Opera on the Rocks X: WE ARE OITR celebrates the state’s only professional opera company. The night includes wine and hors d’oeuvres, an amazing operatic program, a silent auction and guest performers. Featuring Arkansas native Soprano Keely Futterer, WE ARE OITR will highlight the past + the future of Opera In The Rock and emphasis on collaboration and diversity. Featured artists and leadership shared insight + inspiration in preparation for the gala.
KEELY FUTTERER Her career has taken her all over the United States, Italy, and China. Most recently she was a soloist with Orchestra Sinfonica Carlo Coccia in Arona, Italy and will debut the role of Marie in La Fille du Regiment with Opera Saratoga this summer.
Tell us about your journey growing up in Dover, AR to performing across Europe.
My parents were both musicians, and I was immersed in band, orchestra, and choir around the state including Dover Schools and Arkansas Tech University, the Youth Symphonies in Little Rock, musicals with the River Valley Arts Center in Russellville and Opera in the Ozarks in Eureka Springs, and now I have been able to work with operatic greats like Stephanie Blythe, Christopher Merritt, Renée Fleming, and Renata Scotto. It just shows that we are incredibly lucky to have a such a vibrant arts scene in Arkansas that is so supportive of its young performers.
And now you’re performing with OITR – why do you feel it’s important to support opera in Arkansas?
I am overjoyed that opera is “making a comeback” in Arkansas. Since its formation in 2012, OITR has continually brought in Arkansas natives, more often than not debuting principal roles. This is a rarity in opera companies where usually they give small roles to natives and then bring older veterans from all over the place to sing the big stuff. OITR is willing to be both a professional company and a nurturing environment. This is a testimony to their commitment to community and vision for the future, and I am so excited that they’ve included me in this future!
TANIA KELLEY This 15 year-old Little Rock Central High student is making her operatic debut in May in Madama Butterfly. She is a talented young artist seen often on the stage of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre and will be in their production of Willy Wonka, Jr., this summer.
You’re making quite a name for yourself a young singer in Little Rock. Tell us about your experiences with OITR and The Rep.
I can’t believe I’m in this space right now! When I auditioned, I had no idea I would really make it. I admire the art of opera and am just walking in faith and happy to be here. OITR is my first official contract, and with that I will place my first dollar bill on my wall! Theatre is a part of my life mainly because the community that The Rep and OITR have allows young artists to express themselves in a way that will build careers.
JOHN WILLIS This is a singer/songwriter, pianist, musical director, composer, and teacher based in Little Rock, Arkansas.
You are known for diversity in the types of music you play. How has your musical training influenced your current performance style?
The classical training I received in piano was augmented by training in arranging gospel music by teachers who also worked as church pianists. The two streams of influence have enabled me to play in any genre, any style, and to put my playing on a soulful and spiritual level. As I began working out my own arrangements, I heard the master of this sort of playing and accompanying, Nina Simone, who herself was a child prodigy at classical piano long before she made a name for herself in the jazz world. Hearing her so artfully blend the two realms gave me a star to reach for.
DEIDRA JONES She has just returned to Arkansas from Germany performing alongside top artists such as Sir Elton John, Michael Jackson, Chaka Khan and Patti Austin. She lives in North Little Rock and serves on the Opera In The Rock Board of Directors.
What’s it like to be back in Arkansas serving on the board of OITR?
Coming back to my home after living abroad has been an amazing journey. An abundance of growth and opportunity is taking place in Little Rock, and it is truly exciting to be part of a team so profoundly dedicated to enhancing the presence of opera in this great city!
All proceeds from the evening’s festivities benefit Opera In The Rock’s mission of professional opera performances emphasizing collaboration and diversity and will support production and outreach efforts for Madama Butterfly – May 17 & 19 at the Arkansas Rep with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.
Opera on the Rocks X: WE ARE OITR
Saturday, February 23rd, 6:30 pm
Junior League of Little Rock Ballroom
Tickets: 501-681-9640 /// www.oitr.org /// Facebook @OperaInTheRock