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Development News

What about opera makes your #Heartsing?

Opera is one of the most dramatic, emotional, and visually-stunning of the performing arts. Stories of love, life, and loss are brought to the stage – recounted through beautiful voices and accompanied by talented musicians. If you’ve attended a live performance with the New Orleans Opera Association, you know how powerful that experience can be. The joy of sharing it with an audience is not easily replicated.

Donate today and support the New Orleans Opera! You will not only be able to enjoy the productions you see on stage, but can also take pride in the knowledge that you are contributing to the richness of our community, supporting creative talent in our city, and ensuring that opportunities for live musical theater are available for years to come. Your participation makes everything possible!

Are you ready for more?

We are ready to bring our 78th season to the stage and can’t wait to welcome you back for our upcoming productions.

Early Bird Subscriptions are on sale for Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Beethoven’s Fidelio, Mozart’s Magic Flute, and Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess.

Even though the theaters are closed “until further notice,” preparations are fully under way for the fall – vocalists are being engaged, the orchestra is receiving the musical scores, costumes are being sewn, and set are being built. However, we are pursuing every consideration as the influences of COVID-19 evolve. Just in case, we are researching alternative sites as venues for these productions – especially outdoor venues – to ensure the continued safety of our staff, artists and patrons.

Each performance is a union of many individuals who bring classical and contemporary works to life with their incredible talent. We are fortunate to have these artists locally in New Orleans and we need your support to make our 2020-2021 season the most memorable.

Please join us and donate to this special campaign today!

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Behind the Scenes New Orleans Opera Video Series Opera at Home

Behind the Scenes

We want you to know that we can’t wait until we are able to see you again soon, but until then, please enjoy – along with Balcony Ballads – our first Behind the Scenes sessions with Maestro Robert Lyall.

Dr. William Mouat, Education Director for the New Orleans Opera

Beginning with Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, we’ll follow the narrative of Cio-Cio San, a beautiful Japanese Geisha who falls under the spell of Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton, a charming United States naval officer who promises her the world but is instead feckless and carefree.  Stay tuned throughout the ensuing weeks for several additional installments of this series, featuring the Maestro’s thoughts on Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fidelio, W.A. Mozart’s The Magic Flute and George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.

VIDEO CREDIT: DYLAN TRẦN
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Opera at Home

Light Shall Lift Us

From OPERA America

More than 100 opera singers unite in a song of hope and solidarity for a virtual performance of LIGHT SHALL LIFT US, a large ensemble work created by the Pulitzer Prize-winning team of composer Paul Moravec and librettist/lyricist Mark Campbell. The opera community needs your support now more than ever. Please consider supporting your local opera company or artist relief fund. Visit operaamerica.org/LSLU to learn more about this project. OPERA America would like to thank the artists who lent their voices to this project. They come from all across America and represent a broad variety of backgrounds and experience. Their participation is an example of the vitality and resiliency of our field and a demonstration that even while we are apart, music brings us together.

From OPERA America
Click here for a listing of everyone involved in the creation of this beautiful video.

Light Shall Lift Us was originally written for One Voice Orlando, a benefit organized by Opera Orlando in response to the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in 2016. Light Shall Lift Us– Music by Paul Moravec, Words by Mark Campbell Copyright ©2016 by Subito Music Publishing (ASCAP) All Rights Reserved. www.subitomusic.com

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Balcony Ballads New Orleans Opera Video Series Opera at Home

Un bel di vedremo

VIDEO CREDIT: DYLAN TRẦN

Singing “Un bel di vedremo,” soprano Betsy Uschkrat portrays Cio-cio san, a Japanese woman promised to an American naval officer during the height of late 19th Century American colonialism and cultural exploitations. She sings about the beautiful reunion with her beloved Lieutenant Pinkerton, who, unbeknownst to her, has a girlfriend in every port of call. Jesse Reeks is the collaborative pianist.

Dr. Betsy Uschkrat, soprano

Known for her impressive vocal range and artistic versatility, soprano Betsy Uschkrat continues to enthrall audiences across the United States, winning several operatic competitions in the process. Audiences have adored her performances of classical, musical theatre, and the great American Songbook repertoire, described by the New Orleans Times-Picayune as a “vocal powerhouse.” Since 2010, Dr. Uschkrat has taught at Loyola University in the Classical Voice Department and the Popular and Commercial Music degree program. Her students have gone on to perform professionally, become music educators, and work as music therapists across the country.

Jesse Reeks, pianist

Jesse Reeks is the son of two very successful musicians, and he has played the piano since he was old enough to speak! He is also an expert on the accordion and a master-level organist.  Jesse is comfortable in any realm of music, from secular to sacred and from classical to jazz. He has been the collaborative pianist for the Opéra Nouvelle series for the past year and a half, and he maintains an active performance schedule, even on the “virtual” level!


