Union Avenue Opera Celebrates 25th Festival Season

Over 21 artists will make their Union Avenue Opera (UAO) debut this summer as the company celebrates its 25th Anniversary Season. The seven-week summer season will open Friday, July 5 with Bernstein's hilarious, philosophical, and fast-paced take on Voltaire's 1759 biting satire of the same name, Candide and will feature the return of Christine Brewer to the UAO stage. The season continues through August 24th with performances of Puccini's operatic blockbuster La bohème, a tribute to UAO's tradition of presenting operas in original languages, and the St. Louis premiere of Tom Cipullo's Glory Denied, the true saga of Vietnam veteran Colonel Jim Thompson, the longest-held American POW in US history.

The 25th Anniversary Season will culminate with a Gala on Thursday, October 10 at the Barnett on Washington. Guests will enjoy cocktails and hors d'oeuvres followed by a masterfully crafted gourmet meal with a special musical performance by three notable UAO alum: Kenneth Overton (Stephen Kumalo, Lost in the Stars), Elise Quagliata (Sister James, Doubt), and Marsha Thompson (Abigaille, Nabucco). The evening will be hosted by Kathy Lawton Brown of Classic 107.3, The Voice for the Arts in St. Louis.

"UAO started off small but mighty. I was a 22-year-old, just out of college looking for opera conducting experience and with the help of the Arts Group of Union Avenue Christian Church we set out to 'put on a show'" recalls UAO Founding Artistic Director Scott Schoonover. "Our first budget was $5,000 which included everything! Our first auditions drew 17 people, and our orchestra was a string quartet. The cast and I helped build the sets and costumes, and we held 6 performances each with about 50 people in attendance. Minutes before the first performance, the lighting system blew, and we had to perform with just the house lights - it wasn't fun at the time, but we laugh about it now. Each season has been a season of growth for UAO - for me personally, for our artists, our staff, our infrastructure, and our board of directors - and we are now ready to tackle Season 25."

In total, UAO will create over 150 opportunities during the festival season both on stage, in the pit, as part of the design/production teams not to mention the nearly 100 volunteers who will give of their time and talents. All operas will be fully staged and performed in their original language with project English Supertitles on the Union Avenue Opera stage at 733 N. Union Blvd, STL 63108, and accompanied by a full orchestra, all members of the AFM Orchestra Union.

Over the past twenty-four years, UAO has grown in artist quality and excellence. Known throughout the region for presenting original language operas such as Nabucco, Rigoletto, La traviata, and Wagner's epic four-part Ring cycle alongside newer works including Lost in the Stars, Dead Man Walking, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Doubt.

Single tickets are on sale for as low as $32 and subscription packages start at $80. Tickets may be purchased online at www.unionavenueopera.org, by phone at (314) 361-2881, and in person at Union Avenue Opera, 733 N. Union Blvd, St. Louis, MO, 63108. Student rush tickets are available at the door for $15 (cash only) with a valid student ID. There is ample free parking available.

Leonard Bernstein's: CANDIDE
Scottish Opera Version
Four Performances: July 5, 6, 12, 13 at 8:00 p.m.
Presented in English with English supertitles

War! Earthquakes! Disease! Very bad things happen to very good people (and plenty of bad ones too). When young Candide's marriage proposal to a baron's daughter doesn't quite go as planned, this naïve student of optimism is thrust into an eye-opening odyssey across lands near and far, discovering the horrors of existence at every turn. Candide is part opera, part musical, and entirely irreverent. Voltaire's philosophical spoof becomes a brilliant and breathless operetta set to a vivid score by Bernstein which abounds with spectacular music that includes a famous overture, the soprano showpiece "Glitter and Be Gay," and the soaring finale, "Make our Garden Grow." Through all its hysterical scouring of 18th-century wickedness and woe, Candide still finds a way to move and inspire with life-affirming lessons that, surprisingly, ring just as true today.

