Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (OTSL) is an American summer opera festival held in St. Louis, Missouri. Typically four operas, all sung in English, are presented each season, which runs from late May to late June. Performances are accompanied by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, which is divided into two ensembles, each covering two of the operas, for the season. The company's performances are presented in the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of Webster University.
First seasons and achievements
In 1976, Leigh Gerdine, Laurance L. Browning, Jr. and James Van Sant co-founded OTSL. They hired Richard Gaddes, who at the time was working at The Santa Fe Opera, as the company's first Artistic Director. They signed him as full-time General Director in 1978 at the suggestion of Ed Korn, who was brought in as a consultant from the Metropolitan Opera. Gaddes acknowledged that the model for OTSL was The Santa Fe Opera:
- That was not a coincidence. I always say that John Crosby sired the Opera Theater of St. Louis. The whole concept was modeled on Santa Fe, and part of the idea was that the apprentices here would feed into St. Louis. Which they did.
The first season in 1976 presented eleven performances of Britten's Albert Herring, Mozart's The Impresario, Menotti's The Medium, and Donizetti's Don Pasquale. This mixture of some standard works, and some new and unconventional operas, was to continue in future seasons and characterize the company's approach. This was achieved on a budget of $135,000. The young singers included Sheri Greenawald and Vinson Cole.
During the early seasons, the company had a major influence with such achievements as first joint BBC/WNET telecast of Albert Herring and in 1983 the first appearance by any U.S. opera company at the Edinburgh International Festival. The first production of a Japanese opera in Japan by any American company was followed by a return to Tokyo in September 2001 to present the Japanese premiere of the classic Genji Monogatari, adapted as an opera by Minoru Miki as The Tale of Genji.
Well-known directors Graham Vick, Jonathan Miller, and Mark Lamos have made U.S. operatic debuts with OTSL, as did conductors Leonard Slatkin and Christopher Hogwood. Colin Graham served as OTSL's Director of Productions from 1978-1985. John Nelson was OTSL's Music Director from 1985 to 1988, and Principal Conductor from 1988 to 1991.
Other notable U.S. singers, including Christine Brewer, Susan Graham, Denyce Graves, Dwayne Croft, Thomas Hampson, Jerry Hadley, Patricia Racette, Sylvia McNair, and Stephanie Blythe have made appearances in St. Louis productions. OTSL has presented 14 world premieres, including:
- Stephen Paulus: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1982)
- Cary John Franklin: The Loss of Eden (2002)
- David Carlson: Anna Karenina (2007; libretto by Colin Graham)
- Terence Blanchard: Champion (2013; libretto by Michael Cristofer)
- Ricky Ian Gordon: Twenty-Seven (2014; libretto by Royce Vavrek)
The last two operas have been part of the most recent OTSL series of commissioning new operas, under the "New Works, Bold Voices" initiative. The third opera in this cycle was Shalimar the Clown, with music by Jack Perla and libretto by Rajiv Joseph, presented in the 2016 OTSL season. In addition, OTSL has given 14 American premieres, including Michael Berkeley's Jane Eyre; Benjamin Britten's Paul Bunyan; Rossini's Il viaggio a Reims (The Journey to Reims); and Judith Weir's The Vanishing Bridegroom.
The company trains young artists in the Gerdine Young Artists program, named for Opera Theatre's founding board chairman, Leigh Gerdine. The Gerdine Young Artists serve as the annual chorus for the company, as the company does not retain a resident chorus. OTSL chorus directors have included Donald Palumbo, Cary John Franklin, Sandra Horst, and Robert Ainsley. In February 2020, OTSL announced the appointment of Walter Huff as its next chorus director.
Succeeding Gaddes as OTSL General Director was Charles MacKay, who held the post from 1985 to 2008. MacKay had previously served as OTSL Executive Director, beginning in 1984. MacKay led the campaign to construct and fund the new Sally S. Levy Opera Center, a new and permanent administrative home and year-round rehearsal facility for the organisation. In addition, in 2005, OTSL adopted projected English-language supertitles in the theatre. From 1985 until his death in April 2007, the OTSL Artistic Director was Colin Graham. From 1991 to 2017, OTSL's Music Director was Stephen Lord. Lord subsequently held the title of OTSL music director emeritus until his resignation in June 2019, following publication of allegations of sexual misconduct. In June 2017, OTSL announced the appointment of Roberto Kalb as its resident conductor, effective with the 2018 season.
In September 2007, OTSL named James Robinson as the company's next Artistic Director, and Timothy O'Leary to the position of Executive Director. MacKay concluded his OTSL tenure as General Director on September 30, 2008. In June 2008, OTSL named O'Leary as its third General Director, effective October 1, 2008. O'Leary concluded his OTSL general directorship on June 30, 2018. In April 2018, OTSL announced the appointment of Andrew Jorgensen as its next general director, effective July 2, 2018. Robinson is currently contracted as OTSL artistic director through 2021. In July 2020, OTSL's Director of Administration Damon Bristo was arrested for child sex trafficking in the second degree. He was placed on unpaid leave and later resigned. 
- Richard Gaddes (1976-1985)
- Charles MacKay (1985-2008)
- Timothy O'Leary (2008-2018)
- Andrew Jorgensen (2018–present)
- John Nelson (1985-1988; principal conductor, 1988-1991)
- Stephen Lord (1991-2017)
- Colin Graham (1985-2007)
- James Robinson (2008–present)
- Allan Kozinn (6 September 2000). "Stepping Aside at an Operatic Oasis; Founding Director of the Santa Fe Opera Looks Back on 43 Years of Innovation". New York Times. Retrieved 29 June 2008.
- "World Premiere Adapted from Salman Rushdie's Shalimar The Clown Highlights 2016 Season Repertory" (Press release). Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. 19 May 2015. Archived from the original on 14 December 2015. Retrieved 2015-12-06.
- "OTSL Welcomes Chorusmaster Walter Huff" (Press release). Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. 25 February 2020. Retrieved 2020-06-18.
- Hugh Canning (3 July 2005). "Strongly reigns over us". The Times. Retrieved 21 September 2007.
- Anthony Tommasini (22 July 2007). "No Supertitle Goes Here, and That's a Good Thing". New York Times. Retrieved 22 July 2007.
- Sarah Bryan Miller, "Colin Graham, Opera Theatre's artistic director, dies". St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 6 April 2007.
- "Famed Music Director Stephen Lord Will Take on New Role After 25 Seasons as Music Director at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis" (Press release). Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. 9 November 2015. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 2015-12-06.
- "American Conductor Stephen Lord Resigns from Posts at Michigan Opera Theatre and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Released from Performances at Opera Maine". Opera News. 2019-06-19. Retrieved 2020-06-18.
- "Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Announces Appointment of Roberto Kalb as Resident Conductor" (Press release). Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. 15 June 2017. Retrieved 2017-07-01.
- Sarah Bryan Miller, "James Robinson named artistic director at Opera Theatre of St. Louis" St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 19 September 2007 .
- Sarah Bryan Miller, "Opera Theatre announces two new appointments". St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 20 September 2007.
- Matthew Westphal (9 November 2007). "Santa Fe Opera Appoints New General Director". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 10 November 2007.
- Sarah Bryan Miller (2008-06-19). "Opera Theatre of St. Louis names O'Leary as general director". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 2008-06-21.
- Sarah Bryan Miller (2018-04-06). "Opera Theatre of St. Louis selects new general director from Washington National Opera". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 2018-04-07.
- Sarah Bryan Miller (2017-09-22). "Opera Theatre's Timothy O'Leary headed to Washington National Opera". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 2017-09-23.