‘Love On The Rocks’: Opera in Ozarks schools fans on romance

‘Love On The Rocks’: Opera in Ozarks schools fans on romance

“When people say they don’t like opera, I always ask, ‘which one?’” laughs Nancy Preis, general director of Eureka Springs’ venerable Opera in the Ozarks. “There’s 400 years of opera to choose from, and there is something for everyone. Opera plots deal with human emotions — something we can all relate to regardless of the time period of the story or the physical setting. The story might be about the Greeks, but the emotions in the plot are still with us, thousands of years later.

“Opera is the original multi-media art form,” she adds. “There is always something to look at, and there is always something to listen to. We succeed when we touch your emotions, just like any other art form.”

This year, the theme for the 71st season of Opera in the Ozarks is a universal one, “Love on the Rocks.”

“Smooth-sailing love relationships rarely make for great dramas, movies or operas,” notes OIO Artistic Director Thomas Cockrell. “And this season’s ‘Love on the Rocks’ theme pulls us into the lives of characters where ‘happily ever after’ is never a guarantee.”

“Tom and I made a decision a number of years ago to do an American opera every year, at least one opera that is not often performed, and one standard,” Preis elaborates. “Our singers are at the right stage in their singing careers for Mozart, so that drove ‘Cosi fan tutte’ this year. The Puccini opera ‘La rondine’ is under-performed, and the American opera is Sondheim’s’ A Little Night Music,’ which was written for Broadway but includes musical numbers that are very operatic.

“Both Tom and I are huge fans of Sondheim, and this is a show he has wanted to do for years. In choosing a season, we try to pick operas that our singers need to have in their repertoire as well as operas that the audience will enjoy,” Preis goes on. “And we try to balance the season: not all the shows can be comedies and not all can be tragedies. We like a mixture, but we also like an underlying theme, like this year’s ‘Love on the Rocks’ or several years ago, when we did a season about strong women.”

Singers have been coming to Opera in the Ozarks for seven decades “because of the quality of our program,” Preis says. “Singers get to perform major roles, have the chance to sing with an orchestra, and get multiple performances to grow into their roles. Audience patrons come because of the quality of our music making and the intimacy of our performances.”

This year, Opera in the Ozarks returns to full strength, with 22 mainstage performances in Eureka Springs; more than a dozen performances of “Pinocchio,” this year’s children’s outreach production at venues throughout the region; the always exciting Chamber Music concert on July 18 at Inspiration Point; and not one but two Broadway Cabarets, one in Fayetteville on July 14 at Mount Sequoyah and the other in Eureka Springs on July 19 at the Crescent Hotel.

“Last year we had a reduced season with only two operas and a half-sized orchestra,” Preis explains. This year, “we have 36 singers, 23 orchestra members and about 30 faculty and staff members on campus.”

“Opera in the Ozarks generates about a fourth of its income from ticket sales, a fourth from tuition, and the rest from philanthropy,” Preis goes on. “We always need money for scholarships as singers often have lots of student debt and not much ability to earn an income while they wait for their voices to mature. We also need general operating funds — opera is the most expensive art form because it includes a little of everything: singing, orchestral, acting, theatrical elements such as scenery and costumes, dance and combat. Our faculty and orchestra and staff are all paid professionals, and the nature of our program, as a residential festival, requires us to feed everyone, maintain our aging facilities and keep everyone as safe and healthy as possible. That’s been a challenge in the covid years!

“It’s important to note that not all our singers will become stars at the Metropolitan Opera,” Preis cautions, “but all of them will continue to have music in their lives and will have learned valuable life lessons about collaboration and teamwork.” And audience members have the chance to “see facial expressions and subtle acting moves that wouldn’t be possible in a very large theater.”

“People are surprised by what we put on the stage — the level of singing is often extraordinary and the sets and costumes, while not lavish, are evocative of the time period and allow the audience to use their imaginations to fill in the details,” Preis concludes. “One of the most fun aspects is the ability to meet and get to know some of the singers and to follow their careers as they move on. We have lots of audience members who have become opera travelers. They follow young singers they got to know at OIO and go hear them as they perform at widespread venues all over the country.”



Opera in the Ozarks

WHEN — 7:30 except Sunday, when there is a 3 p.m. matinee, through July 22; check the website for special events

WHERE — Inspiration Point in Eureka Springs

COST — $25-$30

INFO — 253-8595, opera.org



Opera in the Ozarks:

The Operas

Now in its 71st season, this year’s repertoire includes three exceptional operas: Mozart’s “Così fan tutte,” a farce about fidelity; “La rondine,” a love story often described as Puccini’s answer to “La traviata”; and Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music,” the American master’s musings on the nature of love. While this season’s three operas are unified by the theme “Love on the Rocks,” each will be distinct in time and place – from 18th century Naples to 1900s Sweden to Paris in the 1920s.

In Puccini’s “La rondine,” the “kept woman” Magda escapes society to find her true love, whom she must ultimately relinquish because she cannot free herself from her past. Mozart’s two couples in “Cosi fan tutte” are preyed upon by the cynical Don Alfonso, who for a wager sows doubt, betrayal and deception into their relationships. And in Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music,” comedic partner shuffling gives way to wounded egos and humiliation, but in the end, to the reuniting of tender hearts.

“No simple, syrupy love stories in these glorious operas!” notes OIO Artistic Director Thomas Cockrell. “Men, women, and their relationships are complex, their hearts untamed. With ‘Love on the Rocks,’ the stories can either end in shipwreck or make their way to safe harbor.”

Categories: Music