By CB AdamsContributing WriterThere’s no easy way to say this: Union Avenue Opera’s season-ender production of Tom Cipullo’s true story Glory Denied is not easy to recommend because it is “not” many things.

It’s not a familiar, time-tested story arc (dare we say, post-modern?). Like most operas, it doesn’t examine a happy subject (war, torture, dissolution, hatred substance abuse, suicide, etc.), but unlike most operas, it ends despairingly rather than tragically, hopefully or even poetically.

Because it is not an opera that takes fictional specifics and reaches out for the universal — it’s an adaptation of the eponymous book by Tom Philpott, Glory Denied presents the very real specifics of a very real man (husband, father, Army colonel, America’s longest-held prisoner of war, alcoholic, etc.) and turns those specifics deeply inward – into gut shots rather than navel gazing. Nor is it filled with likeable characters; it’s especially hard to identify with or have much true empathy for either version of the wife, Alyce, despite Cipullo’s best efforts to present her side of the story.

And it’s not about America at its best – no rose-colored, rah-rah,
flag-waving, patriotic boosterism in this story. This is an opera about an ugly
war, an ugly time in America and the ugly way that both the government and our
fellow citizens dealt with its ugly details and aftereffects. On stage, the
horrific details keep adding up like those nightly body counts on the evening
news during the Vietnam War.

The first act deals primarily with the eight-year
imprisonment and physical abuse that Floyd James “Jim” Thompson endured,
followed by the second act examining how his post-war life was just as
tortuous, albeit in very different ways. (For plot details, do a quick internet
search – it debuted in 2007 and has had more than 20 productions since then.)

And yet, it is precisely because of all of the things that Glory Denied is not that makes it precisely
why UAO’s production deserves an audience – and certainly one better attended
than the August 17 performance (c’mon, St. Louis theater goers in general and
opera goers in particular!). Not everything worthwhile is easy and not
everything can be sugarcoated to help the bitterness go down. Glory Denied (in its St. Louis debut), should
be seen for exactly what it is: a cautionary tale. It serves the same purpose
as the uncomfortable “aversion therapy” scene in A Clockwork Orange – the one where the lead character, Alex, is
forced to watch violent images while his eyes are clamped open.

Union Avenue Opera’s Glory Denied dress rehearsal on August 13, 2019.Kudos and a tip of the hat to UAO for taking a chance, pushing the boundaries of our local audiences and supporting the work of a modern composer. The company showed extraordinary commitment to this production. As part of a PNC Arts Alive Grant, UAO presented a free panel discussion about Glory Denied and the Vietnam War on August 13 at Soldier’s Memorial.

Tom Cipullo attended the opening weekend of the opera and led talk-back presentations after the performances. Veterans were eligible for free general admission tickets and active military could see the production for $15. There was even a special room reserved for those who might have an anxious reaction during each performance.

Befitting the intimate nature of the story, Glory Denied relies on a cast of just four portraying two versions of the same character under the direction of St. Louis native Dean Anthony, making his UAO debut. David Walton portrays Younger Thompson and Peter Kendall Clark (making his UAO debut, though he has sung the role previously) plays the central character, Older Thompson.

Thompson’s wife is portrayed by Karina Brazas as the Younger Alyce and Gina Galati as Older Alyce. Brazas and Galati deserve some sort of operatic hazard pay for meeting the challenges of portraying such unlikeable characters so well – it makes their accomplishment that much more appreciated. That same appreciation applies to the entire ensemble as they work with a script consisting entirely of lines from actual interviews, correspondence and other research materials.

The music – sometimes jarring, discordant, atonal – was energetic and robust as conducted by UAO artistic director Scott Schoonover. The minimalist set design by Roger Speidel, while spare, provided appropriate details to convey time and indicate place. He made especially good use of foot lockers and many forms of paper, such as letters, government memoranda, newspapers and magazines as they were thrown, dropped and flung throughout the stage.  

The peak performance of the evening was Clark’s bellicose
rendition of “Welcome Home,” which has some of the tightest, strongest and
angriest writing in the opera – even though it  borrows the same ironic, rapid-fire structure
created by Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t
Start the Fire,” and REM’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel
Fine).”

