RELEASE: Omaha Symphony and Opera Omaha join forces for a dazzling operatic orchestral experience

Soprano Karen Slack and baritone Craig Irvin bring mastery to the works of Chausson and Mahler
Mozart’s charming overture to “Così fan tutte” and Bizet’s showstopping suite from “Carmen” bookend a magical evening of collaboration

OMAHA, Neb., April 13, 2021—The Omaha Symphony and Opera Omaha present a weekend of some of the repertoire’s best music from the operatic, orchestral and vocal literature. Guest conductor Conner Gray Covington leads the Omaha Symphony while soprano Karen Slack and baritone Craig Irvin bring the drama, adventure, heartbreak, tragedy and comedy to the Holland Center for an evening of dreamy vocals and exquisite orchestrations.

“We’re excited to collaborate with our long-time partners at Opera Omaha,” said Omaha Symphony President & CEO Jennifer Boomgaarden. “Vocal music and orchestral music, when written by the great masters showcased on this program, can be so artistically symbiotic. We’re fortunate to live in Omaha where creative collaborators, like Opera Omaha, abound.”

Performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 23 and Saturday, April 24 at the Holland Performing Arts Center Peter Kiewit Concert Hall.

“We are grateful to the Omaha Symphony for this opportunity to join together on an exciting program of exceptional music,” said Opera Omaha General Director Roger Weitz. “Amidst a year that has required new levels of innovation, perseverance, and dedication to serving the community, Opera Omaha is fortunate to have a partner in the Omaha Symphony that has excelled in all three.”

Performance Details:

Friday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, April 24 at 7:30 p.m.

Holland Performing Arts Center Peter Kiewit Concert Hall

Karen Slack, soprano
Craig Irvin, baritone

MOZART: Overture to “Cosi fan tutte”

CHAUSSON: “Poème de l'amour et de la mer” (Poem of Love and the Sea)

MAHLER: “Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen” (Songs of a Wayfarer)

BIZET: Selections from “Carmen” Suites 1 and 2

The performance opens with the overture to Mozart’s third and final Lorenzo da Ponte opera (the two preceding it being “Le nozze di Figaro” and “Don Giovanni”), “Cosi fan tutte.” An opera whose title loosely translates to “women are like that,” its overture is light and farcical, reflecting the boisterous and ridiculous antics of a pair of men who test the fidelity of their fiancés via a series of bets their beloveds, of course, catch wind of. The overture is as sparkling, fun, and light on its feet as the comedy that follows.

Soprano Karen Slack sings French composer Chausson’s dreamy song cycle, “Poème de l'amour et de la mer,” or “Poem of Love and the Sea.” Chausson set a collection of Maurice Bouchor’s poems to music with gorgeous orchestral interludes between; solos in the bassoon and violin invoke Debussy’s “The Afternoon of the Faun,” while Chausson’s treatment of the text points to the composer’s fascination with Wagner.

Baritone Craig Irvin sings Mahler’s “Songs of a Wayfarer,” a work the young composer penned fresh off of heartbreak from a failed relationship with the actress Johanna Richter. Composed for voice and piano between 1883 and 1885, he expanded the accompaniment to full orchestra less than a decade later. The cycle explores grief over losing love (“On my love’s wedding day”), moves into travels and love of nature via the primary theme from Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 (“I went this morning over the field”), to despair (“I have a gleaming knife”) and finally ends in a state of tender resolution (“My love’s two blue eyes”).

The evening finishes with the orchestral version of Bizet’s beloved suite from “Carmen.” One of the most referenced and well-loved operas in all of the repertoire, “Carmen” was not an initial success; in fact, a critic at the premiere complained of the “lack of any good tunes.” The opera’s longstanding place not only in the classical canon but in its continued relevance in pop culture throughout history render this claim to be categorically false. Audiences can look forward to tunes they’ll recognize instantly by their sound if not by their name, including the “Argonaise” and “The Torreador Song.”

