The Sopranos

“The Magic Flute”

….and altos, tenors and bass of Kentucky Opera

By Laura Ross

Photos courtesy of Kentucky Opera

Kentucky Opera debuts its 67th season on Sept. 21 at the W.L. Lyons Brown Theatre with “The Magic Flute,” Mozart’s famed fairytale. The organization recently welcomed General Director Barbara Lynne Jamison, who took the reins of the arts organization in mid-August. She was previously with the Seattle Opera since 2011.

“My family and I were swept off our feet by the authentic warmth of Louisville,” said Jamison. “The city is so vibrant and varied. It’s a very exciting time to be here, particularly with the focus on making the arts available and accessible to everyone.”

Kentucky Opera’s Brown-Forman 2018/19 season includes two classic operas and one Kentucky Opera premiere. Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” opens the season, and in November, Ben Moore’s new opera, “Enemies, A Love Story,” premieres. The season concludes in February with Verdi’s tragic masterpiece, “Rigoletto.”

At the Seattle Opera, Jamison spearheaded new programming to reach those not typically served by opera. 

Barbara Lynne Jamison

She also created and implemented innovative camps, youth opera performances, adult continuing education courses and many school programs. She hopes to accomplish similar feats in Louisville.

“I’m just scratching the surface, but so far I’ve already seen that the arts in Louisville are absolutely world-class quality,” she said. “The community is extremely arts savvy. I’m looking forward to exploring how we can continue to deepen opera’s place in the Louisville arts scene.”

That means, in part, taking Kentucky Opera to the streets with special pop-up performances and collaborations in malls, neighborhoods or other venues. It makes Kentucky Opera accessible to all audiences, brings its performers one-on-one with people and hopefully, said Jamison, opens new audiences who may never have considered attending the opera in the past.

“Kentucky Opera seeks to do more than present the masterworks of opera within a dark theater,” she explained. “It’s important that we participate, show up and be part of our community. We are honored to bring arts experiences to different neighborhoods. While these can’t often include the theatrical elements of opera, they (serve as) ways we can contribute to and participate with our community.

“I think it’s essential to program operas that accomplish more than just learning to ‘appreciate’ the art form or ‘expose’ people to something new,” continued Jamison. “I believe we have an obligation to provide an experience that opens minds and hearts; produce arts that make the world a more compassionate, generous, beautiful place; and connect arts directly with the values of our community.”

Jamison succeeds Ian Derrer, who left Kentucky Opera in June 2018 when he was appointed general director of the Dallas Opera. 

“Rigoletto”

The season was programmed by Derrer, but Jamison will be key in the season’s execution throughout the coming year.

All performances this season will be directed by women, which is unique for Kentucky Opera. Beth Greenberg (“The Magic Flute”), Mary Birnbaum (“Enemies, A Love Story”) and Kathleen Belcher (“Rigoletto”) are all nationally-accomplished directors making their Kentucky Opera debuts.

“As we all know, opera is an old art form, and just like Shakespeare, that means that the stories hold many antiquated depictions (of) women’s roles in society,” said Jamison. “In ‘The Magic Flute,’ we see men speaking of women as chatterboxes with nothing important to say. In ‘Rigoletto,’ we see men who exercise their power over women, both with the intent to abuse and to protect. And, while ‘Enemies, A Love Story’ is a dark comedy that takes place in the mid-20th century, we still see the fate of women dictated by a man’s choices.”

Jamison hopes her female directors explore this season through the lenses of 21st-century women, with a focus on the role of the women in these stories. “It’s important to visit these stories from the past and be reminded of how far women have come in our journey, and how far – as illustrated by the #MeToo movement – we have yet to go,” she said.

Jamison hopes to see traditional audiences return and new audiences grow in Louisville. “Often, I think the hardest part of going to the opera for the first time is finding someone to attend with,” she said. “Check out our events in the community and bring a friend to see if it’s something you’d be willing to spend an evening trying. Once you’ve bought your tickets, I would recommend our pre-performance talks to learn more before entering the theater. Come early, eat a light supper and hear an engaging talk about the show. Another thing that concerns first-time opera-goers is what to wear. If you like to dress to the nines, go for it. But, if you don’t, wear whatever makes you feel great. This is a great season to try opera.

“Enemies, A Love Story”

“Every opera can’t be for everyone each time,” she added. “I don’t like every movie I see or every book I read, but we hope people have a meaningful experience that makes them curious enough to return again and again.” VT

Season tickets are now on sale and start at $107. New this year, Kentucky Opera will offer a $40 student season ticket series. To purchase season or individual tickets for Kentucky Opera, visit KYOpera.org.

The Magic Flute

By Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Sept. 21 / Sept. 23

Sung in English and German

Enemies, A Love Story

By Ben Moore, Libretto by Nahma Sandrow

Nov. 9 / Nov. 11

Sung in English

Rigoletto

By Giuseppe Verdi

Feb. 15 / Feb. 17

Sung in Italian