Yes, Glory Denied is a tough sell, especially if all you seek is passive escapism (there’s a new Lion King for that) rather than a production that asks you to actively, intellectually consider one of the true costs of war – and not just the Vietnam War.

Union Avenue Opera’s Glory Denied dress rehearsal on August 13, 2019.

It’s a bit like being required to read William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! orHerman Mehlville’s Moby Dick. Sure, they look dense and imposing sitting unopened – and maybe you won’t love every single sentence – but there’s a satisfaction when you make it to the end. Glory Denied deserves that much respect and deserves a fuller audience than last Saturday’s – even if it is a bitter pill.

Union Avenue Opera presents “Glory Denied” August 16, 17,
23 and 24 at 8 p.m. at Union Avenue Christian Church. For more information,
visit www.unionavenueopera.org.

Premiere of Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied

UAO receives PNC Foundation grant to fund outreach and veteran/military discounts in conjunction with Glory DeniedComposer Tom Cipullo to attend opening night performance and participate in Talk-Back session following the opera Union Avenue Opera closes its 25th Anniversary Season with the St. Louis premiere of Tom Cipullo’s poignant and powerful 2007 opera, Glory Denied, Aug. 16-17 and 23-24.

The opera is based on a book with the same title by Tom Philpott that chronicles the true and harrowing story of America’s longest held prisoner of war, Colonel James “Jim” Thompson, who was held in Vietnam for almost nine years. The tale is communicated from the perspective of Jim and his wife Alyce and gives voice, often in a heart-rending fashion, to the much-overlooked struggles of American families during the Vietnam War and in the aftermath of the conflict.

St. Louis native, Dean Anthony makes his UAO directorial debut as Founding Artistic Director Scott Schoonover conducts. The opera employs only four singers in a unique concept wherein the character of Younger Jim Thompson (tenor, David Walton) – the prisoner of war, is often onstage and singing with the Older Thompson (baritone, Peter Kendall Clark in his UAO debut) – the eventually freed veteran. The two iterations of the same person nearly a decade a part which espouse differing perspectives and deal with separate issues. Similarly, Younger Alyce (soprano, Karina Brazas) and Older Alyce (soprano, Gina Galati) express what they experienced during Jim’s captivity and after his return home. It is a powerful juxtaposition that makes for a compelling evening of theater.

“Glory Denied is an emotional rollercoaster,” said UAO director, Dean Anthony. “People need to see Glory Denied, as it is the cause and effect on all sides. So often, the lives of POW’s have been forgotten and become a part of our past. The sacrifice and commitment of these women and men should never be forgotten, nor should the families who were back at home.”

In conjunction with its production of Glory Denied, UAO will engage veterans and the community through a series of outreach events thanks to a grant from the PNC Foundation through PNC Arts Alive, a multi-year initiative dedicated to supporting visual and performing arts. UAO will present a panel discussion, a free preview concert for veterans and active military at Soldiers Memorial War Museum, talk-back sessions following the performance, as well as its Know Before You Go Friday night lecture series.

Additionally, UAO has partnered with music therapist Sarah Michaelis to create a FREE program that incorporates creative music making and relaxation tailored to promote healing among veterans that will be taken into local veteran communities.

Glory Denied composer Tom Cipullo will be in the audience for the opening weekend of the opera and will participate in the opening night talk-back presentation after the performance.

About PNC Foundation – The PNC Foundation, which receives its principal funding from The PNC Financial Services Group (www.pnc.com), actively supports organizations that provide services for the benefit of communities in which it has a significant presence. The foundation focuses its philanthropic mission on early childhood education and community and economic development, which includes the arts and culture. Through Grow Up Great, its signature cause that began in 2004, PNC has created a bilingual $500 million, multi-year initiative to help prepare children from birth to age 5 for success in school and life.

About Union Avenue Opera – UAO was founded in 1994 to bring affordable, professional, original-language opera to St. Louis, a mission the company continues to pursue to this day. UAO is committed to hiring the most talented artists, directors, designers and technicians both locally and from across the United States. UAO provides promising young singers the first steppingstone of their professional career. UAO is a publicly supported 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization registered in Missouri. In 2018 UAO became an OPERA American Professional Company Member. OPERA America is the national membership organization for artists, administrators and audiences, dedicated to support the creation, presentation and enjoyment of opera. 

