Tulsa Opera in the News

Tulsa Opera Names Greg Weber As Managing Director


Greg Weber will join the company this October.

August 12, 2014

Tulsa, Okla. – Tulsa Opera today announced that its Board of Directors has appointed Greg Weber to the position of Managing Director. Currently Director of Production at San Francisco Opera, Weber brings more than 28 years of experience in arts management. He was hired after a nationwide executive search guided by Arts Consulting Group. Weber will assume his duties as Managing Director this October.

“It is with great pleasure that the Board of Directors welcomes Greg Weber to his new position as Managing Director,” says Board President Alvina Hart. “As Tulsa Opera begins its 67th anniversary season, we are fortunate to gain the leadership of such a veteran professional as Mr. Weber, who brings extensive world class experience from his positions at San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera and Geva Theatre Center. We look forward to dynamic growth in our programming and community outreach with his proven skills in management, development, marketing, and community engagement. His knowledge of and appreciation for opera along with his commitment to fully engage the community through opera is a perfect fit for our company and region. Together with Artistic Director Kostis Protopapas, Mr. Weber will lead Tulsa Opera to new heights.”

“I am thrilled that Greg Weber has accepted the Managing Director position with Tulsa Opera, and I can’t wait for him to get to Tulsa. Our board and staff have worked very hard on the artistic, business and governance front in the past three years, and our company is currently poised for great growth. The fact that we are able to attract a person who is currently in an upper management position in the nation’s second largest opera house says a lot. Greg has deep knowledge of the opera business, and he and I share a great passion for the art form and the determination to see Tulsa Opera grow artistically and in its relationship with audiences in Tulsa and the state of Oklahoma. My deepest gratitude goes to our Board President Alvina Hart, who has led so many positive developments in the past year, and to Search Committee Chair Scott Filstrup and the members of his committee,” states Tulsa Opera Artistic Director Kostis Protopapas.

“It is with great delight that I become the next Managing Director of Tulsa Opera,” says Greg Weber. “Led by Kostis’ artistic excellence, the staff is of a caliber which promises endless potential. Tulsa is a place where big dreams are more powerful than any obstacle. It is a city where I am anxious to be both a part of its dreams and add a few dreams of my own.”

Tulsa Opera has an annual budget of $2.7 millon and produces three operas each season, including one contemporary American or English-language opera. During its 2014-15 season, Tulsa Opera will present Rossini’s Cinderella, Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet and Carlyle Floyd’s Of Mice And Men. Additionally, the company maintains a vibrant education and community outreach program, which includes Tulsa Youth Opera, a tuition-free training program for singers in grades 3-12, and Opera On Tour!, which annually presents a children’s opera to each second grade class in Tulsa Public Schools and to more than 20,000 students in schools in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri. Tulsa Opera also hosts the Tulsa Opera Studio training program for young professional singers and musicians.

More About Greg Weber
Greg Weber joined San Francisco Opera in February 2011 as Director of Production. He directs a budget of $20 million and leads a team of 13 managers and more than 175 personnel who create and staff more than 70 performances of ten operas annually. He brings more than twenty-eight years’ experience as an arts manager, managing operations and producing theatrical events in senior leadership positions, during which he has produced 18 world premieres.

Previously, Weber was appointed Managing Director of Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, New York in 2007, where he managed all financial and administrative areas of the $7 million multi-venue complex, including a renovation of the company’s historic facility supported by a $2 million lead gift from the New York state legislature. He was the theater’s principal community liaison, expanding the company’s local, regional, and state influence, and producing the inaugural Rochester Theatre Fest which led to his founding TheatreROCS, an alliance of 28 Rochester metro arts organizations.

Prior to his tenure with Geva, Weber served as Technical Director for Houston Grand Opera from 1993 to 2006, overseeing all production elements, as well as leading the company’s labor negotiations. Working closely with the company’s then General Director, David Gockley, Mr. Weber was instrumental in the development and execution of Houston Grand Opera’s community outreach initiatives of PlazaCast presentations, OperaVision, its multi-media modular staging system for large outdoor venues, and the creation of customized opera supertitles.

