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.

Advertisements

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.

Little Rock Look Back: William Grant Still

Long known as the Dean of African American composers, Dr. William Grant Still was a legend in his own lifetime.

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 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.  Earlier this month, Opera in the Rock performed Still’s opera Troubled Island.

LR native William Grant Still’s opera TROUBLED ISLAND produced by Opera in the Rock this weekend

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.

Arkansas Gives today from 8am to 8pm

If you are like me, you’ve been receiving notifications about Arkansas Gives Day for months.  Well, today is the day!  From 8am until 8pm, you can help grow the love for Arkansas’s nonprofit organizations by making a donation to the charity of your choice.  The event is sponsored by the Arkansas Community Foundation.

As a special incentive to give, each gift made through ArkansasGives on April 6, 2017, will be matched with additional bonus dollars; the more you give, the more bonus dollars your favorite charity will receive.

Nonprofit organizations and other tax-exempt charitable organizations may participate if they:

  • Are headquartered in Arkansas or have a base of operations in Arkansas.
  • Have 501(c)(3) tax exempt status under IRS code AND are qualified as a 509(a)(1), (a)(2) or (a)(3) organization or as a private operating foundation.

The minimum amount is $25; there is no maximum amount you may give. You may designate up to 10 charities per transaction.

Accepted Forms of Payment: Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express credit cards online.
You will receive an email receipt of your gift; please retain it for tax purposes. Unless you choose to remain anonymous, your donor information will be sent to the nonprofits to which you give.

Here is a list of cultural organizations which offer services within the boundaries of the City of Little Rock.

 

There are MANY MANY MANY other worthy nonprofits which are participating. But since this is a culture blog, only the cultural institutions are listed.  But please consider visiting the website and perusing the entire list.

Creative Class 2016: Bonnie Montgomery

cc16-montgomeryA true and multi-faceted artist,  Bonnie Montgomery has an artistic vision that transcends classification and genre.

Following the release of EPs “Cruel” (2012) and “Joy” (2013), Bonnie released her self-titled LP in December 2014 on Nathan Howdeshell’s (of Gossip) Portland/Arkansas label Fast Weapons.

Bonnie’s southern debut album showcases her powerful operatic voice while her music blends elements of classic country with spaghetti western and traditional Ozark folk song.  Backed by a rowdy, virtuosic hillbilly band, Bonnie has toured on her recent album extensively throughout the U.S.  The album’s critical acclaim alongside her wild and law-less live performances have earned Montgomery the title of the Ameripolitan Outlaw Female 2016.

A classically trained singer whose southern roots run deep, Bonnie has taken her raucous, high-art spin on golden-era country/western music through the U.S. and Europe.

Bonnie’s composition of the modern folk opera “Billy Blythe”, about the childhood of Bill Clinton, previewed in New York, and has earned her the attention of publications such as The New Yorker, The Economist, The Huffington Post and the London Daily Telegraph.  The opera had its official world premiere by Opera Ithaca in April 2016 in Ithaca, NY.  In September it was staged by Opera in the Rock, and an upcoming production is to be staged at Ouachita Baptist University.