Natchez Opera Festival set to kick off 11th season in grand style

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 29, 2001

The line-up for the 2001 Natchez Opera Festival would be hard to top, the festival’s director Dr. David Blackburn said.

&uot;We have chosen the most popular operas,&uot; he said. &uot;People know the music. They will love these performances.&uot;

Beginning with &uot;HMS Pinafore,&uot; one of the most highly acclaimed operettas by the British team of Sir Arthur Sullivan and Sir William Gilbert, the festival continues with &uot;Carmen&uot; by Georges Bizet.

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&uot;That music is universally known,&uot; said Blackburn, as he began to hum the melodies from &uot;Toreador Song&uot; and &uot;Habanera&uot; to illustrate his point.

The well-known opera &uot;La Boheme&uot; will close the season, again bringing beautiful and familiar music to the stage of the Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center, where the three operas and a tribute to 19th-century soprano Jenny Lind will be held.

Blackburn has a dream that all the people who in the past were hesitant to attend an opera will this year take the plunge. &uot;They will find that they love the music, the drama, the excitement,&uot; he said.

&uot;And I want so much for children to learn about opera, and I hope parents will bring children to these performances.&uot;

Blackburn laments the many meetings he has had with Natchez people who give words of encouragement and support but admit they do not attend any of the musical events.

&uot;I love their support in words, but we need box office support, too,&uot; he said. Tickets are available at Natchez TicketShop at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center on Canal Street or by calling 601-446-6345; or by e-mail,

The four main events range in price from $20 to $45 per person. The schedule is:

&uot;HMS Pinafore,&uot; May 5 at 8 p.m.

&uot;Carmen,&uot; May 12 at 8 p.m.

&uot;A Special Historic Celebration of the 150th Anniversary of Jenny Lind’s Concert in Natchez,&uot; May 19 at 8 p.m.

&uot;La Boheme,&uot; May 26 at 8 p.m.

These highlighted events will be surrounded by many other musical performances throughout the month, beginning with a free performance, &uot;Concert in the Park,&uot; at noon on May 4 in Memorial Park on Main Street.

Another free &uot;Concert in the Park&uot; will be at noon on May 18, also in Memorial Park.

Two other free events are a preview performance of &uot;Carmen&uot; at the performing arts center on May 11 at noon; and a preview performance of &uot;La Boheme&uot; at the performing arts center on May 25 at noon.

Other ticketed events include recitals held in historic houses around town, including:

Plantation Recital at Magnolia Hall at 4 p.m. on May 6.

Plantation Recital at Glenburnie at 7 p.m. on May 11.

Plantation Recital at Rosalie at 4 p.m. on May 20.

Plantation Recital at D’Evereux at 7 p.m. on May 25.

All recitals are $15 per person.

Two other special events, also $15 per person, are:

&uot;Night of the Stars&uot; on May 4 at 8 p.m. at New Covenant Presbyterian Church.

&uot;Command Performance&uot; at 8 p.m. on May 18 at St. Mary Basilica.

To celebrate the end of the season a gala reception at the historic house Monmouth will be held after the performance of &uot;La Boheme,&uot; at $20 per person.

Throughout the month, opera performers will sing during regular church services at many of the downtown churches.

In addition, performers will visit schools throughout the city and the region to perform and to teach youngsters about opera.