World-renowned opera legend, Christine Brewer, returns to the UAO stage in her role debut as The Old Lady in Candide. Schoonover will conduct while local director Annamaria Pileggi makes her UAO directorial debut. Jesse Darden and Brooklyn Snow make their UAO debuts as Candide and Cunegonde while Thomas Gunther returns as Voltaire/Pangloss following last year's successful UAO debut as Captain Corcoran in H.M.S. Pinafore. Local actors Greg Johnston and Graham Emmons make their UAO stage debuts covering a variety of supporting characters. The chorus is composed of 16 of the area's most talented emerging artists including Leann Schuering, Liya Khaimova, Anthony Heinemann, and Aleksandar Dragojevic.

"I have always enjoyed and been impressed with productions I have seen at UAO and I can't think of a better place to make my opera directorial debut!" said Pileggi. "I love the sweeping and theatrical nature of Candide. The breadth and scope of the story, along with the lushness and scale of Bernstein's music make Candide a quintessentially live event."

Candide - Jesse Darden*
Voltaire/Pangloss - Thomas Gunther
Maximillian - Charlie Tingen*
Cunegonde - Brooklyn Snow*
Paquette - Gina Malone
The Old Lady - Christine Brewer
Captain/Vanderdendur - Christopher Nelson*

Director - Annamaria Pileggi*
Conductor - Scott Schoonover
Scenic Designer - Otiz Sweezy*
Lighting Designer - Michael Sullivan
Costume Designer - Teresa Doggett
Technical Direction - Theatre Marine Productions
Properties Designer - Kate Slovinski

Giacomo Puccini's: LA BOHÈME
Four Performances: July 26, 27, August 2, 3 at 8:00 p.m.
Presented in Italian with English supertitles

Join the Bohemian Revolution in the heart of 19th-century Paris as a group of struggling artists strive to create beautiful art, find love, and ultimately live life to the fullest in this romantic operatic blockbuster. Rodolfo and his friends scrape by using their wit and charm to escape life's harsher consequences until a chance encounter one winter night when Mimi asks Rodolfo to light her candle, changing everything and sending the pair into a deep, passionate whirlwind. At the same time, Marcello can't resist the flirtatious charms of the feisty Musetta. Follow the triumphs and toils of this band of struggling young artists as they search for love, life, and laughter against impossible odds. For over 100 years, La bohème, Puccini's most celebrated opera, has moved audiences to laughter and tears with its irresistible music and timeless tale.

Ukrainian born soprano, Yulia Lysenko makes her UAO debut in the role of the ill-fated Mimi alongside Cree Carrico as Musetta in La bohème. Jesse Donner returns following his triumphant UAO debut as Ismaele in Verdi's Nabucco last summer. Andrew Wannigman (Jigger, Carousel), Nicholas Ward(Pish-Tush, The Mikado) and Scott Levin (Pooh-Bah, The Mikado) also return to UAO as Marcello, Schaunard, and Alcindoro respectively while Isaiah Musik-Ayala makes his UAO debut as Colline. Elizabeth Hastings (Cenerentola '11) returns to conduct the 16 chorus and 8 children's chorus members while St. Louis' Mark Freiman (Nabucco) directs.

"For people of all ages who have never been to an opera or find it intimidating, La bohème is a great first opera" said Freiman. "The story is surprisingly simple, the music is lush and melodic, there is a lot of humor, and one can't help but fall in love with the characters. There is nothing like seeing La bohème close-up in an intimate setting like UAO. Our production of La bohème will be traditional, but every production is different, making it fresh and exciting for the audience."

