Ash Lawn Opera Launches its 40th Season with an Evening with Jay Hunter Morris

Charlottesville’s opera company presents a special performance and Q&A by world-renowned tenor Jay Hunter Morris on Saturday, December 3 at The Paramount Theater

 Ash Lawn Opera’s 40th Season features the East Coast premiere of Middlemarch in Spring in March followed by Rigoletto and Oklahoma! in the summer

October 17, 2016
Contact: Lydia Zodda, (434) 293-4500 ext. 2,

 Ash Lawn Opera launches its 40th Season as Charlottesville, Virginia’s premier opera company with a special performance of by world-renowned tenor Jay Hunter Morris on Saturday, December 3, 2016 at 8 pm. Morris will perform beloved opera arias, play guitar, and tell stories in his trademark Texan drawl. The 40th Season will continue with the East Coast premiere of Middlemarch in Spring by Allen Shearer and Claudia Stevens on March 23 and 24, 2017. Ash Lawn Opera’s production of Middlemarch in Spring marks its first-ever collaboration with the Virginia Festival of the Book, which will be held in Charlottesville from March 22-26, 2017. The summer then begins with Verdi’s tragic masterpiece Rigoletto followed by Rodgers and Hammerstein’s heartwarming Oklahoma! The 40th Season will be presented at the beautiful Paramount Theater in downtown Charlottesville, with an additional performance of Rigoletto at the Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre in Blacksburg, VA.

Fresh off his signature portrayal as Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick with Dallas Opera and a summer 2016 residency with the Glimmerglass Festival, Jay Hunter Morris is one of the most sought-after tenors in the United States. Praised by the New York Times for his “impressive stamina and robust character […] tenderness and subtlety” as the title character in San Francisco Opera’s Siegfried, Morris is famed for his portrayals of Wagner’s notoriously difficult heroic tenor roles. He has sung Siegfried in the Ring Cycle at the Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and more. The son of a Southern Baptist music minister and a church organist, Morris is not the stereotypical opera singer. His autobiography, Diary of a Redneck Opera Zinger, is a hilarious chronicle of his 15-year career, and showcases his down-to-earth talent. Morris will perform a one-of-a-kind program of opera, jazz, guitar, and more, followed by a Q&A. This performance is underwritten by the Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, Richard M. Ader and Joseph Erdman, Trustees.

The 40th Season will continue with the East Coast premiere of Middlemarch in Spring by composer Allen Shearer and librettist Claudia Stevens, the 2015 world premiere of which was singled out by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the top 10 operatic events of the year and by the Encyclopedia Britannica as one of the year’s most noteworthy new musical works. This lighthearted yet moving production brings George Eliot’s masterpiece Middlemarch to the operatic stage for the first time, and evokes an unforgettable spring in the English town of Middlemarch, one of passionate love and political upheaval. Ash Lawn Opera’s production will feature several important members of the successful 2015 debut cast in San Francisco, including renowned bass-baritone Philip Skinner, a veteran of many productions at the San Francisco and Metropolitan Operas. Ash Lawn Opera is excited to partner with the Virginia Festival of the Book for the first time on this production. The Virginia Festival of the Book is the largest community-based book event in the mid-Atlantic region, which holds events throughout the Charlottesville area and attracts more than 20,000 attendees annually. The 2017 Festival will be held from March 22 through 26. Ticketholders are invited to a lecture before the Thursday evening opening by librettist Stevens.

Ash Lawn Opera’s summer season will feature two unforgettable productions: Verdi’s Rigoletto and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, presented in July and August. One of the greatest works in the operatic canon, Rigoletto tells the tragedy of a father whose fervent attempts to protect his daughter from the dangers of the world cause her ruin. Featuring several incredibly popular arias, Verdi’s depiction of the machinations and scandals of a sixteenth century Italian court remains haunting and all-too-relevant today. For the second consecutive year, Ash Lawn Opera will also bring a performance of its mainstage opera to the beautiful Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre at Virginia Tech.

The season will conclude with Oklahoma!, the very first collaboration between composer Richard Rodgers and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II. Set in the Wild West at the turn of the century, this charming and heartfelt musical portrays the rivalry between a small town’s farmers and cowboys, which is brought to a head by the romance between Laurey, an earnest farm girl, and Curly, a rugged cowboy. Oklahoma! also presents a special collaboration between the Ash Lawn Opera and the Charlottesville Ballet, Charlottesville’s only professional dance company. Charlottesville Ballet is proud to include choreography by CB Artist Mary Hein, three professional soloists, and a student ensemble to bring the musical’s rousing dance numbers to life.  Featuring beloved songs including “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” and “People Will Say We’re In Love,” this classic musical will delight adults and children alike.

Ash Lawn Opera continues its longtime commitment to introducing children to opera through its year-round Education Programs, including its Artist-in-Residence, KidsFest, and Student Dress Rehearsal.  Since 1994, Ash Lawn Opera’s Education Programs have reached more than 15,000 children. This April, Teaching Artist Mary Gresock returns to Charlottesville for this year’s Artist-in-Residence program, as well as special programs centered on Middlemarch in Spring for high school literature, drama, and music students.



 An Evening with Jay Hunter Morris – Saturday, December 3, 2016 at 8:00 pm
The Paramount Theater, 215 E. Main St., Charlottesville, VA 22902
Tickets go on sale Friday, October 21, 2016.

Single adult tickets for An Evening with Jay Hunter Morris are priced from $29 to $44. Patron and Sponsor Level tickets are also available, which feature perks including a meet and greet with Morris, pre-concert dinner at award-winning eatery Fleurie, and a post-concert reception at The Paramount Theater. For single tickets, visit or contact The Paramount Theater Box Office at (434) 979-1333, open 10 am to 2 pm on weekdays, or go to For more information on Patron and Sponsor Level tickets, call Ash Lawn Opera at (434) 293-4500, e-mail, or visit

Middlemarch in Spring – Thursday, March 23, 2017 at 7:30 pm and Friday, March 24, 2017 at 2:00 pm
The Paramount Theater

Rigoletto – Sunday, July 9 at the Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre at Virginia Tech; Friday, July 14, Sunday, July 16, and Wednesday, July 19, 2017 at The Paramount Theater

Oklahoma! – Saturday, July 29, Sunday, July 30, Wednesday, August 2, Friday, August 4, and Saturday, August 5, 2017 at The Paramount Theater

Tickets for Middlemarch in Spring, Rigoletto, and Oklahoma! start at $25, and will be on sale at The Paramount in the coming weeks. Three-production and summer subscriptions will also be available.

Pre-Performance Lectures
Ticketholders are invited to an engaging and informative lecture 45 minutes before each Middlemarch in Spring, Rigoletto, and Oklahoma! performance.

Ash Lawn Opera is grateful for generous year-round support from the Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation.