TWO ONE-ACT OPERAS TO AMUSE AND AMAZE
You have to hand it to Kathleen Westfall. The founder of The 9th Ward Opera Company never gives in to the mundane. And, now in her third year of exposing New Orleans audiences to entertaining and accessible classical music, she has done it again.
“When I began the Ninth Ward Opera Company, I scoured the internet for funny one-act operas,” she says. So, in her continuing efforts to give local opera singers the opportunity to develop their craft, she has chosen two one-act operas to be performed at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 24 to Sunday July 27 at the Marigny Opera House, 725 St. Ferdinand St. in the Marigny.
In Gisela in Her Bathtub, the American premiere of a comic opera by Canadians Neil Weisensel, composer and Michael Cavanaugh, librettist, Gisela is seen reading the final chapter of a rather risqué romance novel while lounging in her bathtub.
“Gisela is a non-singing role,” Kathleen explains. “On Thursday night, that role will be played by Fiona Delta. The remainder of the nights Gisela will be played by burlesque artist Cherry Brown.”
Gisela stays in the tub, says Kathleen, “until it’s time for her to take her bow. You’ll just have to come to see what she is not wearing.”
The second one-act piece, A Hand of Bridge, by American composer Samuel Barber, is a bit darker.
“Barber’s music is amazing,” Kathleen says. “It’s a contrast to the silliness of Gisela. It’s about a group of four unhappily married people who are playing a hand of bridge.”
For more information about The 9h Ward Opera Company go to www.ninthwardoperacompany.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
9th Ward Opera Company’s bright one-acts offer epic opera with tongue in cheek
on July 25, 2014 at 3:52 PM, updated July 26, 2014 at 10:08 PM
Samuel Hendricks, left, Laura Booras, and Lesley DeMartin are the characters who spring off the page as Fiona Delta’s Gisela enjoys her novel while taking a bath in ‘Gisela in Her Bathtub,’ a one-act opera receiving its American premiere this weekend at the Marigny Opera House. (9th Ward Opera Company)
Brevity is the soul of wit, Shakespeare tells us, but rarely do we expect succinctness in the world of grand opera.
Befitting its own size, however, the 9th Ward Opera Company is presenting a pair of works this weekend that take on an epic scale, with each being performed within just a quarter of an hour. The result is an engagingly fresh evening at the Marigny Opera House.
The centerpiece of the evening is the American premiere of “Gisela in Her Bathtub,” by Canadian composer Neil Weisensel and librettist Michael Cavanagh. The 15-minute work is a glorious poke in the eye at the traditions, archetypes and excesses of grand opera. Consider if Mel Brooks had decided to now move from Broadway to the opera stage.
The delectable parody opens with title character entering her boudoir, preparing for a luxuriating bath with a historical romance novel. Strains of Bizet’s “Carmen” are heard through her iPad as she disrobes. Fiona Delta gave a flirty performance in this non-singing role on Thursday’s opening night. (Cherry Brown will play Gisela for the remaining performances July 25-27.)
A HAND OF BRIDGE and GISELA IN HER BATHTUB
- What: The 9th Ward Opera Company presents a pair of one-act operas: Neil Weisensel and Michael Cavanagh’s “Gisela in Her Bathtub” and Samuel Barber’s “A Hand of Bridge,” along with a selection of Barber’s songs.
- Where: Marigny Opera House, 721 St. Ferdinand St.
- When: Final performances are at 8 Friday through Sunday, July 27.
- Admission: $20, $10 for students and seniors. Call 504.948.9998 or visit the theater’s website.
Once settled in her bubble bath, she turns her attentions to her novel, an apparently torrid tale of Nordic legend and romance. The characters spring from the page and onto the stage with rakishly amusing delight.
Soprano Lesley DeMartin takes on the “trouser role” of the Viking Olaf to the extreme with full beard and helmet, singing brightly through it all.
Mezzo-soprano Laura Booras is Helga, the daughter of the conquered ruler and reluctant love interest to Olaf. With the despairing laments of a typical operatic damsel in distress, she also shows that she can handle a sword.
