Tinder? Twitter? A local craft brewery? Johnson & Wales? These aren’t things you traditionally associate with opera. But Opera Carolina is going all out this season to engage the Charlotte community and its surrounding area.
Opera Carolina begins its season Saturday at Belk Theater with Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” – the first of three Grand Opera series. But its efforts span much wider than uptown.
The Carolinas’ largest opera company, which celebrates its 70th year in 2018, will also stage innovative performances in untraditional venues this season. These include six free performances of “The Tortoise & the Hare” aimed at children 3 to 12 from Gastonia to Concord.
For young professionals there’s a 10-minute next-gen opera about dating in the digital age (“Connection Lost: The Tinder Opera”) that makes its US debut during National Opera Week at D9 Brewing Co. in Cornelius Nov. 3 and “Bon Appetit: The Julia Child Opera” performed in the demonstration kitchen at Johnson & Wales.
“These are fun ways for us to get out into the community for people who aren’t interested in coming to Belk or may not have references to the opera community,” explains general director James Meena.
It’s all part of Opera Carolina’s community outreach, which includes expanding its online presence through its Tweet Seats and Beyond program that’s open to active social (media)ites, educational efforts like Opera Express which travels as far as the Coast and into Georgia, and its cross cultural Art Poetry Music collaborations.
The latter begins its fourth season Sunday with “Expanding Horizons,” at CPCC’s Halton Theater. It focuses on Asian culture and features globetrotting baritone Hyung Yun, who plays Figaro in “Barber of Seville.”
“We have two Korean singers, an artist who is Chinese, a young cellist, a Filipino poet and a Laotian poet,” says Meena, who describes it as a “celebration of art as a unifying instrument.”
African-American, Slavic, and Latin Art Poetry Music collaborations are set for 2017.
Even this year’s theme “Life Set to Music,” is indicative of Opera Carolina’s quest to make opera accessible to everyone.
“These are real life stories,” says Meena. “It does reflect our interest in making opera accessible not just the way we perform it, but the way we market and present it.”
Opera may be perceived in the mainstream as an art form for affluent, older whites but Meena says it actually attracts an increasingly diverse audience.
“The largest demographic for last season was the 25- to 40-year-old group. It has to do with our efforts for audience building and community building. The audience is diverse ethnically and age wise,” says Meena, who is already planning for the 2017-2018 season with the same mission in mind. “To reach more people in the community and present opera as an enjoyable, viable and worthwhile art form in as many different places as we possibly can.”