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2020-21 Festival Season


Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Announces Slate of Year-Round Digital Programming and an Outdoor 2021 Festival Season

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (OTSL) announced a bold 2020-21 season full of historic company firsts, from a diverse line-up of dynamic, digital performances during the winter months to an open-air Festival Season in Spring 2021. This fresh vision of OTSL's artistic programming offers an exciting opportunity to serve audiences and communities safely during the time of COVID-19 while continuing to produce the innovative, world-class work for which the company has become known.

To accomplish this ambitious slate of projects, Opera Theatre will transform its Sally S. Levy Opera Center into a filming studio. OTSL's digital performances will be crafted to reach new communities across the nation and to engage and educate new audien2020-2021 SEASON FULL OF HISTORIC FIRSTS AT OPERA THEATRE OF SAINT LOUIS ces. This digital series includes reductions of Gilbert and Sullivan's comedy The Pirates of Penzance and Puccini's beloved La bohème, featuring an ensemble cast of current and former Gerdine Young Artists, before culminating in a New Works, Bold Voices Lab. The lab - which expands upon OTSL's acclaimed series of New Works, Bold Voices commissions - will feature three world premiere 20-minute operas by composer Damien Sneed and librettist Karen Chilton, composer Laura Karpman and librettist Taura Stinson, and composer Steven Mackey.

"As we looked ahead to the coming year, we wanted to get back to our mission of creating art while keeping our artists and audience members as safe as possible," said General Director Andrew Jorgensen. "We are undaunted by the challenges of our time and are adapting to serve our audiences and community with even more opera year-round. I am so grateful to our incredible Board of Directors, who encouraged us not to limit performances to our six-week Festival Season or to the confines of a theater - they gave us a clear mandate to think outside the box. We took that challenge and ran with it, creating new approaches to how OTSL can present this magnificent art form."

Following the release of these virtual programs, Opera Theatre will return live and in-person for its 46th Festival Season next May, reuniting audiences and artists for open-air, socially distanced performances. The 2021 Festival Season, which is planned to take place on the campus of Webster University, will open with the world premiere of the revised edition of Stewart Wallace and Michael Korie's Harvey Milk, followed by a double bill of William Grant Still's gripping Highway 1, U.S.A. and Puccini's lighthearted Gianni Schicchi. The season continues with a compilation of four dramatic stories about love and revenge titled On the Battlefield of Broken Hearts, and the annual Center Stage concert featuring singers from OTSL's Richard Gaddes Festival Artist and Gerdine Young Artist Programs. Opera Theatre will also present a celebration of Black composers and singers in its first-ever Juneteenth Concert. Opera Theatre's 2021 season will mark the 44th year of the company's collaboration with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

The company's guidelines for safely filming and performing opera have been developed in consultation with the premier medical authorities in the St. Louis region, including infectious disease experts from the Washington University School of Medicine and the VA St. Louis Health Care System. Opera Theatre's season will also closely observe the health protocols established by Webster University for the safe operation of its campus.

"We cannot wait to return to creating live art for a live audience," said General Director Andrew Jorgensen. "In keeping with our commitment to new music and young talent, we feel incredibly fortunate to be in a position that allows us to invest directly in artists and composers during these unprecedented times - as well as to continue our partnership with the acclaimed St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. I believe that the challenges currently facing our art form will push us to be more creative and adaptive, resulting in opera that is even more accessible, engaging, and captivating than before."

About OTSL's 2020-21 Digital Studio

New Works, Bold Voices Lab
Three Commissions by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Critically acclaimed composers Damien Sneed (We Shall Overcome), Laura Karpman (HBO's Lovecraft Country), and Steven Mackey (Orpheus Unsung) will create new 20-minute operas featuring a small ensemble of singers and musicians. Damien Sneed's librettist is author and actor Karen Chilton; Laura Karpman's librettist is songwriter and author Taura Stinson. These commissions are an expansion to OTSL's existing "New Works, Bold Voices" cycle, which supports contemporary storytelling by American composers and librettists. All three commissions will be recorded and released as a suite of works in April 2021.