Samuel Hendricks brings a sturdy baritone to his role as the ruler, Lawspeaker Snorre. His drawn out death scene could be taken straight out of any number of operas.
The action is periodically interrupted as Gisela’s phone rings, freezing and frustrating the three characters. The final unexpected twist sends the audience out laughing.
Directed with wit and tongue firmly in cheek by Kathleen Westfall, the company’s founder and artistic director, and crisply conducted by Madeline Thibodeaux, “Gisela in Her Bathtub” is sudsy and saucy fun.
The night opens with a series of rarely performed works by Samuel Barber.
Lesley DeMartin, Laura Booras, Elizabeth Evans and Samuel Hendricks play the two married couples in Samuel Barber’s ‘A Hand of Bridge.’
“A Hand of Bridge” may be one of the briefest fully developed one-act operas ever composed. Within a mere 10 minutes, Barber and his librettist Gian Carlo Menotti reveal the stories of four compelling characters.
The opera opens at a card table as two bored married couples are playing bridge. As they each play their hand, the singers individually deliver a brief aria revealing an inner monologue in which each declares his or her inner emotions or desires.
Mezzo Elizabeth Evans gives Sally a rounded rich voice as she expresses her frustrations at being considered dumb and flighty before focusing on the internal battle over choosing a hat.
DeMartin, in another trouser role, plays Bill, Sally’s equally frustrated husband. In a role originally written for a tenor, DeMartin finds the lyricism of the part, as well as the building emotions, taking a startling turn in the end.
Booras showcases a pleasing top voice as Geraldine, lamenting her character’s loveless life. As her husband, David, Hendricks unveils a series of sexual desires that also startle but may explain Geraldine’s frustrations, as well.
A series of Barber’s eclectic songs, ranging from sweetly touching to naughtily funny, were performed between the two operas. Mezzos Evans and Katherine Sherwood White each displayed warm, rich voices through the cycle. They established an especially appealing blend with “Sure on this Shining Night.”
Now presenting its third season, the 9th Ward Opera Company continues to be a bright spot on the summer arts scene with such performances that are as musically fulfilling as they are entertaining.
Review: A Hand of Bridge and Gisela in Her Bathtub
Will Coviello on the 9th Ward Opera Company’s minimalist and absurd mini-operas
By Will Coviello
The 9th Ward Opera Company focuses on presenting short chamber operas, forgoing grand sets and tableaus in favor of essential props and small chamber ensemble or piano accompaniment. The mirth was reduced to extremely minimal proportions recently at the Marigny Opera House in a series of short songs by Samuel Barber. Two delightfully minimalist pieces, or operatic ditties, took lyrics from 8th- and 9th-century Irish monks’ scribblings in the margins of texts they hand-copied. In the less than one-minute-long “Promiscuity,” one monk let it be known that another monk preferred not to sleep alone. Mezzo sopranos Elizabeth Evans and Katherine Sherwood White sang a suite of Barber songs, including odd pieces such as “Monks and Raisins” and an homage to cows called “A Green Lowland of Pianos,” and the program included two short comic operas.
The evening opened with Barber’s A Hand of Bridge, a roughly 10-minute piece about four bridge players, each of whom offered a brief aria about internal torments. Evans played a woman obsessed with buying a hat with peacock feathers and climbed registers to emphasize the seemingly trivial desire. Laura Booras’ Geraldine, prompted by a trumped queen, fretted about the death of her mother, and Samuel Hendricks’ deep baritone helped him plunge the work into hilarious distraction. As a stockbroker, he contemplates his boss’ much greater wealth and fantasizes about becoming rich enough to hire teams of naked servants to fulfill his wishes.
Neil Weisenel and Michael Cavanagh’s Gisela in Her Bathtub is a chamber opera composed in 1998 that toys with operatic cliches. The 9th Ward production added some cheeky elements as Gisela (Fiona Delta) entered in a short, bright pink bathrobe and teasingly shed it before slipping into a bubblegum pink bathtub. As she read a romance novel in the tub, its plot was acted out around her. Wearing a horned helmet and an outrageous beard separated into twin braids, a Viking named Olaf (Lesley DeMartin) courted Helga (Booras), the king’s daughter. The overwrought affair proceeded until the ruler (Hendricks) burst in and objected. At times the action paused and reversed as Gisela flipped wet pages stuck together in her bubble bath. Under the direction of 9th Ward Opera founder Kathleen Westfall, they nicely balanced the singing’s serious tones and silly action of the bath and the dramatic scene.
