The 2017 Festival Season features the American premiere of Philip Glass and Christopher Hampton’s The Trial, the premiere of a new performing version of Ricky Ian Gordon and Michael Korie’s The Grapes of Wrath, Mozart’s Titus (La clemenza di Tito), Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, and the annual Center Stage showcase concert.

Single tickets now on sale for all season performances. The 2017 Festival Season runs May 20 – June 25, 2017.

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis General Director Timothy O’Leary has announced the repertory and full casting for the company’s 2017 Festival Season.  For its 42nd season, the internationally recognized company, which has presented 25 world premieres and 26 American premieres, is pleased to present a combination of two powerful 21st century operas from American composers — Ricky Ian Gordon and Michael Korie’s The Grapes of Wrath and Philip Glass and Christopher Hampton’s The Trial— and two timeless classics from opera’s most beloved composers — Puccini’s Madame Butterfly and Mozart’s Titus (La clemenza di Tito).  The season also includes the third annual Center Stage concert, showcasing the incredible talents of OTSL’sGaddes Festival Artists and Gerdine Young Artists.  This season marks the last in which Stephen Lord, who conducts Titus (La clemenza di Tito), will serve as OTSL Music Director before becoming Music Director Emeritus.  Opera Theatre’s 2017 Festival Season begins Saturday, May 20 and continues through Sunday, June 25.

The season brings a host of favorite OTSL singers back to the stage, along with a number of exciting debuts. Returning favorites include René Barbera, Susannah Biller, Deanna Breiwick, Levi Hernandez, Christopher Magiera, Robert Orth, Hugh Russell,Maria Zifchak. Singers making first appearances with the company include Michael Brandenburg, Emily D’Angelo, Rena Harms,Andrew Lovato, and Brenton Ryan. Both Christopher Allen and Carolyn Kuan make OTSL debuts conducting.

“Opera Theatre’s 2017 season features acclaimed masterpieces and unforgettable stories,” said General Director Timothy O’Leary.  “Together with Puccini and Mozart, we are thrilled to present works by two of the most popular and celebrated American composers – Philip Glass and Ricky Ian Gordon.  With the long-awaited premiere of a new version of Ricky’s great American opera The Grapes of Wrath and the American premiere of Philip’s latest masterwork, this will be a destination season for audiences from across our region and around the world.  We look forward to welcoming you here!”



Giacomo Puccini (1906)

Conductor: Michael Christie

Stage Director: Robin Guarino

Eight Performances: May 20, 26, June 1, 3 (m), 7, 11, 14 (m), 24
Conductor Roberto Kalb conducts the June 3 performance.

Cio-Cio-San: Rena Harms*

Lieutenant B. F. Pinkerton: Michael Brandenburg*

Sharpless: Christopher Magiera

Suzuki: Renée Rapier

Goro: John McVeigh

The Bonze: Matthew Stump*

Prince Yamadori: Benjamin Taylor^

Kate Pinkerton: Anush Avetisyan**

Set Designer: Laura Jellinek*
Costume Designer: Candice Donnelly*
Lighting Designer: Christopher Akerlind

Wig & Makeup Designer: Tom Watson
Choreographer: Seán Curran

Dramaturg: Christine Mok
Chorus Master: Cary John Franklin

A Japanese geisha. An American soldier. Their attraction is immediate, but their love story can’t last. When their union results in a child, Cio-Cio-San must take desperate measures to protect her son’s future.  This timeless opera pays a powerful, wrenching tribute to a mother’s love.

Major production support is provided by the William T. Kemper Foundation – Commerce Bank, Trustee, and The Commerce Trust Company.



