Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
IPR Music

Des Moines Metro Opera Puts Tickets On Sale For 2021 Summer Festival Season

The John Holiday Experience - DMMO
Des Moines Metro Opera
After a successful debut in 2018 as the Refugee in Flight, countertenor and recent finalist of NBC's The Voice, John Holiday, returns to DMMO for a special program entitled The John Holiday Experience.

The plains are alive with the sound of a wild barber, ghostly apparitions, ornery mythical characters, forbidden love... and music. Read more about the DMMO’s 2021 summer festival season.

With safety protocols firmly in place, the nationally acclaimed Des Moines Metro Opera is revving back up for the 2021 summer festival season. The long-awaited return to in-person opera has finally arrived!

In advance of the season, the DMMO has posted their COVID-19 safety and health protocols on their website. Please check it regularly for the latest updates.

“We are proud to take this bold, progressive step in partnership with Gov. Kim Reynolds, the Iowa Department of Public Health, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and Hy-Vee Indianola,” said General and Artistic Director Michael Egel. “We also acknowledge that our first public performances are not until July 2, giving us opportunities to review and revise as the situation evolves and as new information becomes available.”

About the upcoming season

This summer’s DMMO mainstage performances include Sondheim’s 1979 macabre musical sensation "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street." Tchaikovsky’s eerie and fate-tinged tragedy "The Queen of Spades" hints at the otherworldly. Rameau’s humorous and sassy 18th century hit "Platée" which revolves around unruly mythological gods and a high-tenor water nymph, rounds-out the DMMO’s mainstage productions held at the Pote Theatre in Indianola.

The DMMO’s 2nd Stages Summer Series features Spear’s and Pierce’s opera based on Mallon’s 2007 novel called "Fellow Travelers." The forward-looking McCarthy-era-based work, lingers around the veiled “Lavender Scare” and will be staged in downtown Des Moines at the historic Hoyt Sherman Place Theatre.

The DMMO 2nd Stages series also showcases the fifth-place-winner of NBC’s Season 19 of The Voice! Countertenor John Holiday presents an extraordinary concert appearance sharing his operatic, jazz, and pop talents with the 2nd Stage audience. The John Holiday Experience concert will be presented at Drake University in Sheslow Auditorium.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Des Moines Metro Opera
"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" was the rage of Broadway when it premiered, winning eight Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Original Score.

The grizzly musical thriller by Sondheim with book by Hugh Wheeler, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," had by the early 1980s won both eight Tony Awards and an Olivier Award for Best New Musical. The Des Moines Metro Opera’s vengeance-driven title role in the DMMO’s new production is Maryland Baritone, Zachary Nelson. A regular at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and other famous opera houses around the globe, Nelson is a newcomer to the DMMO stage. He takes Sweeney Todd’s character to new heights with his flair for the dramatic and his lush and commanding baritone voice.

Portraying Nelson’s sidekick, the eccentric Mrs. Lovett, is mezzo-soprano and English diva with Illinois roots, Lucy Schaufer. The undefinable Schaufer is known for her chameleon-like character-adapting abilities. Having performed in major opera houses worldwide, Schaufer, is likewise making her DMMO debut. She creates a scrumptiously bizarre Mrs. Lovett and also possesses the culinary knack of baking up a deliciously mean pot pie.

Pulling this Sondheim treasure out of the scullery is DMMO Principal Conductor and Music Director David Neely with stage direction by Kristine McIntyre.

The Queen of Spades

Des Moines Metro Opera
"The Queen of Spades" is a Russian ghost story. There are five chances to see this opera at the Blank Performing Arts Center in Des Moines.

Tchaikovsky premiered his third opera, "The Queen of Spades," in 1890. A quote from the opera’s final act eventually became a Russian adage: “Life is but a game.”

Tchaikovsky was inspired to write "The Queen of Spades" after viewing Bizet’s love and destiny-driven, "Carmen." Considered by many to be Tchaikovsky’s best opera, this desolate, fate-centered tragedy was based on a setting of a short Pushkin story grounded in obsession, supernatural visions, missed opportunities, and greed.

