The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Where can you find the comedy of Arthur Sullivan (half of Gilbert and Sullivan) and the pathos of Giacomo Puccini on one stage this weekend?
First Presbyterian Church is where the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre’s Undergraduate Studio is presenting two one-act operas: the Sullivan comedy Cox and Box and Puccini’s convent drama Suor Angelica.
Yes, there will be nuns filling the Presbyterian church’s dias.
Suor Angelica is the directorial debut for UK distinguished professor of voice Cynthia Lawrence, and it tells the story of a sister who was sent to a convent as punishment and seeks redemption.
Cox and Box is, as Monty Python might say, “something completely different” — credit to UK Opera photographer Sally Horowitz for planting that quip in my noggin. Sullivan’s opera is the story of two men who unwittingly share an apartment. One works at night, the other in the day. But when one gets the day off, the landlord’s ruse is discovered.
This opera also has an aria about bacon. (See video, below.) An operatic aria about bacon?! Oddly, appropriate.
Cox and Box is directed by Patrick Joel Martin and Gregory Turay, UK Opera’s most celebrated graduate.
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 12, and Saturday, April 13. Tickets are available through the Singletary Center ticket office (use the links in the last sentence) and at the door starting at 6:30 each night. Prepare to laugh … and cry.
University of Kentucky senior Rebecca Farley and Ph.D. candidate Thomas Gunther were winners in Saturday’s Kentucky District Round of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and they are still in the running to sing on the Metropolitan Opera stage. Their next stop is Memphis, Tenn., for the Midsouth Regional round of the auditions on Jan. 26, where they will be joined by University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of music graduate student Edward Nelson, who rounded out the field of three winners, Saturday.
Traditionally, only one singer advances to the national semi-finals in New York from regional rounds.
The win rounds out a big fall for Farley, 22, who was one of three UK sopranos who sang the role of Christine in the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre’s blockbuster production of Phantom of the Opera. Gunther, 29, was one of three singers who played Raoul.
Also honored Saturday were two other stars of that production: baritone Jacob Brian Waid who played the Phantom and tenor Evan LeRoy Johnson who played Piangi, both 20. They received encouragement awards, which included cash prizes, though they did not advance to the next round.
All four honorees are students of UK voice professor Cynthia Lawrence.
The Met Auditions were held at the University of Kentucky’s Memorial Hall, and 24 singers competed Saturday.
Note: This post was update to correct the number of UK winners stated in the initial posting.
Jun23Filed under: Music, Musicals, Opera, Photo Gallery, Theater, UK; Tagged as: Abby Quammen, Cynthia Lawrence, Everett McCorvey, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Kathryn Todd Norman, Lashelle Q. Allen, Lee Todd, Patsy Todd, Peggy Stamps, Photos from It's a Grand Night for Singing, Smokey Joe's Café, The Addams Family, Tim Collins, University of Kentucky Opera Theatre photos, Virginia Peppiatt, Whit Whitaker
Before we get too far away from this year’s edition of It’s a Grand Night for Singing, I wanted to share some pictures University of Kentucky Opera Theatre photographer Tim Collins sent along. This year’s Grand Night included selections as up-to-date as How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and featured a June 18 tribute to outgoing University of Kentucky President Lee Todd.
Jacob Yates, the School for Creative and Performing Arts-Lafayette High School Student student who staged a benefit for Haitian Earthquake relief in February featuring the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra, Ben Sollee and Cynthia Lawrence, is putting together another philanthropic performance. This time, the beneficiary is the Governor’s School for the Arts, held each summer at Transylvania University.
On the event’s Facebook page, Yates says students at the 2010 Governor’s School were inspired and wanted to give back.
This time around, the performance from 2 to 5 p.m. Dec. 4 at Lexington Catholic High School will feature students from the Governor’s School and “some surprise guests” performing in a “Coffee House” format.
Adult tickets are $10 and student tickets are $5. The Kentucky Center for the Arts, which presents the Governor’s Awards, will match all the proceeds from the event, doubling what it takes in. Check out the Facebook page for ticket information.
There isn’t any Black Sabbath music in Cliff Jackson’s repertoire, but over the years, the University of Kentucky associate professor of music has built a reputation as the Iron Man of the school’s voice program.
