Music and Opera reporting on is made possible by The University of North Texas College of Music.
Select the link below to discover more.

Review: Yeltsin in Texas | Texas Christian University School of Music | Ed Landreth Auditorium

Yeltsin, Yeehaw!

TCU Opera presents the world premiere of Evan Mack's Yeltsin in Texas, based on that time when the Russian leader visited a Houston grocery store.

published Saturday, February 8, 2020

Photo: Glen E. Ellman
Yeltsin in Texas at TCU Opera


Fort Worth — The Texas Christian University School of Music’s opera studio has been in the world premiere game in recent years; in 2018 it premiered The Falling and the Rising and now we get Yeltsin in Texas, with music by Evan Mack and a libretto by Joshua McGuire. David Gately, who is behind this new direction for TCU Opera and has a long history with new opera, directs, while Stephen Cary conducts.

Yeltsin in Texas, based on a true story, is a wonderful mishmash of opera and musical comedy, and even boasts a touch of vaudeville.

In 1989, Boris Yeltsin, the newly elected member of the Soviet parliament and the Supreme Soviet, visited the Lone Star State. It started out with an eye-opening tour of Houston’s Johnson Space Center, but an improvised stop at a nearby Randell’s Grocery Store left him astonished. According to reports, he had never seen such a display of abundance as he surveyed the variety of grocery store offerings that we take for granted. Not only was there an amazing array in that store, he was even more impressed with the fact that there were such stores everywhere, both in the city and even in the most rural outposts of the country.

Houston Chronicle reporter Stefanie Asin quoted him this way: "Even the Politburo doesn't have this choice. Not even Mr. Gorbachev."

Reportedly, that visit, more than seeing the space center’s advanced technology, convinced him that the Soviet Union needed to change, which he proceeded to do upon his return. But the ingrained corruption was too much for hm to battle so he left in disgrace. His successor was Vladimir Putin and, well, here we are.

As for TCU’s staging, the entire production team deserves a round of applause. The clever, almost cartoonish, hand-painted set is by Richard Kagey, and the hodgepodge of 1989-styled costumes are by Steven Bryant, with Tyler Beard on lighting design.

The student cast plays the “people,” with each one creating a different character of supermarket customers and employees. It looks like the diverse group that you would find in a grocery, albeit a predominately youthful crowd like you would find in a store near a college campus.

There are some imported artists as well. Sam Parkinson, a graduate of TCU’s opera program who has appeared locally with both the Dallas and Fort Worth operas as well as other distinguished companies around the country, is Yeltsin. Kelly DeLameter, as the clerk, is a graduate student at TCU, but also has an impressive résumé of professional achievements, and does a fine job. Guest artist Jonathan Walker-VanKuren gives a funny turn as the Mall Cop and soprano Janani Sridhar is terrific as the Manager. (The opera is double cast; so you might see another cast if you go Saturday night or to the Sunday matinee.)

My biggest criticism lies with the lack of music to create the different characters. While the music is generally excellent, one of the beauties of opera is the opportunity to give a distinctive musical voice to each character that allows the actor to use it as part of the portrayal. This is noticeable mostly in the character of Yeltsin; as a result, Parkinson comes off as more professorial than the boisterous, drunkenly rash, bigger-than-life Yeltsin of real life. Other characters are more explicitly depicted.

Overall though, this is a delightful and funny production with catchy and enjoyable music, excellently sung.


CORRECTION: The composer's name is Evan Mack. His first name was wrong in the original review. TheaterJones regrets the error. Thanks For Reading

View the Article Slideshow
Click or Swipe to close
Yeltsin, Yeehaw!
TCU Opera presents the world premiere of Evan Mack's Yeltsin in Texas, based on that time when the Russian leader visited a Houston grocery store.
by Gregory Sullivan Isaacs

Share this article on Facebook
Tweet this article
Share this article on Google+
Share this article via email
Click or Swipe to close
Click or Swipe to close
views on theater, dance, classical music, opera and comedy performances
news & notes
reports from the local performing arts scene
features & interviews
who and what are moving and shaking in the performing arts scene
season announcements
keep up with the arts groups' upcoming seasons
listen to interviews with people in the local performing arts scene
media reviews
reviews and stories on performing arts-related film, TV, recordings and books
arts organizations
learn more about the local producing and presenting arts groups
performance venues
learn more about the theaters and spaces where the arts happen
keep up with fabulous ticket giveaways and other promotions
connect to local arts crowdfunding campaigns
post or view auditions and performing arts-related classes, services, jobs and more
about us
info on TheaterJones, our staff, what we do and how to contact us
Click or Swipe to close
First Name:
Last Name:
Date of Birth:
ZIP Code:
Your Email Address:
Click or Swipe to close
Join TheaterJones Around the Web

Follow Us on Twitter

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel

Click or Swipe to close
Search the TheaterJones Archives
Use any or all of the options below to search through all of reviews, interviews, features and special sections. If you are looking for a an event, use the calendar section of this website. This search will not search through the calendar.
Article Title Search:

Description Search:
TheaterJones Contributor:

TheaterJones Section:

Showing on or after:      Showing on or before:  
Click or Swipe to close
We welcome your comments

I am discussing:  

Your Name:
Your Email Adress:

please enter the text below and then click or tap SUBMIT :