Kathleen Westfall, a Thibodaux native, is not only an accomplished opera singer and teacher; she really wants to spread her love of this special form of vocal performance to those less familiar with it.
Not that Kathleen is comfortable with only this one form of musical art. After all, she is married to another outstanding musician, James Westfall, well-known jazz pianist and vibraphonist. They live in Musicians Village, their lives totally consumed by music and those who perform it.
Since her observation for some time has been that many vocal arts students in New Orleans have few opportunities to sing, Kathleen has created The 9th Ward Opera Company; the name is a nod to the part of town in which she lives.
The opera company is a summer program designed to showcase a group of talented University of New Orleans voice students. On August 3 at 8 p.m., they will present two short comic operas in one performance at Allways Lounge Theatre, with a second performance on August 4 at 8 p.m. at the UNO Rehearsal Hall.
“I think New Orleans needs a new and younger opera audience,” Kathleen says. “So we have decided to do two short, entertaining pieces, each only 30 minutes long.”
One opera, Cox and Box, has music by Arthur Sullivan, one half of the famous comic opera duo Gilbert and Sullivan. It tells the story of two men living in the same apartment, but who do not know each other, since one works days and the other works nights. When the landlord decides to double the rent for the same space and the two find out, the results are very entertaining.
The second opera, Trial by Jury, is a better-known piece by the Gilbert and Sullivan duo. That story is set in a court of law, where a jilted Angelina is suing her playboy fiancee Edwin for damages due to breaking off their engagement. It’s an amusing short piece filled with comic characters that Kathleen Westfall says will keep the audience engaged and laughing.
Because the whole program is operating on a financial shoestring, the operas will be presented by singers in contemporary clothes, accompanied by piano only. It promises to be a cheerful and entertaining peek at some rising talent singing some charming music.
Sharon Litwin is president of NolaVie.