Excited About OperaRead Now
My ORIGINAL idea for this entry became stiff and uninspiring to me, at least for now, after a fantastic cup of coffee I didn’t even get to drink Wednesday. This evening is Opera Omaha’s first performance in the Orpheum since before the lock down. Their completely new production of The Capulets and the Montagues by Vincenzo Bellini, reimagines the timelessly captivating dramatic staple, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, from an increasingly appreciated corner of the zeitgeist: conformity or the lack thereof. Now, that isn’t precisely what you’ll read in the program notes, but I am proud to live in a city with an Opera company taking such a courageous approach to this beloved fixture in our literary history.
I am incredibly excited to see how this new production, directed by James Darrah, uses the centuries old concept of a “pants role” (a male character voiced by a female singer) to recreate this drama as a foil, not just for prejudice between families or persons, but indeed for hatred towards sexual identities, and disdain for that which doesn’t agree with our preconceived notions of social acceptability.
BUT, that’s still not the topic about which I decided to write.
Please go see this production. I think what Darrah and Opera Omaha are presenting, strikes at the heart of what makes Romeo and Juliet as timeless as it is: that our refusal to surrender to beauty, truth, and goodness because of our own inflexible notions of “fairness” and “normalcy,” is itself the crucible and the curse which breed all of our war, animosity, and cyclical destruction. No matter who Romeo and Juliet were, boys, girls, trans, white, people of color, old or young… and no matter how their behavior might have been admirable or reproachable… if the rest of Verona had approached them with understanding and charity “all” would certainly not have been so “punished.”
NOW, back to this cup of coffee. Shannon Walenta, Opera Omaha’s Managing Director, graciously agreed to meet with me this week to discuss the Opera, the season, and she complimented me with some curiosity about my endeavor to blog about the music scene in our city. I was a mildly-embarrassing 6 minutes late, rushing from work. Her coffee was already ordered and desperately wanting to make this coffee worth her time, I settled into my seat. With a sudden and nerdish enthusiasm, I explained to her, how puzzled it makes me that it isn’t a forgone conclusion for much of our city’s population, of every demographic, to clamor to see the kinds of feats our Opera company and our Symphony achieve.
I continued, that there’s nothing you can find at the CHI Center under a name like “Taylor Swift” or “The Eagles” that you can’t see at the Orpheum (or at the Holland). More impressively, when the electrifying lights, sets, dancers, and concepts in the Opera theatre come to life, they do so not as the back drop to a mere music personality, but as the blood and tears of a transcendental collaboration of multiple art forms, which providence or history have deemed worthy to survive. These stories are both timeless and ever evolving. These pieces of music are both instantly relatable and eternally impressive.
DON’T mistake me. I have no criticism of Taylor Swift or The Eagles. I cherish them both. In a different life, my younger self once spent a deeply irresponsible fortune following John Mayer around the greater Midwest. What makes vernacular (pop) music so vital is that it contributes to the discussion of “how we are feeling and what we are doing” and that is reality. It’s liberating and exhilarating to share that music with fellow-kindred-consumers. Much of the music in the vernacular, possesses a great deal of genius.
BUT, Opera, and I believe the Opera we can all go see this weekend at the Orpheum, is, as my beloved mentor, UNL Opera Director, Dr. William Shomos, once said to me: a discussion of “why we are who we are.” It lays human beings flat on the stage of history, it holds them accountable for their nature, it applauds their triumphs, it lauds their compassion, it convicts their atrocities, and it demands they consider better what is just, possible, and true.
AND SO, as I prattled on to a very patient-smiling Managing Director (thank you, again, Shannon) I realized that if I am passionate enough about Opera to pursue a blog about why we need to all go see it…. I should probably compose a blog about why we all need to go see it.
Ms. Walenta, would also like me to remind you, with pride, that at Opera Omaha “We produce everything ourselves.” She continued, “We aren’t just a truck that rolls up.” Everything Opera Omaha presents was imagined by our city’s fantastic Opera company to glorify the art form and beatify the musical landscape of our city. So, Friday October 15th at 7:30 pm and Sunday October 17th at 2pm, please go see The Capulets and the Montagues at the Orpheum.
Good Opera is for everyone.
Photos courtesy of Opera Omaha.
10/16/2021 01:48:19 pm
Thanks Drew! for lovely piece. We are so happy to be in Omaha for many reasons—Opera Omaha is right up there especially when pushes the envelope edges as with One Fedtival.
10/17/2021 05:25:38 am
Thanks, Drew. I hope you enjoyed the results as much as we did!
Leave a Reply.
I grew up in church music and musical theatre. From my collegiate career and beyond I've traveled through opera, the symphony, the theatre and worship as a student, a performer, an entrepreneur, and a journalistic correspondent. I'm thrilled to have an opportunity to share with you some of the incredible and fascinating endeavors I continue to undertake in music and the arts. I don't need you to see the world the way I do, but I'll do everything I can to help you enjoy it as much as I have.