On the 10th Day of Christmas, Opera in the Rock brings THE GIFT OF THE MAGI

Image may contain: text

Opera In The Rock is pleased to present a special addition to the 2019-2020 season: David Conte’s chamber opera “The Gift of the Magi” in partnership with Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church on Friday, January 3rd, 2020, 7:30 pm at PHUMC, 4823 Woodlawn Dr., Little Rock, 72205.

“The Gift of the Magi” is a chamber opera in four scenes with music by David Conte and libretto by Nicholas Giardini based on the 1905 holiday short story with the same title by O. Henry. The opera focuses on the love story between the poor married couple Jim and Della who cannot afford to buy each other presents for Christmas. As a sentimental story about gift-giving with a well-known plot and an ironic ending, “The Gift of the Magi” opera delivers this classic holiday tale of morals with beautiful singing and a rich orchestral score.

Starring local operatic favorites Kyle Forehand and Shannon Rookey as Jim and Della alongside their friends Maggie and Henry played by Sarah Stankiewicz-Dailey and Daniel Morris, the chamber opera will include musicians from the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra conducted by Geoffrey Robson sponsored by Pulaski Heights UMC.  Watch for some surprise cameos in the production, as well.

In partnership with Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church, there will be a “Meet the Kings! Family Fun” event prior to the opera performance at 6:30pm in the Gathering Hall of the church. Activities for children and families include crown-making and cookie-decorating with an opportunity to meet the three kings.

General Admission is free with a $15 suggested donation benefitting Opera In The Rock performances and outreach programming. Childcare available at the church with RSVP only by calling 501-664-3600 with ages and number of children. For more information and tickets, please visit www.oitr.org or call 501-681-9640.

One final chance to see SOUVENIR with Christine Donahue and Timothy Smith presented by Opera in the Rock

Image may contain: 1 person, text and outdoor

Opera in the Rock presents the Tony-nominated play Souvenir: a Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins as a one-night only benefit encore performance of their smash hit!

The performance starts at 7:30pm on the Arkansas Repertory Theatre stage.

1964: Greenwich Village. Cosmé McMoon flashes back to the musical career of Florence Foster Jenkins, a wealthy New York socialite with an infamous prestige for singing out of tune. In 1932, she met McMoon and the two teamed up to foster Jenkins’ love for singing in the hopes of achieving success. Over the next dozen years, their bizarre partnership yielded hilariously off-key recitals that became the talk of the town and earned them cultish fame.

Christine Donahue and Timothy Smith take on these two spectacular characters for the last time one night only as a benefit performance for Opera In The Rock at The Rep.

Christine Donahue, soprano, has performed with numerous opera companies throughout the United States, Canada and abroad including New York City Opera, Cleveland Opera and Houston Grand Opera. She is presently Assistant Professor of Voice at University of Central Arkansas.

Mr. Smith is a professor of piano and music theory at Arkansas Tech University and has performed in numerous community musicals throughout the country. As an accomplished pianist, he has also played in orchestras for shows including Anything Goes, West Side Story, The King and I, and South Pacific.

THE OLD MAID & THE THIEF – A 1939 Radio Hour presented by Opera in the Rock this weekend

Image may contain: text

Step back to 1939! This one-act opera described by the composer Gian Carlo Menotti as “an opera-buffa for radio in fourteen scenes” tells a twisted tale of morals amongst a gaggle of nosy women and an unsuspecting man. Commissioned by NBC Radio in 1939, it was one of the earliest operatic works composed specifically for live radio.

In what’s sure to be a fun-filled evening of laughs and spectacle, Opera In The Rock will be presenting the work as a live radio play, complete with larger-than-life actors, on stage music, live sound effects, and comical commercial breaks. Starring Metropolitan Opera singer Diane Kesling alongside local soprano favorite Christine Donahue, the cast also includes Shannon Rookey, Ron Jensen-McDaniel, Sarah Stankiewicz Dailey, and Kevin Lambert of Lancaster, PA.

“The Old Maid and The Thief: A 1939 Radio Hour” will be sung in English with music direction and piano accompaniment by John Willis.

Performances are August 23 and 24 at 7:30pm and August 25 at 2:30pm.

