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Curtis Opera Theatre Presents Staged Duets In Opera OnDemand

Semester-long project expands students' artistic and tech skills alongside innovative virtual staging.

The Curtis Opera Theatre announces a new virtual offering entitled Opera OnDemand. Available for free online streaming from January 22 through February 1, 2021, the project features beloved duets from the Italian opera canon. Through months of musical preparation, innovative staging techniques, and state-of-the-art video editing, Curtis's rising opera stars perform in custom virtual sets, united in pairs from their individual locations across the globe.

The electrifying evening highlights familiar scenes from masterful Italian operas by Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti, Gioachino Rossini, Giuseppe Verdi, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Short, witty episodes follow nefarious schemes, tests of loyalty, playful escapes, mistaken identities, and soaring avowals of love. Stage director Scott Skiba and music directors Grant Loehnig and Miloš Repický lead the 90-minute performance, with concepts by production designer Brittany Merenda. Semi-staged duet scenes, accompanied by piano, are sung in Italian with English translations available. The Curtis Opera Theatre is supported by the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation and the Wyncote Foundation.

The performance video will be available online beginning Friday, January 22 in the evening. Free registration is required at Curtis.edu/OperaOnDemand. Registrants will receive program synopses and a private video link to explore and revisit these fresh takes on classic opera on an unlimited basis through Monday, February 1.

Preparations for Opera OnDemand began in the Fall 2020 semester. Students of the Curtis Opera Theatre, ranging from undergraduates to graduates with professional experience, rehearsed and recorded scenes in their own living spaces, which have been individually optimized using green screens and specialized lighting and audio equipment. Singers participated from homes across the United States and locales as distant as Switzerland and Malta. Highly-skilled production and musical staff worked with the performers from afar to set up at-home performance spaces, and to direct and perfect the recordings, which have been edited together to give the illusion that the duo partners are interacting in the same physical space.

In addition to achieving the same extensive musical preparation for which the Curtis Opera Theatre is known, the singers acquired and honed new technical skills that would not have been taught in a typical season. "The students are well-equipped to transfer these skills now to other virtual collaborations and audition recording production, which will become increasingly important and useful in future creative endeavors since the performing arts will likely include some form of digital programming delivery even as 'traditional live in-theater performances' return," says stage director Scott Skiba. This project is one of many imagined by the Curtis Institute of Music in 2020-21 to prepare students for rapidly evolving careers as 21st-century musicians.

The Curtis Opera Theatre has become known for imaginative productions, bold concepts, and absorbing theatre. Under the artistic direction of Eric Owens, promising young singers work alongside established professional directors and designers, resulting in fresh interpretations of standard repertoire and contemporary works. All of Curtis's 20 students in vocal studies are cast regularly throughout each season, receiving a rare level of performance in fully staged productions, in recitals at Field Concert Hall, and as soloists with Curtis on Tour and the Curtis Symphony Orchestra. Curtis's educational approach opens professional opportunities for Curtis graduates, who sing with top opera companies across the United States and Europe, including La Scala, Covent Garden, the Vienna Staatsoper, Houston Grand Opera, the San Francisco Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera.


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