Union Avenue Opera’s University Artist Outreach program, Crescendo, will present a free recital on Sunday, March 10, at 5 p.m. The recital is the culmination for participants in UAO’s Crescendo program, a free, hands-on, performance based training program developed to further the education of local artists still young in their careers as they prepare to join the St. Louis art community.

The recital is free and open to all ages. It will be held on the Union Avenue Opera stage at 733 North Union Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63108. This is a non-ticketed event. Doors open 4:30 p.m.

In the spring of 2014, Union Avenue Opera launched their new collegiate enrichment program called Crescendo.

Participants take part in a series of masterclasses and workshops presented by UAO’s esteemed professionals in anticipation of a public recital on March 10, where they will compete for $2,500 in scholarships and spots in UAO’s 2019 productions of Candide and La Boheme.

The program is open to all voice students currently enrolled in an undergraduate program within 60 miles of St. Louis, and offers a unique opportunity for young artists to work with their contemporaries while honing their craft.

To date, 72 students have completed the Crescendo program, some as many as 4 times! As a result, these young artists have appeared in over 65 roles in 7 operas as part of UAO’s Festival Season.  This year, 24 students from seven local music programs are participating in Crescendo.

Union Avenue Opera’s Crescendo is designed for the motivated student, to provide the opportunity to hone their craft while working with UAO’s esteemed professionals.

UAO believes St. Louis has a lot to offer singers and they want to reach out to local students and make their acquaintance. In addition, participants will compete for scholarships as well as paid positions in UAO’s 2019 productions of Bernstein’s Candide, Puccini’s La bohème, and Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied.* 

Numerous participants of the Crescendo Program have gained employment opportunities  working behind the scenes at Union Avenue Opera. Students were hired to work in the box office, run supertitles, as well as perform in productions, all of which gave them insight to a career in the performing arts.

cutline: 2018 Recital Winners: SIUE’s Sarah Paitz recipient of the John J. Prcic Memorial Scholarship, SIUE’s David Fournie winner of the Jack and Betty Swanson Scholarship, Webster University’s Abby Benson winner of the John Lessor Scholarship, and Artistic Director Scott Schoonover. Kari Frey Photography.

Meet the 2019 Crescendo Staff

Program Coordinator – Debra Hillabrand

Christine Armistead, Director of Vocal Activities, Washington UniversityJon Garrett, Adjunct Professor, Staff Accompanist and Music Director, St. Louis University; Adjunct Professor of Voice, Staff Accompanist and Music Director, Lindenwood University, Adjunct Professor, St. Charles Community CollegeSandra Geary, Piano Faculty, Washington UniversityMartha Hart, Associate Professor of Voice, Webster UniversityEric KuhnStella Markou, Director of  Vocal Studies, University of Missouri-St. LouisNancy Mayo, Piano Faculty, Webster UniversityJennifer MedinaAlice Nelson, Director of the Webster Opera Studio, Webster UniversityAnna Pileggi, Professor of the Practice in Drama, Washington UniversityNoël Prince, Voice Faculty, Washington UniversityMarc Schapman, Director of SIUE Opera Theatre, Southern Illinois University EdwardsvilleScott Schoonover, Artistic Director and Founder, Union Avenue Opera Stephanie Tennill, Assistant Professor of Music, Saint Louis University

 

Questions?Email Program Coordinator, Debra Hillabrand, at [email protected]

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
For the St. Louis premiere of Guiseppe Verdi’s Biblical epic “Nabucco,” Union Avenue Opera dreamed big.
Not since tackling Wagner’s Ring Cycle have they taken on such a massive show. The staging this four-act 1841 Italian opera is a towering achievement, both vocally and in mechanics.
They succeed in showcasing not only the top-shelf talent they attracted for this production, but also one of the best choruses featured on their cozy stage.
Conductor Stephen Hargreaves and Assistant Chorus Master Jon Garrett deep-dive into this glorious, grand signature Verdi sound – confidently creating big, bold orchestral and chorus statements. The 21-piece string-heavy orchestra is outstanding.