GERSHWIN’S ‘BLUE MONDAY’ AND CONTEMPORARY ‘AN EMBARRASSING POSITION’ CHARM AT MARIGNY OPERA HOUSE
With a rarely staged early work by George Gershwin and a charming contemporary piece, the 9th Ward Opera Company swings into summer, taking audiences on a bright journey into the Jazz Age.The year-old troupe of young singers, under the artistic direction of Kathleen Westfall, brought a brisk vitality to the Marigny Opera House with the two brief works – “Blue Monday,” Gershwin’s first explorations into an operatic form, and “An Embarrassing Position,” a new work by local composer Dan Shore, based on a story by Kate Chopin.“Blue Monday” had its unlikely premiere in the 1922 edition of “The George White Scandals,” the long-running series of Broadway revues, primarily known for their vaudeville-style acts, peppy songs and long-legged and scandalously dressed chorus girls. Although many of Gershwin’s early songs debuted in the “Scandals,” it was clear that “Blue Monday” didn’t quite fit the bill. He withdrew it from the revue after opening night.Paul Whiteman later brought the piece back with a new orchestration, recognizing it as the first true work of symphonic jazz. Incorporating jazz and American popular song into an operatic form, Gershwin also was influenced by the black culture of the emerging Harlem Renaissance. This culmination of influences gives the brief work a brash energy that the members of the 9th Ward Opera embraced with exuberance.
Though running only 25 minutes, “Blue Monday” is an ambitious work. Set in a Harlem speakeasy during Prohibition, the basic plot is a modern retelling of Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci,” a love triangle between a gambler, a flapper and a nightclub singer. Gershwin even gives Joe, the sharply dressed gambler, a Prologue worthy of Leoncavallo’s Tonio.
Written in just five days, the torrid story by Buddy DeSylva is little more than a potboiler but within Gershwin’s music, hints of such later works as “Rhapsody in Blue” could be heard; the entire piece clearly prefigures “Porgy and Bess.”
In the lead roles, the young singers showed strong command of the music and the roles. Prentiss Mouton sang the part of Joe with a swaggering flair and a ringing tenor voice. Soprano Ebonee Davis created saucy appeal as Vi, his lover, singing with a bold, big voice. She was matched by Kentrell Roberts, singing the part of Tom, the rival lover, with a rich baritone. Dedrian Hogan was especially
effective as Sam, singing the resonant commentary on the action; Vickie Thomas was an imposing May, who runs the speakeasy.
Audiences might expect that Gershwin, no matter how rare, would be difficult to top. But Shore’s “An Embarrassing Position,” did just that. An utterly charming little comedy, Shore’s one-act opera does something that few contemporary classical pieces do – it sends the audience out humming the tunes!
Shore, a Pennsylvania-born composer and playwright, now on the faculty of Xavier University, shows a remarkable felicity for melodic phrasing in a work that is distinctly of the time it depicts, while never falling into mere pastiche. It is a modern work that acknowledges its origins and influences, most notably in its structure, with multiple vocal lines reminiscent of Donizetti, and musical humor of Rossini. Add a splash of Gilbert and Sullivan patter and you’re sure to have audiences smiling.
The story, set in New Orleans of the 1890s, has a noted bachelor and candidate for political office, Mr. Parkham, being visited unexpectedly one evening by the lovely young (and seemingly naïve) daughter of socialite friends. When a gossip columnist arrives for an interview, potential scandal erupts.
Dedrian Hogan was delightful as the befuddled Parkham, singing richly and reacting comically as he has various women throwing themselves at him.
Lesley DeMartin portrayed his potential love interest, Miss Eva, with a winking charm. Her bright, clean voice brought the role to life. What might be titled the “Telegram” aria was especially pleasing, as was their courtship duet over tea, asking “How many lumps?”
