How Austin Opera got its groove back


Austin Opera — in the midst of producing Straus’ tour-de-force “Ariadne auf Naxos” — unveiled its most inspired and innovative season in a long, long time on Jan. 25 at the Long Center.

Take the Opera ATX project, which reaches out to new audiences with fresh material in unexpected venues. The first effort, planned for next year, will be “Soldier Songs” by David T. Little. This multimedia experience mixes video, rock, opera and theater to tell the stories of veterans of five wars. It is produced by Beth Morrison Projects, a leader in contemporary opera, and it will appear at the Paramount Theatre.

Not content with this edgy endeavor, General Manager and CEO Annie Burridge also announced that the Austin company would produce the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Silent Night,” based on the 2005 film “Joyeux Noël,” which reimagines the famous Christmas Eve truce during World War I. Hometown hero Kevin Puts wrote the music, Mark Campbell the libretto; they’re the same team that created “The Manchurian Candidate,” which won multiple prizes from the Austin Critics Table last season.

In addition to these two new pieces, Austin Opera has committed ever more resources to the more traditional repertoire. First up, in November this year, is Giuseppe Verdi‘s tumultuous Shakespearean tragedy, “Otello,” which hasn’t been seen in Austin in decades. The sets come from Cincinnati Opera and the costumes from Portland Opera, while the lead roles will be taken by Issachah Savage, Marina Costa-Jackson and Michael Chliodi.

Late in the season, we’ll be treated to Giacomo Puccini‘s “La Boheme” in a lavish production from San Francisco Opera by way of Michigan Opera Theatre, starring Kang Wang, Elizabeth Caballero, Noel Bouley and Susannah Biller.

Another way that Austin Opera has regained momentum is by staging magnificent, rarely produced material such as “Ariadne auf Naxos.” Playing for one more day Sunday at the Long Center, it borrows from a Glimmerglass Festival version that puts the opera-within-an-opera on a Texas ranch.

Suddenly, the whole chaotic first act, set backstage while two performance companies, one operatic, the other comic, square off, all makes perfect sense, especially with Austin Chronicle critic Robert Faires in the role of the Texan event manager.

The second act blends the two styles, but clearly Richard Strauss was not going to spoof serious post-Wagnerian opera for too long. “Ariadne” ends in waves of celestial music dedicated to the power of love. Singers Alexandria LoBianco, Jonathan Burton, Aleks Romano and the slightly under-projected Jeni Houser accentuated conductor Richard Buckley‘s sublime sound.

This is how Austin opera got its groove back.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Austin360

Commentary: On being black in the time of ‘Black Panther’
Commentary: On being black in the time of ‘Black Panther’

At the movie theater over the weekend, I stood in line to get my overpriced snacks before seeing today’s blackbuster hit. “Black Panther.” As is the case most times I go to movies, I stood out like a sore thumb. You see, I’m a black woman who lives in Austin. And I see a LOT of movies. I stick out because the audience is...
R. Kelly evicted from Atlanta homes, owes $30K, court documents show
R. Kelly evicted from Atlanta homes, owes $30K, court documents show

Filings with the magistrate court of Fulton County from Feb. 13 show that the Grammy-winning singer R. Kelly has been evicted from two homes in Atlanta. The  R&B singer was renting houses in the city’s Johns Creek neighborhood. The documents show that Kelly owes SB Property Management Global, LLC more than $31,000 in past due rent...
Austin 'Black Panther' fans put on their Wakanda best this weekend
Austin 'Black Panther' fans put on their Wakanda best this weekend

It has come to pass as many (eventually) thought it would: experts are predicting “Black Panther” will deliver a $235 million-plus debut over the four-day weekend, making for the third highest four-day gross in history.  As Box Office Mojo noted, it is only the fifth movie to debut with over $200 million over its opening...
The art of Austin: People’s Gallery puts focus on local artists
The art of Austin: People’s Gallery puts focus on local artists

City Hall or art gallery? In Austin, we have both in the same space. The annual People’s Gallery at Austin City Hall opens its 2018 exhibition this weekend, featuring works from 102 Austin-area artists in an array of media. The free exhibition, the work of the city’s Cultural Arts Division, aims to spotlight local artists and promote understanding...
As ‘Black Panther’ shows, inclusion pays at the box office
As ‘Black Panther’ shows, inclusion pays at the box office

A lavish, headline-grabbing premiere. Lightning word-of-mouth stoked by glowing reviews. Packed movie theaters with sold-out shows, long lines and fans decked out as characters from the film. The phenomenon of “Black Panther” had the look and feel of a classic, bona fide blockbuster en route to its record-setting $201.8 million debut over...
More Stories