Opera Memphis bids farewell to the Clark Opera Memphis Center with intimate performances of PAGLIACCI
Opera Memphis presents "Pretty Little Room"
Opera Memphis hires Development Operations Manager and Director of Education
Opera Memphis partnership with Stax Music Academy
Opera Memphis received $500,000 Assisi grant
Opera Memphis bids farewell to the Clark Opera Memphis Center with intimate performances of Leoncavallo’s PAGLIACCI
MEMPHIS, Tenn., September 21, 2021 — Earlier this summer, Opera Memphis announced plans to sell the Clark Opera Memphis Center following the receipt of a generous $500,000 grant from the Assisi Foundation and a dollar-for-dollar matching grant from the Handorf family, enabling Opera Memphis to present high quality, innovative operatic performances year-round. Opera Memphis will relocate to new offices likely in the Edge District, and the money from these generous grants will endow the Handorf Company Artist Program, which brings talented emerging artists from across the country to participate in a year-long artist residency. As a final farewell to the building that has served as the company’s home for nearly two decades, Opera Memphis will present four performances of PAGLIACCI, Leoncavallo’s stunning tale of dark obsession, at the Clark Opera Memphis Center over the last two weekends in October.
Pagliacci was composed by Ruggero Leoncavallo and saw its professional premiere in Milan in 1892. More than a century later, it remains a staple of the masterworks repertoire for its riveting dramatic storytelling, lush orchestration, and scintillating vocal writing. Pagliacci tells the story of a traveling commedia dell’arte acting troupe comprised of four vagabond performers: the troupe leader Canio, his listless and dissatisfied wife Nedda, the fool Tonio, and the young, idealistic Beppe. Each character represents an archetype of the commedia dell’arte style, and the troupe performs a play-within-the-play which culminates in a fiery confrontation between Canio, Nedda, and Nedda’s secret lover, Silvio.
Opera Memphis last performed Pagliacci in 2015 with recent Handorf Company Artist Dane Suarez as Beppe, the troupe’s congenial, youthful Arlecchino. Mr. Suarez returns to this production to take on the lead role of Canio, a role he has previously played to critical acclaim at Opera San Jose. He is joined by rising American star Chanáe Curtis in her company and role debut as Nedda. Ms. Curtis recently made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Annie in the 2019 Grammy Award-winning production of Porgy & Bess. As her lover, Silvio, Opera Memphis welcomes back baritone Alex DeSocio who played Ramiro in L’heure espagnole in 2016. Mr. DeSocio is a two-time Metropolitan Council Audition Semi-Finalist and a graduate of the Merola Opera Program. The role of Tonio will be played by baritone Joshua Conyers, who was hailed by Opera News for his “deliciously honeyed baritone”. Mr. Conyers debuted the role of Tonio with Atlanta Opera and will make his company debut with Opera Memphis this fall. Rounding out the cast in the role of Beppe will be Memphis local, Daniel Massey. Mr. Massey is a music educator in the Shelby County School system and frequently performs with Opera Memphis during 30 Days of Opera. Pagliacci will also feature performances by aerialists from High Expectations and will be conducted by Opera Memphis Director of the Handorf Company Artist Program, Cris Frisco, and directed by Opera Memphis General Director, Ned Canty.
To assure that this production will be safe and socially responsible, Opera Memphis has chosen to mandate vaccinations for the entire cast and crew. This ensures a safe environment for our artists and audiences. Upon arrival at the Clark Opera Memphis Center, patrons will be required to present either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test taken within three days of the performance. Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.operamemphis.org/tickets and each of the four performances will host an intimate audience. Join Opera Memphis for preshow tailgating and snacks in the parking lot of the Clark Opera Memphis Center beginning at 6:00. Immediately following the performance, there will be a celebratory champagne toast. This production is a remarkable opportunity for audiences to be enveloped in Leoncavallo’s passionate melodrama sung by some of the rising stars of verismo opera.
Opera Memphis presents Pagliacci: Joshua Conyers (Tonio), Dane Suarez (Canio), Chanáe Curtis (Nedda), Alex DeSocio (Silvio), and Daniel Massey (Beppe).
Opera Memphis will present Robert G. Patterson and Jerre Dye’s
“Pretty Little Room” in an intimate workshop for invited audience
MEMPHIS, Tenn., September 1, 2021 — During the 2018 Opera 901 Showcase, Opera Memphis presented a compelling 20-minute excerpt of “Pretty Little Room” by Robert G. Patterson and Jerre Dye at the Midtown Opera Festival. On September 18, Opera Memphis will workshop the completed piece joined by members of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and a talented roster of artists for an invited audience at the Clark Opera Memphis Center. The workshop will be an opportunity for a select audience to experience the work at this stage in its development, a fascinating look behind-the-scenes at the complex process of creating and evolving new operatic repertoire.