About Karen Slack

Hailed for possessing a voice of extraordinary beauty, a seamless legato and great dramatic depth, American soprano Karen Slack has appeared with the Metropolitan Opera where she made her debut in the title role of Verdi’s “Luisa Miller,” Lyric Opera of Chicago, Washington National Opera, and San Francisco Opera. In recent seasons, she has appeared as Alice Ford in “Falstaff,” Leonora in “Il trovatore” and Tosca with Arizona Opera, as Aïda at Austin Opera, Emelda Griffith in “Champion” with New Orleans Opera, Donna Anna in “Don Giovanni” with Nashville Opera, Violetta in “La Traviata” with Sacramento Opera and Sister Rose in “Dead Man Walking” with both Minnesota Opera and Vancouver Opera and her Scottish Opera debut as Anna in Puccini’s “Le villi.” Additionally, Ms. Slack portrayed a featured role as the Opera Diva in Tyler Perry’s movie and soundtrack “For Colored Girls.” Ms. Slack is an artistic advisor for Portland Opera, co-director for the 2020-21 Opera Program at the Banff Centre for the Performing Arts, and co-chair of the Women's Opera Network with Opera America.

Ms. Slack’s 2019-2020 season included a return to The Metropolitan Opera as Serena in “Porgy and Bess,” a recital with Opera Philadelphia, guest soloist for Madison Opera’s virtual Opera in the Park, and a series of recitals throughout the US including the Vilar Center for the Performing Arts in Vail, Colorado, with pianist Joe Illick. This season sees her in digital performances with Opera Philadelphia, Houston Grand Opera, Madison Opera, and Minnesota Opera. Additionally, she stars in “Driving While Black” with UrbanArias. In response to the rash of cancellations due to COVID-19, Ms. Slack launched a digital talk show, KikiKonversations, which has garnered critical acclaim and a large online following.

A graduate of the Adler Fellowship and Merola Opera Program at the San Francisco Opera, the native Philadelphian is also a graduate of the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music. She is a winner of numerous competitions and awards: most notably the Montserrat Caballe International Competition, Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, George London Foundation Award, Marian Anderson ICON Award, Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, Rosa Ponselle International Vocal Competition, Portland Opera Lieber Award, Liederkranz Foundation Award and the Jose Iturbi International Competition for Voice.

About Craig Irvin

Opera News has hailed Craig Irvin’s “rich, resonant baritone” while the Dallas Morning News has celebrated his “truly commanding baritone.” This season includes returns to Minnesota Opera as Orest in “Elektra” and Utah Opera for a reprise of his Lt. Horstmayer in “Silent Night.” Irvin’s 2018-2019 season saw the revival of his Dan Packard in “Dinner at Eight” with the Wexford Festival, Lt. Horstmayer in “Silent Night” with Austin Opera, Valentin in “Faust” with Opera Omaha, and Rachmaninoff’s “The Bells” with the Portland Symphony. The 2017-2018 season included singing Dominik and covering Mandryka in “Arabella” with Canadian Opera Company, Handel’s “Messiah” with the Jacksonville Symphony, Britten’s “War Requiem” with Music Worchester, Stubb in “Moby Dick” with Utah Opera, Dandini in “La Cenerentola” with Opera Orlando, and Frank in “Die Fledermaus” with Des Moines Metro Opera.

