Categories
News

The Making of The Medium

By Clare Burovac, General Director

Live opera production generally follows a regular pattern:  after all the guest artists arrive in New Orleans, rehearsals begin with the opportunity to sing through the entire score on the first day, followed by the start of staging rehearsals.  During the staging period, the stage director will instruct all of the soloists, chorus, and extras (“supernumeraries”) as to how they will act their role, what props to carry, when their costume change will happen, etc., all accompanied by a pianist playing the opera.  This process can generally take anywhere from a few days to two weeks, depending upon the complexity of the opera and the number of performers.  Towards the end of this period, other elements begin to be added into the mix:  a rehearsal with orchestra (called a sitzprobe), a technical rehearsal with piano onstage, a rehearsal with costumes, and finally, the dress rehearsal with all elements of the production a day or two before public performances.  Our recent production of The Medium upended all of that!

In late February, it became clear that city restrictions on the gathering sizes would not be lifted in time for us to prepare for live performances in New Orleans, so we made the decision to create a filmed version of The Medium to share with our audience.  Based on our experience filming the Opera Guild Home concert in January, and following all COVID protocols for the safety of our performers and staff, we knew that this would be a challenging project! 

One of the first decisions we had to make was where to film in order to get the best video and sound.  At this point, Set Designer Nathan Arthur had already completed his design, and the Scenic Studio had begun work constructing it.  New Orleans Opera’s Scenic Studio has a large paint floor that was an ideal area for the filming process, but the roof of the building has skylights that would prevent us from controlling the lighting for the opera.  Technical Director Keith Christopher had the ingenious idea to create a tent made out of plastic sheeting to block out the natural lighting and enable us to create the mood of the opera.

The paint floor at the H. Lloyd Hawkins Scenic Studio with the tented stage built for The Medium.

However, this space was not large enough for us to have both the singers and orchestra together; one of the most important safety considerations for live singing is the size of the space and the distance required between individuals.  Additionally, the Studio is not an ideal acoustic for capturing high quality audio.  And so we turned to our partners at Esplanade Studios to discuss possibilities for creating a recorded soundtrack.  On March 16, the Louisiana Philharmonic musicians joined our five soloists at Esplanade studios for a recording session during which we created our own soundtrack to The Medium.

Artistic Director and Conductor, Robert Lyall, rehearsing with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra at Esplanade Studios.

The artists now had the heroic task of rehearsing the acting for the opera while “lip-synching” to a recording of their own voices, a skill that no opera singer has ever had to learn!  For this opera, the task was more difficult than others might have been, particularly for Victoria Livengood in the role of Madame Flora, which has a large amount of spoken text and ad-lib utterances.  During the next four days, the soloists rehearsed in the Studio with both a live pianist and the recording, and then on Saturday, March 20, Misha Kachkachishvili and his team brought their cameras to the Studio to capture the video.  The singers did one complete run-thru of the 65-minute opera without interruption, followed by a few additional “takes” of certain scenes to make sure that we had enough footage to piece together in creating the final product.  Now, the film rests in the hands of the team at Esplanade Studios, who will be mixing the audio, choosing the video shots for each moment, and synching the audio to the video. 

The final “performance” on filming day was just as electrifying as a night in the theatre – The Medium is such a powerful and dramatic opera.  Thank you to all of the New Orleans Opera artists, staff, and crew for the creativity, flexibility, and hard work that was required in producing this film – all of whom adapted to our COVID restrictions and didn’t let them stop you from producing a beautiful work of art to share with the world.   

We can’t wait to see and hear the result of this most unusual project!

Categories
News

Introducing The New Orleans Opera Ambassadors!

The Ambassadors pictured above: Top row, I-r: Alan Gandolfi, Janet Wilson, Claudia Copeland; Center row, l-r: Carol Rausch, Dylan Trần, Mark Anthony Thomas; Bottom row, l-r: Tony Domino, Zara Zemmels.

Social Media.

It’s here to stay!

Billions of dollars are spent every year studying marketing metrics on social media. Most everyone spending this money is eager to find out, “Who out here is interested in us?”

That question and our eagerness to find all potential audience members led us to develop the New Orleans Opera Ambassador program. Word-of-mouth outreach from those who genuinely care about a cause is far more effective for organizational exposure and growth than any amount of money.

