Photo by Richard Brusky
Opera Las Vegas continues its 22nd Anniversary Season with the west coast premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon and Royce Vavrek’s The House Without a Christmas Tree at the Summerlin Library Theatre Nov. 19-21.
Based on Gail Rock’s popular story and the beloved 1972 TV movie of the same name, this heartwarming, family-friendly tale follows a precocious daughter, Addie, who struggles to understand her father’s resentment about the holidays and who longs at last for a beautiful Christmas tree like other families have, to “make her house look happy.”
In this touching coming-of-age story, performed in English, Addie learns empathy for her father, a crucial part of her growing up. Although she loves her father, all she seems to understand is his disapproval of her. Her grandmother helps her get a glimpse of her dad’s painful memory of the profound loss of Addie’s mother. Once Addie sees it, she takes positive action that changes all their lives for the better. Her father demonstrably feels her empathy, and they all change.
In short, everyone is healed by the transformative power of the Christmas season. The House Without a Christmas Tree stars sopranos Cadie Jordan and Taylor See, baritone Gabriel Preisser, and mezzo-sopranos Ashley Stone and Courtney Schwalbe. OLV Music Director Joshua Horsch conducts an 18-piece orchestra drawn from the ranks of the Valley’s finest musicians. Kate St. Pierre (The Lab) directs.
In collaboration with Thurman White Academy, the Opera Las Vegas Youth Chorus led by Chorus Master Athena Mertes also plays a considerable role in the 80-minute opera. They not only act and sing the roles of Addie’s classmates as they rehearse and perform a holiday pageant, but four of them have solo roles right next to the professional opera singers. Richard Cohen and Nathan Gibbs are double-cast as Addie’s nemesis, Billy, while Yna Ocan and Lily Robin share the poignant role of the poorest girl in town, Gloria.
“This is a beautiful score, with some wonderful melodies, but also some very tricky rhythms, and the chorus is learning it amazingly quickly,” says Mertes, who knows a thing or two about Gordon and Vavrek’s operas. She starred in 2019’s OLV production of their piece, “27,” which was also the germ that resulted in OLV’s award-winning Living Composers and Librettists Initiative.
“We could not be happier than to be producing another jewel of a short opera created by Ricky and Royce, two consummately talented artists. When they were in town for the important West Coast premiere of their ‘27,’ Mayor Carolyn Goodman proclaimed Apr. 27, 2019, as 27 Day in the city in their honor,” says General Director Jim Sohre. “We are working very hard to ensure that House, their newest collaboration, is entertaining, moving, musically top-notch, and theatrically satisfying. The characters are well-drawn, the story is engaging, and the music is accessible. One recurring tune, ‘Gather Round the Christmas Tree,’ sounds like a familiar carol but is wholly new for this opera.”
Please note that in keeping with state and federal COVID guidance, audience members will be required to wear face masks fully covering the nose and mouth at all times inside the facility.
Performances are 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 19 and 3 p.m. on Nov. 20 and Nov. 21 at the Summerlin Library Theatre, 1771 Inner Circle Drive. To purchase tickets, visit www.operalasvegas.com.