"Pretty Little Room” tells the true crime story of Alice Mitchell, who brutally murdered her lover, Freda Ward, in 1892 in order to prevent Freda from abandoning her. Alice procured her father’s razor and walked across a frozen river to confront her runaway lover before she could flee to rural Golddust, TN on a steamboat called the Ora Lee. After slashing Ward’s face, Alice was committed to the Western State Mental Hospital in Bolivar, TN. It is here that the fitful and unnerving tale “unravels like a fever dream”. Alice hears the lurid terms used to describe her and her relationship with Ms. Ward during the trial, and she remembers the events that led to the murder. The piece is reminiscent of the classic “penny dreadful” tales of the 19th century, and Patterson and Dye interweave the darkly dissonant world with provocative imagery, swelling melodies, and appropriate dread.
Robert G. Patterson is a Memphis-based composer and software developer whose music is infused with “the popular rhythms and melodic fragments around him”. “Pretty Little Room” represents his inaugural voyage into operatic writing after great success in orchestral, chamber, and vocal composition. Jerre Dye, librettist and playwright, is the recipient of the Award for Dramatic Literature from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. He has previously collaborated with Kamala Sankaram on the masterful “Taking Up Serpents” for Washington National Opera and with Zach Redler on the deeply moving “Falling and the Rising” which was co-commissioned and performed by Opera Memphis in 2019.
The workshop of “Pretty Little Room” will be conducted by Steven R. Osgood, who returns to Memphis after conducting “In Real Life” with Opera Memphis this past spring. Stephanie Doche, former Handorf Company Artist seen recently as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Opera Memphis’s 2021 acclaimed production of “Scalia/Ginsburg”, takes on the compelling and complex role of Alice Mitchell. Soprano Amelia Watkins will play Freda Ward, and Memphis favorites Tanisha Ward, Courtney Jameson, and Marcus King will each play a variety of characters. The performance is scheduled for September 18 for an intimate, in-person, invited audience at the Clark Opera Memphis Center.
Soprano Chelsea Miller and Mezzo-soprano Nikola Printz in the 2018 Opera 901 Showcase of “A Pretty Little Room.”
Opera Memphis hires Development Operations Manager,
Marissa Manthongkham, and promotes former McCleave Fellow,
Bethania Baray, to Director of Education and Civic Programs
MEMPHIS, Tenn., August 22, 2021 — The pandemic has not halted Opera Memphis’s forward momentum as the company continues to expand its reach in the community with the addition and promotion of two impressive women of color. Marissa Manthongkham, D.M.A. joins the staff at Opera Memphis as the Development Operations Manager. Bethania Baray, who was previously the McCleave Fellow in Directing, has been appointed Director of Education and Civic Programs. Supporters of Opera Memphis will recognize Jason Hardy, who held the position of Chief Advancement Officer at Opera Memphis for the last four years. He has recently joined Knoxville Opera as their Executive Director, but he will temporarily remain with Opera Memphis as a Strategic Advisor. After a national search, Opera Memphis selected Dr. Marissa Manthongkham, a Memphis native who returned to her hometown after earning a Doctor in Musical Arts from Michigan State University. She holds a Bachelor of Music Education from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a Master of Music from Baylor University. Dr. Manthongkham also serves as Director of Operations and Educational Programming for PRIZM Ensemble in Memphis and remains active as a performing clarinet artist and educator.
Bethania Baray was a Vocal Instructor and the Director of Opera at Arkansas State University before joining Opera Memphis as the second recipient of the McCleave Directing Fellowship, a first-of-its-kind program designed to identify and nurture emerging directors and conductors of color in the opera field. Ms. Baray has hosted a bilingual children’s opera show called “Mijo Milan” which features her toddler, Milan, as they explore the world of opera through the eyes of children. Comfortable on stage and behind the scenes, Ms. Baray has designed and facilitated new community programs, including new partnerships with HBCUs, local Latinx organizations, and the Stax Music Academy. Her work with Stax garnered well-earned praise when a student from her inaugural class, Caleb Thompson, was contracted by the Metropolitan Opera for the opening show of their 2021-2022 season, “Fire Shut Up in My Bones.”
“I look forward to serving Memphis by cultivating long-lasting relationships with local organizations and communities.” says Ms. Baray, “While maintaining our existing educational programs like our Summer Conservatory and Spring Elementary Tour, I hope to develop new educational and civic programs.” These will include family programming, a children’s chorus for appropriate operas, Spanish language materials, the Opera Teens program, and the expansion of the partnership with Stax Music Academy to increase the presence and class offerings provided by Opera Memphis.
Marissa Manthongkham (Development Operations Manager) and Bethania Baray (Director of Education and Civic Programs)