Little Rock native William Grant Still was the leading African American composer of classical music throughout most of the 20th century. In 1949, his composition, Troubled Island became the first grand opera written by an African American to be produced by a major company. It premiered with the New York City Opera in 1949.
This weekend, Opera in the Rock is presenting a rare fully-staged production of Troubled Island. It will be at the UA Pulaski Tech’s Center for Humanities and Arts on the evening of May 4 (7:30pm) and afternoon of May 6 (3:00pm). The work is being performed by a cast of local and regional operatic talent.
The libretto for the opera was written by Langston Hughes and Verna Arvey. The story is set in Haiti in 1791. Jean Jacques Dessalines declares himself emperor of an independent Haiti. Corruption, revolution and assassination ensue.
Ronald Jensen-McDaniel is singing the role of Dessalines. Others in the cast include Jordan Murdock, Jannette Robinson, Charles Moore, Nisheedah Golden, Anthony K. Valley, and Chris Straw.
Arlene Biebesheimer is the artistic director of Opera in the Rock.
Tonight at 7:30 PM, join the Oxford American magazine for this week’s Local Live concert at South on Main. This week, the series features a return of Opera in the Rock!
As always, Local Live is free and open to the public. To guarantee a table/seat for this popular series, call ahead at (501) 244-9660.
Join Opera in The Rock at South on Main for mid-week of “October Opera Days” with five great Opera In The Rock artists. In a program titled “Opera in a Bar” arranged by OITR Artistic Director, Arlene Biebesheimer, these artists will sing opera standards with some musical theater thrown in to keep you entertained. The OITR ensemble for Local Live includes Stephanie Smittle, LaSheena Gordon, Claire Wilkinson, Chase Burns, Micheal Lowe with Kristin Harwell at the piano.
Scenes from a new opera will premiere on Saturday evening in downtown Little Rock. Composer Karen Griebling’s third opera Richard III: A Crown of Roses, a Crown of Thorns will be performed at 7:30pm at Christ Episcopal Church.
The performance will take place on the 530th anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth Field. The scenes will be under the direction of conductor Geoffrey Robson. Timothy Allen is the répétiteur.
The cast features: Matthew K. Tatus, tenor, as Richard III and Kara Claybrook, soprano as Princess Elizabeth of York. Other roles are performed by sopranos Jaimee Nicole Jensen and Arlene Barkley Biebesheimer; lyric soprano Stephanie Smittle; mezzo soprano Hannah Smashey; tenors Chase H. Burns and Daniel Foltz-Morrison; baritones Ronald McDaniel II, Robert Holden, Andrew Morgan and Jerry Biebesheimer; bass/baritone Phillip J. Murray; and bass George Mayo.
In addition to writing operas, Griebling is a violist with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and the Cross Town Trio, and Professor of Music at Hendrix College, Griebling founded and conducts the Hendrix College Chamber Orchestra and teaches music theory, composition, and world music. She earned her Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Texas. http://www.karengriebling-composer.info
After some years without a professional opera presence in Little Rock, Opera in the Rock has been formed. They host their first event tonight – “Opera on the Rocks.”
The event will feature an evening of food, drink, a silent auction, and a series of opera scenes, presented by some of the best local talents. The theme for this evening will focus on the many stages of love… even when love finds itself on the rocks…
The evening will begin at 6:30pm at Wildwood Park for the Arts.
The cast is Matt Newman, tenor; Ferris Allen, baritone; Stephanie Smittle, Arlene Biebesheimer, soprano; and Jennifer Boccarossa, soprano/mezzo-soprano.
Newman will sing “Una fortuna lagrima” from Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore; Boccarossa will sing the “Habanera” from Bizet’s Carmen; Allen and Biebesheimer will sing the “Papageno-Papagena” duet from Mozart’s The Magic Flute. The program will also include the quartet from Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto, and the chorus from Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land.