Painted Sky Opera in collaboration with the Oklahoma Haydn Festival will present “La Canterina” by Joseph Haydn at 2 p.m. June 25 and 7 p.m. June 26 in the Samuel Roberts Noble Theater at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art (OKCMOA).
“La Canterina” will be Painted Sky Opera’s first production. Based in Oklahoma City, Painted Sky Opera seeks to present innovative and inspiring opera through performance and education to the Oklahoma City area.
Company founders Barbara Fox DeMaio and Rob Glaubitz believe that the vibrant artistic scene in Oklahoma City will be enhanced with the addition of professional opera.
“Oklahoma City deserves an opera company of its own,” said DeMaio. “It is, for me, a no-brainer. Companies like the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, Lyric Theatre, City Rep and Shakespeare in the Park, as well as our rich community theatre scene, have proven that Oklahoma City can support many different genres of music and theatre.”
Having professional opera based in Oklahoma City provides local classical singers a new venue to display their talents and receive much-needed experience. It also offers singers who have moved away from Oklahoma City an opportunity to come back and advance careers in their home state.
For this show, Soprano Emerald Lessley, who graduated from Classen SAS and University of Central Oklahoma, comes home to perform the lead role of Gasparina. Mezzo soprano Courtney Crouse — who plays Gasparina’s mother, Apollonia — also has strong local connections, having taught at Oklahoma City University for four years.
Glaubitz and cast members Crouse and Lessley helped promote the upcoming production this week on KAUT’s “Rise and Shine” morning program. In that interview, Glaubitz said many who have never attended live opera might think of it as stodgy. This four-person production will emphasize the entertainment that characterizes this particular Haydn story.
Haydn is one of the great composers of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries and arguably among the most influential forces in classical music. He and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were close friends, and Haydn taught a young Ludwig van Beethoven. The Oklahoma Haydn Festival, founded in 2012, provides an annual forum for presentation of Haydn’s diverse body of work to modern audiences.
In the local television interview, Crouse expressed appreciation to Glaubitz and Demaio for their leadership in bringing live professional opera to the capital city. Lessley said she is delighted to return home to see family and friends for this production.
The opera itself is a comedy focusing on Gasparina’s attempts, along with her crafty mother Apollonia to support her singing career and lavish lifestyle by obtaining generous gifts from her suitors, Don Pelagio, her voice teacher (tenor Justin Kroll) and a young rich man, Don Ettore (mezzo-soprano Erin Roth).
Collaborating with Painted Sky Opera will be OKCMOA as well as the Oklahoma Haydn Festival orchestra led by city native Jim Waddelow, who returns every summer in his work as co-artistic director of the festival. This year marks the fifth year of the Oklahoma Haydn Festival and the first time the festival has included opera.
“ ‘La Canterina’ is an excellent opportunity to partner with another community group,” said DeMaio about the collaboration. “Painted Sky Opera hopes to continue to collaborate with the many fine musical and theatre companies that we have in Oklahoma City.”
The production is in Italian with English super-titles and features the Haydn Festival orchestra. It is the first production in Painted Sky Opera 2016-17 season which also features Menotti’s “The Medium” and Verdi’s “La Traviata.”
Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors, military, students, and members of the museum. Purchase advance tickets online at the OKCMOA website.
For more information about the company and its 2016-17 season, visit the Painted Sky Operate website at www.paintedskyopera.org.
NOTE: Editor Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report.