Small Company, Piedmont Opera, Makes Big Waves
Although Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is called the City of the Arts, you may be surprised that it's small, regional opera house, Piedmont Opera, as become a hot opera ticket across the nation.
Covid-19 forced this small company to cancel it's spring production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I, which was half of its season. With only a staff of four, Piedmont Opera had to quickly pivoted to stay focused on it mission to entertain, educate and engage its audience with few dollars.
General Manager James Allbritten thought outside the box and quickly reacted when he learned that the Metropolitan Opera would offer free, nightly opera broadcasts of Wagner's The Ring Cycle. He enlisted the help of The University of North Carolina School of the Art's Steve LaCosse to come over to the opera offices and host a discussion on Facebook Live. Opera Talk was born.
Fast forward to June. In a few months, Opera Talk has found a strong following of opera lovers from across the country who tune in to learn about that evening's Met broadcast. To the company's surprise, members of the opera community weren't just patrons seeking knowledge. Cast members, directors and conductors from many of the Met's performances are now being scheduled to be special guest hosts on Opera Talk. To date this small, regional opera has hosted The Met's Kevin Burdette who discussed his performances in The Tempest and The Exterminating Angel. Anthony Griffey joined in to discuss his title role as Peter Grimes. New York bestselling author Margaret George joined the show to discuss the history behind the Three Queens trilogy. Peter Kazaras, The Director of Opera UCLA, recently made an appearance to discuss The Ghosts of Versailles.
The company announced today that Allbritten will welcome Stephen Wadsworth, the Stage Director of the Wednesday evening's performance of Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride. Wadsworth has established himself as a master of the classical repertoire and is one of the most influential directors in the American theater. On Friday, Karen Kamensek, the conductor of Glass' Akhnaten will join Allbritten. Among her high-profile conducting debuts this season was this long-awaited Metropolitan Opera debut of Glass' Akhnaten-a production, under her direction, that recently won the coveted Olivier Award in London-as well as debuts with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Piedmont Opera's out-of-the-box thinking has resulted in bringing the legends of opera to the people it serves. The company is bringing the behind-the-scenes stories direct to its patrons, proving that there many still be hope for small performing arts organizations post Covid-19.
Opera Talk is live, every weekday at noon on the Piedmont Opera Facebook page. You can also visit PiedmontOpera.org for more information.