Winter Opera St. Louis takes center stage for its 17th season with three timeless operettas: Don Giovanni, Manon Lescaut, and Naughty Marietta. "We encompass every art form. Beautiful orchestra, amazing singers, stunning costumes, poetry, Italian culture, comedy, and tragedy," said Gina Galati, the General Director of Winter Opera St. Louis. "I don't like to modernize operas. They are beautiful in the way the composer intended. There is something for everyone."
The masterpiece Don Giovanni composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is inspired by the legendary Don Juan. This comedic tale depicts the reckless journey of a charming and immoral young man who seals his fate. Performances are on November 17th and 19th at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center.
Winter Opera St. Louis found its home at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center in 2020. "We love being part of this community. Everyone at this theater appreciates and accepts us," said Gina.
Gina recalled the struggles of finding acceptance when she started this non-profit. "You would think people would want more opportunities for artists in St. Louis, but it was tough. Not every art and music organization welcomed our little opera company," said Gina. "But we stuck with it and were blessed to find people with the same vision and who believed we were making life better for people."
She credits her parents as her biggest supporters. "My mom pushed me to do music," recalled Gina. "I performed in musicals growing up but went to SLU on a tennis scholarship as a business major. In my first semester, I dislocated my shoulder and failed economics. Things were not going well for me at SLU," said Gina. "My mom said, 'Gina, you've always loved music. Go do something you enjoy.' So, I sang for the music department at Washington University and received a recommendation for their music school. That is when everything changed for me. There, I realized opera is where my voice sat well."
After obtaining a master's degree in music from Kansas University, Gina started singing with opera groups worldwide. "I traveled for six months out of the year for about 15 years," said Gina. "It was fun initially, but then in 2006, my parents called me from the World Series game, and I knew I wanted to find a way to sing at home."
After wrapping up production in Philadelphia of Giuseppe Verdi's Rigoletto, Gina had the idea of replicating that production in a church. She created an opera non-profit, raised $35,000, and held her first fully staged production of Rigoletto at St. Ambrose in February 2008. "We were sold out three weeks in advance for two performances," said Gina.
"Don't listen to people who say, ‘You can't.’ Don't let people frustrate you," advised Gina, who learned about fundraising while traveling with Washington University’s Chancellor and his fundraising team. “I sang and talked about my experience at the university; how they believed in me and helped develop my talent. I knew if I ever had my own opera company, I would stay true to my mission, treat people nicely, and create a great environment for the artists."
While Winter Opera is world renowned, the operation is still quite small with Gina leading a staff of two. “I have big dreams to expand our community offerings with music classes and lessons for kids. Kirkwood is awesome, and we look forward to becoming more of a presence in this community."
Winter Opera St. Louis is a musical journey and a testament to the power of passion and perseverance. Gina's dedication to excellence provides an incredible opera experience for enthusiasts and those wanting a wonderful evening of entertainment. We can't wait for the curtain to rise.