New Opera Company Set to Launch in Boston - ODYSSEY OPERA Sets Sail, 9/15
This weekend, Boston will be the center of the operatic universe as a brand new opera company embarks on its maiden voyage. Odyssey Opera, led by Maestro Gil Rose, presents Wagner's "Rienzi" in a thrillingly audacious debut concert performance.
According to Rose, Odyssey strives to sate varying artistic appetites. While standard repertoire is not on the table, historical gems and neglected works by canonical composers are in addition to the production of new works in the future. Odyssey plans to present concert opera as well and staged chamber opera in a variety of venues and formats.
Broadway Classical sat down with Maestro Rose for a candid discussion about his exciting new company and their inaugural performance. Once again Maestro Rose showed his wit, wisdom and an infectious energy that will certainly suffuse every aspect of his new company.
"There was a pretty funny, truncated version of the history of opera in Boston in a recent Opera News and I realize that I've been a big part of that narrative. So people have been asking me that question a lot, 'Will opera survive?' And I thought, well maybe eternal survival shouldn't be the goal. Maybe getting something out there that's consistently interesting and worthwhile should be the goal. In Boston at least, it seems everybody remembers, like it was yesterday, the performances of Sarah Caldwell, but nobody remembers very much since. And in truth, for the last twenty years or so there have not been an awful lot of memorable productions and performances. Seeking eternal security, arts organizations have not made the bold choices they needed to make to survive artistically.
When I was working for Opera Boston, and we were trying to determine "what exactly are we doing here," we realized that one of the things we were doing was pursuing the legacy of Sarah Caldwell - but without all the money and the nonsense of how the money was being run. For me in this new company, I'd like to continue to pursue that legacy, and I see it as a carry through from Sarah to Opera Boston to Odyssey Opera.
However, I am definitely trying to construct the way it operates and stay clear of what I consider is "the subscription-model trap," which is a fixed cost structure. Basing your fixed costs on an income stream that is clearly shrinking is like designing cars that only get six miles to the gallon and thinking that it's going to be a sustainable model as fossil fuels continue to disappear from the earth. The whole system is not set up to work.
I'd like this company to a hybrid. People have always asked me 'why did you decide to run an orchestra (BMOP) dedicated to contemporary music?' Well I didn't. I decided to run an orchestra that was structured financially different than a traditional orchestra, and the contemporary music part of it came out of that. It was much more an idea of trying a different model; to try and put as many of the dollars that flow through the organization onto the stage or the recordings, and keep it out of expanding the staff to pay for itself.
In so many ways, in an effort to reach out, we have diluted our product. And we've done so to the degree that, why would anybody want to support it. We've made it overly accessible. I have used this metaphor before: Instead of being a beacon for the arts, we've become a floodlight. And I think the nature of classical music and opera and serious artistic products is that they have an inherent quality which by their nature draws people who are interest in them and you can spray them all over creation and it won't help. You can only lead a horse to water. What we did at Opera Boston, what we do at BMOP and what we plan to do at Odyssey Opera is create a beacon, showing what we stand for and hope that people will seek us out and come. I don't want to be in the business of convincing people that opera is good. That's not my job, that's not my goal. Opera is good. Me trying to convince people doesn't change that. But we can try to make interesting choices. I think presenting Rienzi is exciting and interesting - I don't know if anyone else agrees yet! I'll tell you that after the performance.
That's sort of the model that Odyssey Opera will follow, but tied in with eclectic repertory choices, which is what drives me personally. In fact, I'm probably the only opera conductor I know who has never conducted Carmen or Boheme! I'd be very happy to conduct them if somebody offered them, but right now if I plan to be the engine of change, focusing on developing new things, then I don't need to make things that other people have already made. I need to show and highlight things that are otherwise being forgotten or have already disappeared, or of course, totally new things.