Hitting a High Note for Locust Grove

Kentucky Opera Brings Exciting Concert Series To The Historic Venue

By Laura Ross

Photos courtesy of Kentucky Opera

Lounging on a picnic blanket on a verdant lawn while listening to opera sounds like a scene from a romantic movie. But thanks to Kentucky Opera, it’s actually a fun way to listen and learn at Locust Grove this summer.

The Summer Thursday Concert Series at Locust Grove has provided a unique venue for light opera at one of Louisville’s most important historical sites. The latest installment of the concert series is slated for 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 30, when Kentucky Opera will explore the history of Kentucky from its beginnings to modern times through song.

“There is something for everyone, and the setting is perfect to sit and listen or roam at will,” said Brian Cushing, program director at Locust Grove. “When guests arrive in the evening, they get to physically step away from the hectic rush of their day-to-day lives and onto 55 acres of woods, fields and historic structures. Shade settles over the yard in the rear of the historic house just in time for Kentucky Opera to begin their performance. The melding of the expert, talented voices with the scenery is a full sensory experience that no photograph or recording could ever do justice.”

The concert series has focused on different themes, from traditional regional music, drinking songs and opera favorites. Performers match the timeline and history of Locust Grove with opera greats from the same period. 

“We have wanted to do some kind of series at Locust Grove for a couple of years now,” said Sandra Wu, manager of artistic services at Kentucky Opera. “The Summer Thursday Concert Series was conceived by the Opera’s manager of education and engagement, Aubrey Baker, and the Locust Grove staff to bring three different themes to the property. We will be featuring music from Rossini, Gilbert & Sullivan, Mozart and more, including selections from our upcoming production of ‘The Magic Flute.’”

The Aug. 30 performance will match the music with the historical timeline of Kentucky. Settler William Croghan called Louisville home by 1784. That same year, Mozart became a Freemason in Austria, personally adapting ideals that not only influenced the American Founding Fathers but would later embed themselves in his acclaimed opera, “The Magic Flute.”

When “The Magic Flute” premiered a few years later in 1792, Italian opera legend Gioacchino Rossini was born in Italy, and back in Kentucky, William and Lucy Clark Croghan were building their home, Locust Grove.

The Croghan family sold the land to riverboat captain James Paul in 1878, when productions of Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S Pinafore premiered, inspiring great interest in light opera throughout the United States. When Locust Grove was restored and opened to the public in 1964, Kentucky Opera was producing Bizet’s “Carmen,” Mozart’s “Cosi fan Tutte” and Verdi’s “Rigoletto.”

“Kentucky Opera performers are thrilled to venture out into the community to connect with our audiences in a more direct way,” said Wu. “Many of the singers will stick around following their performances to talk with guests and answer questions This program is completely family-friendly, and we find that young children are especially fascinated with our performers.”

Kentucky Opera often stages these types of concerts to highlight its talented singers to audiences in the community that may not have experienced opera previously. It also uses the events throughout the city to help build younger and less traditional audiences. “It showcases how fun and easy it is to attend and enjoy live opera performances,” said Wu. “We try to feature our enormous talent, many of whom are also young and who look like the audiences we are trying to attract. You can follow our social channels to learn how to connect with these amazing performers.”

Guests for the Summer Thursday Concert Series at Locust Grove are encouraged to bring their own blankets and chairs. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the performance begins at 6:30 p.m. Against the Grain Brewery and Sweet ‘N Savory Food Truck concessions will be available for sale. Tickets are $16 for the public and $14 for members at Locust Grove, which is located between Brownsboro Road and River Road at 561 Blankenbaker Lane. For ticket information, visit locustgrove.org. VT

Kentucky Opera: Beyond the Stage

Kentucky Opera features several accessible and unique performances throughout the community, in addition to its more traditional performances at the Brown Theatre. Information on all times, locations and events available at KYOpera.org.

Upcoming community performances by Kentucky Opera include:

Opera in the Park: 7 p.m. Aug. 24 at Willow Park

Summer Thursday Concert Series: 6:30 p.m. Aug. 30 at Locust Grove

Studio Artist Performance: 6 p.m. Sept. 28 at Oxmoor Farms

Studio Artist Showcases: Oct. 10 and Nov. 28, times and locations pending