Union Avenue Opera Closes Out Its 25th Season with a Powerful Vietnam War Story

 In Culture, Event

Union Avenue Opera is closing out its 25th anniversary season with the St. Louis premiere of Tom Cipullo’s 2007 opera “Glory Denied.” Based on the book of the same title by Tom Philpott, the opera tells the story of Col. James “Jim” Thompson, the longest-held American POW of the Vietnam War, who was a prisoner for almost nine years.

The story is told from the perspective of Thompson and his wife, Alyce, at various points in their lives during and after his ordeal and focuses on the struggles of those on the home front during the Vietnam War and its aftermath.

“This story needs to be told, and I love telling it,” says Dean Anthony, a St. Louis native making his directorial debut with Union Avenue Opera. “Tom has a tendency to deal with stories that have been swept under the rug.”

This marks Anthony’s third time directing a production of “Glory Denied,” including a production at the Fort Worth Opera Festival in 2013 that was released as a recording. He has also worked on productions of other Cipullo works and has what he calls a “close connection” with the composer.

The unique four-singer concept for this opera includes tenor David Walton as the younger Jim Thompson, baritone Peter Kendall Clark as Thompson in later life, soprano Karina Brazas as young Alyce Thompson and soprano Gina Galati as her older self. Founding Union Avenue Opera Artistic Director Scott Schoonover conducts the musicians.

Union Avenue Opera Closes Out Its 25th Season with a Powerful Vietnam War Story

David Walton as younger Jim Thompson and Peter Kendall Clark as older Thompson in the Union Avenue Opera production of “Glory Denied.” Image courtesy of Dan Donovan.

The show runs Fridays and Saturdays, Aug. 16-17 and Aug. 23-24 inside the Union Avenue Christian Church in St. Louis‘ Visitation Park neighborhood. Each evening following the performance, members of the cast and the artistic team behind the production will participate in a talk-back session with the audience. Cipullo will be part of the opening night’s talk-back presentation.

For those who’d like to get some insight into the opera beforehand, there will be a Know Before You Go Friday night lecture series on Aug. 16 and 23 at 7 p.m. at the Gretchen Brigham Gallery at Union Avenue Opera. At this free event, Dr. Glen Bauer will discuss the opera’s historical importance and give an overview of the plot as well as a sample of some of the music. These and other outreach events are made possible in part by a grant from the PNC Foundation’s PNC Arts Alive initiative.

Additionally, Union Avenue Opera has partnered with music therapist Sarah Michaelis to create a free program for local veterans’ communities that incorporates creative music making and relaxation tailored to promote healing among veterans.

Single tickets for “Glory Denied” range from $32 to $55; veterans are eligible for free general admission tickets, and general admission for active duty military personnel is $15. All performances begin at 8 p.m.

Featured image of Dean Anthony courtesy of Union Avenue Opera.

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