Premiere of a New Performing Version

Ricky Ian Gordon and Michael Korie (2007)

Conductor: Christopher Allen

Stage Director: James Robinson

Seven Performances: May 27, 31, June 9, 15, 17 (m), 21 (m), 25

Tom Joad: Tobias Greenhalgh

Ma Joad: Katharine Goeldner

Rosasharn: Deanna Breiwick

Uncle John: Robert Orth

Pa Joad: Levi Hernandez

Granpa: Dennis Petersen*

Granma: MaryAnn McCormick

Noah Joad: Hugh Russell

Jim Casy: Geoffrey Agpalo

Connie Rivers: Andrew Lovato*

Mae: Sofia Selowsky^

Al Joad: Michael Day^

Set Designer: Allen Moyer
Costume Designer: James Schuette

Lighting Designer: Christopher Akerlind

Wig & Makeup Designer: Tom Watson
Choreographer: Seán Curran
Chorus Master: Cary John Franklin

“Gordon’s lyrical gift shines through every page of the score…” – Chicago Tribune
“The hall was packed and the ovation tumultuous” – The New York Times

When the Dust Bowl sweeps across Oklahoma, the Joad family sets out for a new life in California.  But the promised land isn’t all it seems.  In the face of countless obstacles, can the American dream survive?  With all the poetic beauty of John Steinbeck’s original Pulitzer Prize-winning 1939 novel, Ricky Ian Gordon and Michael Korie’s acclaimed opera vividly captures one family’s fight to endure.  Now, more than a decade after this great American opera made its premiere at the Minnesota Opera, a two-and-a-half hour revised performing version of Gordon and Korie’s The Grapes of Wrath makes its long-awaited premiere during the OTSL 2017 Festival.

Leadership support comes from the Whitaker Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Mrs. Walter F. Brissenden, the Berges Family Foundation, and the Ferring Family Foundation, with an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and with major production support from OPERA America’s Opera Fund.



American Premiere

Philip Glass and Christopher Hampton (2014)

Conductor: Carolyn Kuan*

Stage Director: Michael McCarthy*

Six Performances: June 4, 8, 10 (m), 17, 21, 23

 Joseph K: Theo Hoffman
Fräulein Bürstner/Leni: Susannah Biller
Frau Grubach/Washerwoman: Maria Zifchak
Titorelli/Berthold: Brenton Ryan*
Magistrate/Lawyer Huld: Keith Phares

Inspector/Uncle Albert: Matthew Lau
Franz/Block: Joshua Blue^
Willem/Priest: Robert Mellon^

Set & Costume Designer: Simon Banham*
Lighting Designer: Christopher Akerlind

Wig & Makeup Designer: Tom Watson
Choreographer: Seán Curran“This new work… has spring perfectly-formed into life.” – The Telegraph
“The verdict? Unmissable.”
The Financial Times

It’s strange enough that Josef K. spontaneously finds himself arrested on his 30th birthday — stranger still that no one seems able to explain why. He embarks on a year-long search for justice, encountering absurd characters and situations at every turn. Based on Franz Kafka’s celebrated novel, this dark comedy comes to St. Louis from Music Theatre Wales after a sold-out run at London’s Royal Opera House, in a co-production with Royal Opera House, Scottish Opera, and Theater Magdeburg.



Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1791)

Conductor: Stephen Lord

Stage Director: Stephen Lawless

Six Performances: June 10, 14, 16, 18, 22, 24 (m)

Conductor Roberto Kalb conducts the June 22 performance. 

Tito: René Barbera
Vitellia: Laura Wilde
Sesto: Cecelia Hall
Annio: Emily D’Angelo*

Servilia: Monica Dewey*^
Publio: Matthew Stump*

Set & Costume Designer: Leslie Travers*
Lighting Designer: Christopher Akerlind

Wig & Makeup Designer: Tom Watson
Choreographer: Seán Curran
Chorus Master: Cary John Franklin

Politics turn lethal as a new emperor takes the throne of Rome, and the Capitol is set ablaze by an explosive mix of ambition, conspiracy, and romantic intrigue.  With an assassin lurking in the shadows, can the world’s most powerful city still be ruled with compassion?  Experience this transcendent Mozart masterpiece, handpicked by conductor Stephen Lord for his final appearance as OTSL Music Director before becoming Music Director Emeritus.



A Young Artists Showcase Concert

One Performance: June 20

Conductor: Stephen Lord

Stage Director: James Robinson

This one-night-only concert brings Opera Theatre’s Richard Gaddes Festival Artists and Gerdine Young Artists into the spotlight to sing iconic moments from opera’s greatest hits and cherished rarities.  In honor of Stephen Lord’s final season as Music Director, the repertoire for the concert has been selected entirely from operas that Maestro Lord has conducted over his history with OTSL. Be among the first to discover the next generation of opera stars, accompanied onstage by members of the brilliant St. Louis Symphony.

