Magic by Design

 In Culture, Feature

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis 2014 season includes famed designer Isaac Mizrahi and a newly commissioned world premiere.


WIDELY CONSIDERED THE “GO-TO” COMPANY for introducing new operatic repertory in the United States, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has premiered 23 operas in its 39-year history. Its sweeping overall excellence has been extolled by such formidable publications as the Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, London’s Financial Times and many more. It’s no wonder that Opera Theatre’s siren song draws fans from across the world. Its audiences are also getting younger and more diverse. So how does OTSL top itself? By mounting two superstar productions. Powerhouse designer Isaac Mizrahi will direct and design the set and costumes for “The Magic Flute,” and Opera Theatre has commissioned one of the world’s great opera composers to write “Twenty-Seven” for one of the greatest living opera singers. For good measure, the company will throw in the little-known but achingly beautiful, “Dialogues of the Carmelites,” along with the light-hearted comic gem, “The Elixir of Love.”

THE MAGIC FLUTE For Isaac Mizrahi—design mogul and international star of fashion—time is precious. “He has a lot going on,” says Timothy O’Leary, general director of OTSL. “To spend four weeks of rehearsal in St. Louis is a big deal.” But it’s not a surprise. Mizrahi made his directorial debut with OTSL in 2010 with “A Little Night Music,” a sold-out run that cemented his reputation in St. Louis and his eventual return. Designing the set and costumes, in addition to directing, is a rarity. “It’s not easy,” O’Leary says, adding that Mizrahi’s work ethic is impressive. “The Magic Flute” by Mozart is a fantasy filled with animals that are charmed by the magic flute, possibly the perfect vehicle for Mizrahi, whose dancers will play the animals while wearing extraordinarily wild, beautiful and playful costumes. The comedy plays like a musical because it has both dialog and music, so it’s a perfect first opera and great for kids. “And it’s just one of the most beautiful things ever written,” O’Leary concludes.

TWENTY-SEVEN Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’ 24th world premiere opera and the second commissioned by O’Leary since he took the helm in 2008, “Twenty-Seven” is a fantasia on the life of Gertrude Stein. The story was written by one of the great opera composers, Ricky Ian Gordon, along with Royce Vavrek, specifically for international opera sensation Stephanie Blythe, who will make her OTSL debut. It takes place in Stein’s 1920s Paris salon, a second home to such icons as Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Matisse, Picasso and others who are characters in the story, told through a series of scenes that are riotously funny and suddenly very moving. “It’s about how all these geniuses themselves are competing for her approval and attention,” O’Leary says. “She was a genius and a visionary, and a hugely magnetic personality.”

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis kicks off the 2014 season with “The Magic Flute,” premiering May 24, followed by “The Elixir of Love” on May 31. The world premiere of “Twenty-Seven” is on June 14, and “Dialogues of the Carmelites” opens June 18. For the full schedule and tickets, visit




Photo credit: Ken Howard, Courtesy of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

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