Weber received his B.S. in theater design from Ball State University and his M.F.A. in theater technology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He has held positions as Assistant Professor of Theater at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Technical Director for Missouri Repertory Theater and Operations Manager for VDA, The Event Design Group. He was invited to work with the Moscow Art Theatre, and spent time living and working in Moscow. His board and community affiliations include finance, marketing, and artistic planning committee member for Mercury Opera; founder and chairman of the board for TheatreROCS; chairman of the Board of Method Machine; the Rochester Community Business Forum, and coaching multiple soccer, baseball and basketball youth sports programs.

About Arts Consulting Group
Arts Consulting Group is the leading provider of hands-on interim management, executive search, revenue enhancement consulting, facilities and program planning, and organizational development services for the arts and culture industry. With locations in New York, Washington DC, Boston, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland, Seattle and Chicago, ACG consultants are also located in other communities throughout North America to best serve the needs of its clients. For more information, call (888) 234.4236 or visit


Tulsa Opera Receives $600,000 Gift


Photo: Laven Sowell photographed during rehearsals for Tulsa Opera’s 1966 production of Turandot.

July 8, 2014

Tulsa, Okla. – On behalf of the Tulsa Opera Board of Directors, President Alvina Hart is pleased to announce the formation of the Laven Sowell Foundation, which will provide annual income to Tulsa Opera. The foundation is funded by a more than $600,000 bequest from the estate of the late Laven Sowell, a long time Tulsa Opera chorusmaster and beloved member of the Tulsa arts community. In honor of this magnanimous gift, the library at Tulsa Opera headquarters will be named the Laven Sowell Music Library.

Upon learning of this gift Hart said, “Laven was a luminary figure in the history of Tulsa Opera and he touched so many lives during his long association with the company. It is deeply moving and indicative of his kind spirit and love for the art form that he would make certain Tulsa Opera is taken care of once he’s gone. The funds contributed by the Laven Sowell Foundation will be significant in allowing Tulsa Opera to continue its mission of bringing high quality art to Oklahoma.”

Tulsa Opera Artistic Director Kostis Protopapas reflected on Sowell’s indelible influence on the company: “During my twelve years as Tulsa Opera’s chorusmaster, rarely did a week pass that I did not consult a vocal score that had once been in the possession of Laven Sowell. In the Tulsa Opera library, there is a score annotated by Laven for virtually every opera in the standard repertoire. In his 34 seasons as chorusmaster Laven established a musical standard for the Tulsa Opera Chorus which is difficult to match and impossible to surpass. With this generous bequest he is now here to remind us once again of his love for opera, our company and our community, and to ensure that we preserve the artistic values in which he believed for generations to come.”

Laven Sowell died on November 2, 2013. He served as chorusmaster at Tulsa Opera for 34 seasons, including 80 productions. Additionally, he sang comprimario baritone roles in 12 productions. He was also choirmaster at First Presbyterian Church for 17 years. An educator by profession, Sowell served on the faculties of Edison High School and the University of Tulsa, where he brought national recognition to the choral programs. He retained a private vocal instruction studio for many years. Sowell was a great historian of Tulsa Opera, writing three books related to the company and his own extraordinary life. More information about Sowell may be found at



May 6, 2014

Tulsa, Okla. –

Tulsa Opera, Inc. Board President Alvina Hart and the Board of Directors are pleased to announce the reappointment of Artistic Director Kostis Protopapas in a three year contract extension. Negotiations to renew Maestro Protopapas’ contract were completed in April. He will serve as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor.

Speaking on behalf of the Tulsa Opera Board of Directors, Hart said, “It is my honor to announce that Maestro Protopapas has signed a new three year commitment with Tulsa Opera to continue as Artistic Director. The acclaimed artistic excellence of our hallmark productions over the past six seasons has been due to his vision and high standards. The expansion of the Tulsa Opera Studio Artist Program and Tulsa Youth Opera, the presentation of beautiful opera classics and new American works, the sustenance of an artistic working environment where artists and crew can do their best work – all these have flourished under his leadership. We know that Kostis’ ongoing leadership means that Tulsa will continue to experience the joys and passion of traditional operas as well as contemporary works that may challenge our expectations of what opera can mean in the 21st century.”