While the romantic and political complexities of this Old Testament story do not exactly comprise the finest libretto, the vocal prowess is stunning. This show’s cast has the vibrant voices to match the character requirements.
Librettist Temistocle Solero used the Books of Jeremiah and Daniel for the turbulent story, set in 587 B.C. The King of Babylon is Nabucco (Robert Garner), known as Nebuccadnezzer in English. He has seized control of Jerusalem in his war with the Israelites. The other major storyline is that his daughter Fenena (Melody Wilson) and her evil half-sister Abigaille (Marsha Thompson) are both in love with Ismaele (Jesse Donner), the nephew of the King of Jerusalem.
While war rages between Babylon and Jerusalem, Abigaille pledges to save Ismaele’s people if he chooses her. But he denies her, so she turns ruthless and plans to take down the kingdom, claim Nabucco’s throne and kill all the imprisoned Israelites.
First-time director Mark Freiman heightens the soap opera aspect of these treacherous elements, as the principals expressively sing about their emotional anguish and lament over their choices.
The accomplished Robert Garner is an imposing Nabucco, and when he needs to regain his sanity and strength in Act III, excels in his “Dio di Giuda” aria.
 
However, the two women are such dynamic forces and reach exhilarating heights as the warring half-sisters. In an impressive debut, soprano Marsha Thompson commands the stage as Abigaille, breathtaking in the demanding role. Her arias are something special, especially her dramatic coloratura “Anch’io dischiuso un giorno.”
The rising young star Melody Wilson – what an inspiring name! – demonstrates why she is one to watch, as she has one of the richest mezzo-sopranos I’ve heard. She stood out in her St. Louis debut in “Doubt” two summers ago, as part of “Regina” at Opera Theatre of St. Louis this season, and now, in this dramatic role as Fenena. What a range! Her prayer painting a picture of the heavens, “O dischius’è il firmament,” is exceptional.
Also standing out is bass Zachary James as Hebrew high priest Zaccaria, both in physical presence and in vocal prowess. He is particularly impressive performing “D’Egitto là su i lidi” that revives his people’s hopes in Act 1, and the prayer “Tu sul labbro” in Act 2.
Jesse Donner is solid as Ismaele, as is Clark Sturdevant as Abdallo, Jacob Lassetter as High Priest of Baal and Karen Kanakis as Anna.
Bravo, fervent ensemble! They do indeed stir the soul in the famous “Va, pensiero, sull’ali dorate” chorus. One of the most famous opera pieces of all-time is robustly delivered by Douglas Allebach, Madeline Black, Aleksandar Dragojevic, David Fournie, Jon Garrett, Rebecca Hetlelid, Michael Hawkins, Emily Heyl, Jeffrey Heyl, Lori Hoffman, Hannah Kauffmann, Amy Mazzeo, Jayde Mitchell, Joel Rogier, Tina Sayers and Caetlyn Van Bure in their masterful Italian vocal unison.
The cheers in Act 3 were lengthy and well-deserved, for it was quite a thrilling moment.
The technical aspects of this show are more demanding than usual at the Union Avenue Christian Church. With an idol that must fall and lightning that has to strike, the lighting design by Patrick Huber, who also did the set design, helps make those special effects happen. Theatre Marine Productions was the technical director.
Special mention must go to set designer Huber for creating the vertically tall set so that terrains, palace hallways, and Hanging Gardens of Babylon could be imagined. That was quite a feat, and that the ensemble didn’t seem as crowded on stage.
With the lyrical virtuosity and passionate spirit achieved here, Union Avenue Opera reaches new heights.
Verdi’s “Nabucco” is sung in Italian and presented by Union Avenue Opera on July 27-28 and Aug. 3-4 at 8 p.m. at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union Boulevard. For more information, visit www.unionavenueopera.org or call 314-361-2881.

Photos by John Lamb