Opera: A Community Treasure

Today, National Opera Week kicks off. Running through November 1, National Opera Week is a great opportunity to celebrate opera’s positive impact on communities around the country (and to a larger extent, the world). This got us thinking. What are some of the ways that opera influences community?

It brings us together.

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Guests enjoy Gianni Schicchi (2015) at Opera at the Beach

Putting together an operatic production is a feat of epic proportions. Since opera is an amalgamation of several art forms, various artists (singers, designers, writers, even filmmakers) join together for one singular purpose: to bring a story to life.

Yet, opera brings not only artists together. Opera is for all those willing to experience timeless stories, staged theatrically, and sung by the most engaging voices of our time. This can mean a night out in Downtown Los Angeles at the Dorothy Chandler or a date night at Santa Monica Pier for a live HD simulcast at Opera at the Beach.

It educates us about history, society, social responsibility, and just about anything else you can imagine.

 The cast of Nixon in China (1990); Photo Credit: Frederic Ohringer

The cast of Nixon in China (1990)

Did you know that there’s an opera about Richard Nixon called Nixon in China? Several operas are based on Shakespeare plays and Greek myths that tackle the big themes: love, humanity’s purpose, revenge. There are even short operas based on themes of social responsibility that form the crux of our Opera Camp program. Operas make people think in different ways; they can teach us to see the world through a new lens.

It allows us to escape into artistic expression.

The cast of The Magic Flute (2013)

The cast of The Magic Flute (2013)

One of the great things about opera is that you can see the same opera twice, but the performances can be visually (and drastically) different. That means a community can experience diverse artistic expressions, like the two versions of Mozart’s The Magic Flute that LA Opera has produced in the past thirty years: Sir Peter Hall’s stunning childhood fantasy-like production and Barrie Kosky’s silent film-era inspired masterpiece.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lS8m-ulLOK8

It motivates us to follow our dreams.

Katie and Annie Lee rehearse “Everything Breathes” from "The White Bird of Poston." They are led here (off-camera) by teaching artists Leslie Stevens and Charlie Kim.

Opera Campers Katie and Annie Lee rehearse “Everything Breathes” from “The White Bird of Poston.” They are led here (off-camera) by teaching artists Leslie Stevens and Charlie Kim.

Being able to pursue your artistic passions is a vital part of life. Seeing opera stars – who sometimes had no early inclination to become singers – living their dreams is quite inspiring, particularly to young audiences. Promoting the enjoyment of and pursuit of opera (and really any artistic endeavor) may quite honestly be one of the greatest responsibilities of any arts organizations.

It showcases world-class talent.

The beauty of theater is witnessing actors portray thrilling, complex characters live. Opera steps the exhilarating feeling of watching theater up a notch; it allows performers not only to express themselves verbally, but also through extraordinarily difficult songs. Opera singers are at their most vulnerable on stage and sharing that with a community is a very special kind of connection. Just think of the roles Los Angeles audiences have seen Plácido Domingo perform over thirty years (including his famous Otello), or the number of times they’ve seen Greg Fedderly grace the LA Opera stage (he’s been in 63 productions so far).

LA Opera - Schicchi Final Dress Rehearsal Photo by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging

Plácido Domingo as the title character in Gianni Schicchi (2015)

It engages emotionally.

Opera takes the most emotional points of a story and sets it to music. Communities of people have enjoyed marveling at these depictions of humanity at its most dramatic or its most comical. Opera is life lived to extremes and while many of us would not like to live so passionately, watching these stories unfold, escaping them, and empathizing with these characters is a treasure of epic proportions.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZE1UPfRu4Es

LA Opera is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the greater good.
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