One of the cornerstones of that reputation takes place again Saturday, with the Metropolitan Opera National Council Kentucky District Auditions. Jackson will accompany all the UK competitors and probably most or all of the other hopefuls in their quests to win the first round of opera’s biggest talent search.
The past few years, he has shared the piano bench less and less, and last year, he accompanied all 27 competitors, playing 54 arias.
“Well, if you’ve got the best, why go with anyone else?” UK voice professor Cynthia Lawrence says of the trend toward all competitors engaging Jackson to play for them.
“Sometimes I just look at it as a challenge,” Jackson says in his small office in the UK Fine Arts Building after a coaching session. “You just sit down and say, ‘I am going to play this whole competition,’ and you don’t really think about how long it takes.”
This Saturday might be a Met Auditions swan song, though. At the end of this school year, Jackson will retire from UK, leaving as one of the most respected and beloved members of the voice faculty, of which he has been a part since 1992.
Doctoral candidate Dannica Burson says that at the beginning of every school year, there is a meeting of all the students and faculty in the voice program, and when Jackson is introduced, “he always gets a standing ovation.”
“While all the students have different voice teachers, we all have Professor Jackson,” Burson says.
At UK and beyond, Jackson is revered for his incisive ear as a vocal coach and his skills as a virtuoso accompanist. The latter skill has carried Jackson around the world, accompanying marquee stars including soprano Kathleen Battle.
Reaching those heights sometimes required some steely resolve, and circumstances occasionally nudging him in the right direction.
Sep24Filed under: Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, ballet, Classical Music, Country music, dance, Lexington Ballet, Music, Opera; Tagged as: Alicia McCorvey, Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Cherryholmes, Cynthia Lawrence, Dan James, Denyce Graves, Eitan Beth-Halachmy, Gregory Turay, Haitian Harmony, Jim Newberry, Lashelle Allen, Leo Delibes, Lexington Ballet, Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Mario Contreras, Mark Schlackman, Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, Ronan Tynan, Sarah Lee Guthrie, Stacy Westfall, Steve Beshear, Tanya Harper, The California Cowgirls Equestrian Drill Team, The Riata Ranch Cowboy Girls, Tommie Turvey, Vince Bruce, Woody Guthrie, Wynonna Judd
Rehearsals for the opening ceremonies of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games moved to the outdoor stadium of the Kentucky Horse Park Thursday night. The semi-dress rehearsal started at showtime, 7 p.m., and clocked in right around three hours.
With many marquee starts still yet to arrive, there were amusing moments, such as emcee Roger Leasor introducing Wynonna Judd and UK voice student Lashelle Allen taking the stage (and delivering a My Old Kentucky Home Wy might find hard to follow). That happened again when Alicia McCorvey stood in for Denyce Graves and Gregory Turay subbed for Ronan Tynan.
While not a complete show, the stumble-through rehearsal gave us some ideas what to look for Saturday night, whether you are coming out to the Horse Park or watching on WLEX.
Local talent: Much has been made of the big name acts lending their talent to the show, including Bluegrass stars Cherryholmes and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. But there is plenty of local talent on stage and behind the scenes, from the legion of more than 150 area children that will pop up frequently and the dancers with the Lexington Ballet to the lighting design by UK’s Tanya Harper and production supervisor Mark Schlackman, who keeps everything moving.
Beautiful blends of horse and man: The show has been billed as a mix of human and equine talent, and they frequently mix beautifully. One to really watch for is Dan James’ ride atop two horses as Metropolitan Opera Stars Graves and Cynthia Lawrence, now part of UK’s voice faculty, sing Leo Delibes’ Flower Duet from Lakme.
Brushes with history: The entertainment portion of the program, which will begin with a parade of nations and proclamations from Mayor Jim Newberry, Gov. Steve Beshear and Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, president of the International Equestrian Federation, purports to tell the story of America. One moment to appreciate is Woody Guthrie’s granddaughter, Sarah Lee Guthrie, singing her granddad’s anthem This Land is Your Land as Stacy Westfall rides bareback in the ring.
Three ring circus: The Wide Open West segment floods the arena with The California Cowgirls
Equestrian Drill Team, Vince Bruce, The Riata Ranch Cowboy Girls, Eitan Beth-Halachmy, Tommie Turvey and Dan James, one of several times you don’t know quite where to look because so much is happening.