Protopapas joined Tulsa Opera as Assistant Conductor and Chorusmaster in 2001 and assumed the role of Artistic Director in 2008. He has conducted more than 20 productions with Tulsa Opera since his 2005 debut in Cavalleria rusticana/I Pagliacci. Protopapas’ leadership at Tulsa Opera has focused on furthering the company’s long-standing reputation for artistic excellence and expanding the company’s commitment to contemporary and American opera, including notable productions of Dead Man Walking, Most Happy Fellow and Elmer Gantry. He has also worked to develop the Tulsa Opera Studio Artists Program into a training program of national recognition and to strengthen the Tulsa Opera Orchestra and Tulsa Opera Chorus. He has further worked to expand the company’s role as a leading arts organization throughout the state of Oklahoma, developing substantial outreach and educational programming and advocating for arts awareness and appreciation in Tulsa.

Upon announcement of his reappointment, Protopapas issued the following statement:

“I am thrilled that Tulsa Opera’s Board of Directors has asked me to continue as Artistic Director for the next three years. During a time when arts organizations everywhere are facing multiple challenges, I feel very fortunate to be leading a company which is on solid financial ground, has a clear sense of its mission and is not afraid of change.

“Tulsa Opera has successfully weathered the difficulties of the great recession and the social and cultural changes of the last decade and is standing at the threshold of a new and exciting period of growth, as we look forward to expanding our mainstage, educational and outreach programming statewide. During the past season, under the leadership of Alvina Hart our board has taken decisive steps to strengthen the company on the financial and governance level. Our marketing, development and finance staff is the strongest it has been in years. We have one of the most efficient production departments in the industry, a supportive partner in the Tulsa Performing Arts Center and optimal relations with labor partners who fully embrace our artistic mission. We have also made several key business decisions which are now beginning to show positive effects.

“Above all, everyone at Tulsa Opera, including our audience, puts artistic values first and understands what it takes to uphold them during financially lean times. I am especially grateful to our board of directors for its understanding the importance of contemporary programming both on the mainstage and in our outreach ventures. I look forward to the next three years and am grateful to be working with a board, staff and artistic forces who share and inspire my vision and nurture me with their enthusiasm.”

In addition to his tenure at Tulsa Opera, Protopapas has served as assistant conductor at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Los Angeles Opera and Santa Fe Opera. He also served as Assistant Chorusmaster at Lyric Opera of Chicago under Donald Palumbo, and he began his career on the music staffs of Virginia Opera and Opera Memphis. An in-demand guest conductor, Protopapas has appeared with Des Moines Metro Opera, Opera Columbus, Shreveport Opera, Union Avenue Opera in St. Louis, Opera in the Ozarks and Westmoreland Symphony among others.  He recently conducted the world premiere of The Poe Project with Fargo-Morehead Opera, and he returns to Union Avenue Opera to conduct A Streetcar Named Desire, in August.


Tulsa Opera Statewide Radio Broadcasts!

  • Tulsa Opera’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ to air on KWTU radio on Friday

    Ava Pine as Susanna and Seth Carico as Figaro star in Tulsa Opera’s “The Marriage of Figaro.” KWTU (88.7 FM) will broadcast the opera beginning at 8 p.m. Friday.  JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World file

Posted: Friday, November 22, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 5:37 am, Fri Nov 22, 2013.

By JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer | 0 comments

Tulsa Opera’s season-opening production of “The Marriage of Figaro” will be broadcast beginning at 8 p.m. Friday on KWTU (88.7 FM), the University of Tulsa’s classical music station.

The broadcast is part of “Performance Oklahoma,” a weekly program hosted by Kimberly Powell and originating from the Edmond-based public radio station KCSC.

“The Marriage of Figaro” was performed at the Tulsa PAC on Oct. 18 and 20, with a cast that featured Seth Carico, Alexander Elliott, Ava Pine, Lauren McNeese, Eleni Calenos, Lauren McNeese, Peter Strummer and Linda Roark-Strummer.

“I’m pretty certain this is the first time we’ve had one of our productions broadcast statewide,” said Kostis Protopapas, Tulsa Opera artistic director. “We are wanting to get opera before as wide an audience as possible and to generate interest in the company itself. We’re very proud of what we do, and we want to share that.”

Microphones were set up throughout the PAC’s Chapman Music Hall for both performances, as well as the production’s dress rehearsal.

Protopapas said the opera’s final performance, on Oct. 20, is the one that will be broadcast.

“The idea was to present the opera as it happened, to be as close to the live experience as possible,” he said. “That’s why we had the microphones in the main part of the hall, to capture the sound of the audience. Without that, it would probably sound as if it had been recorded in a studio.”