If you are reading this, you are among those we invite to help us with this effort.
How?
  • Like us on all social media outlets and share our stories and event information with a personalized comment.
  • Use this hashtag to follow along with the Ambassadors, artists, and staff #OperaNOLA
  • We’ll be following the hashtag closely and will randomly reward people for participating with tickets, opera keepsakes, etc.

Follow and Like us here:

Just One Word.

Our Ambassadors are all members of the New Orleans Opera Chorus. When asked to describe the feeling of performing with the New Orleans Opera, here’s what they said:

Tell us your word on your social media with #OperaNOLA.

Categories
2020-2021 Opera News

Menotti’s The Medium

A Virtual Performance Filmed on Location at the H. Lloyd Hawkins, Jr. Scenic Studio.

A “Sensational Success” for Menotti! (Kobbé’s Opera Book)

Plot Snapshot: A not-so-real psychic has a surprise encounter with the ‘unknown’ leading to murder and mayhem!

This opera contains adult themes of violence, abuse, and murder.

A MESSAGE TO SPRING 2021 SUBSCRIBERS: Your link to view this video is secured with your subscription and will be emailed to you on April 15, 2021. If you are not sure how to view the movie, please email  info@neworleansopera.org and someone will call you!

Profound thanks to those that have contributed to our 2020-2021 Season. Click here for the listings.

Premieres on YouTube April 16, 2021 at 7:30 pm.

By arrangement with G. Schirmer, Inc., publisher and copyright owner.

Tickets – $40.00

$20.00 for Military, Teachers, and other Essential Workers (enter discount code: MEDIUM50)
$10.00 for Students (enter discount code: MEDIUM75)
Please consider making a donation at the time of your purchase in addition to the $40.00 ticket price. Your support is essential to realize our commitment to keep opera alive in New Orleans.
It is through your generosity that we will continue to create beautiful music together!
Ticket Information
  • Tickets are $40.00 per link.
  • Purchase your ticket online by clicking the button above or call the Box Office at (504) 529-3000 M-F, 9:00 am – 4:30 pm.
  • The video premieres on Friday, April 16, 2021 at 7:30 pm and will be available for purchase and to view until May 15, 2021 for On-Demand viewing.
  • The link to view will be emailed on Thursday, April 15, 2021 – if you purchase after the premiere date, the link will be available in your print at home ticket that comes to you with your purchase confirmation.

The Cast

Victoria Livengood

Madame Flora

Sarah Jane McMahon

Monica

Carlo Barrera

Toby

Amy Pfrimmer

Mrs. Gobineau

Kathryn Frady

Mrs. Nolan

Dennis Jesse

Mr. Gobineau

The Creative Team

James Marvel

Stage Director

Robert Lyall

Conductor

Keith Christopher

Technical Director

Nathan Arthur

Scenic Designer

S. Katy Tucker

Projection Designer

Mandi Wood

Lighting Designer

Sarah McCall

Production Manager

Julie Winn

Costumer

Emily Barber

Stage Manager

Olivia Winter

Properties Mistress

James Lanius

Projections Engineer

Jonathan Szymanski and Jesse Reeks

Rehearsal Pianist

India Mack

COVID Compliance Officer

Laurin Hart

Wig Assistant

Featuring The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra

VIOLIN 1

Yaroslav Rudnytsky

VIOLIN 2

Byron Tauchi

VIOLA

Tyler Sieh

CELLO

David Rosen

BASS

David Anderson

FLUTE

Sarah Schettler

OBOE

Jane Gabka

CLARINET

Daniel Parrette

BASSOON

Benjamin Atherholt

HORN

Jamie Leff

TRUMPET

Vance Woolf

PERCUSSION

Dave Salay

KEYBOARD

Yui Asano

Jonathan Syzmanski

Filmed by Esplanade Studios
Misha Kachkachishvili, Audio Engineer
Jesse Snider, D/P Editor
Travis Marc, Videographer

IATSE Local #39 

President – Keith Christopher 

Business Manager – Alan Arthur 

Lighting Designer – Mandi Wood 

Head Carpenter – William Borne

IATSE Local #840 

Theatrical Wardrobe Union 

President – Shannon Muhleisen 

Secretary/Treasurer – Lesly Davi 

Business Agent – Bonnie Haase 

Wardrobe — Stephanie Kuhn  

H. Lloyd Hawkins Scenic Studio  

Technical Director – Keith Christopher  

Properties Mistress – Olivia Winter 

Carpenter – Keith Tujaque

Painter – Nathan Arthur 

Special thanks to Steven Bryant for the use of the wig worn by Victoria Livengood.