La bohème
Giacomo Puccini

In this intimately filmed 80-minute reduction, Puccini's famous romance takes on an entirely new relevance as six young bohemians wrestle with questions of livelihood, health, and love in the most difficult of circumstances. La bohème will be conducted by Roberto Kalb and directed by OTSL Artistic Director James Robinson, featuring tenor Ryan Johnson as Rodolfo and soprano Avery Boettcher as Mimì. This introduction to one of the world's most beloved operas will be available for streaming in January 2021.


Opera on the GO!
featuring The Pirates of Penzance (Gilbert and Sullivan)

This annual program introduces students to the magic of opera with workshops on stage makeup, movement, and vocal performance. The workshops culminate with an abridged performance of The Pirates of Penzance, a delightfully humorous opera about a reluctant pirate and his search for love. Led by conductor Roberto Kalb and director Shawna Lucey, this production features soprano Angel Riley as Mabel, tenor Ryan Johnson as Frederic, and baritone Benjamin Taylor as the Pirate King. This program will be distributed virtually to schools starting in December and will be available in February 2021 for public purchase.

Made possible with generous support from Bayer Fund.


Holiday Concert

Opera Theatre kicks off the holiday season with a festive, family-friendly concert full of popular holiday songs, ranging from traditional carols to well-known movie tunes. This seasonal performance will be available to stream starting December 6, 2020.

About OTSL's 2021 Festival Season

From contactless ticketing to a new smartphone festival app to socially distanced seating pods, Opera Theatre is creatively adapting the Festival Season in response to the pandemic. Performances, which have historically taken place at Webster University's Loretto-Hilton Center, will be moved outdoors in consultation with university officials. Opera Theatre is committed to bringing audiences and artists together safely while maintaining the artistic values that have distinguished OTSL since its founding. The coming season offers an exciting array of operas that will move, challenge, and delight audiences in equal measure.

Further information about dates, tickets, and casting will be announced in early 2021 as OTSL continues to monitor the pandemic and adapt plans for the safety of its artists, staff, and patrons. To learn more, people may visit or call the OTSL Box Office at (314) 961-0644.

Harvey Milk
Stewart Wallace & Michael Korie
Revised edition commissioned by Opera Parallèle and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

The 2021 Festival Season opens with the world premiere of a new edition of this landmark opera. The inspiring story of LGBTQ activist and politician Harvey Milk reminds us all that there is more that unites than divides us - and that true change can be sparked by one person's unflagging commitment to justice. Directed by Artistic Director James Robinson and conducted by Carolyn Kuan, Music Director of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Harvey Milk features baritone Edward Nelson in the title role and tenor Alek Shrader as Dan White.

Made possible in part by the Sally S. Levy Family Fund for New Works, which provides support for contemporary opera and related community engagement activities.

Leadership support comes from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the
Whitaker Foundation. The production is supported in part by an award from the
National Endowment for the Arts.


Double Bill:

Highway 1, U.S.A.
William Grant Still & Verna Arvey

This story of a couple's fight for a better life - and the sacrifices they make for a loved one - is a long-neglected work of William Grant Still. This intimate opera by the "Dean of African-American Composers" features a sweeping score that brilliantly blends elements of Romanticism, blues, and musical theater - and proves itself more than worthy of being restored to the operatic canon. Highway 1, U.S.A. will star soprano Nicole Cabell and baritone Will Liverman. This production will be directed by Ron Himes, Founder and Producing Director of the St. Louis Black Rep, and conducted by Leonard Slatkin, Conductor Laureate of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

Major production support for Highway 1, U.S.A. is provided by the William T. Kemper Foundation and Commerce Trust Company.

Community programming for Highway 1, U.S.A. is made possible by PNC Arts Alive.

