HEROINES HIGHLIGHTED IN
Ars Lyrica Opera Double Bill
By: Kathleen Staten for Ars Lyrica Houston
Life can be tough for women in opera. Whether it’s the heroines on stage or the ones backstage making it all happen, opera is a genre known instead for its heroes. The repertoire is rife with stories of women: from Agrippina and Euridice to the plight of Dido, Baroque masters found their muse in stories of strong females. Ars Lyrica Houston has been bringing these timeless stories to life for Houston audiences for over two decades and is staging an organizational first: two operas bookend its Turning Points season this year.
The first of the two operas appeared on the November program Eternity and the Underworld. Jonathan Dove’s L’altra Euridice (The Other Eurydice) retold the familiar story of Orpheus and Eurydice, but from the point of view of Pluto, King of the Underworld. This remarkable work, scored for solo bass-baritone and a chamber ensemble of period and modern instruments, received its Texas premiere on the November 2021 program that also featured a solo Bach cantata on the topic of eternity. Of particular note was the inventive stage direction of Tara Faircloth for this production: artists who did not appear as soloists at any given time fleshed out the production as supers (silent performers who enhance the drama).
A long-awaited reunion of Catherine Turocy’s New York Baroque Dance Company and the Ars Lyrica ensemble closes the season with two performances of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. Of Dido, Turocy says, “Dido was a very strong woman but not all strong women have positions of power. ‘Influencer,’ but not powerful. The history of women is all about being supportive, but when given the reins, it’s a real test to see where you take leadership.” A team of women lead this artistic undertaking, including an all-female crew handling stage direction, lighting design, and costumes. A cast of stellar singers is accompanied by the Ars Lyrica ensemble and The Moores School Concert Chorale in this juxtaposition of beauty and pathos, encompassing both the tragic and the transcendent.
Producing fully staged, full-scale baroque operas with leading musicians and stage directors of our times is the culmination of our artistic journey. Become a curator of our shared human experience and join us on the journey by becoming a member of the Opera Circle. This is more than just sponsorship: it’s membership! Members of Ars Lyrica’s Opera Circle guarantee that we can keep our cultural stories and history alive. Opera Circle is a community of like-minded people who share a passion for what we do, learning new things, and meeting new people on this journey of discovery. Opera Circle supporters enjoy exclusive VIP experience and access to the artists, including invitations to opening night dinners, cast parties, and backstage tours. Your gifts allow us to make opera resonate anew through imaginative staging in collaboration with the world’s most respected experts in dance, theater, and music. For more information on how to join, please visit www.arslyricahouston.org/operacircle or contact Ars Lyrica Executive Director, Kinga Ferguson at email@example.com or call (713) 622-7443.