The broadcast will also include Powell — a recent recipient of the Governor’s Arts Award for her work with the show — introducing the opera and conducting interviews with members of the cast and Protopapas that will be aired during the opera’s intermissions.

“We plan to do these broadcasts throughout this season and for years to come,” Protopapas said.

Singer talks Tulsa Opera debut – Tulsa World

World Scene Writer

In music, as in comedy, timing is everything. And for mezzo-soprano Lauren McNeese, the timing of her debut with Tulsa Opera could not have been better.

The Tulsa native, whose career has taken her to some of the country’s most prestigious opera stages, recently gave birth to her first child.

“She’s just about 8 weeks old,” McNeese said. “Fortunately, my family still lives in Tulsa, and they’re quite happy to look after her while I’m working.”

That work involves portraying

Cherubino, the lovestruck page whose youthful habit of falling in love with every woman he meets adds to the comic confusion of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.”

For McNeese, the opportunity of being a boy — what is known in the opera world as “pants roles” — is a joy.

“I love roles like this,” she said. “For one thing, I love to be active, even when I’m on stage, and I love Cherubino’s energy — that boisterous adolescent drive he has. And you don’t have to worry about decorum, so you can get away with a lot of physical stuff you wouldn’t dream of doing if you were playing a woman.”

This is McNeese’s first time to perform with Tulsa Opera, though the company did provide her with her first experience with the art form.

“My mother bought me a CD of’The Magic Flute’ and, when it was apparent that I really loved the music, took me to a production at Tulsa Opera,” she said. “I still have that CD — it’s what I listen to whenever I need to remind myself what ‘Magic Flute’ sounds like.”

But it wasn’t until McNeese left Tulsa for the University of North Texas that she began to pursue a career as a singer.

“They have a great music program, and that’s where I really blossomed vocally,” she said. “And then it was a matter of doors that just kept opening for me.”

A performance with Central City Opera in Colorado led to McNeese being selected for the young artist program of the Lyric Opera of Chicago and its Ryan Opera Center.

“That’s where I really developed as an artist,” McNeese said. “It’s a full-time program with classes in languages, acting, as well as singing and doing performances.”

It was for the Lyric Opera of Chicago that McNeese did her first professional performance as Cherubino in 2003. Since then, McNeese has performed with companies that include San Francisco Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Minnesota Opera and the Metropolitan Opera.

Her repertoire is equally varied, with male and female roles in Mozart operas such as “Don Giovanni,” “Cosi fan Tutte” and “The Magic Flute,” as well as in productions of operas from Wagner’s “Ring” cycle.

She’s also one of few opera singers to have been directed by Woody Allen.

“He did a production of ‘Gianni Schicchi’ for Los Angeles Opera, about five years ago,” McNeese said. “And believe me, I learned a lot about co- medic acting. One of the first things he told us was ‘You’re not funny. The situation is funny.’ There is a tendency to play ‘Gianni’ very broadly, but Woody kept after us to play everything very small.

“And when we performed it, the audience basically was laughing the entire 40 minutes it takes to do this piece,” she said.

Her job right before coming to Tulsa was as part of the Metropolitan Opera’s acclaimed production of Wagner’s “Parsifal,” which was one of the operas broadcast live to movie houses as part of the Met’s “Live in HD” series.

Knowing that a live performance was to be broadcast “changes the way you do things a bit,” McNeese said. “The emphasis is to make what you do look as natural as possible. I remember the director saying over and over, ‘Keep your mouth closed!’ When you weren’t singing that is. And you never look at the camera.”

There is some glamour to the life of a professional opera singer, yet the traveling and odd hours can play havoc with one’s health.

That is one reason why McNeese took time to study at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to become a certified health coach.

“I’ve always had an interest in health and nutrition,” she said. “I’m not a naturally lean person, and you have to look a certain way if you’re going to be playing teenage boys on stage.

“When you’re on the road, you’re something of a scavenger, and it’s so easy to fall into bad habits,” McNeese said. “I wanted to help my fellow singers get out of those habits and back to a more healthy way of living.

“The thing is,” she said, laughing, “I’ve only worked with a few clients, and none of them are singers. And with all the changes that have been going on in my life, I haven’t had to time to pursue this like I might want to. But I know this is something I want to do, that I will do. I want to be a force for good.”

