With the production of Mozart’s Magic Flute in June, 2018, the Muddy River Opera Company celebrates its 29th season of bringing fine operatic music to the Quincy, Illinois region. Since its founding in 1989 and its incorporation as a non-profit arts organization in 1990, Muddy River Opera Company has had as its mission two primary goals: to make professional quality opera performance available to the tri-state community, and to foster in young people a love of stories set to music and sung engagingly through a Children’s Opera Outreach program. In keeping with the first part of that mission, put in place by founders Mary Anne Scott and Mary Jane McCloskey, MROC consistently produces two to four operas each year. Productions of foreign-language operas are usually performed in English translation, although in recent years, the Company has mounted productions of opera in original language with projected English supertitles.
The Company hires guest artists as professional singers, directors, designers and/or instrumental musicians for every production. Although the Board of Directors accepts professional credentials throughout the year, auditions for roles in all productions take place prior to the beginning of each new season. Thus, the Company utilizes the Quincy community’s own impressive reserve of professional and amateur singers, musicians, and artists and also offers opportunities for younger musicians to grow into the operatic performance tradition.
Each year since 1989, MROC has produced both traditional and twentieth-century operas and operettas including Die Zauberflöte, La bohème, Dialogues of the Carmelites, The Pirates of Penzance, The Merry Widow, Jonah, The Medium, La Traviata, Die Fledermaus, Così fan tutte, Gianni Schicchi, Suor Angelica, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Rigoletto, HMS Pinafore, A Little Night Music, L’Elisir d’Amore, and Carmen. To celebrate its 20th season in 2010, MROC presented Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, featuring Quincy native and internationally acclaimed soprano Michèle Crider as Cio-Cio San. The 2016 production of Puccini’s Suor Angelica honored the memory of Avril-Marie Bernzen’s life and commitment to opera during her 20-year tenure as Artistic Director.
The early years of MROC’s educational Opera Outreach thrust involved touring with young professional singers between regional elementary schools to perform such children’s classics as Chanticleer or Jack and the Beanstalk. Students in Illinois and Missouri also had great introductions to snippets of masterpieces with Mini Magic Flute and Alice in Opera Land. In recent years, John Wood Community College welcomed elementary students and home schoolers as they did the traveling to campus for MROC performances of modern works such as Sid the Serpent and Noye’s Fludde.
In March of 2016, MROC expanded its educational efforts to mirror more closely the second thrust of the Company’s founding mission vision. Along with providing young professional singers performance experience through Opera Outreach, MROC could expand the possibilities for excellent children’s opera to schools by providing performance opportunities to fine regional college musicians as well. The 2016 production of How Nanita Learned to Make Flan saw the first collaboration between Culver-Stockton College, John Wood Community College, and Quincy University in the regional cooperative consortium that will define MROC Outreach into the future.
With the expanding of the Outreach scope has come a return to the vagabond days of touring as the college casts of the three consortium campuses reach out to perform in public and parochial elementary schools, often giving up spring break time in March. Each cast also gives the general public a tour preview in an open dress rehearsal in a host Quincy church or in the Lewis Street Playhouse in Canton, Missouri. Little Red Riding Hood in 2017 and Hansel and Gretel in 2018 brought over 300 first through fifth graders into contact with the world of opera.
Thus, Muddy River Opera Company looks to the future as it fulfills its promise to the past. Together, professional artists working in the performance world, excellent regional musicians, and dedicated students bring to the entire community the very finest in operatic experience.
Memberships and sponsorships from corporations and individuals are being sought by MROC to help with the costs associated in putting together our educational and opera productions.