Photography by Wendy Kelley
Step back to 1939! This one-act opera presented by Opera in The Rock August 23rd-24th at 7:30 PM and August 25th at 2:30 PM at The Studio Theatre was described by the composer Gian Carlo Menotti as “an opera-buffa for radio in fourteen scenes” “The Old Maid and The Thief” tells a twisted tale of morals amongst a gaggle of nosy women and an unsuspecting man. Commissioned by NBC Radio in 1939, it was one of the earliest operatic works composed specifically for live radio.
In what’s sure to be a fun-filled evening of laughs and spectacle, Opera In The Rock will be presenting the work as a live radio play, complete with larger-than-life actors, on stage music, live sound effects and comical commercial breaks. Directed by Kevin Lambert and starring Metropolitan Opera singer Diane Kesling alongside local soprano favorite Christine Donahue, the cast also includes Shannon Rookey, Ron Jensen-McDaniel and Sarah Stankiewicz Dailey. “The Old Maid and The Thief: a 1939 Radio Hour” will be sung in English with music direction and piano accompaniment by John Willis.
To get excited for what’s sure to be another hit for Opera In The Rock, we checked in with Diane and Christine about their operatic careers and the history of this art form in Central Arkansas.
Q:“It’s been a while since either of you have performed in an opera locally. Tell us what made you decide to do “Old Maid” with OITR and a bit about the history of opera in Little Rock!”
Diane – Christine and I first sang together in 1978 with the Houston Opera Studio and Texas Opera Theater. We have been great friends since then. We both moved to NYC and lived on the same street a block away from each other, and then a few years after Christine moved to LR, my husband and I were on our way to San Antonio, fell in love with Arkansas after visiting Christine and her husband George, and we moved to Hot Springs and never made it to Texas! Making music with her again in “Old Maid” is going to be like going to the playground and causing a laugh riot!
Arkansas has always made a great contribution to the world opera stage! The famous Australian singer, Marjorie Lawrence, moved to Hot Springs for the magic waters after contracting polio while singing in Mexico in the 40’s, and singers from all over the world came to Arkansas to study with her. Even the first female conductor for the Metropolitan Opera was Sarah Caldwell, a proud Arkansan. Barbara Hendricks and Kristin Lewis are wonderful opera singers who have gone on to have great careers in Europe and the US.
Christine – I agreed to do this opera because it afforded me the opportunity to sing with my dear friend Diane. We met in 1978 and for two years we were frequently paired in the operas we performed with the touring company Texas Opera Theater – part of being an apprentice in the Houston Opera Studio. It’s been over forty years since we performed in an opera together. This should be a hoot!
I first came to Little Rock in 1984 to sing with what was then the Arkansas Opera Theater under the direction of Dr. Ann Chotard. For the next twenty years I sang in at least one production per season. The company provided this delightful artform for Central Arkansas audiences for over thirty years and presented many wonderful singers in productions of some of the world’s most beloved operas. After a hiatus of about ten years opera came back to Central Arkansas with the founding of Opera In The Rock. I’m very excited about its prospects!
All proceeds of “The Old Maid & The Thief: a 1939 Radio Hour” benefit Opera In The Rock, whose mission is to enrich the cultural life of Arkansas through professional opera performances emphasizing collaboration and diversity to build future audiences for this rich art form and will be put towards production and outreach efforts for the 2019-2020 Season.
Friday, August 23rd, 7:30 pm
Saturday, August 24th, 7:30 pm
Sunday, August 25th 2:30 pm