Three beloved DMMO singers take on the moving principal roles in this new production. Tackling the challenging role of the possessed Gherman is tenor Jonathan Burton. Known for being “an engaging all-around singer with a powerful, full-bodied sound,” (Opera News) Burton starred as Dick Johnson in the DMMO’s production of Puccini’s "The Girl of the Golden West" and as Calaf in the DMMO’s Turandot performances. A protégé of Lorin Maazel, Mr. Burton has also performed with the Welsh National, the Austin, the Central City, the Knoxville, the Florida Grand, the Boston Lyric, the New York City, and the Sarasota Operas, to name a few.

Soprano Sara Gartland has sung with the Dallas, the Minnesota, the San Francisco, the San Diego, the Austin, the Arizona, the Utah, and the Canadian Opera Companies, along with others. She received rave reviews after her appearance as Marie in the DMMO’s production of "Wozzeck" from Opera News. “The poignant Marie of Sara Gartland was somethingof a revelation. Gartland delivered the character through a gleaming column of sound that remained incisive yet consistently beautiful throughout the range up to the top C.”

Gartland has sung other lead roles in DMMO productions including "Rusalka," "Jenůfa," Juliette in "Romèo et Juliette," "Regina," and "Wozzeck." A native of St. Paul, Gartland now considers the DMMO her home opera house.

In "The Queen of Spades," Gartland will sing the role of Gherman’s femme fatale, Lisa.

Renowned mezzo-soprano Joyce Castle will similarly appear in the DMMO’s production of "The Queen of Spades." Veteran of 140 roles in opera houses around the world, Castle is celebrating her fifty-first successful year as a multi-talented singer and actress, including her fourteen-year singing reign at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

Castle has assumed many classic DMMO roles. Pre-pandemic, she cooked up a tasty one-woman rendering of the culinary phenome Julia Child by appearing in the DMMO’s hilarious production of Lee Hoiby’s Bon Appetit.

Castle will perform with the DMMO as Tchaikovsky’s Countess. As the Countess, Castle appears as Lisa’s loving grandmother and conjures up a not-so-charming ghostly phantom as well.

Internationally respected Matthew Ozawa will direct, and the DMMO Principal Conductor and Music Director Maestro David Neely will serve as conductor.


Des Moines Metro Opera
The vain Platée thinks every man who comes near her will instantly fall in love—and once she's convinced the god Jupiter has fallen victim to her charms, her narcissism grows to Olympus-sized proportions! Rameau's French Baroque masterpiece features tenor Taylor Stayton (pictured above) who offers up Hollywood glamour and feminine allure in this cheeky adult comedy.

The Des Moines Metro Opera’s production of Rameau’s comic romp "Platée" stars tenor Taylor Slayton in the haute-contre, (high tenor) title role.

Rameau calls upon the gods and their shenanigans in "Platée." Platée, a self-absorbed and rather unattractive water-nymph, believes she is every man’s romantic fantasy. Her insatiable erotic appetite and gargantuan over-the-top ego assures her that Jupiter, the King of Gods, lusts over her. Meanwhile Juno, Jupiter’s wife, has become envious. Cosmic tricks ensue in Rameau’s naughty operatic farce that was originally composed and performed as racy wedding entertainment for Louis XV’s son with the Infanta Maria Theresa of Spain.

Coming back as the DMMO’s promiscuous Jupiter in "Platée" will be bass Scott Conner. Mezzo-soprano Zoie Reams returns as Juno.

The innovative conductor Chas Rader-Shieber, particularly recognized for his affinity directing Baroque opera, and “hot music making” (Opera News), will bring the Des Moines Metro Opera’s production of "Platée" to life. Gary Thor Wedow, known for his thrilling and historically accurate performances, will direct.

The DMMO 2021 2nd Stages Series

The Des Moines Metro Opera’s 2nd Stages Series, devoted to presenting live community performance partnerships in nonconventional locations, has two shows scheduled for their 2021 season. Whether it’s produced in the Science Center of Iowa or in an Iowa cornfield, the series, now in its eighth season, concentrates on works that share experiences from our current time while promoting the human experience and voice.

This summer, the DMMO is presenting a concert by John Holiday and a company premiere of the 2016 opera Fellow Travelers composed by Gregory Spears with libretto by Greg Pierce. The opera is based on the 2007 novel of the same title by Thomas Mallon.

Fellow Travelers

Fellow Travelers
Des Moines Metro Opera
Set in 1950s Washington, D.C. amidst the oft-overlooked “Lavender Scare,” a US government employment purge that resulted in thousands of firings and resignations of men and women believed to be members of the LGBTQ+ community, Fellow Travelers tells the story of a forbidden love between Timothy Laughlin, a recent college graduate, and Hawkins Fuller, an official at the State Department.