‘I love Cherubino’s energy — that boisterous adolescent drive he has. And you don’t have to worry about decorum, so you can get away with a lot of physical stuff you wouldn’t dream of doing if you were playing a woman.’

See original article with pictures here

By JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer

The husband and wife will share Tulsa Opera stage for first time.

As spacious as the south Tulsa house that Peter and Linda Strummer share with their two Siamese cats is, the two-story structure can’t begin to contain the couple’s operatic careers.

Memorabilia from more than three decades on the world’s opera stages adorn the walls: photographs of the Strummers in costume; playbills from such places as La Scala, La Fenice, the Metropolitan Opera and others that feature their names prominently; citations and medals in recognition of their artistry.

In the second-floor music room, one wall is given over to audio cassette tapes of the couple’s live performances.

“The thing is,” Peter Strummer said, “we’ve got so much more of this sort of thing in storage. There’d be no way of getting it all in here.”

And they continue to add to this collection. While Linda, known professionally as Linda Roark-Strummer, has moved away from performing in staged operas, Peter Strummer continues to be greatly in demand, primarily for his ability to bring some real humanity to broad comic roles such as Dr. Bartolo, the character he will portray in Tulsa Opera’s season-opening production of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.”

This production will also mark the first time the Strummers — who have been married for 38 years — have appeared together in a Tulsa Opera production. Roark-Strummer will have the role of Marcellina, the housekeeper — and, it turns out, much more than that — to Dr. Bartolo.

The couple, who have made their home in Tulsa for the past 14 years, aren’t strangers to Tulsa Opera.

Roark-Strummer, a Tulsa native, performed as a member of the chorus and in comprimario roles while a student at the University of Tulsa. Her career as a dramatic soprano kept her so busy that she was able only to return once to Tulsa, to sing the title role in the company’s 1991 production of “The Girl of the Golden West.”

Strummer, on the other hand, has been a regular performer with Tulsa Opera, beginning with a 1987 production of “The Marriage of Figaro.”

“That was the infamous production, when the orchestra was on strike and we did the whole opera with two pianos and a harpsichord,” Strummer recalled. “I remember Lorna Haywood, who was the Countess in that show, saying to me, ‘Well, we’re going to have a hit with a capital S.'”

“Actually, it’s pretty rare for us to work together,” Roark-Strummer said. “I’m sort of coming out of retirement to do this and the fact that it’s for ‘Figaro’ is nice, because one of the first shows we ever performed together was a ‘Marriage of Figaro.'”

That was in the mid-1970s, when the two were just beginning their careers.

“I credit Jeanette Turner (former managing director of Tulsa Opera) with really getting me started,” Roark-Strummer said. “She sent me off to Wolf Trap to audition, which led me to New York where I got a job with Western Opera Theatre.”

Western Opera Theatre was a touring company affiliated with the San Francisco Opera and, in October 1975, Strummer was making his debut with that company in “The Elixir of Love.”

“I had about a two-week break between that show and the next one I was to do, when I got asked to step in at the last minute to do Papageno in ‘Magic Flute,'” he said. “And Linda was First Lady in that show.”

What brought the two together was a bit of deception. Two other singers in the production were in the midst of an affair, and “they would bring us along as beards when they would meet, to try and make it less obvious what was going.”

Within a couple of months, Strummer proposed. But their performing schedules were such that it took all sorts of planning and travel to get together to have a wedding.

“Linda was still touring with Western Opera Theatre, and they had our wedding date on their schedule as the ‘WOT Knot,'” Strummer said.

“We had one day,” Roark-Strummer said, “and then I was back on tour and he was off to Minneapolis for his next job.”

The couple lived for many years crisscrossing the country performing, then made the decision to move to Europe, living and working in Germany and Austria for about 12 years.

What brought the Strummers back to the United States was two things — one artistic, one political.

“We were working continually in Europe, but my American agent was getting all these offers to work in the states,” Strummer said. “So, when my contract with the opera house we were with came up for renewal, I turned it down.”

Strummer did an audition for Beverly Sills, who was in charge of New York City Opera at the time. Sills dismissed him, but a representative from the Metropolitan Opera hired him immediately.

On the other hand, Roark-Strummer’s audition for Sills went quite differently.

“I was sitting about five rows behind (Sills),” Strummer said. “And when Linda started to sing, just the first few notes, Sills said, ‘Whoa! Where have you been?’ ”

“I told her I’d been working in Europe,” Roark-Strummer said. “She said that she had just been to Europe and never saw me. I told her I was working in the provincial theaters. That’s where all the good singers were.”