Menotti’s The Medium: A Perspective

By Robert Lyall, Artistic Director, New Orleans Opera

In spite of an impressive list of instrumental compositions—a symphony, a symphonic poem, two piano concerti, a violin concerto, a double-bass concerto, a Triple Concerto featuring three groups of three soloists, and a ballet, works written over a period of four decades, it is Gian Carlo Menotti’s operas that have endured. Not surprisingly, there are also very few symphonic or chamber works by Verdi and Puccini that have an established place in the world musical repertoire. For the Italianate musical mind, language–specifically drama–was the greatest stimulation for creativity. The same is said of the giovane scuola, (young school) of Italian opera composers who followed Verdi at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Virtually all of this “school” (Puccini, Mascagni, Leoncavallo, Cilea and several others) were based at the Milan Conservatory and adhered to the operatic style known as “verismo”—drama based in everyday reality. — READ MORE

This opera contains adult themes of violence, abuse, and murder.

An additional note about the language: To many, the word ‘Gypsy’, referring to Roma people who migrated from India centuries ago, is a pejorative. The New Orleans Opera did not eliminate or change the word from the original libretto written in 1946, and you will hear it in this recording. New Orleans Opera rejects all forms of racism and sexism and rather than remove it, we encourage conversation and inclusion.  

Categories
2020-2021 Opera News Opera On Tap

Opera on Tap – In Our Yard

It’s back! Join us in April and May as we debut the new stage at the Guild Home with two new Opera on Tap – In Our Yard concerts.

Both concerts on April 10, 2021 and the 5:00 pm concert on May 15, 2021 are SOLD OUT!

Tickets:

  • $30 for a pod of 3 people.
  • Priority seating for people donating at least $25 per event at the time of purchase.
  • On sale to the General Public: March 15, 2021.
  • Pre-sale for 20-21 Subscribers: March 12, 2021. All current Subscribers are encouraged to call the Box Office for tickets beginning March 12, 2021.

Details:

  • Performances will take place on the lawn of the Guild Home, 2504 Prytania Street, NOLA 70130.
  • Concerts begin at 3:00 pm & 5:00 pm. 5:00 pm Sold Out
  • Face Masks Required (additional safety rules are outlined below.)
  • Tickets are $30 for a pod of up to 3 people.
  • Those donating an additional $25 per event or more will be given priority seating on a first come first served basis.
  • Sections are assigned in the order tickets are purchased.
  • Bring a blanket or chairs (up to 3 chairs per section). No food or beverages will be available, so please BYOB.

Shakespeare – In Our Yard!

April 10, 2021

The play’s the thing, and the Bard is the best when it comes to opera and musical theater plots! This concert features music from Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate (based on The Taming of the Shrew), Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Verdi’s Falstaff, Thomas’ Hamlet, and Rodgers and Hart’s The Boys from Syracuse (based on The Comedy of Errors). Plus three musical settings of Romeo and Juliet – the famous opera by Gounod, I Capuleti ed i Montecchi by Bellini, and Bernstein’s magnificent West Side Story.

Singers Rachel Looney, Nicole Heinen, Zara Zemmels, Kameron Lopreore and Spencer Reichman are accompanied by Carol Rausch.

Travel the World – In Our Yard!

May 15, 2021

Even if your vacation plans are virtual, let us help with musical suggestions from around the globe! If you’re thinking about a classic trip to Europe, we’ve got selections from Italy, Spain, Germany and France. Something slightly more exotic? We’ll take you to Russia and the Balkans. Maybe a Caribbean cruise is more your style? Enjoy an excerpt from the West Indies. If you’re staying in the States, we’ve got music from Charleston, New England, the Big Apple and of course the Big Easy!

Singers Haley Whitney, Mary Cloud, Isabella Vanderhoof, Kameron Lopreore, Mark-Anthony Thomas, Frank Convit and Spencer Reichman, with pianist Carol Rausch.


Safety Guidelines

We look forward to welcoming you at our upcoming performance!

The health and safety of our guests, performers, and staff are our top priority. While there is an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 in any public spaces where people are present, we hope that the following guidelines will help everyone safely enjoy the performance.

