Opera Southwest - Season 45: Not your grandma's opera company

Sep 24, 2017 104

BY: Maria Berry

With its non-intimidating, welcoming style, Opera Southwest has been converting down-to-earth, everyday folks into serious opera fans since 1972. There’s nothing elitist about New Mexico’s acclaimed Italian opera company. There’s nothing stuffy about it. And there’s nothing pretentious about its celebrated Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, Maestro Anthony Barrese, who is as comfortable captivating audiences with his spirited lectures as he is rolling a bocce ball with his Albuquerque Italian fans.

While we’re making the case for down-to-earth, consider OSW’s non-intimidating Journal Theatre venue at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. It’s simple, elegant and intimate with flowing curves and state-of-the-art acoustics. There’s not a bad seat in the house, nor one from which you can’t easily glance up at the supertitles above the stage to read the English translation of what’s being sung. Even the price is unassuming, with tickets starting at only $15.

Recently, OSW officially announced its expanded 45th season. It’s a blockbuster consisting of three premieres. So, if you’ve been procrastinating on sampling opera or just not sure you’re “the opera type,” this is the perfect time to sign up for a test drive.

First up is the New Mexico premiere of William Tell (October 22, 25, 27, 29), the last of Gioacchino Rossini’s operas and considered the crown jewel among this prolific composer’s 40 works. You’re more familiar with it than you may think, especially if you’ve ever watched a rerun of The Loan Ranger on the golden oldies channel, for which Tell’s overture is the theme music. You may have also heard about the Swiss crossbow marksman who shot an apple off his son’s head. That would be William Tell himself, proving his skill to the oppressive Austrian invaders. William Tell is a tale of inspiring heroism. It’s the Swiss legend set to music – poignant, romantic and uplifting. If you’re looking to get your operatic feet wet with a Rossini opera, Maestro Barrese is precisely the conductor to take you there. He’s a passionate Rossini scholar and a fluent interpreter of the composer’s brilliant scores.

Next up in Season 45 is Bless Me Ultima (February 18, 21, 23, 25). Yes, you heard right. The most famous New Mexico novel is now an opera. In fact, author Rudolfo Anaya assisted composer Hector Armienta with the libretto. You know the story of Tony’s coming of age under the watchful guidance of the curandera, Ultima. You’ve read the book. You’ve seen the movie. Now New Mexico’s favorite son, Guillermo Figueroa, conducts the opera version. This world premiere and historic event will sell out in a heartbeat. Don’t waste a moment thinking twice about it!

Finally there’s the New Mexico premiere of Vicenzo Bellini’s Norma (April 8, 11, 13, 15), the heartbreaking tale of a Druid Priestess trapped in a clandestine love affair with a Roman soldier. Norma is emblematic of the bel canto (beautiful singing) style of opera, and the part of Norma is considered one of the most vocally challenging pieces ever in operatic repertoire. If you’re looking for adult entertainment - exotic, dramatic and powerful - Norma won’t disappoint. And, you can count on Maestro Barrese to deliver with his signature energy and passion.

If you’re looking to dig a little deeper into the story and the history of your chosen opera, OSW offers pre-opera seminars 45 minutes prior to the start of each performance. These talks are usually presented by the conductor and are designed to enhance your understanding and appreciation of the performance you’re about to see. The talks are held in a small side theater right across the hall from the Journal Theatre. They’re free, and go a long way toward enhancing the comfort zone of opera first-timers and frequent flyers alike.

So, what are you waiting for? Go to www.operasouthwest.org for more information, to buy tickets and to start your journey into the fascinating world of opera in the down-to-earth style of Opera Southwest!

SOURCE: Italy in New Mexico

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