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Curtain to fall on Opera Sacra after 40 years

Opera Sacra, the 40-year-old Buffalo company led by Reverend Jacob Ledwon and based at his parish, St. Joseph University Church, is entering its final act.

The company has announced that its next production, Arthur Honegger’s “Joan of Arc at the Stake,” will be its last. The 1935 opera about St. Joan of Arc, fully staged, will be presented at 8 p.m. Nov. 21 and 22.

“I have decided that 40 seasons is a good run,” Ledwon said in an email.

Opera Sacra, which focused on operas with religious themes, has presented many professional-quality productions over the past four decades. Last year it staged a haunting production of Francis Poulenc’s “Dialogues of the Carmelites,” about a convent of nuns guillotined during the French Revolution.

“Joan of Arc at the Stake” promises to be a dramatic finale. It shows that Opera Sacra will bow out with its spirit of adventure intact.

The lead characters, St. Joan and Brother Dominic, are speaking and not singing roles. They will be portrayed by soprano Colleen Marcello and WKBW-TV’s Mike Randall. The production will be conducted by Doreen Rao, the former director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus and a a leading figure in the choral world.

The opera’s unusual orchestration includes three saxophones, two pianos, a celeste and an ondes martenot, a rarely heard electronic instrument first created in 1928. Quebec native Genevieve Grenier has been engaged to play this rare instrument, which has a sound that synthesizers cannot duplicate. The company said in a press release: “It will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for most audience members to experience this unique sound with the presence of this world class artist in the orchestra.”

The two productions of “Joan of Arc at the Stake” will take place at St. Joseph University Church, 3269 Main St. Suggested donations at the door are $20, or $15 for students and seniors. Patron tickets at $50, and benefactor tickets at $100 will include preferred seating and an artist reception.

For information, call the parish, 833-8298.


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