Lovers and fools. Power struggles. Madness. The 2012 race to the White House? Better than that. Opera.
And this Saturday, Sept. 22, at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts’ Amaturo Theater, audiences will see why some of the most resounding scenes of La Bohème, Don Pasquale, La Favorita and Lucia di Lammermoor can still give us goosebumps.
A non-profit organization that began in New York City in 2005 and then opened a South Florida chapter in 2010, The Opera Atelier trains and promotes opera singers as well as the art form they excel at. In conjunction with the North Miami Beach-based ballet company and academy, Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida, they have joined forces to bring the fifth edition of Great Opera Moments to the public. That means that this time you will get the “best of” these masterpieces by Puccini and Donizetti while enjoying some new choreographies from Arts Ballet Theatre’s founder, choreographer, and artistic director, Vladimir Issaev. “This is the first time we partner with Opera Atelier, and these choreographies are brand new,” says the Russia-born ballet master, whose company celebrates its 15th anniversary this year and begins its own season in October. “They invited me and I loved what they were offering, not the usual. It had to be modern, they said.”
So though these operas are all classics brought to the stage, don’t expect the same old song and dance.
“Part of our mission is to bring opera to the public, and that’s why we do these shows called Great Opera Moments, because they are like a very diverse meal,” shares Opera Atelier’s musical director Daniel Daroca during a rehearsal at the studios of Arts Ballet Theatre. “You give people a sample,” continues Daroca, a pianist, professor, and vocal coach as well. “Opera fans love them because they are climatic opera moments, but those who are coming for the first time, acquire the taste for opera, since they can see that it is interesting, moving, and that it offers something for everyone.
In that spirit of having something for everyone, Opera Atelier incorporates elements from other arts (media, visual, sculpture, etc.) into their productions. This time, it’s ballet.
“What drives us is to give exposure to the arts,” adds Jacqueline Solórzano, media and logistics director for Opera Atelier. “And so now we invited Vladimir and his dancers.
“We want people to know that opera is such an integral art, that is summons all other arts. Literature, dance, music, staging,” explains another one of the company’s directors, Xiomara Ponce, a psychologist who helps performers with character development.
Quite handy when the title character of Lucia di Lammermoor goes bonkers on stage in the legendary “mad scene.”
Tonight during rehearsal, soprano Michelle Kemp is feeling a bit under the weather. But as Daroca plays the piano, a chorus gives life to a party, and a ghost chases Lucia, the Jacksonville native still soars as she pulls the insanity out of that lead character. “It’s an incredible role. A very difficult role,” says Kemp, a product of the FIU School of Music opera program, who will be making her South Florida professional debut with this production. “When I first started doing the role, my opera director at FIU had suggested that I do case studies of people with schizophrenia, so that I could begin to understand what she goes through mentally.”
Insane is something perhaps one could feel about a devoted group of people who, on their own, work to promote opera in South Florida. They all saw a good reason for it. “We have enormous talent right here, but we noticed that organization and more training are needed,” states Daroca. “In New York you have an infrastructure, but here we don’t have one.”
“In Miami we need more of these shows, because we have singers who want to sing, and audiences willing to listen,” says the group’s New York chapter director, Carlos Jimeno, a baritone who will be playing the role of Dr. Malatesta in Great Opera Moments’ segment of Don Pasquale.
“And Miami has become a cultural center in this country because all the talent from Latin America comes here,” explains Jorge Arcila, Opera Atelier’s artistic director, and its Don Pasquale, among other roles. “This can be a launching pad.”
Opera Atelier presents “Great Opera Moment”s, with guests Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida. Saturday, Sept. 22, 8 p.m., at the Amaturo Theater, Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Avenue, Fort Lauderdale. Tickets: $10, $15, $20, $25, $30, $35. Tel.: 954-462-0222. www.browardcenter.org; www.artsballettheatre.org.
Photo 1: Michelle Kemp as Lucia; credit Xiomara Ponce.
Photo 2: Nicole Swede; credit JoeyG Photography