Part of the Balcony Ballads Series from the New Orleans Opera Education Department
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Balcony Ballads New Orleans Opera Video Series Opera at Home

In des Lebens Frühlingstagen

VIDEO CREDIT: DYLAN TRẦN

Tenor Tyler Smith is Florestan in Ludwig van Beethoven’s opera Fidelio. The second act opens with “Gott! welch’ Dunkel hier!” which translates in English to “God, what darkness here!” Florestan is in the deepest recesses of a prison for those who have supposedly committed political crimes.  Though he is innocent, he has lost all hope. The second section of the aria, and our featured selection is “In des Lebens Frühlingstagen…” which means “In the spring days of life…”  Here, Florestan recalls past days of love before his years in the prison.  In a moment of glorious foreshadowing, he also sees a rescuing angel “Ein Engel” who is like his wife, Leonore, and a beacon of light to lead him to Heaven.  Jesse Reeks is our collaborative pianist.

Dr. Tyler Smith, Tenor

Dramatic tenor Tyler Smith has appeared in numerous operatic and concert performances throughout the United States, Europe, and South America.  For his debut as Canio with New Orleans Opera, Mr. Smith stepped in with six hours notice for an ailing colleague.  Opera News deemed his performance a “heroic job…[a] powerful voice and was remarkably in touch with the drama.”  Notable title roles include, but are not limited to Don Jose in Carmen, Rodolfo in La Bohème, Max in Der Freischütz, Boris in Katya Kabanova, the title role in Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann, and Belfiore in Argento’s Casanova’s Homecoming. Mr. Smith made his Houston Grand Opera Debut as Carlson in Carlisle Floyd’s Of Mice and Men, which was released on the Albany label.

Jesse Reeks, pianist

Jesse Reeks is the son of two very successful musicians, and he has played the piano since he was old enough to speak! He is also an expert on the accordion and a master-level organist.  Jesse is comfortable in any realm of music, from secular to sacred and from classical to jazz. He has been the collaborative pianist for the Opéra Nouvelle series for the past year and a half, and he maintains an active performance schedule, even on the “virtual” level!


Part of the Balcony Ballads Series from the New Orleans Opera Education Department
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News

Film Festival de Jeanne d’Arc


The Joan of Arc Project invites the public to participate in the first Film Festival de Jeanne d’Arc. Each week the public is invited to view online, at their leisure, the selected film. Each Friday participants are invited to gather virtually on Zoom at 8 p.m. CT to discuss the featured movie.

Throughout the series, thought provoking discussion questions, virtual concession cocktail and food recipes, and summaries of the movies will be available on their Facebook event listing.

The Zoom gathering will begin at 8 p.m. CT and end at 9 p.m. each Friday. The conversation will be hosted by our leadership team featuring Founder Amy Kirk Duvoisin, Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres and playwright, and Co-Captains Antoinette de Alteriis and Amanda Helm. Special guests will include a selection of creators and commentators.

The movie line-up is accessible through our Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc Library Online Library, a project in conjunction with New Orleans Public Library: Speaking Volumes initiative. Please view the movie in the days prior to the meeting date as you would a book in a book club.

May 15: The Legend of Joan of Arc (2019) – This marionette film has been licensed by the local government of Vosges to be screened daily at the official Joan of Arc museum in her hometown of Domremy, where the film had its premiere. The Classics in Miniature® Award-Winning Puppet Film Series presents The Legend of Joan of Arc. Written and directed by Steven Ritz-Barr, it is a groundbreaking project five years in the making with an international cast and crew and never-before-seen cinematic marionette action involving dozens of exquisitely detailed puppets handmade by Russian Master Puppet-maker Eugene Seregin.

For the discussion, the creator, Steven Ritz-Barr, will contribute to our conversation.

May 22:           Warrior Women with Lucy Lawless: The Joan of Arc Episode (2003)

May 29:           Jeanne La Pucelle 2-part French Film with English subtitles (1994)

June 5:            Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc Movie-Length Heavy Metal Musical (2017)  NOTE: this may require a $2.99 download

June 12:          The Passion of Joan of Arc silent film

(1928- just 8 years after she was declared a saint!)

June 19:          The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999)

See the schedule on their website and Facebook page for the complete event listing.

For additional information contact Film Festival de Jeanne d’Arc Coordinator and Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc Co-Captain, Antoinette de Alteriis at Captain@joanofarcparade.org or 504.77.451.

