating new works that speak to our present moment is a core art of our mission, and we look forward to sharing these brand new "Memphis-Made" operas in the seasons to come."

The Midtown Opera Festival takes place March 31-April 9 at Playhouse on the Square. The full event schedule and more information can be found online at operamemphis.org. Tickets may be purchased for individual events or as pa

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From This Author Jeffrey Ellis

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