The Hills Come Alive

The Hills Come Alive

Opera again echoes through the Ozarks


It’s been a staple of summer in the hills of Carroll County for 68 years, but Nancy Preis, general director of Opera in the Ozarks, says its goals have matured just as have the communities surrounding it.

“The mission of Opera in the Ozarks is to educate and develop emerging young artists, leading to the production of dynamic performances that entertain and enlighten audiences,” Preis says. “This mission has indeed changed from the beginnings when the students were largely high school age or younger.”

This summer, 39 singers, ranging in age from 18 to 28, have come to Inspiration Point near Eureka Springs from New York City, Boston, San Francisco, Washington, Texas and Arkansas to present three operas: Rossini’s “Il barbiere di Siviglia,” sung in Italian with English supertitles; Johann Strauss II’s “Die Fledermaus” and Douglas Moore’s “The Ballad of Baby Doe,” sung in English.

Preis doesn’t want that to sound intimidating.

“What I wish new audiences would know in advance is that opera is fun – it’s not stuffy and stuck in the past,” she says. “There is lots of humor … and there are great emotions that everyone has experienced.

“What audiences will discover when they attend is that we have outstanding voices in a very intimate setting,” she adds. “You can see the expressions on the singers’ faces, hear and see the nuances in their performances and enjoy watching the development of fine performers who may well be stars in just a few years.”

Three of this year’s performers answered a few questions for The Free Weekly prior to opening night.


Justin Burgess, baritone

South Lyon, Mich.

University of Michigan, Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music

Q. What moment, what piece of music, inspired you to sing?

A. I started singing in choir at 13 to go to Cedar Point and meet girls, then started to take voice lessons at 15. I initially wanted to do musical theater, and my favorite musical was and is “Cabaret.”

Q. What’s been your favorite role so far? And what role do you dream of singing?

A. My favorite role is honestly whatever I’m working on at the time. Right now, it’s Figaro in Mozart’s “Le nozze di Figaro,” but I’m sure after this summer, it will be Figaro in “Il barbiere di Siviglia” or Eisenstein in “Die Fledermaus.”

Q. What brought you to Opera in the Ozarks?

A. This is actually my second year. [Last year] ended up being one of the most important experiences of my entire life, one where I learned that I truly want to be an opera singer.



Christina Casey, mezzo-soprano

Kansas City, Mo.

University of Missouri, Louisiana State University & University of Missouri-Kansas City

Q. What moment, what piece of music, inspired you to sing?

A. My mom is a singer, and I remember being a little girl watching her sing from under my dad’s hi-hat (he was the drummer of their band) and thinking, “Wow, I want to do that when I grow up.”

Q. What’s been your favorite role so far? And what role do you dream of singing?

A. My favorite role so far was playing Beatrice in “Beatrice et Benedict” by Berlioz, because it was the first opera I was in with my now husband at Louisiana State University. We started dating just after we got cast as the leading love interests, and the storyline really fits with our real life story. I am excited to say that I am singing one of my dream roles this summer at OIO, Rosina in “Il barbiere di Siviglia.”



Lydia Pion, soprano

Annandale, Va.

University of North Carolina at Greensboro & Rice University

Q. What’s been your favorite role so far? And what role do you dream of singing?

A. My favorite role that I have performed so far is the title role in “Susannah” that I performed last summer here at Opera in the Ozarks. There are so many roles I would love to sing, its hard to narrow it down to just one!

Q. What will you be singing this summer?

A. Rosalinda in “Die Fledermaus” and a friend of Augusta in “The Ballad of Baby Doe.”



Opera in the Ozarks

WHEN — In repertory, through July 20; most performances at 7:30 p.m.

WHERE — Inspiration Point Fine Arts Colony near Eureka Springs

COST — $10-$30

INFO — 253-8595 or



The Operas

‘Die Fledermaus’

Spend a riotous evening in the company of Gabriel von Eisenstein, his beautiful wife Rosalinda, her besotted lover Alfred, the pert and saucy parlor maid Adele, and the wily Doctor Falke, as they confuse and amuse themselves and us in a sophisticated hide-and-seek game of mistaken identity.

June 30; July 3, 8, 13, 18

‘The Barber of Seville’

The beautiful young Rosina narrowly escapes marriage to her guardian Dr. Bartolo, only to fall in love with Count Almaviva, who is masquerading as a poor student. Figaro is the town barber and jack-of-all-trades, and he helps Rosina escape her gilded cage.

June 28; July 1, 5, 7, 11, 14, 19

‘The Ballad of Baby Doe’

The story of the opera is drawn from the history of the American West, and its principal characters are people who lived in Colorado more than a century ago. The score emphasizes a period-piece atmosphere and is filled with music in the popular style of its time — waltzes, marches, parlor songs, rowdy tunes to suggest the flavor of a mining town and, later, boisterous ones for a political campaign. The well-crafted melodies, dramatic tension created by the love triangle, and the spectacle of production numbers make for a compelling, entertaining, and truly American opera.

June 29; July 2, 6, 12, 15, 20

Categories: Theater