Opéra Louisiane’s two directors have big plans in mind, including an expanded program that will include an event in each month of the upcoming season.
Michael Borowitz is the company’s newly titled artistic director, while Leanne Clement continues as its general director.
“Michael has been working with us for four years, and he could be working in New York or anywhere,” says Clement. “But he chose to be here, and we’re fortunate to have him.”
And the two directors will be busy as the company opens its season of stage performances Sept. 10 with “Baritones on the Bayou” at Louisiana’s Old State Capitol.
“People are familiar with the programs featuring tenors, and they know there are many great tunes written for tenors,” Borowitz says. “But there are also great tunes that were written for baritones, and some opera companies preferred working with baritones.”
Baritones Todd Thomas, Mark Walters, Dennis Jesse and Ivan Griffin will collaborate on a program including works from Verdi to Rodgers and Hammerstein. Soprano Rachel Cobb will be their special guest.
“I’ve worked with all of these singers,” Borowitz says. “They’ve submitted their repertoires, and I’ve done most of the arranging for them. There will be some barn-burner songs and a lot of humor.”
“What’s so unique about this program is that these men are used to competing for roles across the country,” Clement says. “And now they’ll be on stage performing together in the same program.”
Next up, the company will present a bayou theme of Engelbert Humperkinck’s 1893 opera “Hansel and Gretel” as its annual Young People’s Opera Program in November. The public performance on Nov. 15 will be preceded by two school performances at First Baptist Church of Baton Rouge.
Students from the Baton Rouge area will fill the church sanctuary for these shows.
“This is a popular opera for our Young People’s Opera Program, because we actually have children singing in the children’s chorus,” Clement says.
The Valentine’s Concert will follow on Feb. 13, with a program of love duets from great operas, along with other classic love songs, performed by guest artists with the newly formed Opéra Louisiane Resident Quartet.
“Michael was instrumental in forming the resident quartet,” Clement says. “With the quartet, we’re able to have something every month, which gives us greater outreach.”
The quartet is made up of LSU School of Music students soprano McKenzie Miller, mezzo-soprano Zoe Reams and baritone Alexander Henderson with LSU graduate tenor Travis Richter.
“They’re all young artists, and a lot of opera companies don’t have young artist programs,” Borowitz says. “This is a way for young artists to practice their craft and get paid for performing. It’s also a way for folks in the area to get to know us through these artistic bonds.”
The quartet will be performing at Clement’s “Lunch with Leanne” series on Oct. 5, Dec. 7, Jan. 25 and March 14 at the City Club, along with the company’s BRAVO at Boudreaux’s programs on Sept. 3, Feb. 11 and April 28. The group will be making other appearances in the city and will be the main performers at the company’s Halloween Opera Ball fundraiser on Oct. 23 at the City Club.
“We’re going to have a MacBeth theme for this year’s fundraiser,” Clement says. “We received great response at last year’s ball, and this year’s should be a lot of fun.”
Wrapping up the stage season will be the popular Gilbert and Sullivan operetta “Pirates of Penzance,” filling the Manship Theatre’s stage with pirates and maidens on May 12.
“After doing ‘Madama Butterfly’ as our grand opera this past year, we thought we’d do something lighter for our final performance this year,” Clement says. “Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas are always fun, and everyone loves ‘Pirates.’”
“We worked hard on putting together a season ticket package that would be under $100,” Clement says. “We were able to come in at $95. The packages include different things, and not everyone wants a package that includes all of our events, so we wanted to make the packages affordable.”