As the columnist, June Jenkins, Rebecca Ryan added laughs and stunning top notes. Toni Skidmore and Maria Thomas each were strong in supporting roles.
Madeline Thibodeaux conducted and pianist Ronald Joseph was the accompanist for both operas, each bringing a swinging jazz sensibility, while also appreciating the precision of each opera. Margaret-Anne David directed “Blue Monday,” capturing its kinetic energy; Danielle Edinburgh staged “An Embarrassing Position” with a particularly pleasing sense of comic timing.
Both operas were double-cast. Other singers will appear at some of this weekend’s performances.
The spacious Marigny Opera House is a pleasant repurposing of the long-closed Holy Trinity Church. The historic site is slowly undergoing renovations and has become an important focal point in the downtown arts scene. It is a unique and comfortable space, however, its vast openness, tiled floors and plastered walls combine to make the old church an acoustically difficult venue for the voice, requiring singers to redouble efforts to be precise with diction.
Get downtown this weekend to hear these shining young talents in this pair of appealing shows. One day, you might be able to say, “I saw them when …”
BLUE MONDAY AND AN EMBARRASSING POSITION
- What: The 9th Ward Opera Company, under the direction of Kathleen Westfall, presents a pair of one-act operas, George Gershwin’s “Blue Monday,” and Dan Shore’s “An Embarrassing Position.” The operas are directed respectively by Margaret-Anne Davis and Danielle Edinburgh. Madeline Thibodeaux conducts; pianist Ronald Joseph is the accompanist.
- Where: Marigny Opera House, (site of the former Holy Trinity Church),725 St. Ferdinand St.
- When: Performances at 8 Friday through Sunday, through July 28.
- Admission: $20, $10 for students and seniors. For information, call 504.948.9998 or visit the theater Web site.
Click Here to listen to the WWNO Interview
For the second summer in a row the Marigny Opera House is offering itself as a performance venue to a homegrown small opera company.
The 9th Ward Opera Company is the brainchild of Kathleen Westfall, a self-described “little Cajun girl” who’s equally comfortable singing on stage in New York or going crabbing in Thibodaux. Sharon Litwin talks to her about the two unusual one-act operas she’s presenting this month.
To read more about the 9th Ward Opera Company and its upcoming performances at the Marigny Opera House, visit Sharon Litwin’s article on NolaVie.
Thirteen years before George Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess debuted on Broadway (in 1935), his one-act jazz opera Blue Monday (Opera a la Afro-American)opened and promptly closed. It calls for an all African-American cast (the debut featured white actors in blackface), and it’s a remarkable if forgotten work.
9th Ward Opera Company founder and director Kathleen Westfall says it’s just right for her young company, and it’s part of a double bill opening at the Marigny Opera House Thursday.
“Blue Monday is just so different, and nobody has done it,” Westfall says. “It’s funny because the composer is so well-known. You think Gershwin, you think An American in Paris, Rhapsody in Blue and Porgy and Bess. No one knows that he wrote this one-act opera 13 years before Porgy and Bess. It’s the very first piece of symphonic jazz ever composed.”
Blue Monday is set in a Jazz Age Harlem bar where pianists entertain and patrons gamble in the back room. Vi is in love with Joe, a chronic gambler, and the piano player Tom tries to woo her away from him by planting suspicions about other women.
“One of the very first lines is, ‘Like the white man’s opera, the theme will be love, hate, jealousy,” Westfall says. “It’s right in your face.”
The work suits the 9th Ward Opera’s goals of exposing audiences to short, entertaining operatic works and providing young singers the chance to perform. She chooses works in which many characters have solos.
Westfall teaches at the University of New Orleans (UNO), where she was first exposed to opera as a freshman in a music history class. She created the 9th Ward Opera last summer to present two one-act operas, Cox and Box andTrial By Jury. The show was scheduled to run at Marigny Opera House, but its lack of appropriate permits (since remedied) resulted in the program being moved to the AllWays Lounge and Theatre. The run was well-received, and Westfall committed to doing a 2013 performance of An Embarrassing Position, a one-act opera by Xavier University professor Dan Shore, who also created the new opera Freedom Ride. Westfall received a New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation grant specifically to do Shore’s work, and it’s the second part of the double bill.
Marigny Opera House founder Dave Hurlbert encouraged her to schedule performances throughout the year. He provided the company some financial support for the first show, and together, they presented The Liebeslieder Project in December 2012 and a pair of one-act operas in April.
Marigny Opera House has become a home for opera, dance, New Orleans Fringe Festival shows, puppetry and more. The new opera company New Fangled Opera presented a series of new operatic works at UNO in June. It will present a series of one-acts at Marigny Opera House in June 2014. Part of its mission is to present works by contemporary composers. More than 100 projects were submitted for inclusion in the program, and productions included singers from Philadelphia and Kansas. The scarcity of roles for young opera singers compels many to invest in travelling to get exposure, New Fangled Opera cofounder Chris D. Burton says.
Hurlbert has provided support and art grants via the Marigny Opera House foundation, and he’s continued to renovate and improve the space. He recently added heavy pleated curtains to the backstage and wings, which improved the converted church’s acoustics.
While Marigny Opera House is a large space, the 9th Ward Opera’s shows are designed to avoid the costs of productions like those presented by the New Orleans Opera Association (NOOA) at the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts. Westfall uses piano accompaniment instead of a full orchestra, and costume and prop expenses are modest. But the smaller companies don’t see their productions as an alternative to full-scale productions, but rather a bridge to them.
Givonna Joseph has performed in NOOA productions, including several shows last year, and she will appear in two in the upcoming season. She created Opera Creole in 2011 for two reasons: to expose more New Orleanians to opera and to educate audiences about African-Americans in classical music.
“This music is all of our music, it’s not just music that was written by dead Italian men,” Joseph says with a laugh. “It’s not always for people with white hair. This is our music and we have all participated in it. I have done presentations at schools where I show that we have 500 years of documented history of people of color, of African descent, being involved in classical music and opera. That wasn’t a thing I heard as a kid. I just accepted the fact that I was weird. I think it puts a very positive mark on a person’s soul to know that this is part of their history.”
Opera Creole performs work by everyone from 19th century New Orleans composer Edmond Dede to ragtime composer Scott Joplin. The company hasn’t done a full opera production, but Joseph’s approach is to seek audiences in unconventional spaces and expose them to opera. The company recently performed at the Musicians Village, at Cafe Istanbul on John Calhoun’s late-night talk show takeoff The Goodnight Show, and in April at French Quarter Festival and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. By finding new stages for opera singers, she’s helping restore classical music to the city’s diverse array of musical offerings.
17 July 2013 — by Zachary Young
Click Here to listen to the interview
Nearly a year ago, classical vocalist and adjunct UNO professor Kathleen Westfall debuted the 9th Ward Opera Company, holding public performances of Burnand and Sullivan’s Cox and Boxand Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury for three nights in the first week of August. Conceived as an outlet for aspiring theatrical vocalists across the region, the enthusiastic turnout at the company’s initial showing prompted its founder to further pursue its mission. Since, the 9th Ward Opera Company has upheld a seasonal schedule, delivering two performances of a single act opera per night with each run and growing steadily along the way.
With few opportunities to take the stage, the fledgling non-profit has gone on to attract budding vocalists from UNO, Loyola, Tulane, Dillard, Southern, South Eastern and LSU. Likewise, audience intrigue has grown beyond the Crescent City. Taking notice, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation awarded the 9th Ward Opera Company with a Community Partnership grant earlier this year, and the company’s forthcoming performance will mark its first with a budget. Tune in below to hear Westfall tell the 9th Ward Opera Company’s tale as well as for what it has in store for its July 25-28 Marigny Opera House showings of Gershwin’s first foray into opera, Blue Monday, and Xavier University professor Dan Shore’s New Orleans-themed composition An Embarrassing Position…
: Photo by Regina Wilkins
Wednesday April 17 – Sunday April 21.Wednesday (08:00 PM – 09:30 PM)
Thursday (08:00 PM – 09:30 PM)
Sunday (08:00 PM – 09:30 PM)
Marigny Opera House and The 9th Ward Opera Company Present Frauenliebe und leben by Robert Schumann, and From Maid to Mistress by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi.