Stories: Mixed in amongst the tunes and horse tricks are numerous stories of artists and their journies to that stage. Think about Wynonna Judd, once living in poverty is rural Madison County, now singing Kentucky’s song at one of the Commonwealth’s biggest events ever. Think about the Haitian Harmony children, who just departed their impoverished nation Wednesday and now sing before thousands of people with major stars.
It’s quite a way to start a fortnight of huge dreams.
University of Kentucky freshman Gabrielle Barker won the grand prize at the Coca-Cola Classic Talent Contest at the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville on Aug. 28. Barker, who sang The Girl in 14G by Jeanine Tesori in the contest, is a graduate of the School for Creative and Performing Arts and Lafayette High School and was a student of Joanna McCarty Rogers. She is now in UK’s voice program, studying with Cynthia Lawrence.
At a Wednesday evening rehearsal of Rent, Johnny Dawson has just finished singing Your Eyes and wails “Mimi!” and Musetta’s Waltz, a classic tune from from La Boheme plays.
Opera is where Calkins spends much of his time as an associate professor of voice at Centre College and Berea College. Music directing Rent is Calkins’ highest profile gig since moving to Central Kentucky last year with his wife, University of Kentucky endowed chair in voice Cynthia Lawrence.
And Rent gives Calkins a much wider variety of voices to deal with than the budding opera singers he usually works with. The cast ranges from potential opera stars to rockers, capturing the full-range of the spirit of the rock show which was based on La Boheme.
“It’s just as vocally rangy as most operas,” Calkins says of Rent.
Part of director Tracey Bonner’s intent in hiring Calkins to be the music director was getting someone who would know how to care for the voices in the show, which can do a number on the throat, particularly if you add in singing outdoors amidst the foliage of the Arboretum.
Calkins points out that both the main male and female roles have singers in ranges that are not usually comfortable for their genders. So he talks to the actors a lot about how to sing to make their most of their voices, and how to take care of them.
Mar12Filed under: Classical Music, Music, Opera, Reviews, slide shows, Theater, UK; Tagged as: Amanda Balltrip, Angelique Clay, Barbara Bailey, Catherine Clarke Nardolillo, Cynthia Lawrence, Daniel Koehn, Die Fledermaus, Dione Johnson, Gregory Turay, Hansel and Gretel, Joahann Strauss II, John Nardolillo, La Bohème, Lucia di Lammermoor, Michael Friedman, Nicholas Provenzale, Pam Miller, Reginald Smith Jr., Richard Kagey, River of Time, University of Kentucky Opera Theatre
Who knew these UK Opera kids were so funny?
The last few years, they haven’t had much of a chance to show it. They’ve been dealing with subjects like slavery (River of Time), murder (Lucia di Lammermoor), pretty young things dying of loathsome diseases (La Boheme and River of Time) and childhood abandonment issues (Hansel and Gretel).
Oh, where’s an operetta with a ridiculous little plot when you need one?
That’s what the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre is offering up through Saturday with its production of Joahann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus, a show as silly as its title sounds.
This may sound like an easy assignment, but ask anyone who’s tried to make an audience laugh and they’ll tell you, comedy is tough. Die Fledermaus needs the laughs, because without them, the show is nearly three-hours of memorable melodies strung together by the thinnest of plots.
Three residents of a house, Eisentein and Rosalinda and their maid, Adele, are invited to the same party, but they each think they are sneaking out on the others. It’s all part of an elaborate prank by Dr. Falke to get back at Eisenstein for a humiliation in the past. This is one of those plots popular in opera and Shakespeare that depends on intimate acquaintances suddenly not being able to recognize each other in close proximity.
You need to be laughing to maintain your suspension of disbelief.
Fortunately, we discovered Thursday night that the ranks of UK Opera include several gifted comic singer-actors.
The Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra strings and Lafayette High School Choir joined with soloists Ben Sollee, Everett McCorvey, Cynthia Lawrence and others for The Concert of Hope, organized by CKYO cellist and SCAPA student Jacob Yates for Haitian earthquake relief. The event was Feb. 21, 2010 at Centenary United Methodist Church, and it raised $5,000. Photos by Mark Ashley.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich