Blue Viola


UrbanArias presents the world premiere of BLUE VIOLA

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Artisphere in Rosslyn

March 20 at 8 p.m.
March 21 at 8 p.m.
March 22 at 2 p.m.
March 27 at 8 p.m.
March 28 at 8 p.m.
March 29 at 2 p.m.


$28 General Admission

$26 Seniors/Students/Military

Click here to buy tickets

The Viola is a Beautiful Liar

BLUE VIOLA tells the story of a priceless instrument that disappears after its owner, a player in the Chicago Symphony, accidentally leaves it on the street. It winds up in the hands of Vernon Addams, a junk dealer, who sees in it a lost treasure he is meant to rescue and care for. His girlfriend, Arnita Seward, is more practical. Growing up poor in Chicago has left her few options for a bright future; she has narrowly escaped the projects, but her job at a run-down Cookie and Hot Sandwich shop will never provide advancement, and she has to put up with the unwanted advances of her boss to boot. Arnita steals the viola from Vernon, and brings in her boss, Mikey Stearns, as an accomplice in order to get the instrument appraised, and hopefully fenced. Mikey concocts an unlikely story about a rich aunt who willed him the viola, while Arnita dreams of a cushy future “someplace warm”, financed by the proceeds of the instrument’s sale. Will Mikey’s story and Arnita’s flirting convince Fritz Humboldt, a finicky rare instrument dealer to accept their offer to sell him this “priceless” instrument?

Peter Hilliard and Matt Boresi, authors of UrbanArias’ 2012 hit comedy THE FILTHY HABIT, have written another delightful short opera. Inspired by the unique sounds of the Chicago blues; UrbanArias was pleased to commission BLUE VIOLA, and is grateful to the National Endowment for the Arts for their support of this piece.

“We think the story, aside from a darkly comic thriller, provides a jumping off point for a discussion about class and classical music. We explore the impressions people without easy access to the classical world have about high art.” 
– Matt Boresi

“We want people to have a genuinely exciting experience at the opera. We want them to laugh and we want them at the edge of their seat, and to hear a Blues-infused operatic score unlike anything they’ve ever heard. Opera in the 20th (and 21st century) has too often been alienating in its intellectualism and musical politicking. This, we hope, will be a beautifully sung and played work of lyric theatre.”
– Peter Hilliard


Vernon Addams – Jorell Williams

Arnita Seward – Alicia Olatuja

Michael Stearns – Keith Phares

Fritz Humboldt – Benjamin Lurye

Featuring members of the Inscape Chamber Orchestra


Music by Peter Hilliard

Libretto by Matt Boresi

Conducted by Robert Wood

Directed by Tazewell Thompson

Set and Lighting Design by Donald Eastman

Costume Design by Harry Nadal

Watch below: Alicia Olatuja performing Arnita’s aria to the viola.  BLUE VIOLA workshop at Arena Stage Feb 2015


Watch below: Jorell Williams performing the opening scene to BLUE VIOLA in workshop at Arena Stage Feb 2015


  • Is this opera appropriate for children? Answer: Yes (12 and up)
  • How long is the opera? Answer: One hour.

For tickets, please click the link below.

Click here to buy tickets



Singer Alicia Olatuja wowed everyone at the 2013 presidential inauguration with her solo during the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir’s performance of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” She’s already earned raves from the New York Times, JazzTimes UK, New York Daily News and on The View.

Originally from St. Louis Missouri, Alicia Olatuja is a Vocal Performance graduate of the Manhattan School of Music Masters program. She made her recital debut at Carnegie Hall and her professional debut as Sacagawea in the World Premiere operetta Corps of Discovery at the Opera Memphis and has also performed selected scenes at Carnegie Hall and The Kennedy Center. In 2011, Alicia performed as Sophie in the world premiere of the dramatic work by Tony-nominated composer Elizabeth Swados, From the Fire, both in New York and when the play was presented at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh Scotland where it won awards for best score, best musical production, and most promising musical. Although musical theater and opera are two of Alicia’s passions, she also performs in a variety of other genres and has been creating quite a buzz in the jazz arena, receiving great praise from jazz giants such as Dianne Reeves and Monty Alexander. She often performs as a soloist with the Juilliard Jazz ensemble, and has sung with various recording artists such as Christian McBride, Chaka Khan and Bebe Winans. Alicia also regularly performs in various venues nationally and internationally with her husband in their African Jazz band, the Olatuja Project, where Alicia sings in various African dialects such as Yoruba and Shona. They recently released their debut album, The Promise. She recently released her highly praised solo debut album, titled Timeless, debuting in the top 20 on the iTunes jazz charts.

