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For the first time ever, Ozarks Lyric Opera presents Beethoven's 'Fidelio'

Courtesy Ozarks Lyric Opera

Michael Spyres is an international opera star and artistic director of Ozarks Lyric Opera. He joins Arts News as Beethoven's only opera, "Fidelio," is set to premiere in Springfield on October 20.

Ozarks Lyric Opera will present, for the first time ever in Springfield, a production of Beethoven's only opera, "Fidelio." Two performances will take the stage at the Gillioz Theatre on Friday, October 20 and Sunday, October 22.

Ozarks Lyric Opera artistic director Michael Spyres joined Arts News recently to promote Springfield's first-ever production of "Fidelio." Spyres, an international opera star performing this fall in Vienna and Hamburg, isn't singing in this particular opera in Springfield.

Spyres says "Fidelio" is part of a late-18th- to early-19th-century genre known as "rescue operas." Here a woman, Leonore, whose husband is a political prisoner, takes on a male disguise, calling herself "Fidelio." She infiltrates the prison by taking on a menial job there, determined to find — and free — her husband, Florestan.

OLO's cast includes two rising singers on the international circuit: soprano Sarah Benzinger as Leonore/Fidelio, and tenor Ric Furman as Florestan. Furman was last seen in Springfield as Don José in Georges Bizet's "Carmen" several years ago. Benzinger has regional roots: Her family is based in Fayetteville, Arkansas. With "Fidelio," she's making her Springfield debut.

Spyres says he was in Vienna recently, performing Gustav Mahler's symphonic song cycle "Das Lied von der Erde" ("The Song of the Earth"). While in Austria, he visited Theater an der Wien, where "Fidelio" received its premiere in 1814.

Spyres says the rest of OLO's season includes the regional opera company premiere of "The Black Rider," an opera by Tom Waits.

In Spyres' own performing career, he'll soon have his first excursions into the operas of Richard Wagner. In December, he'll sing Erik in "The Flying Dutchman" in Hamburg, Germany; the title role of "Lohengrin" in Strasbourg, France in March 2024; and that summer, Sypres plans to make his debut at Wagner's own Bayreuth Festival, as Siegmund in "Die Walkure."

Performances of "Fidelio" in Springfield are Friday, October 20 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, October 22 at 2:30 p.m. at the Gillioz Theatre, 325 Park Central East.

Tickets range from $27 to $47, and are available from the Gillioz box office. Call 417-863-9491 or visit gillioztheatre.com.

Randy Stewart joined the full-time KSMU staff in June 1978 after working part-time as a student announcer/producer for two years. His job has evolved from Music Director in the early days to encompassing production of a wide range of arts-related programming and features for KSMU, including the online and Friday morning Arts News. Stewart assists volunteer producers John Darkhorse (Route 66 Blues Express), Lee Worman (The Gold Ring), and Emily Higgins (The Mulberry Tree) with the production of their programs. He's also become the de facto "Voice of KSMU" in recent years due to the many hours per day he’s heard doing local station breaks. Stewart’s record of service on behalf of the Springfield arts community earned him the Springfield Regional Arts Council's Ozzie Award in 2006.