The Glorious Radiance of Tchaikovsky’s Music

By Robert Lyall

Of the eleven operatic works composed by Peter Tchaikovsky, for his sixth he chose a subject that was an attempt to participate in the immense popularity of French Grand Opera, one of the most commercially successful styles dominant in Europe throughout the 19th century. This specific style of writing viewed the subject of opera as based in history:

 “The identification of historical themes in the tragic repertory of grand opera—revolution, regicide, victimization, religion, patriotism, and the nation–loom large in its pages.” –Sarah Hibberd.

The Maid of Orléans recounts the life and amazing military career of Joan of Arc (1412-1431), whose victory ending the siege of Orléans in May 1429, helped bring to a close the Hundred Years War. Claiming that the divine voices of Saints Marguerite and Catherine and the Archangel Michael had directed her destiny, the seventeen-year-old warrior-maiden successfully led the French army in its efforts to drive the English and Burgundian forces from the homeland. For his largely historically accurate political narrative, Tchaikovsky drew basic material from Friedrich Schiller’s play, Die Jungfrau von Orleans (The Maid of Orléans). Serving as his own librettist Tchaikovsky took occasional liberties to heighten what is already a wildly operatic drama presented against that “grand” backdrop of “victimization, religion, patriotism, and nation” mentioned above. The result is truly French Grand Opera in spirit, tone, and style—from the grandeur of the Coronation scene, the religious fervor of Joan’s divine revelations, her widely-acclaimed bravery in battle, to her tragic end with an Inquisition trial whose horrifying verdict is that she die at the stake for heresy. While the added theatrical dynamic of Joan’s attraction to the Burgundian knight Lionel is almost certainly historically invalid, a love duet is readily recognizable as an essential operatic device to display the fullest emotional range of the individual characters—even one as virtuous as Joan. What is truly authentic is the glorious radiance of Tchaikovsky’s music.

The image above is a set rendering by designer, Stephen C. Kemp representing Act IV Scene II.

To see the cast listing and purchase tickets click here.

This production marks the American Premiere of the English Language Translation of Tchaikovsky’s Joan of Arc by Richard Balthazar.

Set rendering of Act II Scene II by Steven C. Kemp

RICHARD BALTHAZAR, Translator:  Being the first Russian major at Tulane (class of ’64), prepared Richard for translating Tchaikovsky’s opera Joan of Arc (twice), and for graduate study and teaching briefly.  After many decades working in nonprofit arts administration around the country, in later life he took to peddling “used” (recycled) plants at the Farmers Market in Santa Fe NM.  On retiring in 2013, Richard was finally able to focus on his long-time avocations of writing and art.  Besides several books and memoirs, his ongoing project is a fairly weird informational art show called YE GODS!  Icons of Aztec Deities.

We express appreciation to the Music Library of the Canadian Opera Company for the use of some of their production materials.

OPERA America Celebrates New Orleans Opera in America’s First City of Opera.

December 4, 2019, marks the 100th anniversary of a New Orleans civic loss of operatic proportions and 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of opera companies from across the nation joining to establish OPERA America, the national service organization for opera. New Orleans Opera heeded the call to recognize both anniversaries and announces two events for both opera lovers and history buffs. There will be a presentation and panel discussion on the history of opera in New Orleans and a concert featuring world-renowned opera singers that call New Orleans home. These events celebrate the last 50 years of opera in America and mark the 100 year anniversary of the burning of the French Opera House and both are free to attend.

The Events

Presentation and Discussion: Celebrating New Orleans Opera in America’s First City of Opera

Join the company at the Historic New Orleans Collection on Tuesday, December 3, 2019, 6:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. for a presentation and panel discussion devoted to the colorful history of opera in New Orleans moderated by Marc A. Scorca, President/CEO, OPERA America and featuring Robert Lyall, General and Artistic Director, New Orleans Opera; Givonna Joseph, Founder and Artistic Director OperaCréole; Alfred Lemmon, Director of the William Research Center at The Historic New Orleans Collection; and Jack Belsom, New Orleans Opera Archivist and Historian.

  • Presentation and Discussion: Celebrating New Orleans Opera in America’s First City of Opera
  • Tuesday, December 3, 2019
  • The Historic New Orleans Collections, 410 Chartres St. ( Plenty of public parking is available nearby, with the closest lots located on the 500 block of Chartres Street and the 500 block of Conti Street. Other lots are available on Decatur Street by the Mississippi River. Map here.)
  • 6:00 P.M. – 8:00 P.M. – Panel Discussion first with a reception following.

Concert: Loss and Rebirth – one hundred years later

Heard from the stage of the French Opera House.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019, at 7:30 P.M. is a concert featuring Greer Grimsley, Luretta Bybee, Bryan Hymel, Irini Kyriakidou, Sarah Jane McMahon, Dennis Jesse, and Claire Shackleton – all singing music featured in the French Opera House’s 1919-1920 Season. Carol Rausch accompanies. Katie Burlison, Curator from Hermann-Grima + Gallier Historic Houses, and Robert Lyall will narrate this special evening.