  • Per City and State mandates, face masks will be required for all guests and staff throughout the performance.
  • A trained COVID officer will be on site at all times. All guests and staff will have a contactless temperature screening upon arrival. Anyone with a fever of 100.4 or higher will not be permitted to enter the venue.
  • Hand sanitizer will be available upon entry and throughout the venue.
  • While there will be no sale of food or beverages on site, we invite our guests to bring their own drink of choice to enjoy.
  • Restrooms will be available during the performance. We encourage guests, however, to use the restroom before they arrive to prevent large groups from gathering in the restroom area.
  • Please respect social distancing guidelines throughout the performance. Signage, ground markings, and staff will help guests maintain at least a 6-foot distance from each other.
  • Anyone who is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 (cough, chills, fever, sore throat, muscle pain, shortness of breath, or loss of sense of smell or taste) should stay home and contact their healthcare provider.

Any guests who are unable to adhere to the above guidelines will be asked to leave the performance. We thank you in advance for your cooperation!

In the case of a possible COVID-19 exposure at the performance, the ticket purchaser will serve as the main contact for their party.

Categories
Adult Education News

Masterclass Monday

Masterclass Monday

New Orleans Opera and Loyola University have a long and rich relationship, with a history of many partnerships, including Masterclasses. We are proud to collaborate again this year in the virtual environment, and we are excited that we can invite you to join us.

Masterclasses play a very important role in the development of a young singer. According to Fred Plotkin, “Masterclasses are one of the most fascinating aspects of the process of taking talented but inexperienced young singers and trying to polish and mold them while allowing them to retain what makes them special.”

New Orleans Opera is grateful to those participating in this Masterclass Series for allowing us a glimpse into the special journey of an opera singer. Mark your calendars to join us – free of charge!


Nancy Maultsby – March 15, 2021 (NEW DATE!)

  • 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm CST
  • Sponsored by Loyola University

Students

  • Emily Acuña, soprano – senior
  • Julia Ernst, mezzo-soprano – freshman
  • Samantha Resser, mezzo-soprano – graduate student
  • Allison Waguespack, soprano – senior

About Nancy Maultsby:

Last seen at the New Orleans Opera in the Verdi Requiem in 2010. American mezzo-soprano Nancy Maultsby is in demand by opera companies and orchestras throughout the world.  Her unique vocal timbre and insightful musicianship allow her to pursue a repertoire extending from the operas of Monteverdi and Handel to recent works by John Adams. She regularly performs the major heroines of nineteenth-century French, Italian, and German opera and the great symphonic masterpieces.

Read more about Nancy on her website here.

Nancy Maultsby, photo credit: Dario Acosta

Alfred Walker – April 26, 2021

  • 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm CST
  • Sponsored by New Orleans Opera

About Alfred Walker:

New Orleans native Alfred Walker is a graduate of Dillard University, Loyola University, and the Metropolitan Opera Lindemann Young Artist Program. He is also the recipient of awards from the George London Foundation, Palm Beach Opera Competition, Houston Opera Studio’s Eleanor McCollum Competition, and the Sullivan Foundation career grant.

Mr. Walker was lauded by Opera News for his “inky bass-baritone and clear projection that seemed ideally suited to the role, capturing this isolated man’s passion with telling grief,” for his performance as Crown in the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Porgy and Bess.

Read more about Alfred on his website here.

Alfred Walker
View upcoming Loyola Music Events Here.

Previous Masterclasses

JANE EAGLEN – December 14, 2020

  • 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm CST
  • Sponsored by Loyola University
Students:

Antonio Domino, tenor
Julianna Espinosa, soprano
Julia Tuneberg, soprano
Jeremiah Tyson, tenor

About Jane Eaglen:

Jane Eaglen has enjoyed one of the most formidable reputations in opera for the past two decades. Her performances of roles such as Isolde in Tristan und Isolde, the title roles in Puccini’s Turandot, Bellini’s Norma, and Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, and Brünnhilde in Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen have earned her acclaim on stages of the leading opera houses of the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Teatro alla Scala, Vienna State Opera, and l’Opéra National de Paris.

Read more about Jane on her website here.

Jane Eaglen, photo courtesy of New England Conservatory

GREER GRIMSLEY – December 7, 2020

  • 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm CST
  • Sponsored by the New Orleans Opera
Students:

Samuel Ater, bass-baritone
Nora Cullinan, soprano
Veronica Samiec, soprano
Alysa Foster, soprano
Garrin Mesa, baritone

About Greer Grimsley:

Greer Grimsley is internationally recognized as an outstanding singing actor and one of the most prominent Wagnerian singers of our day. Continuing his reign as a leading interpreter of the god Wotan, he sang the eminent role once again in the Spring of 2019 for the Metropolitan Opera’s Der Ring des Nibelungen in the reprisal of Robert Lepage’s landmark production from 2013. New Orleans is lucky to have Greer and his family call the city home!

Read more about Greer on his website here.

Courtesy of Loyola University from a previous Masterclass, Carol Rausch, Kameron Lopreore, and Greer Grimsley

Categories
2020-2021 Opera News

The OPERACADE

Opera on Wheels Coming Soon!

When we got the phone call from Opera on Tap Headquarters asking to partner with their newest creation, the answer was a resounding “Yes!”

The pandemic has shuttered so many outlets that we all took for granted. World-wide, the performing arts community has experienced significant economic setbacks from Covid-19 and the effects are profound. But creativity is at the core of our industry and the innovation during the shutdown has been inspiring.

We are so happy to introduce The OPERACADE to New Orleans. Inspired by the Zoltar machine at Coney Island, it is designed to pay tribute to our many opera and classical music artists who are currently and for the foreseeable future unable to perform inside for live audiences. The OPERACADE also creates a unique public performance venue and mobile public art installation that is sure to put a smile on the faces of everyone that crosses its path.

A Partnership Between Opera on Tap and New Orleans Opera

The OPERACADE, created and designed by Opera on Tap HQ is being built here in New Orleans at the H. Lloyd Hawkins Scenic Studio. The prototype is complete with more coming soon!

To read more about the project visit the Opera on Tap website here and then stay tuned! There is more on the horizon for The OPERACADE.

The Team

Todd Perlmutter, Co-creator

Ramona Ponce, Co-creator

Anne Hiattt, Co-creator

Keith Christopher, Technical Director

Nathan Arthur, Scenic Painter

Video featuring tenor Casey Candebat

Video by Dylan Trần

Categories
News

Limited-edition Statue by Thomas Bruno

In 1966 the New Orleans Opera Association received a generous donation of an 1865 Greek Revival home from Nettie Kenney Seebold. (The home now referred to as the Opera Guild Home is located at 2504 Prytania Street.) Fifty years later the Women’s Guild celebrated by commissioning artist and New Orleans native, Thomas Bruno, to create a statue for the front yard of the beautiful home. Madame Butterfly, was unveiled at a party on October 13, 2016.

Now, five years later and in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, in-person activities at the Guild Home have temporarily halted. As a fundraising arm of the Association, Guild Members met and decided that offering a special edition of the Artist’s Proof of the statue to people making a donation of $3,500 to the Guild would be a wonderful way to support the Association. 

Limited-Edition Details:

  • Statue Dimensions: 20″
  • Material: Bronze
  • Donation: $3,500.00 ($2,000 tax-deductible donation to the Women’s Guild)
  • Deadline to pre-order: July 1, 2021
  • Estimated delivery date: October 1, 2021 (subject to change)
  • For more information on the statue, call Jenny Chapman, Support Group Liaison (504) 529-2278.
  • To learn more about Thomas Bruno, visit his website here.
  • Shipping/delivery details to be determined
  • Both credit card and check donations can be processed with the form below. For checks, please select “Donate with Offline Donation” and thank you!

A Look Back:

Donors who contributed to the commissioning of the statue were Betty Brooks, Penny Baumer, Bill Coe, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Bruno, S. Michael and Lynne Cappel Cashio, Dr. William and Dierdre Long, Mr. and Mrs. A.J. Capritto, Jo-Ann Ciolino Adams, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph M. Bruno, Patricia Dunbar Murrell, Dr. and Mrs. Charles L. Dupin, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred E. Stacey lV, Kathleen Vogt Robert, Marilyn Nuccio Guercio, Dr. and Mrs. Patrick Dowling, Mr. Bruce and Dr. Jane Cagen Miller, Lanier Long Hosford, and J.P. Fleming and Dr. Erin O’Sullivan Fleming.