Ticket Types:
General Admission, $35
Student Ticket, $25
VIP Ticket, $50 (Includes Drink Voucher & Prime Reserved Seating)

Venue Information:
The Studio Theatre
320 W 7th Street

MADAMA BUTTERFLY this weekend presented by Opera in the Rock

Opera in the Rock at The Rep | Pucccini | Madama Butterfly | May 17, 2019, 7:30 PM | May 19, 2019, 2:30 PMOpera in the Rock presents Madama Butterfly this weekend.

1904: Nagasaki. Pinkerton, a U.S. naval officer, rents a house on a hill for himself and his soon-to-be bride, the 15-year-old “Butterfly.” Bound to be a brief marriage of convenience for Pinkerton, love and heartbreak ensue for the young Cio-Cio San.

Starring the world-class soprano Francesca Mondanaro as Butterfly, a singing actress with rave reviews for performances that are “electric” (Opera News) and “entirely riveting” (Washington Post), Opera In The Rock’s production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, a staple of the operatic repertoire, is not to be missed!

Directed by David Ward and featuring musicians from the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra conducted by Geoffrey Robson, the cast also includes Daniel Foltz-Morrison, Sarah Stankiewicz Dailey and Dallas’ Theodor Carlson, among others, including 15-year-old Tania Kelley making her operatic debut.

Performances are Friday, May 17, 2019 at 7:30 PM, and Sunday, May 19, 2019 at 2:30 PM.  The Opera in the Rock performances will be at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.

Dr. William Grant Still, born on May 11, 1895 – A leading 20th Century American composer

Long known as the Dean of African American composers, Dr. William Grant Still was a legend in his own lifetime. Though not born in Little Rock, he spent much of his youth in the city.

Dr. Still, who wrote more than 150 compositions ranging from operas to arrangements of folk themes, is best known as a pioneer. He was the first African-American in the United States to have a symphonic composition performed by a major orchestra.

He was the first African American to conduct a major symphony orchestra in the US; the first to conduct a major symphony in the south; first to conduct a white radio orchestra in New York City; first to have an opera produced by a major company. Dr. Still was also the first African-American to have an opera televised over a national network

Dr. Still was born May 11, 1895 in Woodville, Mississippi to parents who were teachers and musicians. When Dr. Still was only a few months old, his father died and his mother took him to Little Rock. Inspired by RCA Red Seal operatic recordings, his musical education began with violin lessons.  He graduated from Gibbs High School in Little Rock.

After his studies at Wilberforce University and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, he played in orchestras and orchestrated for various employers including the great W. C. Handy. For several years he arranged and conducted the “Deep River Hour” over CBS and WOR.  He also played in the orchestra for the 1921 musical Shuffle Along, which was the first Broadway musical to feature an all African-American cast and writing team.

In the 1920’s, Still made his first appearances as a serious composer in New York. Several fellowships and commissions followed. In 1994, his “Festive Overture” captured the Jubilee prize of the Cincinnati Symphony orchestra. In 1953, he won a Freedoms Foundation Award for “To You, America!” which honored West Point’s Sesquicentennial Celebration. In 1961, he received honors for this orchestral work, “The Peaceful Land”. Dr. Still also received numerous honorary degrees from various colleges and universities, as well as various awards and a citation from Arkansas Governor Dale Bumpers in 1972.

In 1939, Dr. Still married journalist and concert pianist Verna Avery, who became his principal collaborator. They remained together until Dr. Still’s death in 1978.  In a proclamation marking the centennial of Dr. Still’s birth, President Bill Clinton praised the composer for creating “works of such beauty and passion that they pierced the artificial barriers of race, nationality and time.”

In 1995, Dr. Still was posthumously inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.  In 2016, the ballroom at Robinson Center was named in his honor. In 2018, Opera in the Rock performed Still’s opera Troubled Island.

18 Cultural Events from 2018 – TROUBLED ISLAND produced by Opera in the Rock

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.

On May 4 and 6 Opera in the Rock presented a rare fully-staged production of Troubled Island.  It was at the UA Pulaski Tech’s Center for Humanities and Arts.  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 sang the role of Dessalines.  Others in the cast included Jordan Murdock, Jannette Robinson, Charles Moore, Nisheedah Golden, Anthony K. Valley,  and Chris Straw.