Opera Theater crosses boundaries. In our 36th year, the company reaches out across traditional lines of demarcation in the arts, presenting works that engage diverse, new and younger audiences, bringing people from different backgrounds together, including supporters of music, theater, dance and the visual arts, and involving them in experiences that have meaning and impact.
WHAT IS DIFFERENT ABOUT OPERA THEATER?
We are one of the few companies left in America that sings virtually everything in English. And we are an opera theater company—a company that believes one of the ways for opera to win new audiences is through theatrical imagination and dramatic authenticity as well as musical excellence. We present a real and exciting alternative to ‘grand opera’, which is often perceived as being inaccessible and something of a museum art form. We believe opera doesn’t have to be grand to be great. We don’t rent and restage other company’s productions, we do new productions. We aren’t trapped into expensive union contracts, we can afford to rehearse works at greater length, gaining greater dramatic credibility, we are small enough to be able to take creative risks, stage new works, chart new territories—in short, we are able to advance the medium, not just replay it.
This sort of company identity translates itself into adventurous programming which has become a hallmark for us regionally and nationally. This has included world premieres such as the multi-media dance opera Red Dust at the Warhol, rare Philip Glass operas such as Sound of a Voice (invited to tour to the Royal Opera Covent Garden in London), and a great string of Pittsburgh premieres of American operas over the years, including a series of American works based on great plays, such as Hoiby’s Summer and Smoke and William Bolcom’s A View from the Bridge.
We have also become recognized through regional, and occasionally national, touring. Our regional reputation has been enhanced over the years by taking a number of productions to towns and colleges within a couple of hours drive of Pittsburgh—repeated tours of pieces such as Marriage of Figaro, Carmen Jones and Die Fledermaus to towns such as Midland, Butler, Grove City, Franklin, Williamsport and Center City PA. Such touring fell to budget cuts in recent years, but we hope to resume it if future funding opportunities allow. Our national reputation has also been advanced in part through touring, with a celebrated production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle in both California and Pittsburgh, and a production of Lost in the Stars at the Virginia Arts Festival in Norfolk as well as in Pittsburgh.
We have defined ourselves regionally and nationally as a leading force in embracing cultural diversity. Opera Theater was honored for its unique record in diversity programming at a recent OPERA America National Convention as being a shining example of what a smaller opera company can achieve. Other opera companies are now beginning to copy us: for the past six years the company has produced one piece a year centered in the African American community, most recently Gospel at Colonus at the August Wilson Center, and in previous seasons Ellington’s Beggar’s Holiday at Manchester Craftsmans Guild Jazz, Porgy and Bess, Lost in the Stars, Carmen Jones and the world premiere of a jazz-opera, Just Above my Head, by local composer Nathan Davis.
A significant strength lies in our ability to collaborate with other cultural organizations. Some recent examples:
- Gospel at Colonus by Lee Breuer and Bob Telson, based on Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus: staged in collaboration with Mt. Ararat Baptist Church and the August Wilson Center for African American Culture.
- Euridice and Orpheus by Ricky Ian Gordon: presented in collaboration with Attack Theatre and the Allegheny Cemetery, set around and on the lake at the heart of this beautiful and historic cemetery.
- Orpheus and Euridice by C. W. Gluck: presented in collaboration with Babb Insurance in the William Penn Snyder mansion ballroom.
OPERA THEATER TODAY
This is an exciting period for Opera Theater of Pittsburgh as we continue to reinvent the company as SummerFest. Learn more about our history (which dates back to 1978) and the vision of our founder Mildred Miller Posvar.