Categories
2020-2021 Opera News

La Traviata at The Broadside

New Orleans Opera and The Broadside Theater present:

La Traviata, A Franco Zeffirelli Film

Join us at the Broadside for Verdi’s La Traviata and a pre-movie concert at featuring New Orleans Opera singers. The concert starts at 7:00 pm followed by the movie at 7:30 pm.

The Broadside is the sister business of The Broad Theater and is located at 600 N. Broad St., New Orleans, LA 70119. It’s an open air venue with a full bar, hot dogs and popcorn! They are following all Covid-19 safety rules (masks required). The seats are paired and safely distanced.

  • Tickets: $30.00/person
  • Concert: 7:00 pm
  • Movie: 7:30 pm

ABOUT THE CONCERT

Featured Singers:
Nicole Heinen, soprano
Michael Anthony Rodriguez, tenor
Kristin Scioneaux, piano

ABOUT THE MOVIE

La Traviata is a 1982 Italian film written, designed, and directed by Franco Zeffirelli. It is based on the opera La traviata with music by Giuseppe Verdi and libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. The film premiered in Italy in 1982 and opened in theatres in the U.S. on April 22, 1983.

The score is conducted by James Levine, featuring the Metropolitan Opera orchestra and chorus. The film was eventually nominated for a pair of Oscars (Art Direction and Costume Design) and it arguably remains the finest film version of an opera ever made. 

Running time: 105 minutes

Principal Cast
Violetta Valery Teresa Stratas
Alfredo Germont Plácido Domingo
Giorgio Germont Cornell MacNeil
Baron Douphol Allan Monk
Annina Pina Cei
Flora Axelle Gall
Gastone Bervoix Maurizio Barbacini 
Conductor James Levine

Categories
Blog News

New Orleans Opera Blog

In spite of an impressive list of instrumental compositions—a symphony, a symphonic poem, two piano concerti, a violin concerto, a double-bass concerto, a Triple Concerto featuring three groups of three soloists, and a ballet, works written over a period of four decades, it is Gian Carlo Menotti’s operas that have endured. Not surprisingly, there are also very few symphonic or chamber works by Verdi and Puccini that have an established place in the world musical repertoire. For the Italianate musical mind, language–specifically drama–was the greatest stimulation for creativity. The same is said of the giovane scuola, (young school) of Italian opera composers who followed Verdi at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Virtually all of this “school” (Puccini, Mascagni, Leoncavallo, Cilea and several others) were based at the Milan Conservatory and adhered to the operatic style known as “verismo”—drama based in everyday reality.

Menotti’s The Medium: A Perspective

By Robert Lyall, New Orleans Opera Artistic Director

Menotti (1911-2007) was born in Italy and initiated his musical studies at the Milan Conservatory at age 12, but a few years later Menotti’s mother chose to move to America to revitalize their family’s failing coffee business. At the recommendation of Arturo Toscanini, she enrolled her then 17-year old son in Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. There he joined future American luminaries like Leonard Bernstein and Samuel Barber. Menotti, like Richard Wagner, wrote the texts for all of his 28 operas. Only 3 early works Amelia Goes to the Ball, The Island God (withdrawn) and The Last Savage were written in Italian. All others were written in English and he frequently referred to himself as an “American composer.”

Menotti’s early celebrity was heightened by the evolution of television, radio, and film in the United States. Television emerged as an experiment in a General Electric factory in Schenectady, New York in 1928. Later in 1928, G.E. opened a second facility in New York City, today known as WNBC. The rapid development of television in America following the end of World War II in 1945 and the coincidence of the fine arts being a part of early television and radio programming hugely increased public awareness of early Menotti works. This was especially true after he was commissioned by Columbia University to write an opera The Medium that might be broadcast through these newly-influential outlets of art and entertainment. Media-savvy Menotti’s Columbia University premiere in May 1946 was followed by a Broadway premiere in May 1947 and a live television production in December 1948 on the celebrated NBC drama series Studio One. Even Australian television filmed it in 1960. These early media successes established Menotti as an international celebrity and helped launch American opera on a new and exciting course.

