This week, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (OTSL), an Arts and Education Council grantee, announced their plans for a live, in-person 2021 Festival Season on an outdoor stage adjacent to the company’s usual venue at Webster University’s Loretto-Hilton Center. Their 46th Season Festival will offer four new productions of intimate works, all of which are 90 minutes or less, and will be presented with no intermissions.

The season opens on Saturday, May 22 with Puccini’s comic masterpiece “Gianni Schicchi”. William Grant Still’s gripping “Highway 1, U.S.A.” is the second opera of the season, followed by Poulenc’s intensely dramatic “La voix humaine” starring soprano Patricia Racette. The 2021 Festival Season concludes with two one-night-only concert events: the annual Center Stage showcase, featuring singers from OTSL’s Gerdine Young Artist Program; and “I Dream a World”, commemorating Juneteenth, curated by soprano Nicole Cabell and baritone Will Liverman, and presented in partnership with the Missouri Historical Society. Opera Theatre’s 2021 season will mark the 44th year of the company’s collaboration with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, another Arts and Education Council grantee. 

OTSL will also present the New Works, Bold Voices Lab, a collection of three world premieres by contemporary composers. Originally scheduled for digital release, they will move to the main stage for live performances. These commissions are an expansion to OTSL’s existing “New Works, Bold Voices” cycle, which supports new storytelling by American composers and librettists. 

Opera Theatre’s outdoor season will follow strict COVID-compliant procedures, which have been developed in consultation with Dr. Stephen Liang from the Division of Infectious Diseases at Washington University School of Medicine and other experts at the VA St. Louis Health Care System. All audiences, staff and volunteers will be required to wear masks while on site. All audience members must also pass a temperature check before entering the festival grounds.

While OTSL’s beloved pre-show picnic tradition will continue, picnic tables will be spread farther apart, and table service will be offered to prevent audience mingling at bars. Within the outdoor theater, audiences will be admitted in small groups to prevent crowded lines and seated in socially distanced pods to maintain six feet between parties. Patrons will be able to access tickets, program notes and more through a new smartphone app.

Opera Theatre is also launching an initiative to offer free seats at every performance in 2021 and beyond. These free seats will be available to any member of the community on a first come, first served basis — a first for the company and in the national opera scene. Named “Phyllis’ Seats” in honor of the late Phyllis Brissenden, one of Opera Theatre’s Life Board members and most generous supporters, this program will provide 30 free tickets per performance that may be reserved online or by phone beginning two days before every show. In 2022, this number will expand to at least 50 tickets per performance.

“As Opera Theatre continues to dive into the work of advancing equity and inclusion within our region and within the opera industry,” said Jorgensen, “We are extremely proud to take this next step in ensuring that anyone can attend the opera. This program will join the wonderful tradition of free arts programming available in St. Louis and sets a new standard for access to opera in America. One of Phyllis Brissenden’s great joys was introducing new audiences to Opera Theatre, and this program will ensure her legacy continues."

The 2021 Festival Season will go on sale to the public on May 3. Tickets will cost just $39 each and will be delivered digitally via OTSL’s soon-to-be-released smartphone app or via print-at-home ticketing. To learn more, visit or call the OTSL Box Office at 314.961.0644. 

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is a recipient of operating support from the Arts and Education Council. The generosity of donors like you makes it possible for the Arts and Education Council to support organizations that make our community more vibrant. Keep art happening with a gift to the Arts and Education Council today. 

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