Mimi - Yulia Lysenko*
Rodolfo - Jesse Donner
Musetta - Cree Carrico*
Marcello - Andrew Wannigman
Schaunard - Nicholas Ward
Colline - Isaiah Musik-Ayala*
Alcindoro/Benoit - Scott Levin
Customs Agent - Randell McGee

Director - Mark Freiman
Conductor - Elizabeth Hastings
Scenic and Lighting Designer - Patrick Huber
Costume Designer - Teresa Doggett
Technical Direction - Theatre Marine Productions
Properties Designer - Kate Slovinski

Tom Cipullo's: GLORY DENIED
Four Performances: August 17, 18, 23, 24 at 8:00 p.m.
Based on the novel "Glory Denied" by Tom Philpott
Presented in English with English supertitles

America's longest-held prisoner of war dreams of coming home. But home is a place he will not recognize. Follow the gut-wrenching saga of Colonel Jim Thompson as he transitions from the jungles of Southeast Asia to the tree-lined streets of suburban America. Glory Denied speaks to the plight of so many of our veterans who nobly fought for their country but face huge challenges when it comes to re-assimilating into society-and their longed-for normal lives-after service. This true story explores the unimaginable bravery asked of soldiers and the nature of hope itself. It is a story of a nation divided and a country that changed significantly in the decade of his imprisonment. Tom Cipullo's Glory Denied made waves in opera circles when it premiered a decade a go and continues to do so today.

The Glory Denied cast of four includes David Walton (Albert, Albert Herring) as Younger Thompson, Peter Kendall Clark in his UAO debut as Older Thompson, Karina Brazas (Yum-Yum, The Mikado) as Younger Alyce, and Gina Galati (Donna Elvira, Don Giovanni) as Older Alyce. Schoonoverconducts as St. Louis native Dean Anthony makes his UAO directorial debut.

"Glory Denied is an emotional rollercoaster" said Anthony. "What we see in Glory Denied is the cause and effect on all sides. So often, lives of POWs have been forgotten and just become a part of our past. The sacrifice and commitment of these women and men who served our country should never be forgotten. As well as the families who were back home."

Older Thompson - Peter Kendall Clark*
Younger Thompson - David Walton
Older Alyce - Gina Galati
Younger Alyce - Karina Brazas

Director - Dean Anthony*
Conductor - Scott Schoonover
Scenic Designer - Roger Speidel
Lighting Designer - Joe Clapper
Costume Designer - Teresa Doggett
Technical Direction - Theatre Marine Productions
Properties Designer - Kate Slovinski

*UAO stage debut

Don't miss UAO's Free Friday Night Lecture Series at 7:00 p.m. before the performance in the Union Avenue Fellowship Gallery presented by Dr. Glenn Bauer of Webster University (July 5, 12, 26 August 2, 16, 23). Lectures are free and open to the public.

25th ANNIVERSARY GALA
Thursday, October 10 at 6pm
The Barnett on Washington [3207 Washington Blvd]

Join us as we celebrate Union Avenue Opera's 25th Anniversary in the festive ambiance of The Barnett on Washington. Enjoy cocktails and hors d'oeuvres followed by a masterfully crafted gourmet meal with a musical performance by Kenneth Overton (Stephen Kumalo, Lost in the Stars), Elise Quagliata (Sister James, Doubt), Marsha Thompson (Abigaille, Nabucco) and hosted by Kathy Lawton Brown, Classic 107. 3. Tickets are on sale now. Call 314-361-2881 or visit unionavenueopera.org for more information.

About Union Avenue Opera - UAO was founded in 1994 to bring affordable, professional, original-language opera to St. Louis, a mission the company continues to pursue to this day. UAO is committed to hiring the most talented artists, directors, designers and technicians both locally and from across the United States. UAO provides promising young singers the first steppingstone of their professional career. UAO is a publicly supported 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization registered in Missouri. In 2018 UAO became an OPERA American Professional Company Member. OPERA America is the national membership organization for artists, administrators and audiences, dedicated to support the creation, presentation and enjoyment of opera.

UAO offers vibrant and affordable opera experiences in original languages to audiences who reflect the breadth and diversity of the St. Louis region from the acoustically superb sanctuary of an historic church located in the urban Visitation Park neighborhood in St. Louis' Central West End.

Financial assistance has been provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency, and with support from the Regional Arts Commission, and PNC Arts Alive.

 



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