UAO offers vibrant and affordable opera experiences in original languages to audiences who reflect the breadth and diversity of the St. Louis region from the acoustically superb sanctuary of an historic church located in the urban Visitation Park neighborhood in St. Louis’ Central West End.

Financial assistance has been provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency, and with support from the Regional Arts Commission and PNC Foundation.

[PERFORMANCE INFORMATION FOLLOWS]

Tom Cipullo’s GLORY DENIED Four Performances: August 16, 17, 23, 24 at 8:00 PM Based on the novel “Glory Denied” by Tom Philpott Presented in English with English supertitles America’s longest-held prisoner of war dreams of coming home. But home is a place he will not recognize. Follow the gut-wrenching saga of Colonel Jim Thompson as he transitions from the jungles of Southeast Asia to the tree-lined streets of suburban America. Glory Denied speaks to the plight of so many of our veterans who nobly fought for their country but face huge challenges when it comes to re-assimilating into society—and their longed-for normal lives—after service. This true story explores the unimaginable bravery asked of soldiers and the nature of hope itself. It is a story of a nation divided and a country that changed significantly in the decade of his imprisonment. Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied made waves in opera circles when it premiered a decade ago and continues to do so today. Single tickets range from $55 to $32 SPECIAL DISCOUNTS: FREE General Admission tickets for veterans. $15 General Admission ticket for active military. Online: www.unionavenueopera.org Phone: (314) 361-2881 ** Union Avenue Opera recognizes that the content of Glory Denied is of a sensitive nature to many people. Our board certified music therapist will be available during all performances of Glory Denied at Union Avenue Opera **

Don’t miss the following FREE/DISCOUNTED events for Veterans and Active Military thanks to a grant from the PNC Foundation:

Glory Denied Preview Concert on August 9 at 3:00pm Soldiers Memorial Military Museum | 1315 Chestnut Street | 63103 FREE for Veterans and Active Military

Enjoy a special concert presentation of Glory Denied, Tom Cipullo’s acclaimed opera based on the true story of America’s Longest-Held Prisoner of war in the JCT Assembly Hall at Soldiers Memorial Military Museum on August 9 at 3:00pm. Tickets are FREE for veterans and active military. All other tickets are $10 per person and $5 for MHS Members. Advance reservations encouraged. Order online at www.mohistory.org

Glory Denied Panel Discussion on August 13 from 6:00pm to 7:00pm Soldiers Memorial Military Museum | 1315 Chestnut Street | 63103 FREE and open to the public

Host Ruth Ezell moderates an intimate panel discussion with insights on the opera Glory Denied, the Vietnam War and the POW Experiences in the JCT Assembly Hall at Soldiers Memorial Military Museum. Panelists include United States Marine Corps Sergeant Rodney “Rocky” Sickmann (POW, Iranian Hostage Crisis) and Glory Denied director Dean Anthony. This is a free event and open to the public. No reservations needed.

Glory Denied Talk Back Sessions on August 16, 17, 23, 24 following the opera Union Avenue Opera | 733 N. Union Blvd. | 63108

Join us each night following the performance of Glory Denied for an intimate talk-back session with members of the artistic team and cast, including special guest, Tom Cipullo the composer of Glory Denied and director Dean Anthony on opening night (August 16).

Know Before You Go – Friday Night Lecture Series on August 16 and 24 at 7:00pm Gretchen Brigham Gallery at Union Avenue Opera | 733 N. Union Blvd. | 63108

Join Union Avenue Opera and Glen Bauer, Ph. D. for our Friday Night lecture series. Dr. Bauer will discuss the opera’s historical importance, guide you through the plot line, and offer a sneak peak of the music to come. This is a free event.