Marigny Opera House and the 9th Ward Opera Company have joined forces to present new performances of classical music and dance. Three April performances will treat audiences to two very different musical experiences – a deeply introspective song cycle, and a sparkling comic opera – together in a 90-minute evening.
“Frauenliebe und Leben” by Robert Schumann is a 20-minute song cycle that traces the life and love of a woman, presented from her point of view. It will be sung by 9th Ward Opera Company soprano Anneka Olsen, and accompanied by Dave Hurlbert (Executive Director, Marigny Opera House) on piano. This performance will include a newly-commissioned modern dance piece choreographed and performed by Maritza Mercado-Narcisse.
The second half of the performance is the forty-minute comic opera “From Maid to Mistress” by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. This masterpiece of the baroque tells the tale of a conniving maid and her gullible master. Kathleen Westfall (Director and Founder of the 9th Ward Opera Company), soprano plays Serpina, Jacob Penick, baritone plays Umberto, and local actor Dennis McCann performs the mute role of Vespone. Dave Hurlbert accompanies on piano.
Tickets: $20/ $10 students and seniors; available at box office one-half hour before performances, or online at: http://www.marignyoperahouse.org
No reserved seating; doors open at 7:00pm
For information: email@example.com
Gambit – BestOfNewOrleans.com
- The Liebeslieder Project debuted at the AllWays Lounge & Theatre Thursday and runs again tonight. The program includes a 25-minute presentation of Brahms’ Liebeslieder Waltzes with four soloists (singing in German) and four dancers. It’s followed by members of the 9th Ward Opera singing traditional Christmas carols and then caroling with the audience welcome to join in.
The Liebeslieder portion was an impressive collaboration, and the young singers of the 9th Ward Opera were particularly sharp and poised. Maritza Mercado-Narcisse choreographed and danced along with Donna Crump, J. Hammons and Eric Thileman.
It’s the second presentation by the 9th Ward Opera, which was started by Kathleen Westfall, who is an adjunct professor at UNO and offers voice lessons. She’s a graduate of UNO, when it had more offerings in music, and she went on to sing with small opera companies in New York City.Her interest in the 9th Ward Opera (she chose the name because she lives in the Musicians Village), was to give young singers a chance to perform and to promote opera.
“The New Orleans Opera Association does fabulous large productions,” she says. “I want to do lighter and shorter works, like the Gilbert and Sullivan piece we did this summer.”
“In general, opera needs to do something to stay alive, to be attractive to younger audiences,” she says. “It has so much power, so much emotion. The power of opera singing should appeal to everyone if put in the right context.”
She and Dave Hurlbert, founder of the Marigny Opera House and a classical pianist, wanted to do The Liebeslieder Project. Westfall suggested adding dance as a visual component that would make the piece more interesting.
Westfall was awarded a grant by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation to produce more operas in summer 2013. She expects to produce Samuel Barber’s A Hand of Bridge, An Embarrassing Position by Xavier University’s Dan Shore and possibly George Gershwin’s one-act opera Blue Monday.
Published: Friday, August 03, 2012 By Sharon Litwin
Kathleen Westfall, a Thibodaux native, is not only an accomplished opera singer and teacher; she really wants to spread her love of this special form of vocal performance to those less familiar with it.
UNO music students rehearse for 9th Ward Opera performances.
Not that Kathleen is comfortable with only this one form of musical art. After all, she is married to another outstanding musician, James Westfall, well-known jazz pianist and vibraphonist. They live in Musicians Village, their lives totally consumed by music and those who perform it.
Since her observation for some time has been that many vocal arts students in New Orleans have few opportunities to sing, Kathleen has created The 9th Ward Opera Company; the name is a nod to the part of town in which she lives.
The opera company is a summer program designed to showcase a group of talented University of New Orleans voice students. On August 3 at 8 p.m., they will present two short comic operas in one performance at Allways Lounge Theatre, with a second performance on August 4 at 8 p.m. at the UNO Rehearsal Hall.
