East Village Opera Company at Edison Theatre May 2

Powerhouse ensemble bring rock-and-roll arrangements to opera's greatest hits

You’ve heard opera, and you’ve heard rock, but you’ve never heard opera rocked like the East Village Opera Company.

Over the last five years this powerhouse ensemble — comprising a five-piece band, a string quartet and two outstanding vocalists — has created electric, hard-hitting arrangements of many of opera’s “greatest hits.” In May the East Village Opera Company will make its St. Louis debut as part of the Edison Theatre OVATIONS! Series at Washington University.

East Village Opera Company
The East Village Opera Company performs at Edison Theatre May 2.

The special, one-night-only performance will begin at 8 p.m. Friday, May 2. Tickets are $30; $25 seniors and Washington University faculty and staff; and $18 for students and children. Tickets are available at the Edison Theatre Box Office and through all MetroTix outlets. Edison Theatre is located in the Mallinckrodt Student Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd. For more information, call (314) 935-6543 or email Edison@wustl.edu.

The East Village Opera Company was co-founded by singer Tyley Ross and arranger/multi-instrumentalist Peter Kiesewalter.

Ross — who is also an actor and a singer-songwriter — began performing in his early teens and was hand-picked by Pete Townshend to play the title character in the Canadian production of The Who’s Tommy. He later starred on Broadway in Miss Saigon and in 2001 was cast in the Canadian film Kiss of Debt as an aspiring opera singer under the thumb of a crime boss.

Kiesewalter, who earned a classical performance degree in clarinet from Ottawa University, is a former musical director for New York’s The Bottom Line’s Downtown Messiah, a seasonal presentation that recasts Handel’s oratorio for pop-music performers. In 2001 he was working as a house com¬poser at ABC-TV when he was approached to create contemporary settings of tradi¬tional arias for Kiss of Debt.

“Peter agreed to do one song, initially,” Ross says, “but we had such a good time that we quickly recorded 15 songs.”

In 2003 Ross and Kiesewalter mastered those extra tracks and self-released La Donna, the first East Village Opera Company album. Brash and inventive, it featured classic arias — such as “La donna è mobile,” from Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto, and “Vesti la giubba,” from Ruggiero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci —interpreted as everything from disco to bossa nova to arena rock.

East Village Opera Company
East Village Opera Company

In March 2004 the East Village Opera Company made its live before a small crowd at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan. “The reaction was unbelievable,” Ross recalls. “From that one show, we had national press virtually overnight.” He adds that, “within a couple months, we were selling the place out. Within a year, we had signed a deal with Universal Classics.”

For the group’s 2005 self-titled major label debut, Ross and Kiesewalter recruited female vocalist AnnMarie Milazzo for tracks such as “Au fond du temple saint,” from Georges Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers, and “Ebben? Ne andrò lontana,” from Alfredo Catalani’s La Wally. The album was produced by Neil Dorfsman, a three-time Grammy Award winner who previously worked with Sting, Dire Straits, Paul McCartney, Bjork and others. String arrange¬ments were recorded in Prague by the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra featuring lead violinist Pauline Kim.

By embracing what Kiesewalter calls “the pomposity of rock and the pomposity of opera” without demeaning or satirizing either form, the East Village Opera Company succeeds where count¬less other “classical-crossover” efforts have failed.

“We have a profound love and respect for the opera,” Kiesewalter explains. “But it’s so dramatic, so over the top by today’s standards, that it cannot be delivered with a straight face. You need a little bit of irreverence in it.”

Ross concludes that, “With modern recording technology and a wide variety of musical styles at our disposal, our goal has been to approach these songs the way we feel the composers would were they alive today.”


Founded in 1973, the Edison Theatre OVATIONS! Series serves both Washington University and the St. Louis community by providing the highest caliber national and international artists in music, dance and theater, performing new works as well as innovative interpretations of classical material not otherwise seen in St. Louis.

Edison Theatre programs are made possible with support from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; the Regional Arts Commission, St. Louis; and private contributors. The OVATIONS! Season is supported by The Mid-America Arts Alliance with generous underwriting by the National Endowment for the Arts and foundations, corporations and individuals throughout Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.

Calendar Summary

WHO: East Village Opera Company

WHAT: Concert

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, May 2

WHERE: Edison Theatre, Washington University, Mallinckrodt Student Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd.

TICKETS: $30; $25 for seniors and WUSTL faculty and staff; $18 for students and children. Available through the Edison Theatre Box Office, (314) 935-6543, and all MetroTix outlets.

SPONSOR: Edison Theatre OVATIONS! Series

INFORMATION: (314) 935-6543 or edisontheatre.wustl.edu