Opera returns to Eureka Springs on June 21, but ‘Little Red’ already on the road

Opera returns to Eureka Springs on June 21, but ‘Little Red’ already on the road

Lisa Tricomi was 11 when she saw “Jesus Christ Superstar” at the movies.

“And from that film I fell in love with the art of storytelling,” she remembers. “When the cast unloads the bus, puts on their costumes and becomes the characters? In my mind, I thought, ‘I’m not sure what that is, but I want to do THAT!’ And my love affair with theater has just been many moments like that.”

Just in the last couple of years — after a career acting, directing and earning a master’s degree in drama therapy — Tricomi has begun exploring a new branch of theater. She’s directing two of the summer productions at Opera in the Ozarks, which opens June 21.

“There are many variables that make it different, and at times challenging, but for me it’s always about telling the story,” she says. “How can this story be told in a way that is interesting, impactful, and in some way thought provoking?”

Tricomi got the “fun shows” in what she calls a “a really great and well rounded season.” “Little Red’s Most Unusual Day” by John Davies is the family opera, already traveling Northwest Arkansas to perform in libraries, community centers and elsewhere, and “Beauty and the Beast” by Vittorio Giannini is part of a double bill of one acts sharing mainstage evenings with “L’enfant et les Sortileges” by Maurice Ravel.

“‘Little Red’ is all of the ‘studio artists’ — [10 younger, not-yet-as-experienced company members] — and they really brought their game,” she says. “We put that show together in less than two weeks, it’s theirs now, and they are taking good care of it.

“The ‘Beauty and the Beast’ cast are the ‘emerging artists,’ and they are in almost every show, so you have to divvy up their time,” she explains. “I had all of the studio artists for all rehearsals, and that was heaven.

“The orchestra musicians just got into town [June 8],” she adds, “and this week things really begin to gel, so as a director I really need to have all my ducks in a row. The designers are the best … The camaraderie and work ethic are really admirable.”

Nancy Preis, general director of Opera in the Ozarks, says she always looks for a theme to tie the season together, and this year “Enchanted Evenings” was an easy choice.

“‘The Crucible’ is all about folks being accused of witchcraft, a form of enchantment with an ugly twist,” Preis explains. “‘La traviata’ is about the enchantment of love — the complete loss of reason that happens when hormones take over and then the reckoning when reason returns. And in the double bill, ‘L’enfant et les Sortilѐges’ is literally about the child and enchantments. The child’s toys and household items take on a life to chastise the child after he has misbehaved. [And] ‘Beauty and Beast’ is the classic story of love’s transformative powers — another form of enchantment.”

And of course “Little Red” is the story of Little Red Riding Hood, set to music by Offenbach and Rossini, she adds.

Perhaps the biggest news is that the season is the last one in the “old” theater at Inspiration Point outside Eureka Springs.

“This year will be extra special as we will bid farewell to our longtime home and will also begin the celebration of our 75th anniversary,” Preis says. “The new theater is moving along quickly now. It seemed to take forever for the foundations to be completed, but now the steel work is complete, the walls and roof are up, and it is looking like a theater!”

In May of 2023, Preis got what she called her biggest wish granted when the Walton Family Foundation funded $34 million for a new theater. Seating 300, Preis has said it will be usable year-round, “offer artists a stage worthy of their talents” and “be a welcoming space for audiences to enjoy an intimate and high-quality performance.” She promises the changes will be “transformational.”

Opera in the Ozarks is known as a unique training ground for young singers where they get to play leading roles backed by a full orchestra. This year, Preis welcomes 34 performers, 24 in the orchestra and 25 faculty and staff, she says. In addition to Tricomi, directors are Linda Brand for “L’enfant et les Sortilѐges,” and Ben Smith for “The Crucible” and “La traviata.”

Tricomi describes a day at OiO as “hard — like boot camp for singers,” including not just rehearsals for their roles bu classes in movement and stage skills and a production hour dedicated to building sets, props and costumes.

“So just enough time for some meals in between. It’s a tough schedule, but they always make it out alive,” she says with a laugh. As for newcomers to the opera audience, she says, that’s easy. “Give it a chance.”

“You like it, you want it, you just don’t know it! Last year a local who lives nearby stopped by to watch a performance. Afterwards he had tears in his eyes, and said he had never been to an opera, but loved it and will never miss another one. And he hasn’t.”



‘Little Red’s Most Unusual Day’

WHEN & WHERE — 1 p.m. July 8, Berryville Library; 2 p.m. July 11, Fayetteville Public Library; 11 a.m. July 12, Madison County Library; 11 a.m. July 15, Yvonne Richardson Center in Fayetteville; 1 p.m. July 17, Bella Vista Public Library; and 2 p.m. July 18, Inn of the Ozarks in Eureka Springs.

COST — Free

INFO — opera.org and 253-8595.



Opera in the Ozarks:

‘Enchanted Evenings’

The season opens June 21 with “La traviata.” Tickets are $10-$30 at opera.org and 253-8595.

“La traviata” by Giuseppe Verdi

“‘La traviata’ is arguably Giuseppe Verdi’s most popular opera, and 170 years after its premiere, it remains one of the most performed operas in the world,” says Nancy Preis, general director of Opera in the Ozarks. “Every soprano dreams of singing Violetta, and every tenor and baritone wants to sing Alfredo and Germont, respectively. These are iconic roles, noted for the beauty and passion of their music and the story of lovers facing a disapproving father remains relevant. The OIO production will feature period costumes, which means formal wear for men and beautiful sweeping gowns for women.”

“The Crucible” by Robert Ward

“‘The Crucible’ was written in the 1960s and is based on the Arthur Miller play of the same name,” Preis says. “The play was conceived around the time of the McCarthy congressional hearings in which allegations of Communist leanings were enough to destroy people’s careers. The play is set in 1692 in Salem, Mass., and revolves around accusations of witchcraft, unsupported by evidence. … While we certainly see the same thing today, we are setting our version in the late 17th century, using period costumes.”

And a double bill of one-acts: “Beauty and the Beast” by Vittorio Giannini

And “L’enfant et les Sortileges” by Maurice Ravel

“‘L’enfant et les Sortilѐges’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ are one act operas that are rarely performed but which certainly deserve more hearing,” Preis says. “Ravel’s brilliant score is accompanied by a libretto written by the French author Colette, who originally wrote the story for a fairy ballet. [And] this is not the Disney ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ Vittorio Giannini wrote this opera in 1938 as a radio drama, and his lush, harmonic content and soaring melodies beautifully capture the drama and whimsy of the fairy tale. We will be taking a more contemporary approach to these two stories, using projections and creative costumes to create a magical setting. These two operas are ideal for families and for introducing opera to new listeners.”

Categories: Music