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Opera Roanoke, Southwest Virginia Ballet share 2021-22 seasons

Opera Roanoke, Southwest Virginia Ballet share 2021-22 seasons


With pandemic-related restrictions lifted in Virginia, more Roanoke arts organizations are publicizing their return to live performance. Opera Roanoke and Southwest Virginia Ballet have both announced their 2021-22 seasons.

Opera Roanoke will get back on the Jefferson Center stage in November with Hungarian composer Bela Bartok’s one-act “Bluebeard’s Castle,” based on the French fairy tale. Artistic director Steven White said that “Bluebeard’s Castle” is rarely performed because as originally written it requires more than 100 orchestra musicians, but the version Opera Roanoke will put on is a new arrangement written for a chamber orchestra by German composer Eberhard Kloke.

On hearing a performance by the London Symphony, White said, “It really, opened up the possibility of doing this great, great piece here in Roanoke.” The Opera Roanoke show will be the U.S. premiere of Kloke’s arrangement.

In April 2022, tenor and international opera star Lawrence Brownlee will give a recital that includes his rendition of “Cycles of My Being,” a song cycle about life as a Black man in America, co-created with U.S. pianist-percussionist Tyshawn Sorey and poet Terrance Hayes.

For the season finale in May 2022, Opera Roanoke will stage Giuseppe Verdi’s “Messa da Requiem,” originally planned for the 2020-21 season. White called it “one of the monumental masterpieces in the literature.” The Roanoke company’s two performances will feature a 100-singer strong chorus led by the opera’s chorus master, Josh O’Dell.

“This time away from the stage has seemed like an eternity,” White said. “We’ve stayed alive, like others have, by doing electronic Zoom streaming kinds of things, and that’s been a wonderful Band-Aid, if you will. It has really stretched our imagination.”

Though fundraising has been a challenge, “that has been offset, of course, by the fact that we haven’t had to put out the huge expenditures for big productions, so we’ve been able to sort of, you know, keep our powder dry,” White said. “I think we are well positioned, we feel good about our capabilities going forward into this season.”

Southwest Virginia Ballet in Roanoke has emerged from the pandemic shutdowns in a strong position, said Carol Jessee, its executive director. “It has actually been one of our best years,” she said. “Our donor base has grown. Our donors have come forward extremely generously. I think they understand the importance of what we do in the community.”

On Aug. 28, Southwest Virginia Ballet will join Roanoke Symphony Orchestra for an outdoor “Symphony Under the Stars” performance, SVB artistic director Pedro Szalay said.

The ballet will stage the perennial holiday classic “The Nutcracker” for the 30th time in December. For the first time, they will be joined by the Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir.

“I’m very excited about that,” Szalay said.

The “Nutcracker” will be performed for the public two times instead of three, forgoing the usual Saturday evening performance. “We just want to be conservative this year,” Jessee said.

On March 14, 2022, at Elmwood Park, SVB will bring back “TIES,” Szalay’s original ballet and dance show that pays tribute to Roanoke’s railroad town origins.

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Mike Allen is the editorial page editor for The Roanoke Times. His past beats as a Roanoke Times reporter included Botetourt County, Franklin County, courts and legal issues, and arts and culture.

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