Guest Blog: Opera Thrives in Las Vegas

Community Impact

Written by: Luana DeVol, General Director, Opera Las Vegas

Opera is not only alive and well, but thriving in Las Vegas! With impresario Jim Sohre as artistic director, Gregory Buchalter of the Metropolitan Opera as music director, and myself as general director drawing from my experience as a grand opera dramatic soprano, Opera Las Vegas (OLV) is raising the curtain on critically acclaimed productions of such masterworks as “Tosca” (2011), “Don Giovanni” (2012), “Barber of Seville” (2014), “Madame Butterfly” (2015), and “Carmen” (2016).

Buchalter has been instrumental in bringing to Las Vegas from the Met such heralded singers as Baritone Daniel Sutin, as well as rising stars including Mezzo Maya Lahyani, to sing leading roles for Opera Las Vegas. Sutin has performed leading operatic roles around the world, and Lahyani has received rave reviews from the New York Times and Opera Today for her emotional performances.

The next OLV production is Giuseppe Verdi’s “Rigoletto” at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 9 and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 11 the at Judy Bayley Theatre on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) campus.

OLV was established in 1999 and grew under the directorship of Gloria Allen. It presented a season of various events featuring fine young singers from the Las Vegas Valley, and culminated with a major production. Allen opened the door to excellence by inviting Gregory Buchalter to lead OLV’s main stage productions and establishing a new level of music quality.

Allen passed the baton of general director to me in 2014. We both saw this as a perfect fit, due to my global reputation from my performances as a Wagnerian soprano and being twice named “Opera Singer of the Year” by the German opera magazine Opern Welt. In my leadership role with OLV, I have focused on helping the company achieve even higher standards of performance in its main stage productions at the Judy Bayley Theatre.

OLV has also struck a popular note at The Smith Center with sold-out performances at its Cabaret Jazz in 2014 and 2015. The intimate room was the perfect stage for young artists singing arias and scenes from two featured composers in “A Passion for Puccini” and “Viva Verdi!” In a departure from today’s reliance on amplification, OLV’s opera is presented acoustically — no microphones. What the audience hears is what the singers sing! OLV was the first musical group to test the natural acoustics of Cabaret Jazz, and they proved to be excellent!

OLV’s focus and appeal has not been limited to opera lovers. Sohre has broadened the company’s outreach into the community. In 2016, OLV’s in-school performances went to nine Clark County School District schools and performed for 2,500 students. Four of Las Vegas’ young artists performed scenes and arias from “Carmen.” Serving as narrator, Sohre not only described what was happening in the music, but also educated the young listeners about the genre of opera itself. The kids loved their taste of opera which, in a full production, combines music, poetry, singing, acting, costumes, scenery, lighting and action.

A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, OLV is guided by a Board of Directors and Trustees. There is no paid staff. The financial health of the organization is good, and OLV continues to build its audience base — doubling attendance in three years. A current goal is to increase OLV’s donor base.

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