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Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

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Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Butler Opera Center celebrates 20th anniversary this season

Charlotte Keene
Butler Opera Center celebrates its 20th anniversary with a dedication to Dr. Robert DeSimone on the McCullough Theatre curtain on Sept. 17.

Ethereal and commanding voices mix, creating a harmony that tells a dramatic story to the audience. As the music dies down and the curtains close, Dr. Tamar Sanikidze looks into her performers’ eyes and sees her favorite things: self-achievement, self-acknowledgement and self-discovery. 

The Butler Opera Center celebrates its 20th anniversary with its 2023-2024 season. With five performances slated throughout the season, The Butler Opera plans to tackle their most ambitious season yet. 

Principal Conductor Douglas Kinney Frost said this season features a bold program. Performances include “La Bohème,” followed by “Maria,” a student-composed show written this semester and “Tea: A Mirror of Soul.”

“(The directors wanted to) celebrate cultures that are not obvious or not equally represented in opera repertoire,” Frost said. “We hear consistently from our colleagues around the country that the works we are presenting in a university setting are ambitious for even a major, extremely well-funded opera company. We’re proud of that and our successes have helped motivate us.”

Frost said he feels especially proud when the Opera receives positive feedback from audiences.

“That has…  given us confidence in our own artistic buzz,” Frost said. “Opera is a living, breathing thing. We want living, breathing opera, whether it’s a piece that was written 200 years ago, or a piece that’s brand new.”

Sanikidze, the Opera’s director, producer and principal coach, said the ensemble would be dedicating their first performance, “La Bohème,” to the late Dr. Robert DeSimone, Butler Opera’s previous director.

“Unfortunately, (DeSimone) has passed away, but his contribution and legacy can never be understated,” Sanikidze said.

Doctoral student Evan K. Brown said he believes the Opera’s final performance, “The Queen of Spades,” will be the craziest because it will be presented entirely in Russian. Brown, who will sing for the show’s main character Hermann, said almost no preparatory materials exist for “Queen of Spades,” which makes for just one of the reasons the opera poses an intriguing challenge.

“I’m very, very excited about (performing “Queen of Spades”) because it’s not done much,” Brown said. “That affords me a very unique opportunity to not only sing the (lead) role, but also get a chance to prepare the role really well in a more friendly environment.”

Sanikidze said she loves working with so many contributing parties, such as the Texas Performing Arts Center, theater and dance faculty and of course the students because they constantly reinvent and innovate their craft while staying true to the heart of opera music. 

“It takes a village, and I don’t know any other program that operates in such a sense of unity and community,” Sanikidze said. “We are unique, but we are also truly what opera is, which is a complete art form encompassing assets and the wealth of this amazing community.”

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About the Contributor
Charlotte Keene, Senior Photographer
Charlotte Keene is a junior Journalism major from San Antonio, Texas. She enjoys making playlists and watching movies in her free time.