Sills hired Roark-Strummer to sing Odabella in “Attila,” a role that up to that time she had never sung. And that 1985 production made Roark-Strummer a star.

“When she did her first aria, the roof just came down,” Strummer said. “I had never heard an ovation like that. And I don’t think Linda really had any idea all that was going on.”

“I just remember Sam Ramey, who was playing Attila, standing there grinning, shaking his head just a little,” Roark-Strummer said.

“And after that it was a whirlwind,” Strummer said. “She was singing at La Scala, Verona, the Met, everywhere.”

The event that sealed the couple’s decision to move back to the United States was the election in 1986 of Kurt Waldheim, a former Nazi officer, as president of Austria.

“When that happened,” Strummer said, “Vienna — which is my hometown — became very xenophobic. Neo-Nazis came crawling out from under the rocks. The National Guard had to surround theaters to protect the artists.

“Before that time, I experienced only one anti-Semitic incident in all our years in Europe,” said Strummer, who is now an American citizen. “We knew it was time to get the heck out of Dodge.”

In addition to performing, the Strummers are also active in educating the next generation of opera artists. Roark-Strummer taught at the University of Tulsa for several years, and they work with about a dozen private voice students.

One project they are most proud of is the Land of Enchantment Opera Institute, a four-week intensive training program held each summer in Gallup, N.M.

“We’re trying to serve as a bridge between academic study and a professional career,” Roark-Strummer said. “It’s about learning the trade of being an opera singer.”

The program offers master classes, voice lessons, acting instruction, coaching for auditions, as well as preparing for a fully-staged opera production. The Strummers are part of the faculty, along with artists and performers from around the country.

“We started with 12 students, and this last year we had 21,” Strummer said. “It’s always been a dream of mine to do something like this, because the academic world really only prepares for the academic world. It doesn’t ground them in the reality of the business of being an opera singer.”

Review – The Marriage of Figaro – Tulsa World

By JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer

“The Marriage of Figaro” is about as close as opera gets to a door-slamming farce, as its characters are forever dashing into or out of rooms, or ducking behind furniture, or putting on other people’s clothes, or concocting cockamamie schemes that never go the way they should.

And Tulsa Opera does its best to make sure its current production of this Mozart masterpiece has comic energy to spare, without shortchanging the vocal and instrumental musical artistry that has made this opera so enduring.

A bit of explanation first: This season Tulsa Opera is presenting only two performances of its productions, so the company arranged that the Wednesday invitational dress rehearsal be reviewed.

Such performances are as technically complete as an opening night, though there might still be room for minor changes here and there. As I was leaving the Tulsa PAC after the show, I happened to overhear director Elise Sandell say to a colleague that she had “a ton of notes” to share with the cast and crew.

Other than a couple of mishaps with props and hats that wouldn’t stay on, Wednesday’s performance seemed to go off without any major hitches — an impressive feat considering how physically active Sandell’s staging is.

The cast is kept more or less in constant motion, yet even when things verge on the slapstick, the action is as real and believable as the things people are driven to do in the course of a farce can be.

And many in the cast seem energized by all this gamboling around. Seth Carico, as Figaro, brings a swagger and brio to just about everything he does.

There’s an easy confidence in the way he moves on stage that’s just as apparent in his singing, which is powerful, supple and full of character — that jaunty, percussive phrasing in “Se vuol ballare” as he describes how he plans to humble his employer, the bluster of rage as he decries women in “Aprite un po’ quegl’occhi.”

Former studio artist Alexander Elliott is equally good as Count Almaviva, whose lecherous designs on every woman but his wife set the story in motion. You never doubt that this is a fellow used to getting everything he wants. The character’s aggressive nature is evident in everything from Elliott’s posture to the commanding way he sings the Count’s declaration of vengeance, “Vedrò, mentr’io sospiro.”

That forcefulness makes the moments when he’s the butt of the joke, or having to apologize yet again, all the more comic.

Tulsa native Lauren McNeese is superb as Cherubino, capturing the exuberance and petulance of a teenage boy. And she sings the show’s best-known melody, “Voi, che sapete,” in winning fashion, showing the self-consciousness and shyness melting away as the song progresses.