Gianni Schicchi
Giacomo Puccini

Not seen on Opera Theatre's stage for more than 40 years, OTSL is bringing back this great comedy classic of the operatic canon. Buoso Donati has passed away, and to the horror of his relatives, has left his entire fortune to a local monastery. All sorts of antics ensue in this one-act opera as the family hires the wily Gianni Schicchi to help them steal back the money. Baritone Levi Hernandez stars in the title role. Opera Theatre favorite Seán Curran will direct, with Leonard Slatkin at the podium.


On the Battlefield of Broken Hearts
featuring Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda (Claudio Monteverdi)
Lucrezia (George Frideric Handel)
Phaedra (Benjamin Britten)
La voix humaine (Francis Poulenc)

This collection of four short works offers a powerful exploration of gender dynamics across the ages. With compositions that range from the Baroque era through the 20th century, On the Battlefield of Broken Hearts reminds us that the heart is our most powerful driver - and our most dangerous. The first three of these works are directed by R. B. Schlather in a highly anticipated Opera Theatre debut; La voix humaine features soprano Patricia Racette in a self-directed tour-de-force presentation.


Juneteenth Concert

Opera Theatre celebrates Black Music Month and commemorates Juneteenth with a concert that honors the contributions of Black composers and artists across generations. This moving performance will be curated by soprano Nicole Cabell and baritone Will Liverman, featuring members of the 2021 Festival Season ensemble, and will be free to the general public.


Center Stage
A Young Artist Showcase

This one-night-only event shines a spotlight on Opera Theatre's Richard Gaddes Festival Artist and Gerdine Young Artist Programs. A cadre of rising opera stars performs under the stars as they sing iconic melodies from opera's greatest hits and cherished rarities in a program curated by Patricia Racette, OTSL's Artistic Director of Young Artist Programs.

About Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis produces a spring festival featuring casts of the opera world's most exciting singers accompanied by members of the Grammy Award-winning St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. Each season, OTSL presents inventive new productions in English during the months of May and June. In addition to innovative interpretations of classics, OTSL is committed to premiering new and relevant operas by prominent composers; since its inaugural season in 1976, 28 operas have received their world premieres OTSL. The company's competitive young artist programs foster the next generation of emerging American singers and have helped launch international careers for countless artists. OTSL is led by General Director Andrew Jorgensen and Artistic Director James Robinson.

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is funded in part by the Regional Arts Commission, Arts and Education Council, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Missouri Arts Council. Opera Theatre gratefully acknowledges Webster University for its sustaining partnership.

About the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

Celebrated as one of today's most exciting and enduring orchestras, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is the second-oldest orchestra in the country, marking its 141st year with the 2020/2021 season and its second with Music Director Stéphane Denève. Widely considered one of the world's finest orchestras, the SLSO maintains its commitment to artistic excellence, educational impact, and community connections - all in service to its mission of enriching lives through the power of music.

The SLSO musical family also includes two resident choruses: the St. Louis Symphony Chorus, founded in 1976; and the St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON Chorus, an ensemble focused on the music of African-American and African cultures, founded in 1994. The SLSO family also includes the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, founded by Conductor Laureate Leonard Slatkin in 1970.

In addition to its regular concert performances at Powell Hall, which has been the permanent home of the SLSO for more than 50 years, the orchestra is an integral part of the diverse and vibrant St. Louis community, presenting dozens of free education and community programs and performances throughout the region each year. It presents St. Louis Symphony: Live at the Pulitzer, a collaboration with the Pulitzer Arts Foundation. The SLSO also serves as the resident orchestra for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, with the upcoming 2021 Festival Season the 44th year of this extraordinary partnership.

The Grammy Award-winning SLSO's impact beyond the St. Louis region is realized through weekly Saturday night concert broadcasts on St. Louis Public Radio, acclaimed recordings, and regular touring activity. A sought-after artistic partner by preeminent musicians and composers from across the globe, as well as by local and national organizations, the SLSO enjoys a long history of robust and enduring artistic collaborations that have developed and deepened over the years.

Today, the SLSO builds on the institution's current momentum on all fronts, including artistic, financial, audience growth, and community impact, and looks toward the future with Stéphane Denève. For more information, visit


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