Menotti has the distinction of being the first composer commissioned to write an opera for radio The Old Maid and the Thief which premiered in April 1939, as well as the first to be commissioned to write an opera for television Amahl and the Night Visitors, which premiered on Christmas eve in 1951. He also founded the celebrated arts “Festival of Two Worlds” (Festival Due Monde) based both in Italy (1958) and Charleston, South Carolina (1977).  With prestigious premieres in the world’s great opera houses and awards throughout his lifetime– for example, Pulitzer Prizes for two of his Broadway operas, The Consul (1950) and The Saint of Bleecker Street (1954)—Menotti also achieved this singular distinction: since its premiere on Christmas eve of 1951, Menotti’s Christmas ‘miracle,’ Amahl and the Night Visitors has reached a wider audience than any other work in operatic history.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that The Medium, Menotti’s 1946 hour-long melodrama, was inspired by a séance that he had attended. Thus, he gives us a very detailed portrayal of the real experience, that of couples and individuals desperate to connect with deceased relatives, especially their young children. As the audience, we are invited to experience the ritual of conjuring that is so very real to these individuals. From the point of view of “dramatic irony,” early in the opera we are made very aware that this is all a fraud on the part of Madame Flora. But it is fascinating to see the emotional depths to which individuals in a séance pursue the fantasy of actually communicating with deceased loved ones. During the course of her séance, Madame Flora herself has a bizarre encounter with the supernatural that completely shocks her and alters her prophecies and truthfulness in this fascinating psycho-drama with its interesting twists and turns.

From the New Orleans Opera’s 2007 production of The Medium in partnership with Music@Madewood.

 In 1951, Menotti composed and directed a musically expanded version of The Medium with the filmmaker, Alexander Hammid, that resembles “film noir,” a theatrical and film style of the 40s and 50s having roots in German Expressionistic cinematography and theater. Interestingly, classic “film noir” were often referred to as “melodramas,” a term we strongly associate with opera and musical theater. Film noir characters generally represented the cynical attitudes and sensual motivations derived from “crime fiction”—a distinct theatrical style that emerged from the Great Depression. As it was once excellently described, it is “a black and white visual palette creating a “chiaroscuro” of varying shades of gray.”

The musical language of The Medium clearly reflects its Italian origins with stylistic elements closely related to Puccini ‘s grand melodic rhetoric. But, Menotti’s most immediate connection to any emerging “American operatic idiom” was developed through his work with Samuel Barber for whom he wrote two libretti (Vanessa and A Hand of Bridge) as well as revising Barber’s Anthony and Cleopatra for its 1966 Metropolitan Opera premiere.

In spite of his frequent earlier comments about being an “American composer,” in his last years Gian Carlo Menotti simply said, “I’ve always been an Italian composer.”

Marie Laveau (1801-1881)

A fun parallel with The Medium’s Madame Flora is New Orleans’ very own Madame Flora: a Medium, Soothsayer, Conjurer, Fortune-Teller, and to many, a Voodoo Princess with supernatural powers able to communicate with dark forces beyond the world of the living.

Our local conjurer’s powers included healing the sick, overseeing spiritual rites, and practicing an array of ways to communicate with the occult. But, Marie Laveau achieved huge celebrity during her lifetime and enjoyed the passionate support of thousands of New Orleans followers who truly believed in her supernatural powers. Even well after her death she was an object of veneration and pilgrimages to her tomb (Plot 347 in St. Louis Cemetery #1) were frequent, colorful, and included a ritual practiced until very recent times. If you wanted Marie Laveau to grant your wish, you must draw an X on her tomb, turn around three times, knock on the tomb and yell out your wish. If it was granted, you must come back to the tomb, circle your X, and leave Marie Laveau a gift.

Categories
2020-2021 Opera Event News Opera at Home

The Orpheum Sessions – A Night at the Opera

In Partnership with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra

Opera Favorites!

A virtual concert featuring French and Italian operatic masterpieces, including selections from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, and Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers.

Profound thanks to those that have contributed to our 2020-2021 Season. Click here for the listings.

Premieres Friday, April 9, 2021 at 7:00 pm

Tickets: $15.00

A Message to Subscribers: 

Your link to view this concert is secured with your subscription and will be emailed to you on April 9, 2021 from the LPO. If you do not receive the link, please check your spam folder. The performance is hosted on Vimeo, but you do not need a Vimeo account to watch the performance. Click here for digital access help from the LPO.

Featuring

Jasmine Habersham

Soprano

Betsy Uschkrat

Soprano

Casey Candebat

Tenor

Dennis Jesse

Baritone

Thomas Wilkins

Conductor

Concert Preview: