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Opera Modesto Presents A Weekend Of Edgar Allan Poe
Performing the title role in the upcoming Opera Modesto production of ‘Annabel’ will be Darby Schmidt of Oakdale, currently studying at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. Photo Contributed

Opera Modesto’s nationally unique Story Into Song Literacy Initiative returns for its fourth annual, this year featuring two one-act operas based on the writing of the famous American author, Edgar Allan Poe. The celebration of Poe includes an opening event on Friday the 13th of January with Poe’s Pub, a Frightfully Fun Fundraiser for Youth Literacy; the first ever west coast Edgar Allan PoeCon - Modesto Poe Con, a Literacy Autopsy of Edgar Allan Poe; two public performances of a double bill of two one act operas - Tell Tale Heart (by rock drummer, Stewart Copeland of The Police) and Annabel (a world premiere by CSU Stanislaus’ Dr. Deborah Kavasch, based on “Annabel Lee”); as well as six “Readers Performances” for 2,000 regional middle school, high school, community college, university and homeschool students from three counties who are reading Edgar Allan Poe in school.

The singers include Oakdale’s Darby Schmidt (starring as Annabel), a product of Opera Modesto’s TOP Young Artists program, now a junior at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. Her romantic partner in Annabel will be Chad Somers of Martinez, recently arrived from New York and an instructor of voice at San Joaquin Delta Community College. The star of Tell Tale Heart, who will portray Edgar the crazed murderer, will be Jason Detwiler of Boise, Idaho, a national level singer who has performed across the United States. They will be joined by young professional and pre-professional singers representing CSU Stanislaus, CSU Sacramento, Fresno State and University of North Texas.

Tickets for Poe’s Pub, Modesto PoeCon and the public performances on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 14 and 15 at 2 p.m., are available from The State Theatre’s website. Public school, private school or homeschool groups wishing to inquire about attending one of the student performances should inquire with Opera Modesto.

The Story Into Song Literacy Initiative is a nationally unique project by Opera Modesto that fuses famous literature with the power of the amazing human voice in opera, and the excitement of live theatrical presentation to provide an exciting tool for literacy advocates to encourage readers. The “destination weekend” of Edgar Allan Poe literature and opera related activities intends to bring new friends to reading, opera and business to downtown Modesto merchants.

The Story Into Song Literacy Initiative has been recognized by Opera America (an “Innovations” Grant), California Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Poe’s Pub, a Frightfully Fun Fundraiser for Youth Literacy is set for Friday, Jan. 13, 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The State Theatre, 1307 J St., Modesto. Tickets are $50 in Advance, $60 at the door; pre-purchase tickets at or call (209) 527-4697.

Modesto Poe Con, a Literacy Autopsy of Edgar Allan Poe will be offered Saturday, Jan. 14 and Sunday, Jan. 15, 9 a.m. to noon. The State Theatre, 1307 J St., Modesto will be the locations for Sessions one and two; The Mistlin Art Gallery, 1015 J St., Modesto will host Session three. Tickets are $20 for students, $30 for general admission and includes entry to all six sessions.

Purchase tickets at or call (209) 527-4697.

Six 45-minute sessions (three on Saturday and three on Sunday) will be presented by educators, authors, professionals and Edgar Allan Poe aficionados.

Tell Tale Heart and Annabel, a double bill of one-act operas is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 14 and Sunday, Jan. 15, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., at The State Theatre, 1307 J St., Modesto. Student tickets are $20, general admission ranges from $25 to $40; purchase tickets at or call (209) 527-4697.

In Tell Tale Heart a “perfect” murder is revealed as the murderer’s mind unravels into madness. Based on the short story by Edgar Allan Poe, composer Stewart Copeland (drummer of The Police), creates a complex world of characters to tell this evocative story in an operatic setting.

Annabel, inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s lyrical poem “Annabel Lee,” is a haunting tale of love so strong that it lasts beyond the grave. This world premiere production of Annabel stars Oakdale native Darby Schmidt in the title role. Schmidt currently attends the Eastman school of music as a junior vocal performance major.

As a teenager, she soared to national prominence by winning a prize in the Schmidt Vocal Arts Competition (no relation) and being chosen as one of only 10 participants nationwide for the Metropolitan Opera Guild’s High School Opera Singers Intensive.