Ash Lawn Opera Becomes Charlottesville Opera on 40th Anniversary Season

By Francisco Salazar

Ash Lawn Opera will become Charlottesville Opera in 2017.

Charlottesville, Virginia’s premier opera company for the past 40 years decided to change its name after significant growth. The company, which began in 1978 as a summer festival for local singers presenting opera in the boxwood garden of Ash Lawn-Highland has became an integral part of the Charlottesville downtown scene.

After years of performing in smaller venues the company moved to the Paramount Theater, attracting larger audiences. To reflect the change and the development of the company it was decided that the name would also change. The new name will provide the city with an opera presence more clearly designated as its own.

The growth of the company was seen just this year when Charlottesville’s opened its season with a recital by Jay Hunter Morris, one of the leading Wagnerian singers and one who was featured in the Metropolitan Opera’s live in HD series as “Siegfried” in Wagner’s Ring cycle. The company will celebrate its anniversary next March when it presents the East Coast premiere of “Middlemarch in Spring,” a chamber opera by composer Allen Shearer and librettist Claudia Stevens.

The opera will star bass-baritone Philip Skinner and Rebecca Mead, author of “My Life in Middlemarch” and writer at the New Yorker, will give a free lecture to ticket holders before the Friday, March 24 performance.

The summer season will feature a production of Verdi’s “Rigoletto” with Ash Lawn favorite Hyung Yun. The production will feature singers from Virginia.

Finally, the season will conclude with  Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical “Oklahoma!.” The production will be a joint collaboration with the Charlottesville Ballet, the city’s only professional Dance Company. The collaboration will mark the first between the two companies and it will include choreography by CB Artist Mary Hein, three professional soloists, and a student ensemble.