Shop Talk: Robert Lyall

Tell us a little about what you do for the New Orleans Opera Association. My formal titles are the General and the Artistic Director of the New Orleans Opera. This first title is one with an administrative focus and the second involves overseeing the artistic focus and planning of the Opera Association. There’s always a balancing act between these two functions.

Why is New Orleans called America’s first city of Opera? Historical documentation of the first known opera production in North America took place in the French Quarter in May of 1796. The influence of opera on the cultural development of New Orleans was profound.

Does the NOOA hold any education or community events? We have a robust education program for both children and adults. Through the generous support of our sponsors, we’re able to provide free tickets to our fully staged dress rehearsals to regional students. We also offer in-school performances and programming. For adults we offer programming through our Opera Nouvelle Series and Opera on Tap.

What upcoming event or production are you most excited for? Our February production of Tchaikovsky’s opera, Joan of Arc, is a unique combination of the NOOA’s mission to offer world-class opera productions and a celebration of the profound influence of French history and culture on our own heritage. Joan of Arc is considered the patron saint of New Orleans, so we’re also celebrating the 100th anniversary of her canonization. This is the first time that this opera – a work frequently produced in the United States – has been performed in our city, so it’s a special event for the NOOA and for the opera-loving audience.

Are there any specific areas of the NOOA that you would like to highlight? Our modern history is now 78 years old, and in that time, NOOA has played a prominent role in developing opera in America. We have enhanced the art form through our Scenic Studio, which developed physical productions that were a prominent presence throughout opera companies in the United States.

What production or show would you recommend to an Opera novice? This season it would be Mozart’s The Magic Flute. However, an individual’s encounter with any of the great masterpieces of the core repertoire of opera, like Madama Butterfly or La Bohème, will provide a wonderful gateway to the exhilarating world of opera.

New Orleans Opera Association, 935 Gravier St., 529-3000,


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