While in residence with Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Opera Center, Craig was seen as Angelotti in “Tosca,” Zuniga in “Carmen,” Theseus in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Sam in “A Masked Ball,” Imperial Commissioner in “Madama Butterfly,” Doctor/ Professor in “Lulu,” and Ashby in “La fanciulla del West.” Other recent engagements include Lieutenant Horstmayer in the world premiere of Kevin Puts’ new opera “Silent Night” with Minnesota Opera and subsequent performances with Opera Philadelphia, Fort Worth Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and Atlanta Opera. Additionally he has sung Count Almaviva in Mozart’s “Le nozze di Figaro” and Zurga in “Les pêcheurs de perles” with Utah Opera, Dan Packard in “Dinner at Eight,” Mandryka in “Arabella,” and Peter in “Hänsel und Gretel” with Minnesota Opera, made his role debut as Macbeth with LoftOpera, sang Escamillo in “Carmen” with Fort Worth Opera, debuted with Sarasota Opera as Marcello in “La bohème” and Anchorage Opera in the title role of “The Mikado,” sang Pirate King in “The Pirates of Penzance” with Nashville Opera and Pensacola Opera, made his role debut as Dandini in Pensacola Opera’s “La Cenerentola,” and performed the Villains in “The Tales of Hoffman” and Leporello in “Don Giovanni” with Wolf Trap Opera.

A native of Iowa, Mr. Irvin completed his undergraduate study at the Simpson College in Indianola under the tutelage of Dr. Robert L. Larsen.

About Conner Gray Covington

Currently in his fourth season as associate conductor with the Utah Symphony, Conner Gray Covington also serves as the principal conductor of the Deer Valley® Music Festival, the summer home of the Utah Symphony. Last season, Covington conducted two subscription programs with the Utah Symphony and made his subscription debut by stepping in on short notice for a program of Andrew Norman and Gershwin. During his tenure in Utah so far, Covington has already conducted nearly 250 performances of classical, education, film, pops, and family concerts as well as tours throughout the state. Previously, he was a conducting fellow at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where he worked closely with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, with whom he made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2016, and the Curtis Opera Theater while also being mentored by Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. He began his career as assistant conductor of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and music director of the Memphis Youth Symphony Program. A four-time recipient of a Career Assistance Award from the Solti Foundation U.S., Covington was a featured conductor in the 2016 Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview presented by the League of American Orchestras.

Ticketing Information

Tickets for Bizet, Mahler, & Chausson start at $20. Tickets can be purchased by visiting, through the Ticket Omaha app, or by calling Ticket Omaha at 402.345.0606. Student rush tickets are $10 and can be purchased one hour before the performance. Performance dates are subject to change. In the event of performance changes or cancellations, the Omaha Symphony will email ticket holders to inform them of new dates and ticketing options. Patrons with questions may email The Omaha Symphony also regularly posts performance updates at, along with the Omaha Symphony’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages. Patrons can sign up for the latest updates at

Public Health Information

Performances at the Holland Performing Arts Center feature physically distanced seating and will only be seated at a maximum of 30 percent capacity. All patrons will be required to complete a health screening questionnaire prior to accessing their mobile tickets via the Ticket Omaha app. Masks are required at indoor Omaha Symphony performances. The following changes have been implemented within the venue:

  • Enhanced Cleaning & Sanitation - Electrostatic technology disinfecting large common areas, enhanced sanitizing of high touch surfaces with hospital grade disinfectant and hand sanitizing stations throughout the venue
  • Heating and Cooling System – Upgrades to air handling units includes bipolar ionization filtering out viruses through ventilation
  • Staff Precautions – Staff and volunteers are required to complete a health screening upon entrance to the building, wear face masks and receive temperature checks.
  • Touchless Experience – Tickets are accessible via the Ticket Omaha app. Tickets can also be printed at Will Call. Program notes will be delivered digitally.

Find the most up to date public health information at

This performance is sponsored by Omaha Steaks.

The Omaha Symphony is a non-profit organization that presents more than 100 live orchestral performances from September through June. In addition to Masterworks, Symphony Pops, Symphony Rocks, Movies, Symphony Joslyn, and Family series concerts, the Omaha Symphony’s nationally recognized education and community engagement programs touch the lives of more than 40,000 people each year. For tickets or information regarding the Omaha Symphony, call 402-345-0606 or visit Programs, artists, dates, times, prices, and availability are subject to change.