Opera Theatre Of Saint Louis Hosts Opera Tastings Winter Series, January 25-30
Here’s how Joe Gfaller, director of marketing and public relations for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, describes the immediacy of opera as an art form: “Someone’s standing on stage, and they’re filling the room without a microphone. Their voice is just that powerful. To hear someone sing like that in a small venue is remarkable. You can feel it in your skin. They’re actually singing. We’ve gotten so accustomed to accepting singers lipsyncing, and it takes away the authenticity of the experience.” But where can one experience opera in such an environment?
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis kicks off the winter series of “Opera Tastings” this month. As the name suggests, the event incorporates culinary and musical samplings into an 80-minute introduction to the art form of opera in an intimate, relaxed environment. The event incorporates several smaller selections of classic English-language arias, duets and trios from composers across the history of opera sung by the theatre’s seasonal regular powerhouse performers. Additionally, music is accompanied by culinary creations from some of St. Louis’s most creative and acclaimed chefs, specifically crafted to complement each musical styling. Better yet, all-inclusive tickets are only $20-$25. “I recognize—we all recognize—that opera can be seen as a very intimidating art form,” says Gfaller. “Those perceptions alone make it intimidating. They’re not necessarily true, but the more you hear and believe them, the more they feel true to you. We want to open the doors as wide as we can and show people that those perceptions might not always be true.”
Hence, all the typical barriers to entry that usually exist in order to experience opera—intimidation, time and money—are removed. It is the ideal environment for those wanting to try something new, whether it’s a date night or going out with friends who may have apprehensions. The result? Those interested in giving opera a try don’t need to purchase season-ticket packages or invest in a four-hour show to do it. “We created Opera Tastings as an easy first point of entry into opera for people who might be curious and adventurous, but don’t feel that they have enough information to decide on seeing any one full-length opera to start,” says Gfaller.
One of the Opera Tastings performers, soprano Katie Jolly, debuted with the New York City Opera the day after her 30th birthday as the fairy godmother in “Cendrillon.” Jolly is currently an assistant professor of music at Saint Louis University and has also performed with the Houston Grand Opera, Virginia Opera and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. “I’m always looking for communication first and foremost,” she says, when asked what she loves about opera. “That the story is told truthfully, when there’s someone up there being vulnerable. That’s a really powerful means of communication, and it moves you. I’m looking for something bigger—that transformative journey, which many operas have the potential to do.”
Gfaller was inspired by pop-up events in other cities that had opera singers show up to a restaurant or bar to sing, but aimed to create a highly crafted experience in which context created additional meaning, so listeners understand more of what they’re partaking in. The organization hosted a series of three Opera Tastings for the first time in 2015, six in 2016, and there will be a total of eleven in 2017 (six in January, and five to six in April), as the demand has continued to increase.
The experience is a highly curated show, which takes into account everything from the venue to the relationship between the set list and corresponding food and drink. Gfaller stresses the aim of the show is to create access, which has come to mean including delicious food, drinks and working with popular local venues. ”We hope to meet audiences where they are: great restaurants across the region, landmarks like The National Blues Museum. Places like that.” (While the music at Opera Tastings is sung in a range of languages, during Opera Theatre’s season in May and June, all productions are also sung in English – another great way to help build access and ensure audiences can fully understand the drama or the comedy of what they are hearing).
The first Opera Tasting event of January will be the 25th and 26th at Moulin Events in Lafayette Square, beginning at 7pm. Tickets are $20. The final event of January will take place on the 30th at The National Blues Museum Downtown. Another series of Opera Tastings in 2017 will begin in April.
Opera Tastings Schedule:
January 25, 7pm Moulin Events in Lafayette Square
January 26, 7pm Moulin Events in Lafayette Square
January 27, 7pm Quintessential Dining in St. Charles
January 29, 2pm The Wine Cellar in Columbia, MO
January 29, 6pm The Wine Cellar in Columbia, MO
January 20, 7pm The National Blues Museum in Downtown
April 18, 7pm Balaban’s in Chesterfield
April 19, 7pm Cleveland-Heath in Edwardsville
April 21, 7pm SqWires in Lafayette Square
April 22, 7pm Omega Center in North St. Louis City
April 23, 3pm Vicia in the Cortex District
To learn more about Opera Tastings and purchase tickets, visit the Opera Tastings website here.
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