Free Music Therapy Workshop for veterans

Music is known to be an excellent tool for enhancing communication, community, and healing. Recognizing that veterans face unique challenges after their formal service ends, we have partnered with local Board Certified Music Therapist Sarah Michaelis to create a free program that incorporates creative music making and relaxation tailored to promote healing among veterans. Michaelis will guide participants through a variety of music therapy activities that are tailored to veterans to support increased relaxation, self-expression, and positive regard for self and others. This program seeks to build a sense of community and purpose through creative musical experiences. Programs will be tailored to the needs of each individual group. The program is completely free, and sessions may be arranged for July and August 2019 and can be scheduled by contacting Union Avenue Opera at 314-361-2881 or emailing UAO’s Administrative Director Emily Stolarski at [email protected]

Union Avenue Opera presents two company premieres in 2019

Christine Brewer returns to Union Avenue Opera for role debut as The Old Lady in Bernstein’sCandide

Union Avenue Opera announces 25th Anniversary Gala, October 10, 2019

Christine Brewer

Over 21 artists will make their Union Avenue Opera (UAO) debut this summer as the company celebrates its 25th Anniversary Season. The seven-week summer season will open Friday, July 5 with Bernstein’s hilarious, philosophical, and fast-paced take on Voltaire’s 1759 biting satire of the same name, Candideand will feature the return of Christine Brewer to the UAO stage. The season continues through August 24th with performances of Puccini’s operatic blockbuster La bohème, a tribute to UAO’s tradition of presenting operas in original languages, and the St. Louis premiere of Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied, the true saga of Vietnam veteran Colonel Jim Thompson, the longest-held American POW in US history.

The 25th Anniversary Season will culminate with a Gala on Thursday, October 10 at the Barnett on Washington. Guests will enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres followed by a masterfully crafted gourmet meal with a special musical performance by three notable UAO alum: Kenneth Overton (Stephen Kumalo, Lost in the Stars), Elise Quagliata(Sister James, Doubt), and Marsha Thompson (Abigaille, Nabucco). The evening will be hosted by Kathy Lawton Brown of Classic 107.3, The Voice for the Arts in St. Louis

“UAO started off small but mighty. I was a 22-year-old, just out of college looking for opera conducting experience and with the help of the Arts Group of Union Avenue Christian Church we set out to ‘put on a show’” recalls UAO Founding Artistic Director Scott Schoonover. “Our first budget was $5,000 which included everything! Our first auditions drew 17 people, and our orchestra was a string quartet. The cast and I helped build the sets and costumes, and we held 6 performances each with about 50 people in attendance. Minutes before the first performance, the lighting system blew, and we had to perform with just the house lights – it wasn’t fun at the time, but we laugh about it now. Each season has been a season of growth for UAO – for me personally, for our artists, our staff, our infrastructure, and our board of directors – and we are now ready to tackle Season 25.”

In total, UAO will create over 150 opportunities during the festival season both on stage, in the pit, as part of the design/production teams not to mention the nearly 100 volunteers who will give of their time and talents. All operas will be fully staged and performed in their original language with project English Supertitles on the Union Avenue Opera stage at 733 N. Union Blvd, STL 63108, and accompanied by a full orchestra, all members of the AFM Orchestra Union.

Over the past twenty-four years, UAO has grown in artist quality and excellence. Known throughout the region for presenting original language operas such as Nabucco, Rigoletto, La traviata, and Wagner’s epic four-part Ring cycle alongside newer works including Lost in the Stars, Dead Man Walking, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Doubt.

Single tickets are on sale for as low as $32 and subscription packages start at $80. Tickets may be purchased online at www.unionavenueopera.org, by phone at (314) 361-2881, and in person at Union Avenue Opera, 733 N. Union Blvd, St. Louis, MO, 63108. Student rush tickets are available at the door for $15 (cash only) with a valid student ID. There is ample free parking available.

Leonard Bernstein’s: CANDIDE

Scottish Opera Version Four Performances: July 5, 6, 12, 13 at 8:00 p.m.

Presented in English with English supertitles

War! Earthquakes! Disease! Very bad things happen to very good people (and plenty of bad ones too). When young Candide’s marriage proposal to a baron’s daughter doesn’t quite go as planned, this naïve student of optimism is thrust into an eye-opening odyssey across lands near and far, discovering the horrors of existence at every turn.Candide is part opera, part musical, and entirely irreverent. Voltaire’s philosophical spoof becomes a brilliant and breathless operetta set to a vivid score by Bernstein which abounds with spectacular music that includes a famous overture, the soprano showpiece “Glitter and Be Gay,” and the soaring finale, “Make our Garden Grow.” Through all its hysterical scouring of 18th-century wickedness and woe, Candide still finds a way to move and inspire with life-affirming lessons that, surprisingly, ring just as true today.

