Kentucky Opera Association (Louisville, KY)


  Large-scale puppet with a menacing grin and huge teeth, with smaller puppet figures in front at chest level

For Kentucky Opera's November 2005 production of The Happy Prince, Amy Trompetter created puppets of various sizes to portray characters in the Malcolm Williamson opera based on the short story of Oscar Wilde. Photo by John Fitzgerald, courtesy of Kentucky Opera

Founded in 1952, the Kentucky Opera (KYO) in Louisville is one of the nation's oldest opera companies. The company is the only major producer of professional opera programming in the state, offering several outreach programs that tour throughout Kentucky in addition to its mainstage season in Louisville. KYO's programs reach more than 40,000 people annually.

In FY 2005, the Kentucky Opera Association received an NEA Access to Artistic Excellence grant of $15,000 to support a professional puppet opera production of The Happy Prince, the classic children's story by Oscar Wilde with libretto by Malcolm Williamson. The KYO production incorporated the puppetry and design by nationally known artist Amy Trompetter. After holding preliminary stagings in New York City in fall 2004, the premiere was held in Louisville on November 5, 2005.

The Happy Prince, first composed and performed in 1965, is a one-act opera sung in English. The production is particularly suited for school and family audiences, with larger-than-life puppets combined with the stage presence of the singers. Kentucky Educational Television documented the creation and performance of the production to air on its school and public broadcast channels statewide.


Dancer/puppeteer Quin Yi as the swallow watches a sick child (sung by soprano Susan Ruggiero-Mezzadri) ask his mother (sung by soprano Rebecca Davis) for sweet oranges in Kentucky Opera's production of The Happy Prince. Photo by John Fitzgerald, courtesy of Kentucky Opera

In addition to performances, KYO offered a free lecture in conjunction with the Speed Art Museum on the common thread between opera and the visual aspects of puppetry. Short Opera Preview lectures also were offered prior to each performance.

After the premiere, the production toured to six Kentucky communities, which included a morning performance for school audiences and an evening public performance in each community. Study guides and free Preview CDs and videos were available to teachers and classes attending the school performances.

(From the NEA 2005 Annual Report)