The purpose of the Joan of Arc Project is to honor and celebrate Joan of Arc’s life in unique artistic and educational ways, including the production of the annual Joan of Arc Parade and Salon de Jeanne d’Arc. The Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc seeks to keep Joan’s story and spirit alive by hosting events, workshops, and presentations that illuminate Joan’s heroism and timelessness, while connecting her to the French heritage and pride of New Orleans.  “The Maid of Orleans” inspires citizens of New Orleans and people around the world; we welcome people of all faiths and backgrounds to join in our joyous, New Orleans-style revelry.

Get involved in the Krewe:  Sign up here to volunteer with the parade.

Categories
Opera at Home

“Sing Out Strong: Decolonized Voices”

The online performance options during the COVID-19 Pandemic have been coming at us fast and furious! Most outlets are learning as they go (and I’m sure you will agree that some are far superior than others.) But even the less than professionally produced videos and streams offer us all a connection to something we long for – a live performance. We’ve seen living rooms and kitchens inside homes of some of our favorite personalities and I for one, find that utterly charming. This next one I have signed up for is coming to us on the Zoom platform from White Snake Projects. If you want to be a part of the audience, you have to sign up before it begins. Click here to read more and sign-up. Maybe I’ll see you in on the internet!

Thanks! Janet

FROM WBUR: “Sing Out Strong: Decolonized Voices” comes out during a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely impacted immigrants. At immigration detention facilities, coronavirus cases have quickly risen. Furthermore, many undocumented immigrants are working frontline jobs for low pay. While the opera is free, Jacobs is directing donations to the Boston International Newcomers Academy. The public high school services new immigrant students, with many English language learners. The students played an important role in last year’s “Sing Out Strong” and helped with this year’s opera as well. “I go into the school and I work with the students on writing lyrics and we talk about the themes,” Jacobs said. “This year, the panel selected five of the lyrics…written by these students, by these new immigrants students so it’s really, really exciting for us all.” Jacobs is directing donations to the school in hopes of supporting education opportunities for immigrants.

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News

O Sewing Mio

By Sue Strachan

Julie Winn, New Orleans Opera Association’s costume designer, pivots from making costumes to masks and scrub caps for healthcare workers

During the spring and summer, Julie Winn would usually be busy sewing costumes for the upcoming New Orleans Opera Association season.

As the opera’s costume designer for the past six seasons, Julie has given Sweeney Todd, The Vampire, Dead Man Walking, Orpheus in the Underworld, and Abduction from the Seraglio a visual tableau as rich as the music.

But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Julie suddenly had time on her hands.

The opera cancelled Charlie Parker’s Yardbird originally scheduled for April, and postponed The Magic Flute to Spring 2021, freeing up time in Julie’s busy schedule.

“When this first happened I brought home artsy stuff so I could sit around and be creative making things,” said Julie.

“All of a sudden on Facebook I saw that there was a shortage of masks.”

Julie knew she could put her skills to work making masks, and started doing research on mask patterns, which in the early days was confusing with the number of different ones being disseminated online.

Wading through the options, Julie chose one and started sewing.

Her first donated batch of masks went to Covenant House New Orleans.

“I heard from a friend who was on the board that they had nothing,” said Julie, and she soon sewed 30 masks.

Julie uses three different patterns, which she has altered to a varying degree. All are made of two layers of cotton with elastic, and a few using bias tape, to go around the ears.

The first mask she made was pleated. 

“Then when I wanted to make the masks more safe and couldn’t find a pattern, I found a You Tube video on how to sew a mask so a filter can be inserted into it,” Julie said. She doesn’t add the filter; she allows whoever is using it to make that decision.

The third mask option doesn’t have pleats and fits snugly on the face.

It wasn’t too long before Julie found herself making scrub caps after Alex Christian Lucas contacted her. Lucas, a graduating senior at Loyola University, has performed in the opera’s chorus as a baritenor.

“Whenever there is something going on like this, I need to help,” said Alex. “I don’t’ know how to sew, so my first thought was ‘Who do I know who can sew?’ ”

He put the call out and found people, like Julie, who could and wanted to sew.

Alex approached his mother, Karla Lucas, RN, the ICU Director at Ochsner Baptist Hospital, to find out if there was anything the hospital needed but was unable to supply.

“I told him thing that nurses would appreciate bouffant or skull surgical caps,” said Karla.  “We can’t really use homemade surgical masks.”

Homemade masks do not meet PPE requirements for healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients. They do not block the airborne respiratory droplets.

Julie got to work and through trial and error created patterns for both types of caps.

“The first time I made about 50 caps,” said Julie, who adds that the total amount is now approaching 90.

The two styles work well because the bouffant is roomier for more hair, while the skullcap is closer the head. Nurses also liked the extra protection with a cap on, with some having hairstyles that don’t allow them to wash their hair every night.