World-renowned opera legend, Christine Brewer, returns to the UAO stage in her role debut as The Old Lady inCandide. Schoonover will conduct while local director Annamaria Pileggi makes her UAO directorial debut. Jesse Darden and Brooklyn Snow make their UAO debuts as Candide and Cunegonde while Thomas Gunther returns as Voltaire/Pangloss following last year’s successful UAO debut as Captain Corcoran in H.M.S. Pinafore. Local actors Greg Johnston and Graham Emmons make their UAO stage debuts covering a variety of supporting characters. The chorus is composed of 16 of the area’s most talented emerging artists including Leann Schuering,Liya Khaimova, Anthony Heinemann, and Aleksandar Dragojevic. 

“I have always enjoyed and been impressed with productions I have seen at UAO and I can’t think of a better place to make my opera directorial debut!” said Pileggi. “I love the sweeping and theatrical nature of Candide. The breadth and scope of the story, along with the lushness and scale of Bernstein’s music make Candide a quintessentially live event.”

Candide – Jesse Darden*

Voltaire/Pangloss – Thomas Gunther

Maximillian – Charlie Tingen*

Cunegonde – Brooklyn Snow*

Paquette – Gina Malone

The Old Lady – Christine Brewer

Captain/Vanderdendur – Christopher Nelson*

Director – Annamaria Pileggi*

Conductor – Scott Schoonover

Scenic Designer – Otiz Sweezy*

Lighting Designer – Michael Sullivan

Costume Designer – Teresa Doggett

Technical Direction – Theatre Marine Productions

Properties Designer – Kate Slovinski

Giacomo Puccini’s: LA BOHÈME 

Four Performances: July 26, 27, August 2, 3 at 8:00 p.m.

Presented in Italian with English supertitles

Join the Bohemian Revolution in the heart of 19th-century Paris as a group of struggling artist strives to create beautiful art, find love, and ultimately live life to the fullest in this romantic operatic blockbuster. Rodolfo and his friends scrape by using their wit and charm to escape life’s harsher consequences until a chance encounter one winter night when Mimi asks Rodolfo to light her candle, changing everything and sending the pair into a deep, passionate whirlwind. At the same time, Marcello can’t resist the flirtatious charms of the feisty Musetta. Follow the triumphs and toils of this band of struggling young artists as they search for love, life, and laughter against impossible odds. For over 100 years, La bohème, Puccini’s most celebrated opera, has moved audiences to laughter and tears with its irresistible music and timeless tale. 

Ukrainian born soprano, Yulia Lysenko makes her UAO debut in the role of the ill-fated Mimi alongside Cree Carrico as Musetta in La bohème. Jesse Donner returns following his triumphant UAO debut as Ismaele in Verdi’sNabucco last summer. Andrew Wannigman (Jigger, Carousel), Nicholas Ward (Pish-Tush, The Mikado) and Scott Levin (Pooh-Bah, The Mikado) also return to UAO as Marcello, Schaunard, and Alcindoro respectively while Isaiah Musik-Ayala makes his UAO debut as Colline. Elizabeth Hastings (Cenerentola ’11) returns to conduct the 16 chorus and 8 children’s chorus members while St. Louis’ Mark Freiman (Nabucco) directs.

“For people of all ages who have never been to an opera or find it intimidating, La bohème is a great first opera” said Freiman. “The story is surprisingly simple, the music is lush and melodic, there is a lot of humor, and one can’t help but fall in love with the characters. There is nothing like seeing La bohème close-up in an intimate setting like UAO. Our production of La bohème will be traditional, but every production is different, making it fresh and exciting for the audience.”

Mimi – Yulia Lysenko*

Rodolfo – Jesse Donner

Musetta – Cree Carrico*

Marcello – Andrew Wannigman

Schaunard – Nicholas Ward

Colline – Isaiah Musik-Ayala*

Alcindoro/Benoit – Scott Levin

Customs Agent – Randell McGee

Director – Mark Freiman

Conductor – Elizabeth Hastings

Scenic and Lighting Designer – Patrick Huber

Costume Designer – Teresa Doggett

Technical Direction – Theatre Marine Productions

Properties Designer – Kate Slovinski

Tom Cipullo’s: GLORY DENIED

Based on the novel “Glory Denied” by Tom Philpott

Presented in English with English supertitles

Performances Aug. 16, 17, 23 and 24 at 8 p.m.

