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Classical Tulsa Extra: What's Opera...Doc?

Wikipedia Commons: Madama Butterfly

What’s the first picture that comes to mind when you hear the word “opera”? Huns in horns? Weeping clowns? Bugs Bunny seated atop a massive horse? 

Those images are all rooted in the stereotype that opera is something alien from our everyday lives. But the Tulsa Opera is working to change that perception by presenting some thoroughly modern tales alongside the more familiar classics – including a gothic family intrigue and a poignant medical breakthrough.

In addition to Puccini’s Madama Butterfly (February 28 & March 1 at the PAC), the Tulsa Opera’s Spring 2020 season presents Emmeline, a 1996 English-language opera by the company’s Artistic Director Tobias Picker. Based on the novel by Judith Rossner, Emmeline (May 1 & 3) tells the true story of a teenaged mother in small-town Maine who was forced to give her son up for adoption only to have the decision come back to haunt her in a big way twenty years later. 

The Tulsa Opera’s 2020-21 season, which was just revealed in December, includes Verdi’s Rigoletto (October 9 & 11) with soprano Sarah Coburn, plus the gods-and-mortals tale Orpheus and Euridice by baroque composer Christoph Willibald Gluck (February 6, 2021) and the Oklahoma premiere of Awakenings (April 30 & May 2, 2021), a brand-new opera by Tobias Picker.

Based on the 1973 book by neurologist Oliver Sachs, which also inspired the 1990 Oscar-nominated film with Robert De Niro and Robin Williams, Awakenings chronicles the lives of a group of hospital patients who were left catatonic for decades by an encephalitis epidemic and their reawakening following a revolutionary treatment in 1969. Picker’s opera will receive its premiere at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in June 2020, with the Tulsa performances sharing the same production.

You can hear more about these upcoming productions on my show, Classical Tulsa, each Friday at noon on 88.7 KWTU HD1.