From Canadian native Ben Heppner at the Olympic Ceremonies, to a national Honda commercial, opera’s making a roaring comeback. And why not? Opera has amazing music, both orchestral and vocal, beautiful costumes and sets, sometimes ballet or other dance—and drama, drama, drama! With the advances in surtitle technology, plus pre-performance lectures, and opera plots and snippets available on the internet, opera is more accessible than ever. So where can you see it near you? Here are some companies you may or may not know about.
PORTopera: When Portland, Maine’s State Theater became available, the opera company was born and made its debut with Bizet’s “Carmen.” The production was an instant success both with critics and audiences. In 1996, the company produced Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” at the State with an ever-greater acclaim. The 1996 season also introduced PORTopera’s Young Artists Program—an educational endeavor to help the careers of emerging young singers.
In 1997, PORTopera moved to the newly renovated Merrill Auditorium in Portland. The Young Artists Program was expanded to include six operatic recital programs in other parts of the state. This year, the company is presenting “Hansel and Gretel”; the opera based on the children’s tale on July 29 and 31, 2010.
Opera North: Graduates from the Opera North Young Artists Program have gone on to perform at The Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Boston Lyric Opera, and throughout America. Each year, 20-25 singers and 5-10 coaches, conductors and assistant directors are selected from a highly competitive national application pool to bring New Hampshire and eastern Vermont the best opera possible. This season they present two very popular pieces: “La Bohème” and “Don Giovanni.”
Opera North stays active during the off-season as well. The winter series, Always ON Sundays, presents informal talks on opera topics at private homes. Young Artists also perform at a myriad of venues throughout Vermont and New Hampshire introducing children, teens and adults to opera.
And speaking of Vermont, there is still music to be had at the Enosburg Opera House! July 29-31, 2010 the Opera House will present John Cassel’s “Green Mountain Lucky,” including highly talented Vermont musicians and singers. A musical story about Vermont! Come see music and history at Enosburg Falls.
In August, the Opera Theater of Connecticut will present Verdi’s “La Traviata.” The Andrews Memorial Theater in Clinton, CT is relatively small, barely 500 seats. This provides an incredibly intimate setting for their presentations, an event rare in the larger halls in which most operas are performed. The stage has technical limits, not so severe as to hamper a full production, but definite enough that the company’s production values center on the true heart of opera, the voices and the music.
Opera Providence in Rhode Island is offering a Sunday “Opera in the Park” series at Hopkins Park, at the intersection of Branch Avenue & Charles Street. On July 25th, 2010, they will present a program entitled “Diva, Diva, Diva!” These concerts are casual and fun and provide a light introduction to opera.
In Worcester, MA, the Worcester County Light Opera Company is presenting a children’s musical theater workshop production of “WOW” (“World of Wonders”). Blasting off in August. In addition to the summer musical theater workshops for children, WCLOC also has four in-house productions at the “Clubhouse”; they round out the annual theatrical season by producing a “Broadway-Style” musical. From comedy to tragedy, classical to contemporary, musical to non-musical, WCLOC produces a wide array of theatrical works. WCLOC has also produced new plays written by local playwrights.
Anytime is a good time for opera – check one out near you!