All main season productions at Opera Theatre are accompanied by members of the St. Louis Symphony and are performed in English, with projected supertitles.  Concerts and special events, such as Center Stage, feature music sung in its original language.  Performances are presented in the Virginia Jackson Browning Theatre of the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of Webster University.  Productions are performed in rotating repertory, making it easy for audiences to enjoy all four productions of the festival in a single weekend.

Subscription tickets to the 2017 season are available for purchase, starting at $82 for a two-opera Wednesday or Saturdaymatinee series and $165 for a four-opera evening or matinee series. Single ticket prices start at $25. Special packages are available for K-12 educators, audiences under 45 years of age, and audiences travelling from out of town.  To purchase tickets or for more information, visit or call the box office at (314) 961-0644.



The Trial

American Premiere

Philip Glass and Christopher Hampton (2014)

“A perfect match between composer and librettist….  The performers’ singing and acting, directed by Michael McCarthy, humanises what happens in a way that serves Kafka’s concept almost more powerfully than his own original writing….  This is a truly brilliant achievement all round.” – Opera Now

“Turning this into an opera requires first of all an outstanding playwright, who can find a way to turn Kafka’s haunting prose into effective dialogue, and secondly a composer whose music conveys an atmosphere of paranoia, inexorable monotony and helplessness.   Christopher Hampton and Philip Glass fit the bill perfectly.” The Express

“Half a century ago, Kafka’s The Trial (written around 1920) still reads like a brilliant, if paranoid, fantasy. Re-read it now, in the age of extraordinary rendition and mass surveillance, and what will strike you is its astonishing prescience, both in subject matter and form.  And who better than Philip Glass, whose music mirrors the taking-a-line-for-a-walk intricacy of Kafka’s prose, to turn it into an opera?” – The Independent

“With a trinity of big names — Kafka, Glass, Hampton — this opera could easily have promised more than it delivered. Instead it exceeded expectations.  The verdict?  Unmissable.” – Financial Times


The Grapes of Wrath

Premiere of a New Performing Version

Ricky Ian Gordon and Michael Korie (2007)

“Gordon’s lyrical gift shines through every page of the score, a melting pot of musical Americana that incorporates blues, jazz, country fiddling, and more.” – The Chicago Tribune

“He [Ricky Ian Gordon] illustrates with skill, grace and flair. Mr. Korie’s literate, often clever libretto is a big help.  Together the two men gently push the narrative from episode to episode.  There is some sung recitative as conversation, but ‘Grapes’ is a numbers opera, with arias, ensembles, choruses and clear spaces between them.” – The New York Times

“The opera’s greatest glory is Gordon’s ability to musically flesh out the entire 11-member Joad clan…. Gordon’s other great achievement is to merge Broadway and opera… greatly enhanced by his firm control over ensembles and his sheer love for the operatic voice.” – Los Angeles Times

“Gordon’s compositions are startlingly accomplished in range, and refreshingly uninhibited in scope.  He frequently moves the score into meditative ballads, but also infuses elements of period jazz and pop in a manner that evokes emotion rather than seeming gratuitously referential….  Korie’s lyrics are almost perfectly matched to Gordon’s score.  As the music ranges from high to low, Korie writes passages of piercing beauty, then follows with rhyming couplets that both ably tell the story and evoke the poetry of the characters’ tortured lives.  He uses blunt, forceful words that elevate the work’s emotionalism by mixing fatalism with optimism until the opera begins to sing in the range of the universal….  Its telling is nothing short of incandescent.” – Variety


Titus (La clemenza di Tito)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1791)
Conductor: Stephen Lord, Stage Director: Stephen Lawless

“Under the confident musical direction of Stephen Lord, the Macbeth cast turned in an urgent, vocally solid and dramatically splendid performance.” – The New York Times on Macbeth at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

“In the pit, conductor Stephen Lord and the COC orchestra provided a sure, subtle and sympathetic accompaniment, proving the fluid base on which the vocal greatness onstage could soar.” – The Globe and Mail on Norma at Canadian Opera Company