Ava Pine is a feisty Susanna, able to deal with rambunctious teens and amorous employers, while showing her tender side in “Deh! vieni, non tardar” that was beautifully sung.

The bright tone of Eleni Calenos as the Countess melded well with Pine’s richer, earthier sound in their duets. Yet her performances of “Porgi, amor” and “Dove sono” weren’t quite the cries from the heart one expected. They sounded pretty, but it was only when the emotion shifted from sorrow to anger that one got a real sense of the character’s emotions.

Peter Strummer and Linda Roark-Strummer made brief but effectively comic impressions as Dr. Bartolo and Marcellina, and Marc Schapman was a nicely prissy Don Basilio.

Mozart scores seem to bring out the best from the Tulsa Opera Orchestra, and Wednesday night’s dress rehearsal showed that this tradition continues.

Under the direction of Tulsa Opera artistic director Kostis Protopapas, the orchestra had an assured, polished tone and a rich, voice-like sense of phrasing. From the first fizzy notes of the overture to final chord, it made this very human music breathe.

Protopapas deftly maintained the balance between pit and stage, and harpsichordist Lyndon Meyer shone in the solos.

“The Marriage of Figaro” will be performed 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Tulsa PAC, 101 E. Third St. Tickets: 918-587-4811,

James D. Watts Jr. 918-581-8478

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TW photo of Aida_reviewBy JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer on Apr 22, 2013

Tulsa Opera is closing out its 65th season in grand fashion with a production of Verdi’s “Aida” that is at once sumptuously grand and surprisingly, searingly personal.

Few places and times inspire artists to such heights of excess as ancient Egypt – all that space, all that wealth, all those pyramids, all those enigmas. Tulsa Opera’s production certainly has its epic aspects, with more than 100 singers, supers, dancers and musicians on stage for the Triumphal March of Act Two, and gigantic set pieces that loom impassively over the action.

But director Stanley M. Garner and his fine cast understand that what is truly epic about “Aida” is its emotional content – the very personal dilemmas of a few people in extraordinary circumstances. Without that, “Aida” can simply be pomp without any circumstance.

That was not the case at Saturday’s opening night performance at the Tulsa PAC. From start to finish, this “Aida” was a winner, filled with beautiful, emotive singing, accompanied by an orchestral performance that was sumptuous and dynamic, all working together to bring forth every possible nuance in Verdi’s music.

For example, as Amneris, the Egyptian princess who has everything except the man with whom she’s infatuated, Dana Beth Miller makes every mercurial mood change palpable.

From Amneris’ craftiness at drawing out why her slave Aida is so distraught, then exulting in that knowledge, or from her desperate pleading Radames to save himself from the judgment he faces to her fury at being scorned yet again, Miller embodied this character so completely, so believably, that one hardly needed the surtitles to know exactly what Amneris was thinking and feeling.

And it was all expressed in a voice of great, yet precisely wielded power, able to cut through the densest ensembles.

Adrienne Danrich’s Aida was equally good – her first scene seemed to be a bit underpowered, but as the evening unfolded, so did Danrich’s voice, growing more nuanced and focused. She was especially strong in Act Three, with its elegiac “O patria mia,” the harsh dialogue with her father, and her duet with Brian Landry as Radames, “Pur ti riveggo, mia dolce Aida,” which culminated with Danrich floating the final high note perfectly.

Landry, in his debut as Radames, was especially good in the more forceful scenes – the dreams of military glory, the defiance in the face of death, even in his efforts to convince Aida to escape with him, music that allowed his muscular, exuberant tenor to have free rein.

On the other hand, his performance of the ruminative aria “Celeste Aida” had all the notes in place, but the tone was not as delicate, as tender – as “lovestruck,” if you will – as might be expected. It was a rare moment when one of the singers was telling the audience what he was thinking, rather than showing it.

Peter Lindskoog brought a nicely nasty edge to Amonasro, Aida’s revenge-minded father, Harold Wilson’s resonant baritone made for a magisterial high priest Ramfis and Michael Ventura was a stately King of Egypt.

Phena Hackett gave a wonderfully ethereal voice to the High Priestess and Stefan Barber declaimed his message well.

Garner’s staging was deftly economical, even when there were a hundred or so people on stage.

Crowd scenes were arranged in artful stasis, to evoke the pictographs on ancient temple walls, while the more intimate scenes allowed the music to do the majority of the work.