In 2014-2015, Keith Phares has sung Dandini in La cenerentola with Tulsa Opera, Carmina burana with Tulsa Ballet, Charlie in Three Decembers with Des Moines Metro Opera, and the Father in the première of Stefan Weisman’s The Scarlet Ibis with PROTOTYPE. His upcoming engagements include Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro with New Orleans Opera, John Sorel in The Consul with Florida Grand Opera, Zurga in Les pêcheurs des perles with Seattle Opera, Charlie in Three Decembers with Florentine Opera and Carmina Burana with Madison Symphony.

In recent seasons, he sung with FGO as Orin Mannon in Mourning Becomes Electra, Maximilian/The Captain in Candide with São Paolo Symphony conducted by Marin Alsop, Seattle Opera as Marcello in La bohème; he sang the title role in Viktor Ullmann’s Der Kaiser von Atlantis in a joint production with Central City Opera and Colorado Symphony, Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro with Opera Colorado, Carmina Burana with San Francisco Symphony, Charlie in Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers with Central City Opera (a role he created for its première with Houston Grand Opera and San Francisco Opera), Figaro in Il barbière di Siviglia with Washington National Opera and Dandini in La cenerentola with Glimmerglass Opera. He created the title role in the première of Robert Aldridge’s Elmer Gantry with Nashville Opera and in subsequent performances, prompting Opera News to write: “Keith Phares’s scrupulously rendered Elmer Gantry appears a strong contender for iconographic recognition…” He is featured in the title role on the Grammy-award winning recording produced by Florentine Opera on the Naxos label.

Other notable appearances in previous seasons include performances with the New York City Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Arizona Opera, Utah Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Spoleto USA, Opera Theater of St. Louis, St. Louis Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic.

Winner of the Patricia and Heyward Gignilliat Silver Medal Award at the 2014 American Traditions Competition, Jorell Williams has been acclaimed by The New York Times for his “magnificent, rich toned” baritone and his “perfect” comic timing, and is gaining international success on both the opera and concert stages. In the 2014-15 season, Jorell will make his professional debuts in the premiere of composer/conductor Matt Aucoin’s Opera Crossing with the American Repertory Theater (Directed by Tony Award winner Diane Paulus), Jennifer Hidgon’s Dooryard Bloom with the Philharmonic of Southern New Jersey, The Orchestra Moves concert series with the Weill Institute of Music and Orchestra of St. Luke’s at Carnegie Hall, and Independence Eve, an Opera produced by American Opera Projects Composers and the Voice series. This summer, he will participate in the Santa Fe Opera’s Apprentice Program.

Tenor Ben Lurye is proud to return to UrbanArias, having last appeared in The Good Friar. Ben most recently appeared in Sheryl Crow and Barry Levinson’s world premiere musical Diner at Signature Theatre, directed by Kathleen Marshall. Around DC, he has been seen at at Ford’s Theatre (Hello, Dolly! – Helen Hayes Award, Outstanding Ensemble), Olney Theatre (Forever Plaid, Joseph…), Rep Stage (The Fantasticks), Signature Theatre (Sweeney Todd), Adventure Theatre (Alexander…Bad Day, Frog and Toad, Five Little Monkeys), Keegan Theatre (Spelling Bee, Cabaret), 1st Stage (Parfumerie), Toby’s Dinner Theatre (Joseph…, Les Miserables), Washington Savoyards (Pirates of Penzance), and Bel Cantanti Opera (Amahl and the Night Visitors). He has music directed All Shook Up, Crazy for You, City of Angels, and The Tempest, and is currently preparing Mary Poppins with Wootton High School, his alma mater. Ben holds a BM in Voice Performance from The University of Maryland, where he studied with Francois Loup. Follow him at

Tazewell Thompson, acclaimed director of theater and opera, has directed numerous productions in theaters across the country, including many world and American premieres. His international opera credits in select cities: Milan, Madrid, Paris, Tokyo, Vancouver, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco and others, include: Death in Venice, Dialogues of the Carmelites, Norma, Patience, The Tender Land, Street Scene, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Don Giovanni, The Second Hurricane, Margaret Garner, View From The Bridge, Carmen, and The Pearl Fishers. His New York City Opera production of Porgy and Bess broadcast, Live from Lincoln Center, received Emmy nominations for best director and best classical production. Most recently, he directed Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars for Cape Town Opera and Glimmerglass Festival. His play Constant Star has had 14 national productions winning a record nine Barrymore Awards, five NAACP Awards and three Carbonell Awards. Mary T. & Lizzy K. is the recipient of the Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award. Tazewell is currently at work on several commissions: Jubilee about the Fisk Jubilee Singers for South Coast Rep; an untitled play about the Quakers and their role in the Underground Railroad for People’s Light and Theatre Company; and Saxophone Moon set in early 20 century Harlem for Lincoln Center Theatre.