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Opera for Charm City

Baltimore these days has become a veritable case study in opera-company development. You wouldn’t have thought so this time last year, when the Baltimore Opera Company was emitting its last gasps before closing for good this spring. That demise left a gaping hole in the landscape – but that hole is now being flooded with so many other opera companies that you truly can’t tell the players without a scorecard. I’ve mentioned this before, but it seems like new opera is being added every day.

How, without a scorecard, are you going to know that offers a listing of the schedules of the smaller opera groups in the city, while is the website of the fledgling Baltimore Opera Theater, which (as previously reported) is presenting two operas in the Hippodrome this season: Barber of Seville (November 22) and Rigoletto (March 11)? (And are there regulators for the domain name "BaltimoreOpera"? Can be far behind?)
(read more after the jump)

Meanwhile, the Lyric Opera House, where the Baltimore Opera Company used to perform, has marshaled its energies to produce its own diminutive opera season, consisting of three events and two very big names. Renée Fleming is appearing in concert on December 17. On February 14, we get a single fully-staged performance of a “Carmen” that originated with Opera New Jersey, with Denyce Graves in the title role. There’s also a British revue called The Opera Show, which mingles the music of opera with the aesthetic of the Cirque du Soleil, on January 21.

Then there are the smaller ensembles listed on Opera Vivente, whose Cinderella continues through this weekend; Baltimore Concert Opera (offering Don Pasquale on November 21); American Opera Theater (which will revive premiere its production of Songspiel, with music by Kurt Weill, on November 6); and, not far away, the Annapolis Opera, offering a Verdi concert on October 17.

Yet another group, Opera Baltimore, has created a website but has yet to reveal specific performance plans.

One-off performances and shoestring productions may not replace what a permanent opera company has to offer. On the other hand, all of the energy and devotion to the art form represented by all of these varied attempts is itself a force to be reckoned with. One wonders if so many people would have realized they cared so much had the Baltimore Opera Company managed to stay above water.

If all else fails, there's the silver screen. The Charles Theater is the only movie theater in proximity to Washington that regularly screens the Emerging Pictures series of opera and ballet productions from European houses. Next up: "Das Rheingold" and "Die Walküre" as conceived for Valencia by the Fura dels Baus, conducted by Zubin Mehta (October 11, 13, 25, 27). It's a great alternative to the Met in HD.

By Anne Midgette  |  September 30, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  news , opera  
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Next: In Performance: Australian Chamber Orchestra


Great post - I just wanted to point out that American Opera Theater's "Songspiel" is indeed music of Kurt Weill, but is definitely not a revival. It is a brand new production that stars famed soprano Sylvia McNair, and uses Weill's music to explore homelessness in America. The production is in November in Baltimore, and will appear in Washington in December.

It is true that AOT is reviving their "Carmen" in January, and then a new production of Handel's "Jeptha" in April.

Posted by: lepetitprinceboi | September 30, 2009 8:31 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the correction. I had in mind that a version of "Songspiel" was done at Artscape this summer, but I was wrong - that was "A Pilgrime's Solace."

Posted by: MidgetteA | September 30, 2009 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Jeez! That's amazing. I had no idea. Sounds positively European, it does.

Bravo!, Baltimore.


Posted by: ACDouglas1 | September 30, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Gee, and I've read...somewhere...that classical music is dying off, along with its querulous, geriatric audience, which faintly smells of moth balls in their long gowns and shiny 1962 tuxes. Supposedly, this already wispy interest is fading toward utter nothingness, and classical music desperately needs to be "fixed" so that it becomes essentially indistinguishable from pop music. Or it's doomed, doomed, doomed.


Posted by: choucroute17 | September 30, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

When large organized crime groups are brought to justice you typically have smaller street gangs spring up taking the opportunity to fill the void of services that the larger group provided. (The syndicate comparison is not so far fetched for people who didn't get a refund or get paid back on any loan to the BOC, no?) The same paradigm holds in business with the breakups of Standard Oil and At&T years ago. It's also true for classical CD companies (as Midgette wrote about not too long ago). So why not opera providers?

But how long will it last? Eventually there are clear winners in gangs that lead to a new oligopoly or monopoly; the SO spinoffs have been merging in the past 10+ years (Exxon + Mobil, Cheveron + Texaco, BP has absorbed AMOCO and ARCO). So enjoy it while it is here!

And while it lasts, will the offerings be as diverse as our classical CD recordings are now or will Baltimore get competitions to see who can put on the best standards? If it is the latter, then I would expect to see consolidation sooner than later.

Posted by: prokaryote | September 30, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Please also keep Peabody in mind: Cosi fan tutte on Nov. 19-22, fully staged with full orchestra.

Posted by: richseld | September 30, 2009 7:16 PM | Report abuse

It should also be noted, though my Baltimore friends will be peeved I mentioned it, that Songspiel is a solo cabaret performance of Weill songs and arias by Sylvia effing McNair.

Posted by: patklink | October 2, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

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