OperaHub Produces DIVAS, A Timely, Female-Powered New Play with Opera

OperaHub Produces DIVAS, A Timely, Female-Powered New Play with Opera Running June 21-30, 2018 in the Plaza Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts, DIVAS is a world premiere play with opera music that finds nine great opera divas from across two centuries locked together in the afterlife, pitted against each other to fight for the soul of opera. Written by Boston-based playwright Laura Neill, DIVAS includes thirteen operatic selections from Purcell to Puccini. Packed with incredible true stories, extravagant fashion, and gorgeous music, DIVAS is a hilarious and poignant showcase of larger-than-life women whose voices reverberate across the centuries.

Dressed sumptuously and singing fabulously, the characters in this play are at first wary of each other's power, but in order to resist the oppressive force keeping them captive, they must find common cause. Juxtaposed with contemporary singers' real questions about opera's place in the world, DIVAS asks: what is the power of opera? can women harness it to new ends?

DIVAS tells the collective story of nine world-renowned opera singers, representing 200 years of opera divas who, each her their own way, changed the world. These powerful women surmounted negative stigma attached to performers and were in the forefront of a revolutionary revaluation of women's place in society. DIVAS honors their leadership with a new collaborative work based on research by fashion historian and visual artist Kathleen McDermott. Challenging current norms in opera, DIVAS presents an all-female cast, as well as female playwright, stage director, and music director. Thirteen musical numbers showcase the singers' extensive classical training as self-amplified artists.

TEAM OF BOSTON ARTISTS

This homegrown and exploratory collaboration encompasses a local group of ten performers and ten additional artists. DIVAS was instigated by OperaHub General Director Christie Lee Gibson (cast member) and Artistic Associate Adrienne Boris (stage direction) in collaboration with visual artist and fashion historian Kathleen McDermott, whose DIVA Museum encompasses deep research into historical divas' remarkable fashion, careers, and contributions to women's social and economic empowerment. Playwright Laura Neill has fashioned a script that weaves together their stories with thirteen operatic musical numbers. Music director Patricia Au will appear as The Pianist along with eight additional singers, including Glorivy Arroyo (mezzo-soprano), Chelsea Beatty (soprano), Sol Kim Bentley (soprano), Lindsay Conrad (soprano), Abigail Krawcy?ska (soprano), Kathryn McKellar (soprano), Carrie Reid-Knox (mezzo-soprano), and Arielle Rogers (mezzo-soprano). Our Design/Production team includes Drew Myers-Regulinski (Costumes), Jeffrey Petersen (Set and Props), Emily Bearce (Lighting), Julianne Mason (Stage Management), Jeila Irdmusa (Marketing and PR), and Stephen Libby (Graphics).

MULTI-LAYERED EXPLORATION OF FEMALE LEADERSHIP IN THEATER

This is an ideal moment for DIVAS. The stories of these nine divas, as has been true for most women in history of theater and opera, are full of emotional, physical, and financial abuse. As the current public reckoning with sexual harassment and abuses of power tells us, this is not just diva history but the daily experience of contemporary women in the arts and beyond. Responding to audiences looking for answers to this present-day dilemma, DIVAS is a production exploring many levels of female leadership and agency.

1. Feminist subject matter and production. DIVAS' script imaginatively builds on true stories of nine great singers who challenged social barriers and changed our world. The script is framed by, and intersects with, issues facing women in our own time. Its female playwright, stage director, music director, and singer-performers all share leadership and agency in collaboratively creating this production.

2. Counteracting role disparity. Current opera and theatre production favors male playwrights, directors, and role distribution. DIVAS is a deliberate strike against these norms with its creative team and performers. "Our research indicates that between men's roles outnumbering women's roles and there being three times as many women entering the field as performers, men are about four times more likely to be cast in a contemporary opera than women, even though the women who audition are, on average, overwhelmingly better prepared," says OperaHub General Director Christie Lee Gibson.

3. Performers co-create characters. For DIVAS, OperaHub invited nine locally-based singers to help develop depictions of powerful and complex female artists. All nine DIVAS performers have shaped a richly-detailed historical identity, reflecting female experiences and values. Mezzo-soprano Arielle Rogers plays historical diva Sissieretta Jones. "It's an honor for me to give Sissieretta Jones a spotlight... researching her life makes me feel so much more connected to the role, but more importantly to her as a person. I want to do justice by her. Sissieretta Jones is one of the first African-American opera singers to pioneer in the music world, and she's one of my biggest influences."

THE TWO YEAR CREATION OF DIVAS

From January to September 2017, OperaHub held monthly meetings with cast and creative team. This group shared character research, explored the connections amongst the historical divas, read excerpts from Laura Neill's script in development, and chose repertoire from music sung by the historical divas. Costume designer Drew Myers-Regulinski integrated the divas' high-fashion costumes into the drama. In January 2018, OperaHub held a staged reading for an invited audience to solicit feedback before the playwright's final revisions. The two-year development process will culminate in a full production run of eight performances June 21-30, 2018 in the Plaza Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts.

PERFORMANCE DETAILS

Thursday, June 21, 2018 at 7:30pm

Friday, June 22, 2018 at 8pm
Saturday, June 23, 2018 at 8pm

Sunday, June 24, 2018 at 3pm

Wednesday, June 27, 2018 at 7:30pm

Thursday, June 28, 2018 at 7:30pm

Friday, June 29, 2018 at 8pm

Saturday, June 30, 2018 at 8pm

The Plaza Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts

539 Tremont St., Boston, MA 02116

Tickets will be available on Boston Theatre Scene in early 2018.

ABOUT OPERA HUB

OperaHub is dedicated to creating high-quality, unified musical/dramatic experiences through collaboration with local performing and design artists, focusing on innovation and experimentation in all aspects of opera production. We believe that opera performed in an intimate setting gains vibrancy and depth, and that affordable, accessible performance of opera should also be exciting, beautiful, and fresh. We take pride in presenting small, non-standard works and chamber arrangements of standard repertoire.



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