The Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre’s fireworks will begin right after the 4th of July this year. That’s appropriate because festival impresario Michael Ballam has surprises in store for all of us in the weeks ahead.
Rest assured, this season’s schedule still includes the lavish productions that have been the festival opera company’s trademark in recent years. They will include the popular Disney musicals Newsies and Mary Poppins, plus what Ballam promises will be a staging of Leonard Bernstein’s beloved classic West Side Story with all the drama and splendor it richly deserves.
One of the highlights of the UFOMT’s 2018 season was an uproarious production of The Barber of Seville. So – surprise, surprise – headlining the 2019 schedule is the sequel to that comic opera, The Marriage of Figaro, with music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
But the opera festival is also experimenting with small cast productions this year and one with no music at all.
That latter wild card is Bravo Caruso!, a drama commemorating that operatic superstar’s final performance in 1920. Ballam is renowned for injecting his own labors of love into the UFOMT schedule, like the revival of the nearly forgotten musical Rex in 2017. I suspect that Bravo Caruso! is a production also close to Ballam’s heart. In any case, it will be a family affair when the founding general director of the opera company co-stars with his son-in-law Stefan Espinosa in that show, directed by his daughter, Vanessa Ballam.
The festival’s other small cast production will be Master Class, a fictional recounting of diva Maria Callas confronting opera students with the realities of their chosen profession. Master Class is an intriguing mix of drama, comedy and operatic singing that explores the sacrifices that are necessary in the pursuit of artistic greatness.
In addition to its main stage schedule, the opera company will offer a number of concert performances this year. Naturally, those will include the festival’s traditional Pianists and American Festival Chorus concerts. The company’s vocalists, dancers and orchestra will also invite audiences to join them in a Sentimental Journey concert, featuring music of the late 1940s and 1950s.
Performances of Bravo Caruso! will begin at the Utah Theatre on June 22 and continue through July 30. The festival opera’s main stage productions will begin in the Ellen Eccles Theatre July 5 and run through August 3.