“I think New Orleans needs a new and younger opera audience,” Kathleen says. “So we have decided to do two short, entertaining pieces, each only 30 minutes long.”
One opera, Cox and Box, has music by Arthur Sullivan, one half of the famous comic opera duo Gilbert and Sullivan. It tells the story of two men living in the same apartment, but who do not know each other, since one works days and the other works nights. When the landlord decides to double the rent for the same space and the two find out, the results are very entertaining.
The second opera, Trial by Jury, is a better-known piece by the Gilbert and Sullivan duo. That story is set in a court of law, where a jilted Angelina is suing her playboy fiancee Edwin for damages due to breaking off their engagement. It’s an amusing short piece filled with comic characters that Kathleen Westfall says will keep the audience engaged and laughing.
Because the whole program is operating on a financial shoestring, the operas will be presented by singers in contemporary clothes, accompanied by piano only. It promises to be a cheerful and entertaining peek at some rising talent singing some charming music.
Sharon Litwin is president of NolaVie.
Kathleen Westfall of Ninth Ward Opera Company
New Orleans was once know as the opera capital of North America. The first week of August, adjunct UNO Professor Kathleen Westfall hopes to reclaim a little bit of that legacy with the debut performance of her 9th Ward Opera Company.
Westfall started the group to give local opera students an opportunity to hone their craft during the summer months. “Since Katrina the budget has been cut pretty severely, so the students who are trying to become singers don’t really have any performance opportunities,” she says.
The company will stage two comic, one-act operas with piano accompaniment. Gilbert and Sullivan’s early collaborationTrial by Jury is a courtroom satire concerning a marital lawsuit. Arthur Sullivan’s pre-Gilbert Cox and Box is the story of two men—one who works during the day and one who works during the night—who unknowingly share the same apartment. Comedy ensues when they run into each other for the first time. “Each of the operas are half an hour long,” says Westfall. “I figure that when people think of opera they think, ‘long, boring, Italian, not gonna go.’ So I wanted to do ‘short, English, funny, maybe I’ll go.’”
“I want to do something every summer,” says Westfall. “I think that maybe in the future it could become a summer program, which is something that Louisiana doesn’t have. But right now I’m happy to keep it small and just get these students performing.”
The 9th Ward Opera Company will present two performances, at the Allways Lounge on August 3rd and at UNO on August 4th. For more info email 9thWardOpera@gmail.com.
University of New Orleans
The University of New Orleans hosts two performances on Saturday by The Ninth Ward Opera Company. The New Orleans-based nonprofit opera company, named for a city ward devastated in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, is directed by UNO adjunct faculty and alumna Kathleen Westfall and includes several students, including graduate assistant Danielle Wilson.
The Ninth Ward Opera Company will perform two operas at 8 p.m. on Saturday, August 4 at UNO’s Performing Arts Center Recital Hall. The scheduled performances follow a Friday night performance at the Allways Lounge and Theatre on Saint Claude Avenue.
Tantalizing audiences, the opera company will first perform Cox and Box, a libretto written by F. C. Burnand with music by Arthur Sullivan. The one-act opera tells the story of two men who are living in the same apartment but do not know it. One man works during the day and one at night, so the landlord decided to take double the rent for the same space. The two men find out about the scam during the course of this opera — and the results are bound to entertain.
(Also known as The Long-Lost Brothers, Cox and Box was renamed for the 1847 farce Box and Cox by John Maddison Morton – and was Sullivan’s first successful comic opera. Sullivan composed the piece with Burnand in 1866, five years before he wrote his first opera with W.S. Gilbert, launching a 25-year partnership called Gilbert and Sullivan.The Victorian-era writing team of librettist W. S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan together wrote 14 comic operas between 1871 and 1896, including H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado.)
For their second performance at UNO, the Ninth Ward Opera Company will perform Trial by Jury, a well-known opera by Gilbert and Sullivan. Set in a court of law, a jilted Angelina sues her playboy fiancé Edwin for damages after he broke off their engagement. The opera includes a cast filled with comic characters determined to keep audiences laughing.