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Opera Las Vegas to present The Billy Goats Gruff

Did you know that the opera composers Mozart, Rossini, Offenbach, and Donizetti collaborated to write The Billy Goats Gruff? Neither did they!


John Davies cleverly re-purposed music from world-famous operas to tell the familiar Grimm Brothers story of three billy goat friends whose after-school games are spoiled when a bully blocks the bridge, preventing them from going home. Using what they learned about bullies from their moms, dads, and teachers, the trio prevails and even teaches a lesson about forgiveness and friendship. Free performances include May 10 and May 12 at Whitney Library and Clark County Library.


The three friends and their nemesis find ample opportunity to sing and cavort entertainingly, and in this production, Grimm’s familiar, humble characters are married to operatic singing of the highest order. These family-friendly performances appeal to children of all ages, and indeed, many regular opera patrons also show up in force for these adaptations. Young families learn about the operatic art form and its universal appeal by presenting classical music in such a delightful fashion, followed by an audience meet-and-greet.


Along with the timeless music, The Billy Goats Gruff imparts an uplifting message. When the goat Lucy has seen her beloved doll, Lucie D. Lammermoor, snatched from a safe hiding place by the meanie, Osmin; she at first feels helpless to cross the bridge to retrieve her “friend.” But she refuses to abandon her and won’t leave her alone to go for help along with her friends, Ernesto and Dandini. Instead, she confronts the bully Osmin, and prevails by inadvertently pushing him into the creek below.


Immediately concerned for his well-being, Lucy shows her would-be adversary kindness by asking if he’s okay. He responds in kind by asking if she’s okay. By the time Ernesto and Dandini return with help, Lucy is able to introduce a soggy, forlorn ex-bully as their new friend. The moral: Kindness is contagious.


Adaptor Davies seized on an artistic opportunity to present the concept that acceptance of others unlike us is an important contemporary subject and, more importantly, that our attitude toward others who are “different” is a lesson we learn when we are young. 


Athena Mertes (Lucy) is well known by OLV audiences for such soprano roles as Zelda in Mack and McGuire’s The Ghosts of Gatsby, and Silvia in last fall’s World Premiere of Fowler and Flack’s Behold the Man. Soprano Lisa Elliott (Ernesto) has been heard as Barcarole the Dog in  Opera Las Vegas’ The Bremen Town Musicians, as well as a featured soloist in Linda Lister’s State of Grace at UNLV Opera Theater.  Baritone Chase Gutierrez (Dandini) is remembered for playing the jailer in OLV’s Tosca, and Marchese D’Obigny in last season’s La traviata. Bass Norman Espinoza (Osmin), was last seen by OLV audiences as a soloist in Holiday on Broadway, as well as Voices Raised for Vets. The Opera Las Vegas Youth chorus as the friendly Woodland Animals is rounding out the cast.


The production is directed by Dr. Linda Lister, a renowned soprano, teacher, composer and author.  As a singer, she was featured in OLV’s West Coast Premiere of Mack and McGuire’s The Ghosts of Gatsby, and she has directed numerous successful productions as head of UNLV Opera Theater, such as Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites, and most recently, Rossini’s Count Ory. 


Performances are scheduled for 6 p.m. May 10 at 6 p.m. at Whitney Library, 5175 E Tropicana Ave., and 3 p.m. Clark County Library, 1401 E. Flamingo Road. No tickets are required for the performances, and general seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, visit






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