BWW Interview: Rebecca Greenstein, Head of Opera Moderne, New York and Vienna

Rebecca Greenstein (pictured on the left in a photo from the Viennese production of Der Kaiser von Atlantis) founded Opera Moderne ( in New York in 2011 and it quickly began to attract favorable reviews for its fresh approach to opera. The company has also spawned two offshoot activities that have attracted enthusiastic audiences - namely, The Hot Box Girls and L'Opera Burlesque, two troupes that combine striptease and other innovations with opera. Recently moving to Europe to expand her operations, Rebecca now divides her time between Vienna and New York. In this question-and-answer interview, she talks about the way she is juggling the activities of her three troupes and the geographical divide.

Q: How have you been dividing your time between Vienna and New York, and is this likely to change in the near future? If so, how?

REBECCA GREENSTEIN: Most of the management of our New York projects has been via Skype, FaceTime and the like with my mobile being my portable office from all over Europe. It gets a bit challenging when I go outside of Austria due to questionable data resources and wifi, but we manage. I find myself in New York maybe every 6 months to a year, as my team there has been quite competent in keeping the company running and rehearsing on a regular basis. In fact, our presence continues to grow in NYC in respect to our Hot Box Girls & L'Opera Burlesque projects. We have a monthly L'Opera Burlesque show at Duane Park NYC (next show February 23rd) and are currently in negotiations for two shows a month. Our Hot Box Girls will begin performing their Follies Noir jazz show at the Cutting Room NYC on February 19th.

Q: What is happening with Opera Moderne?

REBECCA GREENSTEIN: Opera Moderne has been the only difficult company to produce since moving to Vienna, even though it is the umbrella company over the previously mentioned projects. I haven't been able to produce any new modern operas since moving to Vienna as this work is more personally hands on, but our Vienna branch is picking up that mantel since I am here to oversee these projects. Opera Moderne Vienna is currently working on its newest projects to launch within the next season.

Q: You have had two musicals written for you (the role of Zelda in The Road to Madness about F.Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, and the role of the "Evil Queen" in "Snow White and the Evil Queen", with music by Beethoven). Snow White has been translated into German. Do you have any plans to produce either show?

REBECCA GREENSTEIN: Actually, yes. I have pitched Snow White to the children's opera here in Vienna. However they were already working on a lost Humperdinck version that they just released, so the timing didn't work out. But it is on our shortlist of projects that we want to bring to Vienna, and it falls under our mission to introduce new musical works to young and modern audiences. The only thing we're not sure of is whether or not we want to present it in German or English, as the original English text is so enjoyable that it's almost a shame to use the translated version. But that said, most of our audience are German speakers, so we do have to take that into account.

Q: What is going to be your main emphasis in the year or two ahead?

REBECCA GREENSTEIN: This next few years will be busy ones. We are auditioning in late February for our Hot Box Girls and L'Opera Burlesque troupes in Vienna to begin regular productions here. Once we have our talent pool to work from in Vienna, then we have the brilliant costume designer, Angela Huff, begin the design-and-build process for the Vienna Troupe, and while that's happening, we find our venue partners in Vienna to negotiate shows and regularity. Our plan is to have the NYC troupe and Vienna troupe exchange cities every now and then to keep the shows fresh and interesting, and while our Vienna troupe is being built, the New York performers come over and perform when we need them. We are already booked for 2 jazz shows at the famous Porgy & Bess Jazz and Music Club here in Vienna on September 1 & 3, 2016 and are scheduling our European tour around those dates. The plans for Opera Moderne are also in the works in Vienna, as mentioned above, and we look forward to launching our first production in Vienna. We cannot disclose the productions yet as we may have conflicting productions with a few other opera companies here and we must sort these through before announcements are made.

Q: You seem to be a born producer, having achieved so much in such a short time and at such a relatively young age. Have you ever thought of producing straight plays (which are cheaper to stage)?

REBECCA GREENSTEIN: I haven't really thought about it. I'm such a musical creature that all my energy has gone into those types of productions. When I was in university, I did work in straight plays and found success and a love for directing that work, but the three companies that I'm running currently take most of my time. I could consider it, but I would have to do it in Vienna in order to oversee the work personally and I would then try to engage my colleagues at the English theatres here. I'm a bit of a control freak when it comes to productions, and if my name is on a production, then it must meet certain production and artistic standards and integrity.

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