Monday begins the Shreveport Opera’s 2015 residency in Central Louisiana. While here the Shreveport Opera will visit schools including Pineville High School, Peabody Magnet High School, Holy Savior Menard, and several elementary schools. Thursday evening they will also give a public concert at Coughlin-Saunders Performing Arts Center entitled A Little Night Music. I will be accompanying the troupe as a tour guide of sorts, and look forward to spending time with each of its members: soprano Sarah Bauer, mezzo-soprano Gillian Lynn Cotter, tenor Johnathan Riesen, baritone Ryan Bradford, and pianist Michael Gaertner.
My week with the Shreveport Opera actually began Saturday night when I traveled to Shreveport for their performance of The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan. The show was absolutely phenomenal, and nobody was quite sure how Curt Olds as Major-General Stanley kept up with the lightning-pace lyrics of the “Major-General Song.” After Olds had run through the entire song once, he proceeded to sing the last verse once more at an even faster rate than before – the supertitles above the stage compensated with “Blah blah blah…” This was not the only highlight of the night though. Resident artists Johnathan and Sarah – as Frederic and Mabel – sang the beautiful duet “All is Prepared… Stay, Frederic, Stay!” as Mabel desperately tries to convince Frederic to stay and marry her despite that Frederic’s sense of duty requires him to return to the pirates. Johnathan and Sarah will sing this duet again Thursday at A Little Night Music. Last year’s resident artist bass-baritone Leroy Davis was also back for Pirates where he played the Sergeant of Police who only reluctantly joins the fight against the pirates as he’s not such a big fan of the gory, glorious death that Mabel promises those who participate. It was a great show by the Shreveport Opera – another triumph for this organization which has already achieved so much over the past few years.
Monday morning will be the first of the school shows the Shreveport Opera will present in Central Louisiana. This tour is made possible by the Central Louisiana Community Foundation and its donors. It is an all too essential effort by the Foundation to bring music into schools as so many music and arts programs are in the process of being neglected or cut altogether. Especially for younger audiences, there is also a social message in all of this: when the Shreveport Opera visits elementary schools, they sing specially-composed mini operas about bullying, individuality, and self-confidence. These are called Stop, Bully! and The Ugly Duckling, and their catchy tunes and hilarious plots teach important lessons much more efficiently than many traditional methods. For example, after the Shreveport Opera visited Central Louisiana last school year, I was still hearing kids singing the familiar tunes more than a year later! And, soon after the initial performances, school administrators also informed us that their kids were coming to them to report incidents in which they felt bullied by classmates.
For high school students, the Shreveport Opera gives a program called Operatizers to introduce them to favorite opera arias and Broadway show tunes. Despite my initial concern that high school students were already too-biased to appreciate anything under the title “opera,” I was shocked as students cheered-on last year’s singers and even volunteered to sing alongside them in some songs.
Thursday evening’s public presentation of the Shreveport Opera is called A Little Night Music. This show will be staged in downtown Alexandria at Coughlin-Saunders Performing Arts Center thanks to the Arts Council of Central Louisiana, and will feature the Shreveport Opera in a performance of famous opera arias and Broadway show tunes. You will not want to miss this show as the Shreveport Opera will sing music from Carmen, La bohème, South Pacific, West Side Story, The Phantom of the Opera, and much more! Program notes for this fun concert are here.
Please join us Thursday night, and wish us luck throughout the week! It will be another great triumph for the Shreveport Opera and all who have helped bring them to Central Louisiana as the troupe brings music, theatre, and life lessons to audiences across the area.
About Jackson. Jackson Harmeyer is a music historian and composer. He is a graduate of the Louisiana Scholars’ College – Louisiana’s designated honors college – where he completed an undergraduate thesis entitled “Learning from the Past: The Influence of Johann Sebastian Bach upon the Soviet Composers.” He has followed classical music around the world, attending the BachFest Leipzig in Germany, Colorado’s Aspen Music Festival, and many concerts across Louisiana and Texas. Resident in Alexandria, Jackson works with the Arts Council of Central Louisiana as Series Director of the Abendmusik Alexandria chamber music series. He also writes the program notes for the Rapides Symphony Orchestra. As his day job, Jackson serves as Operations Manager of TicketCentral.