Other bonuses?

“They are fun to wear,” said Karla, also noting when a nurse is covered up wearing PPE, “You recognize people by the cap on their head,” citing the different fabric patterns.

The caps immediately caught the attention of doctors and other hospital units, who started asking for them as well.

Even though healthcare workers couldn’t use the masks, Julie has made some for the hospital, but only for administrative staff that doesn’t come in contact with patients.

Julie can make 15 to 20 masks a day. Other recipients of her handmade masks are the staff of optometrist Dr. Brendon Sumich.

Julie also created an innovation with the caps and masks. Nurses began have issues with the elastic rubbing up against their skin too much, so Julie bought stretchy headbands and added buttons on the ends so the elastic could hook on the buttons instead of the ears. Julie likens the design to headgear for braces.

Creativity, problem-solving and an eye for detail is natural for this Algiers native, who studied drama and communications at University of New Orleans, followed by an internship at the Juilliard School in costume and design.

After that, “I never stopped working,” said Julie.

In addition to the opera, Julie’s designs and handiwork – as well as millinery – have also been seen on the stages of Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré, Southern Rep Theatre, NOLA Project and Summer Lyric Theatre at Tulane, as well as in a number of theatrical touring companies and movies.

Julie makes her caps and masks at home. “My front room is a sewing room.”

Julie initially started using fabric remnants and other supplies at home, then went to the opera’s H. Lloyd Hawkins Scenic Studio to see what remnants from making costumes could be used. Fabric was donated by RicRack from Walmart and elastic mask bands from Lynn Highstreet who owns Vieux Carre Hair Store. And, she has received monetary donations to purchase supplies, and the opera is now helping with production and costs.

The best fabric for masks and caps is 100 percent cotton, with Julie making them on her 20 year-plus Elna sewing machine.

“So far it has gotten me through this whole thing,” said Julie.

In addition to her work at the opera, Julie is the costume designer for Louisiana State University, which was in the middle of performances for “Manon,” when the quarantine began.

“In the beginning it was an emotional experience,” said Julie says about making the masks and caps. “Because so many people needed them and I couldn’t make them fast enough.”

But for those who got them, they mean the world.

“Everyone just loved them,” said Karla Lucas. “And love the fact these are voluntarily made.”

Categories
New Orleans Opera Video Series Opera at Home

Balcony Ballads

A New Series from the New Orleans Opera Education Department!

This new series, proves the old axiom that necessity is the mother of invention. Dr. William Mouat, Education Director created this and Behind the Scenes series, with you in mind. He refers to these videos as “teaser-trailers.” Each of the four operas the company is producing for the 20-21 season will be presented here over the year – sign up for our emails so you don’t miss them!

Un bel di vedremo

Singing “Un bel di vedremo,” soprano Betsy Uschkrat portrays Cio-cio san, a Japanese woman promised to an American naval officer during the height of late…
Read More

In des Lebens Frühlingstagen

Tenor Tyler Smith is Florestan in Ludwig van Beethoven’s opera Fidelio. The second act opens with “Gott! welch’ Dunkel hier!” which translates in English to…
Read More
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News

The American Prize in Composition goes to…

Zach Redler        
The Falling and The Risin
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The American Prize is a series of new, non-profit national competitions in the performing arts providing cash awards, professional adjudication and regional, national and international recognition for the best recorded performances by ensembles and individuals each year in the United States at the professional, college/university, church, community and secondary school levels. Administered by Hat City Music Theater, Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Danbury, Connecticut, The American Prize was founded in 2009 and is awarded annually.

Zach Redler is a music theater composer whose work has been performed in concert halls, opera houses and theaters around the world. Ben Brantley of the New York Times said, Zach’s “music becomes a character that both connects and divides the others.” In 2014, the American Theatre Wing awarded him the Jonathan Larson Grant. Some of his favorite theater compositions are: The Memory Show, Movin’ Up In The World, Loving Leo, Windows, A Song for Susan Smith, ADAM, and, his most recent American Prize award winning piece, The Falling and The Rising (libretto by Jerre Dye). Currently, he is working on a chamber opera commission for Houston Grand Opera (Dye), a new piece for Opera Memphis (Dye), and a piece for Opera on the James with text by young poets. He is adjunct faculty at NYU Tisch’s Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program, a part-time AP Music Theory teacher at Greenwich Academy, a private music, yoga, and meditation teacher, loves cooking plant based meals for his family, and enjoys running ultramarathons. Love to his wife Brittney and two children, Henry and Ellis.

Congratulations Zach!

New Orleans Opera Photographs of The Falling and The Rising from November 6, 2019 by Jeff Strout