Opera Event, April 7:
You may not have heard of Maryland Opera; in fact, it’s new to me, but then, this is its inaugural season. On Sunday, April 7, the newly formed company will offer its second opera event of its season: “Puccini at the Pendry” will take place on April 7 at the Sagamore Ballroom of the Pendry Hotel in Fells Point on Baltimore’s waterfront. MO’s premiere performance took place at Stevenson College on February 3 and was called “Verdi in the Valley”. These themed events, sort of a composer’s greatest hits live, can be excellent entertainment and artistic experiences (see my review of “An Evening of Mozart” performed in Bethesda by the Maryland Lyric Opera).
James Harp, the Artistic Director of Maryland Opera, says the second opera event will provide arias by composer Giacomo Puccini (my personal favorite), who composed four of the world’s most popular operas - La Boheme, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, and Turandot. However, “Puccini at the Pendry” will not simply offer arias, it will provide staged and costumed excerpts from Puccini’s operas. Mr. Harp on piano and a string quintet will provide the musical accompaniment. An impressive cast of seasoned professionals have played many of these roles at major opera houses across the U.S. drawing rave reviews; the cast includes Cuban-American lyric soprano Elizabeth Caballero; Maryland native soprano Colleen Daly; verismo tenor Kirk Dougherty; emerging artist, baritone John Allen Nelson; and dramatic soprano Amy Shoremount-Obra.
Program for “Puccini at the Pendry” –
La Boheme: Act I Finale; complete Act III…
Cast - Elizabeth Caballero as Mimi, Kirk Dougherty as Rodolfo, Colleen Daly as Musetta, and John Allen Nelson as Marcello
Tosca: Act I aria “Recondita armonia” and duet “Mario, Mario”; Act II aria “Vissi d’arte”; Act III Finale…
Cast - Amy Shoremount-Obra as Tosca, Kirk Dougherty as Cavaradossi, and John Allen Nelson as Angelotti
Edgar: aria “Questo amor”…
Cast: John Allen Nelson as Frank
Turandot: aria “In questa reggia; aria “Nessun dorma”…
Cast: Amy Shoremount-Obra as Turandot and John Allen Nelson as Calaf
The Birth of Maryland Opera:
I first became aware of James Harp from his work with the Baltimore Concert Opera, most recently their excellent production of Richard Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman. Mr. Harp has worked with BCO throughout its ten-year history as pianist and chorus master, but his involvement in opera in Baltimore goes back thirty years. He worked for twenty years as Arts Administrator and Chorus Master for the late, great Baltimore Opera Company before its demise in 2009, a company that once held a respected place for Baltimore on the world’s opera map. The Lyric Foundation of the Patricia and Arthur Modell Performing Arts Center sought to rebound fully-staged opera in Baltimore by establishing Lyric Opera Baltimore whose inaugural season was in 2011. Dwindling audiences and financial resources led to the closing of LOB in 2017. To recap, Baltimore Opera Company spawned Lyric Opera Baltimore which has now led to the birth of the completely independent Maryland Opera. The continuing presence in these efforts was Mr. Harp who still maintains a strong drive to give Baltimore access to fully-staged opera. Maryland Opera also continues an impressive program of educational and outreach activities inherited from Lyric Opera Baltimore.
Mr. Harp says audiences and the opera scene have changed in Baltimore and for opera in general. He is planning to hold opera events, including fully-staged operas, in smaller venues that may change for each event and to do so statewide in order to reach new audiences for opera. A significant part of MO’s mission is to provide training and job opportunities for regional opera talent - singers, choruses, and orchestras - that he believes are plentiful in the mid-Atlantic. He plans on building Maryland Opera slowly to the point of fully-staged opera performances within a year or two. Starting a new opera company means starting small and building on success. He reports that MO’s initial event, “Verdi in the Valley” was a success. Ultimately, whether Maryland Opera can rise out of the ashes of Baltimore Opera Company and Lyric Opera Baltimore will depend on the public’s and supporter’s responses to these initial events. Mr. Harp is not only committed to opera in Baltimore, he is a romantic. One of the last things he said to me was that he was determined that “we will always have Boheme.” Bogart couldn’t have said it better.
Come on Baltimore! I’m rooting for Maryland Opera. I live in the DC suburbs in northern Virginia and have a number of terrific options for opera, but I would love to have an option for fully-staged opera in Baltimore. I frequent Baltimore Concert Opera as it is, and occasionally I drive to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to attend fully-staged opera performances; those cities have terrific operas. I’d love putting Baltimore on that list and have Maryland become known as ‘the new hot spot’ for opera.
The Fan Experience: Tickets for “Puccini at the Pendry” are $50. In addition to metered on-street parking, the Sagamore Pendry Hotel is offering a special event price of $15 for valet parking. The performances will be in Italian, but projected English subtitles will be used. It’s been a couple of years since I visited Fells Point, but I remember it as a fun locale with lots of good restaurants. I trust that hasn’t changed.