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‘Catalyst Sessions’ recap: Opera singer and role-playing gamer Kelli Butler

Bill DeYoung



New York-based opera singer Kelli Butler has made two unforgettable appearances with St. Petersburg Opera Company recently, as the cool-as-a-cucumber but rage-fueled Queen of the Night in the 2018 production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and in title role of Lehár’s The Merry Widow (2019).

Wednesday on The Catalyst Sessions, the red-headed coloratura soprano talked about discovering, as a teenager, that her voice was growing powerful enough to handle operatic roles. Butler also discussed dues-paying in the competitive world of opera, the need for continuous study and learning, and the greatest roles of her career – including the world premiere workshop of the Anthony Davis opera Five, which the composer later re-worked as The Central Park Five, winning a Pulitzer Prize in the bargain.

There’s something else that makes her unique among today’s great young opera stylists.

Kelli Butler is also known as “The Opera Geek,” far and wide across social media platforms because of her involvement in the Dungeons & Dragons, TTRPG (Table Top Role Playing Games) and videogame communities.

“I’ve always been a nerd,” she said. “And I’ve always loved fantasy, and science fiction, video games. Even though I’d been invited by some people, I’d never actually played D&D publicly. Because I came to the game quite late. I was such a nerd in high school that even the D&D group didn’t actually want me to play with them.”

All that changed during her time in St. Pete for The Magic Flute.

“I’m listening to this podcast and I’m hearing how much fun this group of friends is having and I’m like ‘You know what? Yeah, I can do this. Even if you mess up.’ It’s like opera, it’s performing live, sometimes the mistakes can make it more interesting.”

Butler and her friend Hannah Rose wrote the College of the Opera bard subclass, released on the DMs (Dungeonmasters) Guild, which went into bestseller status within 24 hours and has sold more than 1,200 copies to date.

Today the self-proclaimed “aria-slinging mercenary” has more than 14,000 Twitter followers.

To learn more, visit her website.

The video above is bookended by two scenes from Butler’s appearances with St. Petersburg Opera. In the transfer process, some of the image became pixilated, although the audio is undamaged.

To watch the interview without the added musical scenes – and without the awkward pixilation – click here.

Today on The Catalyst Sessions: freeFall Theater founder and artistic and executive director Eric Davis.

Streaming weekdays at 7 p.m. on the Catalyst Facebook page.


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