Press "Enter" to skip to content

Oklahoma’s new Painted Sky Opera – A review of ‘La Cantarina, ‘ with a look ahead to ‘The Medium’ and Verdi’s ‘La Traviata’


by Patrick B. McGuigan, editor

Painted Sky Opera, a new opera company operating from Oklahoma City, made a fine start this summer, whetting the appetite for future professional productions.

Company founders Barbara Fox DeMaio and Rob Glaubitz, in a press release before the troupe’s first performance, said artistic excellence in Oklahoma City will leap forward 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.”

The City Sentinel Online reported, in a late June story, that 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.”

DeMaio is a professor of voice at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond. A soprano, she serves as executive director for the new opera company. DeMaio is also executive director of the American Singers’ Opera Project. She earned her DMA in voice pedagogy at Shenandoah University.

Glaubitz, the company’s co-founder and artistic director, is assistant director of UCO’s school of music and an associate professor of voice.

The opera company’s next performance will be September 23 (Friday) and 24 (Saturday) at the CitySpace performance area in the basement of the Civic Center Music Hall (201 N. Walker Avenue). Gian-Carlo Menotti’s ‘The Medium’ is a dramatic short story in two acts, presenting the sad tale of Monica and her “Baba” (grandmother, Madame Flora) and of the mute Toby, a boy rescued from the mean streets of Budapest.

Commissioned at New York City’s Columbia University in 1946, ‘The Medium’ was performed on and off Broadway in 1947, as prelude to a live television production on “Studio One” – a classic television series – in late 1948.

In conjunction with the ‘Medium’ performance, “Incomplete Education” will be presented. Both stories will be sung in English.

In February 2017 (exact dates and location yet to be determined) Painted Sky Opera will present Giuseppe Verdi’s classic, ‘La Traviata.’ The story of a “fallen woman” who proves her worth and dignity through personal sacrifice was drawn from a novel by Alexandre Dumas.

Set in mid-Nineteenth Century Paris, the opera was ground-breaking for its era, yet did not gain widespread performance until the early Twentieth Century. Ultimately, it came to be regarded as one of the most thrilling compilations of music for sopranos in live performance.
Painted Sky Opera will present this master work in Italian, with English translation appearing on a super-screen at the stage.

The first performance for Painted Sky was Franz Joseph Haydn’s “La Canterina,” presented in late June as the final component for the 2016 Haydn Festival held in downtown Oklahoma City.

A four-person ensemble brought the amusing story to glorious life, in Italian with translation provided behind performers.

Focus of the tale is a nearly-fallen mother (Apollonia, performed by Courtney Crouse) and daughter Gasparina (Emerald Lessley), a young adult well on her way to following her mother’s examples of connivance and use of feminine charms (and assets) to gain a secure way of life.

Their lives center around Gasparina’s progress as a student singer under the tutelage of Don Pelagio (a voice teacher played by Justin Kroll) who, it is soon clear, has more in mind than musicial instruction. The eternal triangle of love is manifested in the frequent visits of Don Ettore (portrayed by Erin Roth), a young man of means.

The quartet of performers (among whose voices the full range of octaves were gloriously delivered) were stellar, triggering hopes that they will appear in future productions.

Gasparina may prefer Ettore for reasons of affection, but is quite aware of Pelagio is a more apt choice if the object is financial gain. Thus is the “dramatic tension” set for the antics propelled forward through the brilliance of Haydn’s music and lyrics across an efficient two acts lasting but an hour.

Company co-founder Glaubitz directed the production and showed a delightful sense of comic timing in use of a trio of furniture movers (Larrio, Curli and Mo – Zachary DeVault, Tina Tran and Alexandria Calhoun). Although the three never spoke or sang a word on-stage, they delighted appreciative crowds in the Oklahoma City Museum of Art’s Samuel Roberts Noble Theater.

Not only that, the ten-member Haydn orchestra was incorporated into the tale, treated as the equivalent of furniture, a clever use of the stage and performance space. Jim Waddelow deftly directed the music.

The show was tremendous fun and one can hope that in another three or four years the trouple might present it anew as a great example of accessible music and story, albeit true to the art form in use of the original Italian.

The board of directors for Painted Sky Opera includes Joel Burcham, president, Pamela Richman, secretary, Rachel Stas, treasurer, Emily Coughlin, Dr. Greg Krempl, Becky McGuigan and E. Michael Whittington.

Mrs. McGuigan is the troupe’s costume designer, and this writer’s daughter-in-law.

The company’s mission statement is “to present innovative, inspiring opera through performance and education, featuring young professional artists in Central Oklahoma.”

Further, the statement of purpose continued, “We aim to be the cornerstone of a dynamic operatic community in Oklahoma City, to expand the appreciation of classical singing, and to collaborate with existing arts organizations in order to enrich the lives of Central Oklahoma residents and the artistic scene throughout Oklahoma.”

Donations to support this new venture – 501(c)(3) tax exempt status is pending – may be made online or by mail: Painted Sky Opera, 2517 Julies Trail, Edmond, OK 73012. Their website is at Information is available by contacting [email protected].

The City Sentinel intends to keep an eye on these opera pioneers in the new adventure. And, to be sure, follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Painted Sky Opera performs “La Canterina” at OKCMOA on 2pm June 25 and 7pm June 26 featuring Justin Kroll (left) and Emerald Lessley (right). Photo provided.
In June, Painted Sky Opera performed “La Canterina” at OKCMOA featuring Justin Kroll (left) and Emerald Lessley (right). Photo provided.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.