Opera Live: Praise for the Local Options, More of Them Than You Might Think

I am late in life in becoming an opera fan, but am a lifelong baseball fan.  The Brooklyn Dodgers were my first love.  After the Washington Nationals started in 2005, they quickly weaned me away, though not completely, from the Baltimore Orioles.  One thing about baseball that is different from opera is its extraordinary organization.  Kids play Little League, Pony League, High School, and College.  The cream of the crop moves on to minor league ball and the very best are drawn up by the Major Leagues.  There is a movement from local to regional to national in the level of play in this process.  Today, spurred by so much availability electronically, we tend to focus on the top level of play in all performance activities.  However, the truth is that I like watching baseball in all of its venues. 

One of my goals for myself and for OperaGene is to learn more about opportunities to hear opera live on the local level.  Let’s get away from the electrons on a screen for an evening.  As baseball is a performance activity, opera is a performance activity.  Watching local performers display and grow their talent, seeing new talent being developed and seasoned performers show their ability and polish is entertaining and sometimes as thrilling as the major leagues.  Seeing a walk off home run is pretty exciting at any level; so is hearing developing singers nail an aria.  When I left junior college to matriculate at Berry College in northern Georgia, at that time Berry required all students to attend church on Sunday.  I was not a member of a church, but I didn’t mind; it was a good school that I could work my way through.  The next year the church requirement was removed, but I kept going because I was in love with the choir, still one of my fondest musical experiences.  They weren’t the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but they kept me coming back week after week.

Local options can be a little harder to find for opera because, I think, it lacks the organization of sports.  I am collecting information on local opera organizations and performances around the mid-Atlantic and will be bringing information to you about some of these in future posts as we go along.  And the prices are much, much more affordable.  There are a couple I recently became aware of that I want to bring to your attention in this post.

May 21, Vienna Choral Society and Carmina Burana

Pointed out to me by John Schreffler, President of the Westbriar Civic Association, as an entry in wbcrier.com, Carmina Burana by Carl Orff is a scenic cantata to be performed by the Vienna Choral Society of Vienna, Virginia on Saturday, May 21.  Google defines cantata as “a medium-length narrative piece of music for voices with instrumental accompaniment, typically with solos, chorus, and orchestra.”  The VCS describes it this way: “Carmina Burana, however, is an entire world unto itself. It’s not an opera, a mass, or a requiem, but it has movements and a sequence. It is not a play or a musical, but it has a plot. Well, sort of…plus, we helped it along a little bit for this production.  Carmina is a work about extremes—of the ups and downs of life, fortune and fate, desire and despair.  The rises and falls are big, but you will recognize your human selves in them. The musicians (and by extension you, their audience) are literally scaling the full expanse of musical and human experience in one evening. It’s like the singer’s version of “shop ‘til you drop.” It’s the soap opera of the classical world.”

It is being performed at the Vienna Baptist Church and tickets go quickly; prices are quite reasonable, ranging from $25 to free with a paying patron for young students.

Wolf Trap Opera Recitals/Concerts  

Perhaps less well known, in addition to the full opera performances offered by Wolf Trap Opera, concerts/recitals performed by Wolf Trap artists are also scheduled.  Here is a list for the summer; details and tickets can be found through this link.

May 20 - Overtures – an evening of classical song

May 28,29 – From Lute Song to the Beatles – songs from the British Isles

June 17 – Improper Opera – an opera will be created by suggestions from the audience

June 19 – Studio Spotlight – opera scenes of Rossini, Donezetti, Bizet, and Verdi

June 26 – Aria Jukebox – audience has a vote in arias to be sung

June 30, Jul 28 – Vocal Colors – visual arts and music at the Phillips Collection

Venues and ticket prices vary, ranging from $20-65.

In Conclusion

So how does one go from Wagner’s Ring at the Kennedy Center to Carmina Burana at the Vienna Baptist Church.  Easy, how do you go from eating coquilles St. Jacques at L’Auberge Chez Francois to having a pizza or pot roast or coquilles St. Jacques at your favorite local restaurant?  Would you want to give up either?  Both are good; that’s why ‘eat where the locals eat’ is a good rule of thumb. And occasionally the local option is tastier and more satisfying, and the price is right – my Ring tickets for four operas cost over $800 .