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Opera Theatre of Saint Louis celebrates 40th anniversary season

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis opens its 40th anniversary season on May 23 with a production of Rossini’s comic opera “The Barber of Seville.” Conducted by St. Louis native Ryan McAdams, the production features the Opera Theatre debut of mezzo-soprano Emily Fons in the role of Rosina.

The season continues with Puccini’s romantic opera “La Rondine” opening on May 30. Former Gerdine Young Artist, soprano Sydney Mancasola sings the role of Lisette.

The American premiere of Handel’s “Richard the Lionheart” and Tobias Picker’s American saga “Emmeline” open in June to complete the festival season. All performances feature the St. Louis Symphony and are sung in English.

“We believe in opera as a total experience, theatre and music together, and singing in the language of the audience, in English, means that when you do a piece like “The Barber of Seville,” which is a comedy, the comedy happens in the right places. This is how the theatre was meant to be experienced,” Opera Theatre general director Timothy O’Leary explained to “Cityscape” host Steve Potter.  

“When you go to a production of an Italian opera sung in Italian…what you often have happen is the audience is laughing in the wrong places because they are laughing when they read the translation of the joke instead of when it happened.”  

Another hallmark of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is its casting and nurturing of promising young singers who are on the cusp of major careers. Sopranos Christine Brewer and Sylvia McNair are just two examples of singers whose careers took off after getting their start at Opera Theatre.

“I think being a young artist and transitioning into a professional career is such an exciting thing and having people as role models who have made a success of it and whose paths you can follow and who you can learn from is really important,” said Fons.

“And it just highlights how important these young artists programs are and how much singers as we continue in our careers, when we have a chance to give back to those programs that help young singers get a start, how important that is.

Mancasola’s first experience with Opera Theatre was in 2011 when she was selected as a Gerdine Young Artist. The chorus is made up of the 32 young artists in the program, and the singers also serve in supporting roles and  as understudies for major roles.

Soprano Sydney Mancasola

Mancasola commented on the advantage of having a chorus made of Gerdine young artists. "When you go to the opera across the country [and] see a chorus, you get a lot of different ages of voices and different sounds. Not every opera company has the benefit of having 32 young, vibrant voices in their chorus. It's something that I think the audience members are so fortunate to have here. It’s really spectacular.”

On June 23 to mark its 40th anniversary, Opera Theatre will host its first center stage concert. It will feature the Gerdine Young Artists and the Gaddes Young Artist in popular selections from the operatic repertoire accompanied on stage by members of the St. Louis Symphony musicians conducted by Opera Theatre music director Stephen Lord. Serving as emcees are Stephanie Blythe, star of last season’s world premiere of “27,” and Aubrey Allicock, another former Gerdine Young Artist who also starred in the 2013 world premiere of “Champion” and just made his debut with the Metropolitan Opera.

Opera Theatre’s season runs through June 28. Opera goers are invited to picnic on the lawn or under the tents in front of the Loretto Hilton Center and then return there after the performance to mingle with the singers.

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis 2015 Season

Rossini's "The Barber of Seville"

  • When: May 23, 27 and 29; June 4, 6, 10, 14, 17 and 27, 2015

Puccini's "La Rondine"

  • When: May 30; June 3, 12, 18, 20, 24 and 28, 2015

Handel's "Richard the Lionheart"

  • When: June 7, 11, 13, 20, 24 and 26, 2015

Tobias Picker's "Emmeline"

  • When: June 13, 17, 19, 21, 25 and 27, 2015

Center Stage Concert

  • When: June 23, 2015, 8:00 p.m.
  • Where: Loretto Hilton Performing Arts Center, 130 Edgar Road (At Big Bend), St. Louis, MO 63119 (all shows)
  • More Information

“Cityscape” is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.

Mary Edwards came to St. Louis Public Radio in 1974, just after finishing her Bachelor of Music degree at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She has served the station in a number of capacities over the years. From 1988-2014 she also taught an undergraduate class in radio production at Webster University. Mary was inducted into the St. Louis Media History Foundation Media Hall of Fame in April, 2017 and received the Gateway Media Literacy Partners' Charles Klotzer Media Literacy Award in 2012. Mary retired from St. Louis Public Radio in 2018, but still serves the station as a St. Louis Symphony Producer.

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