America’s longest-held prisoner of war dreams of coming home. But home is a place he will not recognize. Follow the gut-wrenching saga of Colonel Jim Thompson as he transitions from the jungles of Southeast Asia to the tree-lined streets of suburban America. Glory Denied speaks to the plight of so many of our veterans who nobly fought for their country but face huge challenges when it comes to re-assimilating into society—and their longed-for normal lives—after service. This true story explores the unimaginable bravery asked of soldiers and the nature of hope itself. It is a story of a nation divided and a country that changed significantly in the decade of his imprisonment. Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied made waves in opera circles when it premiered a decade a go and continues to do so today.

The Glory Denied cast of four includes David Walton (Albert, Albert Herring) as Younger Thompson, Peter Kendall Clark in his UAO debut as Older Thompson, Karina Brazas (Yum-Yum, The Mikado) as Younger Alyce, and Gina Galati (Donna Elvira, Don Giovanni) as Older Alyce. Schoonover conducts as St. Louis native Dean Anthonymakes his UAO directorial debut.

“Glory Denied is an emotional rollercoaster” said Anthony. “What we see in Glory Denied is the cause and effect on all sides. So often, lives of POWs have been forgotten and just become a part of our past. The sacrifice and commitment of these women and men who served our country should never be forgotten. As well as the families who were back home.” 

Older Thompson – Peter Kendall Clark*

Younger Thompson – David Walton

Older Alyce – Gina Galati

Younger Alyce – Karina Brazas

Director – Dean Anthony*

Conductor – Scott Schoonover

Scenic Designer – Roger Speidel

Lighting Designer – Joe Clapper

Costume Designer – Teresa Doggett

Technical Direction – Theatre Marine Productions

Properties Designer – Kate Slovinski

*UAO stage debut

Don’t miss UAO’s Free Friday Night Lecture Series at 7:00 p.m. before the performance in the Union Avenue Fellowship Gallery presented by Dr. Glenn Bauer of Webster University (July 5, 12, 26 August 2, 16, 23). Lectures are free and open to the public.

25th ANNIVERSARY GALA

Thursday, October 10 at 6pm

The Barnett on Washington [3207 Washington Blvd]

Join us as we celebrate Union Avenue Opera’s 25th Anniversary in the festive ambiance of The Barnett on Washington. Enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres followed by a masterfully crafted gourmet meal with a musical performance by Kenneth Overton (Stephen Kumalo, Lost in the Stars), Elise Quagliata (Sister James, Doubt),Marsha Thompson (Abigaille, Nabucco) and hosted by Kathy Lawton Brown, Classic 107. 3. Tickets are on sale now. Call 314-361-2881 or visit unionavenueopera.org for more information.

### 

About Union Avenue Opera – UAO was founded in 1994 to bring affordable, professional, original-language opera to St. Louis, a mission the company continues to pursue to this day. UAO is committed to hiring the most talented artists, directors, designers and technicians both locally and from across the United States. UAO provides promising young singers the first steppingstone of their professional career. UAO is a publicly supported 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization registered in Missouri. In 2018 UAO became an OPERA American Professional Company Member. OPERA America is the national membership organization for artists, administrators and audiences, dedicated to support the creation, presentation and enjoyment of opera.UAO offers vibrant and affordable opera experiences in original languages to audiences who reflect the breadth and diversity of the St. Louis region from the acoustically superb sanctuary of an historic church located in the urban Visitation Park neighborhood in St. Louis’ Central West End. Financial assistance has been provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency, and with support from the Regional Arts Commission, and PNC Arts Alive.  Emily (DePauw) Stolarski Administrative Director | Union Avenue Opera733 N. Union Blvd | St. Louis, MO 63108 | 314-361-2881 Our 25th Anniversary SeasonCandide: Scottish Opera Version – July 5, 6, 12, 13La bohème – July 26, 27, August 2, 3Glory Denied – August 16, 17, 23, 24 The mission of Union Avenue Opera is to provide professional opportunities for gifted, emerging artists and to offer vibrant and affordable opera experiences in original languages to audiences that reflect the breadth and diversity of the St. Louis region. Believing that the arts are vital to the health and reputation of a community, Union Avenue Opera is committed to its urban setting, educational outreach and artistic integrity.