Sunday, March 1, 2009

Meet Stella Markou, a new soprano in town

This stunningly beautiful character is one of the newer additions to the extended St. Louis music family - and, it is hoped, to the Poetry Scores collective.

Stella is a soprano and vocal teacher at University of Missouri - St. Louis who is still finishing her graduate degree back in Arizona, even as she tours the country as a performer and produces a spirited student production on campus.

Lest she be mistaken for another pretty face and body, visit her website to hear her sing. You'll want to wrap any precious glasses in soft paper before she hits some of these notes!

The Bell Song
Leo Delibes

Craig Walsh

Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5
Heitor Villa-Lobos

Canto para la partida de los guerreros
Cantata para América Mágica
Alberto Ginastera

Canto de agonía y desolación
Cantata para América Mágica
Alberto Ginastera

I only know about Stella by reporting for The St. Louis American on the student production she is producing. Here is my feature from the current edition of the paper. I am toying with going to see the show on Wednesday so I can introduce myself to Stella and give her some of our CDs in a hope to entice her into the project.

Here is my story:

Opera in color
New UMSL production features ample black talent

By Chris King
St. Louis American

Classical music traditions are struggling to find new, younger, more diverse audiences. They need to ask Stella Markou what her secret is.

Markou – an operatic soprano and director of vocal studies at UMSL – has a new production coming to stage at the Touhil on March 3 and 4 that features (count ‘em) four African-American students: Wyatte Jamison, April Lowe, Jenny Beasley and Audreia Norman.

This beautiful young teacher and performer has glowing things to say about all of them.“Jenny Beasley is a double major, biology and Spanish – she just got back from Spain,” Markou said.

“She is a huge aficionado of opera, but this is her first time staging and doing things.”

Wyatte Jamison also is only dabbling in opera, rather than pursuing a major – he is studying political science, though his director said he plays a “vital role” in one piece and a “pivotal role” in another.

“He is just a joy, an incredible human being overall,” she said of Jamison. “He is a youth leader, sings in a gospel choir and his father is a preacher.”

His father, the Rev. Henry C. Jones, is pastor of Ira Grove Free Will Baptist Church in East St. Louis, where the family lives.

April Lowe comes to the voice from another instrument – she plays bass clarinet in the university symphonic band.

“Last year, she wanted to sing, wanted to learn, though she had no exposure whatsoever,” Markou said.

“I couldn’t fit her in, so I tracked her down this year. This is her first debut in opera, period. She has made quite extraordinary strides.”

Audreia Norman is the one with the operatic name – as in soprano Jessye Norman – and training. She was formerly part of the artist-in-training program at Opera Theater of St. Louis.

“She has a tremendous lyric voice,” Markou said of her.

Markou is directing all of these talents (and more) in UMSL Opera Theatre in an interesting production based on the seven deadly sins titled Desire, Deception and All Things Wicked, incorporating the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Benjamin Britten, Gioachino Rossini and others.

Opera might sound boring and old-fashioned to those who haven’t developed an ear for art song or an eye for highly theatrical staging, but you wouldn’t think “boring” if you read plot summaries of famous operas or just followed the stories.

There is a reason why they call soap operas “soap operas.” There is a whole lot of loving and cheating and losing going on.

In describing her students’ roles, Markou resorts to descriptions such as “the servant of the wronged wife” and “the forsaken wife who is killed off.”

As for the director herself, Markou served as moderator for the Teatro Lirico D'Europa performance of Aida at UMSL's Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center, and has performed with the Ambassadors of Harmony and Arianna String Quartet.

She is scheduled to sing at a Maria Callas tribute in Boston and in the June staging of the musical Booth in New York, which was composed by UMSL’s own Barbara Harbach and Niyi Coker.

UMSL Opera Theatre will perform Desire, Deception and All Things Wicked 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 3 and Wednesday, March 4 in the E. Desmond and Mary Ann Lee Theater at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center on the UMSL campus. It is free and open to the public.

Call 314-516-5980 or visit

1 comment:

The Fête Society said...

I posted the UMSL opera event on March 3 & 4 on my recommended things to do list. I didn't know the opera would include young talents, too.