Opera Theater of St. Louis looks to expand its audience with social media

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WEBSTER GROVES, MO (KTVI) - Opera Theater of St. Louis has opened its 40th anniversary season in Webster Groves.

And as usual, people from all over are expected to attend.

'The count of states represented in the audience is as high as 47 states,' said General Director Timothy O`Leary. 'We had a subscriber from Australia last year,' he added.

Opera Theater of St. Louis has been deflating stuffed shirts for the past 40 years, with lush productions that get reviewed worldwide. A critic for the Washington Post last year called the company the 'Gateway to the Best.'

One of its hallmark features is that all performances are sung in English.

'Doing the performances in the language of the audience makes it come through with an immediacy that you don`t often experience in opera,' O`Leary said.

Opera Theater has nurtured many young performers who have gone on to reach the heights in the opera world, most notably soprano Christine Brewer.

Noted conductor Ryan McAdams also calls both St. Louis and Opera Theater home, though these days he conducts orchestras around the world.

He attended Clayton High School.

This summer, he is back at Opera Theater, conducting The Barber of Seville.

'Everywhere I go, when I say I am working at Opera Theater of St. Louis, this look of extreme jealousy comes over everyone`s face because they know it is going to be this idyllic summer where you just get to be around this circus,' McAdams said.

Opera Theater performs many of the classics, but the company is also known for its productions of new work.

'We are up to 24 world premieres and 24 American premieres,' O`Leary said.

One recent example was 'Champion,' a jazz opera about a gay boxer. Next season, Opera Theater hosts the world premiere of Shalimar the Clown, based on a novel by Salmon Rushdie.

In recent years, two Opera Theater productions have been directed by fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi.

And then there are the 'tweet seats,' where select twitter users at select performances get free tickets in exchange for tweeting about the show, during the show.

'The future of opera is making opera into an increasingly American art form that tells our stories of our time through a diversity of points of views and musical languages,' O`Leary said.

"Getting beyond the stereotypes of opera as for white, European, dead people; that is our history, but its future is ours to shape as an American opera company.'

This season, which runs from now until the end of June, includes "The Barber of Seville," "La Rondine," "Richard the Lionheart," and "Emmeline."

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