BWW OperaView: OPERA America's National Opera Week Begins Oct. 26, Chaired by Bass-Baritone Ryan Speedo Green

BWW OperaView: OPERA America's National Opera Week Begins Oct. 26, Chaired by Bass-Baritone Ryan Speedo Green
National Opera Week lasts through November 4.

While many people from the current generation don't know the Marx Brothers, the comic geniuses of stage, film and early television, probably even fewer are familiar with one of their masterworks, A NIGHT AT THE OPERA. Filled with the sound of Verdi--much of the film centers on a production of IL TROVATORE--it also is brimming with laughs and general silliness. What the film does not provide, however, is to show how opera can change lives--but OPERA America's 10th annual National Opera Week, from Oct. 26-Nov. 4, is attempting to change that perception.

OPERA America--the national service organization for opera and the nation's leading champion for American opera--highlights activities at opera companies, large and small, as well as schools and other organizations across North America. The celebration is hoping to fuel social media conversations, post video messages and host more than 100 events in their communities. "National Opera Week demonstrates and celebrates the diversity of our art form today," says Marc Scorca, OPERA America President/CEO.

There's no more appropriate honorary chair of this year's event than bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green. He was the King in the opening week AIDA (and its subsequent performances) at the Metropolitan Opera this fall and was featured in that role for the company's "Live in HD" broadcast of the opera that went out to more than 2200 theatres around the world. More importantly, his is an inspiring tale--about how opera changed him and helped him fulfill his potential--that can give hope and foster dreams in others.

Green's story--troubled youth from Norfork, VA, finds his way to the stages of some of the world's greatest opera houses--was told in the 2016 book, "Sing for Your: A Story of Race, Music, and Family" by Daniel Bergner. Initially thinking that being an opera singer, "...was not something a person of color could do," his mind was changed after a school trip to New York, where he went to the Met and saw African American mezzo Denyce Graves in CARMEN.

Today, Green, besides his performances at the Met and Kennedy Center and other venues, is a member of the ensemble at the Vienna State Opera, another of the world's great companies, performing in some of opera's classic works: THE MAGIC FLUTE, OTELLO, and LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, among many others.

As Opera Week starts, Green encourages audiences to find out what opera can mean to them-and find what they can do to support it. "It's such an amazing honor to be part of this special week because, for me, opera is the quintessential art form," says Green. "When I went to my first opera at 15, I jumped through a door without knowing where it would lead. But when I got through that door, I was introduced to a world of complete majesty and beauty and history."

Watch Green welcome audiences to National Opera Week in a video message on the Opera America website or on its YouTube channel.

Midway into the festivities, on Thursday, November 1, there is Opera Advocacy Day. This critical part of the week's events provides an opportunity for individuals who work in or love opera to urge federal, state and local lawmakers to support arts education, the cultural agencies and other policies and legislation that sustain opera and the performing arts.

According to Brandon Gryde, director of government affairs at OPERA America, "Nothing makes a bigger difference than when policymakers hear from their constituents." This means that whether your most important issue is arts education in schools, visa processing for foreign guest artists or tax policies for nonprofits, change won't happen until we raise our voices. "Opera Advocacy Day is a great opportunity for opera leaders, artists and lovers of the art form to share how opera and the performing arts make our communities healthier and more vibrant," he concludes.

This year's Opera Week features an increased emphasis on social media, with an aim of broadening participation. Artists, opera staff and opera lovers are all invited to post video messages and lead social media conversations about the importance of opera in their lives. United behind the hashtag #OperaWeek, the opera community will demonstrate the excitement associated with this multimedia art form.

For a full listing of National Opera Week activities, visit the Opera Week page on the Opera America website.

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From This Author Richard Sasanow

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