What’s happening with summer opera?

Chautauqua Lake; Photo: colecampIt’s hot. I mean, it’s real hot. Last week in NYC we had four straight days above 95 degrees. Hot diggity dog, that spells hot. If you think about it, opera companies that run throughout the summer have got the right idea. Why? Because most of them set their stages nestled in picturesque mountain landscapes (Aspen Music Festival), breezy lakeside shores (Chatauqua Opera) or wavy coastal shores (Merola). This matters because it’s as if they’re all saying, “Come beat the heat and vacation opera-style.” Are you aware of the opera-tunities going on around you? Chances are, there’s summer opera within a half-a-gas-tank radius, AC-besotted car ride away – and the location is most likely a summer dreamscape. Go ahead and give our Opera Calendar a whirl to see if there is something that suits you.

Call it heat stroke or just giving into the easy livin’ aura, summer opera companies and their singers get a bit risky. For a couple of months, companies are known for taking skills, visions and the art form as a whole to unchartered levels. Take for instance the inclusion of a musical theatre piece to each season like at Santa Fe and the Seagle Music Colony. Hearing opera singers masterfully crafting the roles meant for the stages of Broadway is like a step back in time. Further, most companies find smaller venues to explore the drama of opera. Creators find an outlet to experiment as proven by director of Aida at the Glimmerglass festival, Francesca Zambello: ‘Aida is often thought of as a grand opera, a spectacle with elephants and pyramids… I have always wanted to present Aida in an intimate setting where we can focus on the love triangle set against the tensions of war and politics in Egypt.’ Aida in an intimate space? Awesome. They’ll probably need a disclaimer saying, “Must wear windbreakers!”

Rising artists and singer all-stars alike get a chance to shine. Most companies bring megastars to the stage to explore roles not in their normal repertory (anyone remember Deborah Voigt in Glimmerglass’ Annie Get Your Gun?). Big names aside, the summer provides an opportunity to discover new talent. Some of the best young performers in the world practice year round to show just how good they are in a span of a few days. For instance, taking the reigns of Cavaradossi in Santa Fe’s opening summer performance of Tosca earlier this month was rising tenor star, Brian Jagde. ‘“Discovering new talent has been the hallmark of The Santa Fe Opera,” stated General Director, Charles MacKay, “and Brian is one of them. He stepped in totally prepared and with great poise, and we expect great things.”’ The level of expectation and qualification that must be met by these young stars is immense; new talent is perhaps the most stimulating aspect about the art each summer. Opera reinvigorated by new voices – now that’s a breath of fresh air we can all appreciate.

Where are you going this summer?

Photo: colecamp via Flickr; Chautauqua Lake