The McCarthy Era during the 1950s was marred by Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s unsubstantiated charges and allegations of U.S. citizens being communists or communist sympathizers and labeled as security risks. This mass purge was also accompanied by the “Lavender Scare” which included members of the LGBTQ community. McCarthy and his pals targeted anyone and everyone whose politics and lifestyle didn’t conform to their idea of what Americans should look like and what their belief systems should be. McCarthy’s allegations zeroed in on those employed by the U.S. government and the entertainment industry.

"Fellow Travelers" focuses on what has been labelled McCarthy’s “Lavender Scare.” In the opera, the young and impressionable university graduate, Timothy Laughlin is portrayed by the Des Moines Metro Opera’s tenor, Christian Sanders. Sanders received his Bachelor’s of Arts Magna Cum Laude in Music and minored in Cell and Molecular Biology from San Diego’s Point Loma Nazarene University. He netted his Master’s degree in Opera Performance from Houston’s Rice University. He also performed on the DMMO stage as a 2017 Apprentice Artist appearing as the Novice in Billy Budd and Mr. Erlanson in a Little Night Music. Since then, he has sung with The Glimmerglass Festival Young Artist Program, the Aspen Music Festival’s Resident Artist Program, and with the Santa Fe Opera.

In "Fellow Travelers," Laughlin meets his first love and shares his first kiss with Hawkins Fuller, who is an established U.S. State Department official. Hawkins’ is sung by DMMO debut artist, baritone, Joseph Lattanzi. Lattanzi studied at Oberlin and at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. In 2016, Lattanzi presented the world premiere of Hawkins’ role with the Cincinnati Opera. Reviews claimed: “Joseph Lattanzi was splendid as Hawk, his buttery baritone luxuriant and robust.” (The New York Times) Lattanzi was also characterized as a: “confident, handsome presence, and a resonant baritone suggesting wells of feeling that the character might prefer to leave untapped.” (Opera News) He has since gone on to depict Hawkins’ role with the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

In the performance, Timothy questions his own religious and ethical principles, while grappling with his new longings and desires. Together, Timothy and Hawkins’ bittersweet love story develops, surrounded by the milieu of Senator McCarthy’s LGBTQ+ expulsions. They are anchored as well in Hawkins’ treachery and anguish. Hawkins’ casual disregard for Timothy’s genuine feelings brings their romantic liaison to a tragic close.

The Des Moines Metro Opera’s company premiere of "Fellow Travelers" will be held on July 17 at the Hoyt Sherman Place Theatre in Des Moines. Marcus Shields, who served as Assistant Stage Director of the Metropolitan Opera’s February 6, 2020 premiere of Handel’s Agrippina, will make his DMMO debut as the Stage Director for "Fellow Travelers."

Australian conductor, and prizewinner in the 2012 Budapest Kálmán International Operetta Conducting Competition and a Fellow of the Aspen Music Festival Academy of Conducting, Dr. Carolyn Watson will take the podium to conduct the DMMO’s "Fellow Travelers" premiere.

The John Holiday Experience

The John Holiday Experience - DMMO
Des Moines Metro Opera
After a successful debut in 2018 as the Refugee in Flight, countertenor and recent finalist of NBC's The Voice, John Holiday, returns to DMMO for a special program entitled The John Holiday Experience.

The John Holiday Experience is a DMMO 2nd Stages Show not to be missed!

Holiday dynamically starred as a finalist on NBC’s The Voice. The dazzling countertenor also sang his successful lead-role debut as the Refugee in the Des Moines Metro Opera’s 2018 production of Jonathan Dove’s Flight.

Holiday is pulling out all the stops on July 11 at Drake’s Sheslow Auditorium, singing a brilliant collection of favorite hits including Stevie Wonder’s “You are the Sunshine of My Life,” George Gershwin’s “Summertime,” Thelonius Monk’s “Round Midnight,” and several operatic knockouts. Kevin Miller and Neeki Bey will join Holiday on stage as pianists.


While DMMO presale tickets have already been available to DMMO special donors and subscribers, tickets will go on sale to the general public starting the first of June. June 1 marks your chance to start purchasing tickets for DMMO performances which run July 2 to 25.

For more details, see or 515-961-6221. To buy tickets contact the DMMO box office at 515-209-3257 or