Tulsa Opera artistic director Kostis Protopapas conducted the Tulsa Opera Orchestra in a most colorful and perfectly balanced performance, that featured standout moments by cellist Kari Caldwell, oboist Lise Glaser and bassoonist Carolyn Beck. Protopapas also prepared the Tulsa Opera Chorus, which gave its collective voice to the Triumphal March as well as the more enigmatic music of the Temple of Vulcan scene.

Ma Cong choreographed the dances – a stately religious display for Act One, a fast-paced whirl of celebration for Act Two, all performed by dancers of Tulsa Ballet II.

Mark Stanley created the lighting design that bathed the sets and costumes, on loan from New Orleans Opera, with a bronze glow.

“Aida” continues with performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Tulsa PAC.

For tickets: 918-596-7111,

Photo: Adrienne Danrich sings the title role in Tulsa Opera’s production of “Aida,” at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. The opera has two more performances. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World

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Tulsa Opera 2013 Opera BallBy DANNA SUE WALKER World Staff Writer on Apr 4, 2013

An evening of family tradition, elegance and beauty awaits those attending the 53rd annual Tulsa Opera Debutante and Squire Ball on Saturday at Southern Hills Country Club.

Calling it a “once in a lifetime experience,” Kristen Kenneally, who is ball co-chairwoman with Cindy Wheeler, noted, “This is the most elegant family event in Tulsa before these young adults depart for college.”

“Memories like none other are made at the Tulsa Opera Ball, and they last a lifetime,” Wheeler said. “It truly is a family affair where parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and family friends take part in this important stepping stone in the lives of the high school seniors whose parents are Tulsa Opera supporters.”

“This is so much more than just a series of parties and activities,” Kenneally said. “The debutantes and squires learn to waltz, have lessons in etiquette and are exposed to arts, particularly opera.”

The evening’s entertainment will be provided by SquadLive from Norman.

Wheeler and Kenneally’s children – Margaux Wheeler and Dominic Kenneally – will be among those presented.

Ball patrons are Mollie Williford, and Mark and Cinda Marra.

The ball culminates a six-months-long journey of parties and preparation. These included a welcome party at The Summit Club with entertainment by Tulsa Opera; a bowling party at the downtown Dust Bowl; a video scavenger hunt at Girouard Vines Urban Winery; and a fathers-and-squires and mother-and-debs dinner hosted by Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse. They also attended Tulsa Opera’s “The Most Happy Fella” and were the guests of the Eric Davis family for Cirque du Soleil at the BOK Center.

Bruce G. Weber Jewelry will continue its tradition of presenting each of the debutantes with a pearl necklace, which will be worn at the ball. Each squire will wear engraved cuff links courtesy of Moody’s Fine Jewelry.

Debutantes and squires, and their parents include: Madeleine Auffenberg, daughter of Jan and Dan Auffenberg; Taylor Davis, daughter of Tricia and Eric Davis; Aubrey Downing, daughter of Kim and David Downing; Connor Doyle, son of Karlyn and Kevin Doyle; Hannah Frizzell, daughter of Kelly and Greg Frizzell; Katie Girouard, daughter of Jan and Chris Girouard; Abby Jordan, daughter of Shawn and Patrick Jordan; Dominic Kenneally, son of Kristen and Timothy Kenneally.

Also, Lauren Langholz, daughter of Alyson and Larry Langholz; Matthew Marra, son of Cinda and Mark Marra; Grant Murphy, son of Cheryl and Steve Murphy; Philipp Piplits, son of Barbara and Martin Piplits; Reid Stinson, son of Sherry and Charlie Stinson; Cameron Taylor, son of Lee and Dr. Jordan Taylor; Richard Allen Williford II, son of Louise Williford and Richard Allen Williford Jr.; and Margaux Wheeler, daughter of Cindy and Larry Wheeler.

Schools represented at the Tulsa Opera Ball this year include Bishop Kelley, Booker T. Washington, Cascia Hall, Holland Hall, Memorial and home school.

Tickets are still available for the ball by calling Tulsa Opera, 918-582-4035.

Photo: Lauren Langholz (left), Hannah Frizzell, Aubrey Downing and Margaux Wheeler are among the debutantes attending the 53rd Tulsa Opera Ball on Saturday at Southern Hills Country Club. ERVING PHOTOGRAPHY / Courtesy