Hitting the High Notes
An opera newcomers most burning questions, answered.
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis‘ annual run—one of the city’s most famous festival seasons—opens May 23 to some pretty excited ticketholders. With members of the Grammy Award-winning St. Louis Symphony in the pit and some of America’s best talent on stage, it’s no surprise that opera’s been on the up and up (and up) in STL —and beyond: It’s so highly esteemed that 21 percent of last year’s guests came from out of town—some flew in from as far away as Down Under to catch the action. The secret: opera’s accessibility. “The combination of words, music and theater in this mash-up is a very big way of expression—and therefore has associations with being very serious,” says Opera Theatre Director Tim O’Leary. “But really, the essence of it is great music and great theater.”
What Opera Theatre’s 2015 season won’t be: Blonde-braided, ruddy-cheeked, horned-helmet-headed sopranos singing “Fiii-garo!”
What can I expect instead? Rising star Emily Fons singing “Fiii-garo!”—sans helmet—in “Barber of Seville” (not “Marriage of Figaro”). It’s a perfect starting point for those new to opera.
What else is going on? The Opera Theatre showcases four different styles of opera each season: a classic comedy (Rossini’s “Barber”); a classic tragedy (Puccini’s “La Rondine”); one lesser-known (“Richard the Lionheart,” by George Frideric Handel) and a contemporary opera (Tobias Picker’s “Emmeline”).
Do I need to bring a translator? I’m on a budget. Actually, productions are sung in English. “It’s a very old tradition in the opera world that you perform in translation based on where you’re performing,” says O’Leary. (PS: Tickets are very budget-friendly.)
Ok, so what do I bring? Wine! Before each performance, opera-goers convene on the lawn for picnics. “Some bring elaborately themed picnics that correspond with the show,” O’Leary reports. You can also bring Subway. No one will judge.
Wait, what about roses to throw during the curtain call? That’s lovely of you, but you can buy Figaro a beer during the show’s garden afterparty instead.
If I don’t have to be within flower-flinging distance, where should I sit? Anywhere—none of those funny glasses above needed. “The size of our theater is the size for which opera was invented,” says O’Leary. “It creates a really intimate theater for opera to come alive.”