“It is thanks to Lord’s nose for new talent and ability to nurture that OTSL has been the venue for debuts or major early appearances of such singers as Patricia Racette, Christine Goerke, Anthony Dean Griffey, Lawrence Brownlee, Ailyn Pérez, and Jamie Barton, to name a few. His casting policies have had a direct effect on the company’s idealistic approach to repertoire… Little wonder, then, that a decade ago Opera News was already putting Lord (one of only four conductors) on its list of the ‘25 Most Powerful Names in US Opera.’” – Opera Magazine

“The cast’s standout was René Barbera, a sweet, ardent, clarion-voiced Nemorino, and the afternoon’s highlight, naturally enough, was “Una furtiva lagrima” …at its climax, when Barbera came to the foot of the stage, arms spread wide, and sing of his passion, music and meaning became one. The ovation that followed was not only a recognition of Barbera’s superb rendition but a celebration of Nemorino’s victory in love.” – Opera News on The Elixir of Love at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

“What to say of René Barbera as Nemorino, except that he may arguably be the most effortlessly endearing, lovably bumbling, beguilingly boyish Nemorino since the great Pavarotti… Mr. Barbera has that same charisma, that star power, that indefinable magnetism that cannot be manufactured.” – Opera Today on The Elixir of Love at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

The evening’s most thrilling moments were delivered… in the company debut of fast-rising Texas-born bel canto tenor René Barbera, whose charm and effortless string of high C’s… elicited roars of excitement.” – San Diego Union Tribune on the San Diego Opera 50th Anniversary Gala Concert


Madame Butterfly

Giacomo Puccini (1906)

Conductor: Michael Christie, Stage Director: Robin Guarino

“Michael Christie… achieved excellent balance and revelation of orchestral detail throughout the night” – Opera News on The Manchurian Candidate at Minnesota Opera

“On opening night Michael Christie, the conductor, drew consistently exciting work from the St. Louis Symphony members in the pit.” – The New York Times on The Death of Klinghoffer at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

“Soprano Rena Harms brought dramatic vividness and vocal flourish to the role” – San Francisco Chronicle on Don Giovanni at San Francisco Opera

“The star of the evening for me was the enchantingly beautiful soprano Rena Harms… Her incisive, rich and open sound filled the Coliseum effortlessly and she gave an innately musical performance, with some particularly sublime soft passages. Dramatically, she is extremely accomplished.” – musicOMH on Simon Boccanegra at English National Opera

“Whenever Harms opens her gorgeous gob, the rest of the cast becomes pallid in comparison” – Londonist on Madame Butterfly at English National Opera V

Via Press Release

About Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is one of the leading American opera companies, known for a spring festival of inventive new productions, sung in English, featuring the finest American singers and accompanied by members of the St. Louis Symphony.  As of its 2016 Festival Season, Opera Theatre has presented 25 world premieres and 26 American premieres — which may be the highest percentage of new work in the repertory of any U.S. company.  Described by the Sunday Times of London as “one of the few American companies worth the transatlantic fare,” Opera Theatre of Saint Louis annually welcomes visitors from nearly every state and close to a dozen foreign countries.  Although the size of the theater typically limits box office income to less than a quarter of the budget, the company has consistently produced work of the highest quality while never accumulating a deficit.

Opera Theatre also has a long tradition of discovering and promoting the careers of the finest operatic artists of the current generation.  Among the artists who had important early opportunities at Opera Theatre are Christine Brewer, Susan Graham, Nathan Gunn, Patricia Racette, Thomas Hampson, Jerry Hadley, Dawn Upshaw, Matthew Polenzani, Sylvia McNair, Erie Mills, Dwayne Croft, Kelly Kaduce, and Lawrence Brownlee.  Opera Theatre has always been known for distinguished leadership: founding general director Richard Gaddes was succeeded in 1985 by General Director Charles MacKay, with famed British stage director Colin Graham as Artistic Director and Stephen Lord (1992 – present) as Music Director.  Timothy O’Leary was named General Director in October 2008 with acclaimed stage director James Robinson succeeding the late Colin Graham.

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is funded in part by the Regional Arts Commission, Arts and Education Council, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Missouri Arts Council, with audience building programs supported by The Wallace Foundation.

Generous leadership support for the services of the St. Louis Symphony is provided by Jack C. Taylor and the Taylor family.