Every year OGSA presents previews of each of the five productions in the Arizona Opera Company season. The program was started many years ago by one of our founders, Elizabeth Chadwick, who passed away in 2015 at age 93. Our previews are presented in both Tucson and Oro Valley, free of charge and open to all. Each preview is designed to prepare the audience to enjoy the Arizona Opera production to the fullest extent, but the previews are all great shows in themselves. We feature expert narrators and talented student singers from the Opera Program at UA, who are happy to have the opportunity to perform before an appreciative audience.
The complex task of preparing and presenting these events is entrusted to a committee currently consisting of Betty Allen, Mary Casady, Liz Kinslinger, Ellie Starer , Susan Stokes, and Philippe Bodin, chairman.
Read a summary of the 2015-16 preview season:
Review of the 2015-16 preview season
The first two productions of the 2015-16 season were part of the Opera Company’s “Arizona Bold” initiative, a program designed to develop a wider audience for opera in Arizona with works selected to appeal to Arizonans. The season opener was Arizona Lady, a true “horse opera” set on a ranch near Tucson. Arizona Lady was followed by Florencia en el Amazonas, a new opera written in Spanish and set in South America.
We at OGSA hope Arizona Bold is a ringing success, but developing an informative and entertaining preview of unfamiliar works presents difficulties not encountered with the traditional repertoire: among them, limited access to the score, few if any available recordings of the music, and singers willing and able to learn unfamiliar material quickly.
Happily, OGSA has two opera professionals on our Board, sopranos Betty Allen and Susan Stokes. Betty and Susan found copies of the scores of Arizona Lady and Florencia en el Amazonas, made translations where necessary, recruited and rehearsed singers capable of learning new music in a hurry, and much more. After all preparations were complete, Betty went on to narrate our Say Hello to Opera previews in Oro Valley. Joshua Borths, Education Manager for Arizona Opera, narrated Arizona Lady at the Brown Bag in Tucson. Beth Greenberg, Director of Opera Theater at UA, was our narrator for Florencia at the Brown Bag.
The previews were well-attended and enthusiastically received by our audiences. Singers for Arizona Lady were tenors Dennis Tamblyn and James Austin (recipient of an OGSA scholarship in 2014) and sopranos Diana Olivares and Gabriella Carillo. Our Florencia singers were tenor Francisco Renteria and sopranos Ivette Ortiz, Katherine Trim and Jenina Gallaway. Both Ivette and Jenina are past winners of OGSA’s annual Quest for the Best aria competition and have received grants from OGSA to help pay the considerable expenses involved in pursuing a career in opera.
For our last three previews we returned to more familiar territory, with Carmen, Don Giovanni and Falstaff. We were particularly lucky in our narrators for these previews: former professional opera singer and OGSA President Vivian Weede narrated Carmen; Iris Arneson, editor and publisher of The Opera Glass and author of several books on opera, presented Don Giovanni; and Professor Andrew Stuckey of the UA opera program presented Falstaff, an opera he knows intimately as it was the subject of his doctoral dissertation. Professor Stuckey also sang the part of Falstaff in our preview, a role he has performed to great acclaim in the United States and Europe. A notable cast member of our Carmen preview was mezzo-soprano Korby Myrick as Carmen. To the delight of her many Tucson opera fans, she has returned to town after living for several years in the Northeast.