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Question your certainties: Union Avenue Opera gives ‘Doubt’ its second staging with Christine Brewer

Elise Quagliata and Christine Brewer in Union Avenue Opera's production of "Doubt."
John Lamb | Union Avenue Opera
Elise Quagliata and Christine Brewer in Union Avenue Opera's production of "Doubt."

August 19 will mark the first time the opera version of “Doubt” is performed in its full glory after its Minneapolis premiere in January 2013. Famed soprano Christine Brewer will reprise her role as Sister Aloysius, the principled nun whose unwavering certainty begins to buckle over suspicions of a parish priest’s improper relationship with an eighth grade student.

The opera is based on John Patrick Shanley’s play, “Doubt: A Parable,” which won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 2005 Tony Award for Best Play.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, the opera’s composer, Douglas Cuomo, and Brewer joined contributor Steve Potter to discuss the opera.

“I’m always looking for roles that speak to my heart,” said Brewer. “I tend to lean toward roles of strong women: those women who are doing the right thing for the right reasons. I think Sister Aloysius, although she may be misguided, she is doing what she thinks is the right thing to protect the children. As she says several times, ‘This child’s well-being is my responsibility.’ That’s why I wanted to do the role.”

She decided to recreate the role in St. Louis because she feels she allowed to deepen the character in relationship to others working on the production.

Cuomo, who you may be interested to know also wrote the title theme for “Sex and the City,” said the opera was particularly difficult to compose because he didn’t want to cast a shadow on any one character’s certainty or doubt.

“Sister Aloysius is certain something has happened and Father Flynn never admits anything,” Cuomo said. “John Shanley was trying to present this piece so that people would have different reactions to it — that it is not clear what actually happened, that nothing is revealed in the play, movie or opera.

“The hope is that people will have conversations about this afterward. For me as a composer, that was challenging because I had to be careful not to shade what Father Flynn was saying and how he was singing it really too much in either way.”

What you need to know about Union Avenue Opera's "Doubt."

Brewer, who said her natural tendency in life is toward certainty, said this opera had her thinking about the role doubt plays in her own life. For Cuomo, he hopes these lessons will be applicable outside of the realm of opera, theater and the church.

“People are very certain on all sides that their way is the right way,” Cuomo said. “That kind of certainty is not really an accurate reflection of the way things are. I don’t think it serves anyone in the long run very well. That’s really what this piece is about. It is important to live with doubt and look at things in another way besides your way.”

The opera opens on Aug. 19 and will be performed on the 20th, 26th and 27th as well at Union Avenue Christian Church. Ticket information here.

Related Event

What: Union Avenue Opera Presents "Doubt" by Douglas Cuomo
When: August 19, 20, 26 and 27 at 8:00 p.m.
Where: Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 N. Union Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63108
More information.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.
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