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Long Leaf Opera

Long Leaf Opera

Great Hall, St. Phillips Episcopal Church, 402 East Main Street

Founded in 1998 by playwright/director/composer Randolph Umberger and composer/conductor Benjamin Keaton and beginning with one-acts, the company has become successful enough to not only add full-length productions but also launch an eclectic summer festival. The offbeat name comes from the long leaf pine, a source for tar and pitch for vessels in the age of sail (and the state’s nickname, the Tar Heel State).

This iconoclastic identity – virtually every other company in the country bears the name of its home city or state – reflects its artistic mission: to perform musical works written in English, many of which deal with the American experience. No standard repertoire here. In fact, the company specializes in world premieres, some of which it commissions. Susan Kander’s One False Move, a recent short work in its ambitious Outreach program for schools, deals with female bullying. That’s about as far from the Grand March in Aida as you can get. Chandler Carter’s Strange Fruit deals with interracial love in Georgia in the 1920s. Jorge Martin’s The Glass Hammer sets poet Andrew Hudgin’s recollections of growing up as an army brat in the South to music.

The company also hosts the annual Long Leaf Opera National Vocal Competition. Winners receive cash prizes and the opportunity to sing a major role in an upcoming production. In 2007 it launched an international competition for new operatic works, with more than a hundred entries coming in thus far from all points of the globe. Long Leaf is further distinguished by its commitment some of the lowest ticket prices in the country, due in part to staging its productions in non-traditional venues.

Long Leaf Opera Information

  • Public Transportation: Poor
  • Handicapped Accessibility: Good
  • Performances/Programs: Four programs per season.
  • Ticket Prices: Individual tickets $10-20 (varies depending on production, with discounts for students and seniors.
  • Subscriptions: General season tickets $70, Seniors/college students $60, younger students $30.