Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

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Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (OTSL) is a summer opera festival held in St. Louis, Missouri. Typically four operas, all sung in English, are presented each season, which runs from late May to late June. Performances are accompanied by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, which is divided into two ensembles, each covering two of the operas, for the season. The company's performances are presented in the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of Webster University. In 2005, OTSL adopted projected English-language supertitles in the theatre.[1][2]

First seasons and achievements[edit]

OTSL was founded in 1976 by Lee Gerdine, Laurance L. Browning, Jr. and James Van Sant. These three hired Richard Gaddes, who at the time was working at The Santa Fe Opera as the first Artistic Director. They signed him as full-time General Director in 1978 at the suggestion of Ed Korn, who was brought in as a consultant from the Metropolitan Opera. The model for OTSL was The Santa Fe Opera, as Gaddes noted:

That was not a coincidence. I always say that John Crosby sired the Opera Theater of St. Louis. The whole concept was modeled on Santa Fe, and part of the idea was that the apprentices here would feed into St. Louis. Which they did.[3]

The first season in 1976 presented eleven performances of Britten's Albert Herring, Mozart's The Impresario, Menotti's The Medium, and Donizetti's Don Pasquale. This mixture of some standard works, and some new and unconventional operas, was to continue in future seasons and characterize the company's approach. This was achieved on a budget of $135,000. The young singers included Sheri Greenawald and Vinson Cole.

During the early seasons, the company had a major influence with such achievements as first joint BBC/WNET telecast of Albert Herring and in 1983 the first appearance by any U.S. opera company at the Edinburgh International Festival. The first production of a Japanese opera in Japan by any American company was followed by a return to Tokyo in September 2001 to present the Japanese premiere of the classic Genji Monagatari, adapted as an opera by Minoru Miki as The Tale of Genji.

Well-known directors Graham Vick, Jonathan Miller, and Mark Lamos have made U.S. operatic debuts with OTSL, as did conductors Leonard Slatkin and Christopher Hogwood. Colin Graham served as OTSL's Director of Productions from 1978-1985. John Nelson was OTSL's Music Director from 1985 to 1988, and Principal Conductor from 1988 to 1991.

Other outstanding U.S. singers, including Christine Brewer, Susan Graham, Denyce Graves, Dwayne Croft, Thomas Hampson, Jerry Hadley, Patricia Racette, Sylvia McNair, and Stephanie Blythe have made appearances in St. Louis productions. All told, there have been 14 world premieres, including Stephen Paulus' The Postman Always Rings Twice in 1982, The Loss of Eden by Cary John Franklin in 2002; David Carlson's Anna Karenina, with a libretto by Colin Graham; Terence Blanchard's Champion (2013), with a libretto by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Michael Christofer; and Ricky Ian Gordon's Twenty-Seven, with a libretto by Royce Vavrek, commissioned for Stephanie Blythe. In addition, there have been 14 American premieres, including Michael Berkeley's Jane Eyre; Benjamin Britten's Paul Bunyan; Rossini's Il viaggio a Reims (The Journey to Reims); and Judith Weir's The Vanishing Bridegroom.

The company trains young artists in the Gerdine Young Artists program, named for Opera Theatre's founding board chairman, Leigh Gerdine.


Succeeding Gaddes as OTSL General Director was Charles MacKay, who held the post from 1985 to 2008, but he had served as OTSL Executive Director beginning in 1984. MacKay led the campaign to construct and fund the new Sally S. Levy Opera Center, a new and permanent administrative home and year-round rehearsal facility for the organisation. From 1985 until his death in April 2007, the OTSL Artistic Director was Colin Graham.[4] Since 1991, the Music Director has been Stephen Lord.

In September 2007, OTSL named James Robinson as the company's next Artistic Director, and Timothy O'Leary to the position of Executive Director.[5][6] In November 2007, The Santa Fe Opera named MacKay their next general director to succeed Gaddes, effective 1 October 2008, and MacKay concluded his OTSL tenure as General Director on 30 September 2008.[7] In June 2008, OTSL named O'Leary as its third General Director, effective 1 October 2008.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hugh Canning (3 July 2005). "Strongly reigns over us". The Times. Retrieved 21 September 2007. 
  2. ^ Anthony Tommasini (22 July 2007). "No Supertitle Goes Here, and That’s a Good Thing". New York Times. Retrieved 22 July 2007. 
  3. ^ Allan Kozinn (6 September 2000). "Stepping Aside at an Operatic Oasis; Founding Director of the Santa Fe Opera Looks Back on 43 Years of Innovation". New York Times. Retrieved 29 June 2008. 
  4. ^ Sarah Bryan Miller, "Colin Graham, Opera Theatre's artistic director, dies". St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 6 April 2007.
  5. ^ Sarah Bryan Miller, "James Robinson named artistic director at Opera Theatre of St. Louis" St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 19 September 2007 .
  6. ^ Sarah Bryan Miller, "Opera Theatre announces two new appointments". St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 20 September 2007.
  7. ^ Matthew Westphal (9 November 2007). "Santa Fe Opera Appoints New General Director". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 10 November 2007. 
  8. ^ Sarah Bryan Miller (19 June 2008). "Opera Theatre of St. Louis names O'Leary as general director". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 21 June 2008. 

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