Abilene is known for the arts and for western heritage, but when you think of an opera with guns and sordid affairs, it sounds more like the television show Dallas with J.R. Ewing’s character performed by Pavarotti.
It’s exactly that kind of humor, unexpected drama and challenge of traditional opera style you can expect at the Texas premier of The Hotel Casablanca, in Abilene on February 28, March 1, and March 2, 2013, at The Historic Paramount Theatre.
The setting is deep in the heart of Texas in the summer heat of 1948, at the mythical Double T Ranch, and the seedy Hotel Casablanca, whose new owners are trying to lift it out of its days as a brothel.
“We feel the composer must have envisioned an imaginary town 10 miles outside of Abilene when he wrote it,” says Abilene Opera board president, Shelby Weatherford. “Of course, audience members will gasp while laughing throughout the opera. It’s quite well written.”
Riddled with assorted eccentric guests, this English language opera tells the story of Tom and Tallulah Carter, owners of the ranch, and their bedeviled nephew, Charles, who is visiting from New York in order to be “toughened up.”
Included in the story are Raul Perez (the bull breeder) and his wife Lucy, guests of the Carters, and Miss Pooder and Veronique of the Hotel Casablanca.
So how did New York-based Thomas Pasatieri, known in the classical world as a composer and conductor, write such a story about Texas? Mr. Pasatieri related, “I have a love affair with America and American people. I wanted to do something completely American. I also have a love affair with Texas. For me, it is the quintessential American place. I have had three operas commissioned by Texas opera companies and several operas premiered in Texas. It was a logical setting for this opera and its story.”
What makes the Texas premier truly outstanding is that Mr. Pasatieri is known as one of America’s most-respected and often-performed vocal and opera composers, as well as one of Hollywood’s most successful film orchestrators. He studied at Juilliard School and was the school’s first recipient of a doctoral degree.
He has since taught at Juilliard, the Manhattan School of Music, and the Cincinnati Conservatory. Preferring to write for the voice, Pasatieri has written 24 operas and over 400 songs.
His film orchestrations can be heard in Road to Perdition, The Little Mermaid, The Shawshank Redemption, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Scent of a Woman, among others.
“To have him coming to Abilene, Texas, for time during the opening is just wonderful,” says Jane Guitar, producer. “He has offered to spend time sharing his expertise through master classes with local students while he is in town…and you know, that is unusual for someone of his caliber. We are very fortunate.”
Abilene Opera Association has two consistent goals: 1) to promote opera appreciation in West Texas by locally producing professional-caliber grand opera, and 2) to foster local talent utilizing its professional means. This is achieved through a volunteer board and countless volunteers.
Abilene Opera Association is not just about the annual opera production! Central to its mission is supporting and enhancing the music education of students of all levels and sponsors educational activities for students of all levels. This year, arts curriculum forthe 5th grade at Austin Elementary will be enhanced as students learn the ins and outs of opera through the curriculum MUSIC! WORDS! OPERA! Hansel and Gretel. High school students will be afforded the opportunity to meet and interact with the opera’s director, composer and principal artists through hearing excerpts from this year’s opera, participating in question and answer sessions, and receiving career guidance for the performance world. This year AOA continues its tradition of offering Master Classes to voice majors for all three Abilene universities. These classes offer the opportunity for students to learn from professionals, gain insights into the music business, test their value as singers, learn new repertoires and receive professional coaching and instruction.
Surprisingly, opera is one of the fastest growing of the performing arts with more than 20 million people attending annually across the Nation. Statistics are also pointing to a resurgence of interest in opera with the younger age groups, particularly “Generation Y,” the 18-to 30-year olds, whose attendance at opera grew by more than 18% in recent years.
If the television show Dallas’ revival represents a trend, it’s time to dust off your pre-conceived notions about opera and be prepared for some ‘spur-tacular’ entertainment.
For ticket information contact the Abilene Opera Association at 67.OPERA.