  • Concert: Loss and Rebirth – one hundred years later
  • Wednesday, December 4, 2019
  • Nunemaker Auditorium at Loyola University – located on the third floor of the Monroe Science Complex directly behind the Communications/Music Complex (Campus map here)
  • 7:30 P.M. – 9:00 P.M.


Marking Time

On December 4, 1919, the French Opera House was destroyed by fire. Located at 517–541 Bourbon Street, the French Opera House was commissioned by opera director Charles Boudousquie and designed by James Gallier. It was built in less than a year in 1859 with workers aided by the light of bonfires in the evenings to accommodate 24 hours a day construction.

OPERA America is partnering with its sixteen founding member companies to celebrate a half-century of opera’s progress in America.

Fifty years later, New Orleans Opera was among the companies in 1970 that joined in the founding of OPERA America, the national service organization and champion for opera artists, administrators, trustees and audiences. The strides of the industry over the last fifty years result from the achievements of individual opera companies, administrators, artists and advocates in communities nationwide. This series of regional symposia, provides an opportunity for the founders of OPERA America to highlight their contributions to the vibrancy of opera.

Made possible by:

Holiday Tea

The Women’s Guild of the New Orleans Opera Association invites you to a Holiday Tea!

December 15, 2019 


2504 Prytania St

New Orleans, LA 70115

Holiday cheer, an assortment of teas, scones, sandwiches, and sweets will be served.

Reservations are required and seating is limited.

$50 for Non-Members

$45 for Members

Click here for tickets

Susan Wisdom

It is with great sadness that we note the passing of an extraordinary woman, Mrs. Susan Wisdom. Susan was an active and engaged board member of both the New Orleans Opera Association and the Women’s Guild, and was an inspiration to the cultural development of the city as a whole through her appreciation of the arts and music.

We join the community in mourning this sudden loss and send love and strength to the extended Wisdom family at this time.

Please find here a link to her obituary.

Women’s Guild Eggnog Party

Friday December 13, 2019 2:00 PM @ Opera Guild Home

Start your holiday season off the right way with the Women’s Guild’s annual holiday eggnog party! Free to all current and past Women’s Guild members. Guest pay $25 at the door.

October OPERAtunity

Scenic Studio Tour – Cocktails and Canvas

Where can you see a bowl of eyeballs and several swords next to a huge chandelier in front of rows and rows of props? It’s like a candy store for everyone that ever dreamed of putting on a show in their childhood!

Here’s your chance to live the dream. Join the Sylvain Society on Thursday, October 17th for a tour and then stick around for the Canvas & Cocktail event following.

5:30 PM Tour of the Scenic Studio, Free
Guided tour where the costumes and sets for our operas are created.

6:30 PM Canvas & Cocktails, $35
Hosted by The Weathered Canvas’

H. Lloyd Hawkins Scenic Studio, 3020 Lausat St., Metairie, LA 70001

A Haunting Affair

The Women’s Guild of the New Orleans Opera Association presents 

“A Haunting Affair”

Saturday October 26, 2019

In the haunted Guild Home at

2504 Prytania St., New Orleans, LA

Patron Party 7-8PM / General Admission 8PM

Dance the night away to the music of 

The Yat Pack

Feast on Heavenly Food and Wicked Libations

Costume or Black Tie optional

Tickets: Patron: $150, Couple: $275

General: $125, Couple: $225

For more information, call (504) 267-9534 or email

After the Curtain Falls…

On stage at the Mahalia Jackson Theater

Join us for a Post Party celebrating the Opening Night of Carmen! October 4, 2019 after the 7:30 p.m. performance.

Get carried away by the opera then get on your feet to dance the habanera with music by Julio and Cesar!

Signature Cocktail thanks to Seven Three Distilling.

Passed hors d’oeuvres by Ralph Brennan’s Catering.

Tickets to this festive occasion are $35 per person. Tickets to the opera start at $30 and opera tickets are required to attend this special event.

Salon de Jeanne d’Arc

Saturday September 21, 2019 9:30 AM @ Woldenberg Art Center

A full-day conference co-hosted by Tulane University’s Department of Medieval Studies and the Joan of Arc Project.

Morning theme: “The Middle Ages in the Popular Imagination”.

Afternoon theme: Behind-the-scenes for the upcoming New Orleans Opera production of Tchaikovsky’s Joan of Arc. Free and open to the public. (This session starts at 1:00 p.m.)

Throughout the conference, attendees can meet and greet krewe leaders and members or become a krewe member, and view costumes and other items related to the 12- year-old walking parade that marches each Twelfth Night in the French Quarter on Joan of Arc’s birthday, January 6th.  Members may also purchase throws and other krewe merchandise.

Full Schedule of Events here.